Thursday, May 14, 2020

Marriage Role Reversal Will Make Husbands and Wives Feel Unhappy and Unloved

In my last post, I discussed how children need discipline in order to feel loved. You can give them gifts and attention and let them do all kinds of fun things, but they won't feel properly loved unless they are disciplined. God designed children to need discipline, and when they don't get it, they will be unhappy and feel isolated and alone and unloved. It's an emotional need that is not being met.

There's an interesting parallel in marriage. God designed women to need leadership from their husbands in order to feel loved. Not only did God give the husband the position of authority and leadership in the home, but He did so because it is best for both men and women.

Men have a need to lead. They're designed for it. They don't feel loved if their wives don't follow their lead. At the same time, God made women to need to be led. They don't feel loved if they are in control. They feel abandoned and lonely when they aren't following their husband's lead. They need the husband to be the head, to lead them and protect them - physically and emotionally.

What too often happens in a marriage is that the wife pushes for control. She thinks she wants to take the lead. She's trying to get her way because we always want our own way, even when it's not good for us. This is the sinful tendency of all of us. Ever since the fall, the main temptation of women is to try to take the lead in marriage.

So this newly married woman starts pushing for control. She may not even realize that is what she is doing. It's just that she knows so much more than her husband, or she feels really strongly that a certain course of action is the right one, or she can't see why they should do what her husband wants instead of what she wants since he's supposed to want to please her, right? There are all kinds of reasons that she can come up with that she's right and her husband is wrong. But she's sure her husband should be doing this her way and she lets him know it.

Meanwhile, the husband's greatest temptation is to give in to his wife - to be passive and follow her lead. Leading isn't always easy. It means taking the flak when people don't agree and taking the blame if things don't turn out well. It means being somewhat alone because you're the only one who has the responsibility of making the final decision. It means making a lot of effort to weigh the possible choices and settle on one. It's often easier to follow than to lead. So ever since the fall, this is the temptation for men. They find it easier to give up their proper position of leadership and follow instead.

So the wife is letting her displeasure be known and pushing for the husband to give in to her choice instead. Leading takes a lot of effort and it isn't getting him any brownie points because she's mad or upset over what he's trying to do. So he gives in.

The problem develops when this becomes a pattern. Over time, it becomes easier and easier for the husband to give in and easier and easier for the wife to push for her way. They reverse roles. Now, she's the leader and he's the follower. But neither finds this situation satisfying.

The husband doesn't feel loved because his wife isn't following his lead. His emotional needs are not being met. She's telling him what to do. She's more like his mother than his wife. (Now, that will kill attraction in a hurry.) She doesn't trust him to make decisions by himself. She doesn't respect him enough to follow him.

The wife doesn't feel loved because she isn't being led. Her emotional needs are not being met. How can she feel loved when he's left her alone to have to make all the decisions, without his protection? She can't respect him when he isn't strong enough to take the lead. She needs the security of having a strong man, and she feels exposed and vulnerable when her man isn't leading. She might think she wants the leadership when it comes to getting her way, but the burden of leading weighs on her because it's a burden she was never designed to bear.

This is the situation so many marriages develop. It's even worse today than for many in the past because our society actively pushes role reversal. The husband isn't leading. The wife isn't being led. And both are unhappy. They can't connect well because they're not in their proper roles. They both feel isolated, unheard, unloved, and frustrated, but they may not be able to discern why. In many cases, they decide they have drifted apart and they divorce. They both believe the other person isn't who they married any more and things didn't turn out the way they thought.

In reality, they're suffering a lack of proper marriage roles. Men and women are designed for different things. Marriage has a particular design that fulfills the needs of both spouses, if they stick to their roles. Men and women have different needs. Men need to lead to feel loved. Women need to be led in order to feel loved. If they stay in their proper roles, and if both are being generous to one another, then they will both feel loved. But when they reverse roles, they don't feel satisfied or loved.

The Bible tells us all of this. It tells the husband that he is the head (Ephesians 5:23) and calls him to lead and protect his wife. It tells the wife to be sure she submits to her husband's leadership and respects him (Ephesians 5:22, 33). These aren't arbitrary rules. They are rooted in God's design for men and women since creation. The leadership of husbands and the submission of wives is also intended to reflect the union of Christ and the church. Imagine if Christ were to constantly give in to the church because the church wants its own way. That's not how it works. And a marriage doesn't work properly when husband and wife leave their designed roles either. Christ is the head of the church. This is not only good for Christ, but good for the church. In the same way, husbands are supposed to be the head of the home. This is not only good for the husband, but also good for the wife.

The modern church has too often ignored or flouted God's design for marriage by not upholding Biblical marriage roles. Some deny that there are any proper marriage roles in the first place. Others claim there are roles, but then rob those roles of any power or usefulness by claiming a husband leads by giving in to his wife. They usually call this "servant leadership." They think a husband leads by serving his wife, catering to her desires and doing what she thinks is best in an attempt to make her happy. This is not only unbiblical, but it doesn't work.

While serving one another is an important part of marriage, it is not correct to say that a husband should lead by serving his wife. That's just a back door to have the wife in charge. If you tell a man to lead by serving his wife, what you're telling him is that he has to make his wife happy as his first priority. When she wants or needs something, he should serve her, and then call that leadership. But in saying this, you've made the desires of the wife the gold standard of what needs to be done. In order to be a "leader," he has to do things for her that she wants. So she's really in charge. She's setting the goals.

Saying a man leads by serving has it all backwards. The truth is, a man serves his wife by leading her. He may serve her in other ways too, but leadership - real leadership - is a service to his wife that she needs him to perform. Every marriage needs leadership, and being the leader of a marriage is good for a man, but bad for a woman. The wife needs her husband to lead in order to be happy, fulfilled, protected, and in proper relationship with her husband. That's the way God designed it.

So let's do away with this silly nonsense of leading by serving. Leadership means setting goals and then pursuing those goals and giving instructions to those under that authority, even if those under that leadership do not like or agree with them. Ideally, that leadership will be kind and gentle rather than harsh. Ideally, the wife will agree with the goals of her husband. But the goals are set by the leader. Whoever is setting the goals is the leader.

We need men to step up and lead - really lead - in their homes and families. To do that, we have to stop telling them they lead by doing what their wife wants or what she is comfortable with. Instead, we need to be telling them that leading is serving their wives. She needs him to actually lead, and so do our families, our churches, and our society.

We also need wives to purposely choose to follow their husbands. They need to encourage their men in their leadership roles and submit to his authority. They need to stop pushing for their way. They need to respect their husbands. This makes everyone happier in the long run and builds the marriage rather than tearing it down.


  1. Spot on Lindsay! Marriage and marriage roles are not valued today.

  2. Absolutely! Enough of the "happy wife, happy life"mantra. Its a devilish and worldly doctrine.