Do You Think It’s Right to Correct My Authoritarian Husband?

Do You Think It’s Right to Correct My Authoritarian Husband

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No human has absolute authority over another. This perspective should be common sense, but it’s not for everyone. A dictatorial husband and father can put wives and children in a difficult spot, which begs the question, do you think it’s right to correct my authoritarian husband? One of our supporters asked me that question, and here is what I said to her.

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Supporting Member – My husband is the absolute boss of our home. If I suggest anything to him, he will either yell or lecture me on how it’s not my place to tell him what to do. Should I correct him, or just let it go? The primary text that I would love for you to help me with is how to restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

Practical Marriage Wisdom

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1-2).

There is an aspect of this question that applies to both spouses. At the heart of the issue is one spouse coming alongside another one to provide soul care. Going and making disciples does not apply only to those who are outside our homes (Matthew 28:19-20). Disciple-making is a call for all Christians to care for each other within their spheres of influence.

Spouses know their mates better than anyone else. And the longer you’re married, the more information and insight that you have about your spouse continue to increase. Smart marriage partners want to help each other, which is at the heart of disciple-making. Everyone benefits!

To have a person to know you so well and be able to bring wise, loving, and corrective care into your life is sanctification gold. Some spouses do not have this understanding, or perhaps they do, but for practical reasons, they do not bring soul care to each other. My hope for you is that it does not matter if you’re a husband or wife but that you can apply these ideas to your marriage.

Dictators Dictate

As for “correcting an authoritarian husband,” which is what the questioner is asking, you want to begin with Galatians 6:1-2, as she suggested. But there is a significant caveat: if he is an “absolute boss husband,” he will not listen to your advice or appreciate your care. Only a “correctable” spouse can be corrected, whether it’s a husband or wife.

The correctable person is a humble, teachable person who wants to change, and he is appreciative that you speak into his life. The authoritarian husband is a dictator, and those people types do not surround themselves with folks who disagree with them.

The wife in a marriage like this is between a rock and a hard place. All of his other relationships will either acquiesce to his domineering personality style or leave. Authoritarian types surround themselves with people who are not able to challenge the tight-fisted control that they wield.

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Correct With Caution

In an ideal world, you should correct your husband when it’s needed. Regrettably, this type of spouse does not live in that environment. She must be careful about bringing things to his attention. He has a distorted view of submission in the marriage, which makes him the absolute boss, and she’s in the role of a slave.

Rather than seeing himself as a leader who disciples his family, he treats his wife as an unequal entity in the sight of God. Paul’s idea of nourishing and cherishing a wife (Ephesians 5:29) is an unknown tongue to this kind of man. He does not have a category for “strengths and weaknesses” or how his spouse could be his most significant asset in the marriage, outside of God’s empowering favor (James 4:6).

I have dealt with these insecure, unaware, arrogant, domineering authority types many times. It takes an enormous amount of patience, wisdom, courage, kindness, and community to turn them into men who love God and others more than themselves (Matthew 22:36-40; Philippians 2:3-5). I’m not saying it won’t happen in this situation, but she must know where the starting line is, or she may make what could have been avoidable mistakes.

Diagnosing the Dictator

This article is not about how to leave or if she should leave. Perhaps the other embedded materials will serve folks with those questions, but that is not what this lady is asking. If you do have other questions,  you’re welcome to ask them on our free and private forums. My aim here is to give you insight into the heart of a dictator, which will aid you in restoring him in a spirit of gentleness.

Insecure – Most self-reliant people are vulnerable. A driving motivation for their self-sufficiency is that they are masking their fears and insecurities. The dictator is a controller, and controlling people cannot be out of control. The way they accomplish this illusion is by maximizing their strengths while squashing anything or anyone that penetrates their vulnerability force field. (For more on self-reliance, read this: Mind Mapping a Detailed Study In Self-Reliance.)

Unaware – Because the self-sufficient controller is managing all aspects of his life, there are things he cannot see. He’s too stubborn to admit that he might be wrong. He’s too proud to ask for help. His modus operandi is to maintain an image of authority and power, which makes humble admissions of inadequacy or ignorance impossible. He presents his representative to others—a carefully edited version of an authoritarian, but behind the curtain, he’s a weak human being.

Arrogant – His image-making perpetuates the myth of self-importance, which is an elixir that intoxicates himself into feeling good about himself. Egotistical self-importance stems from insecurity and fear. He creates a world that he can control, which makes him feel good about himself. He leverages his strengths to attain self-important status, and he permits nobody to bring him down.

Blindness – If you perpetuate a lie long enough, it will no longer be a lie to you. This person is “blind to his blindness,” which is the worst possible state of the wayward soul. I trust as you read these things that the Lord will give you pity for your husband. For reasons that predate you, there has been a strong desire for him to construct a kingdom where he has always wanted to reign. The blindness of his passion has fully captured him.

Domineering – The behavior that you feel and disdain in your husband is his dominance. It’s worse as you think about how he is affecting the children. It’s at this juncture where a wife senses her most significant tension. On the one hand, she loves (or used to love) her husband, and on the other hand, she is the protective mother who wants to rescue her children.

Gentle Correction

The text the wife referred to in her question is Galatians 6:1-2, and it’s because of that text that I’m answering her question the way that I have. She is not asking the “leaving question” or the “bailout” question. She wants to know how God can use her to restore her husband. There may be another discussion at another time about staying or leaving, but that issue is not in view here.

Paul says that the correction of your husband must be in a spirit of gentleness. If you’re not doing that, there is something you can change today. Some people take a “spirit of gentleness” too far. For example, the empathetic restorer will feel sorry for him and even blame herself for why he does what he does. The sympathetic restorer will do hard things but not go to the other extreme by using sinful anger, harsh words, or a combative spirit.

Sin has captured the husband in this scenario. Sadly, most husbands like this don’t change unless God breaks them, which you should ask God to do. One of the “hard things” that I’m implying is you asking the Lord to bring him to a place of brokenness (Luke 15:17). An essential kindness that your husband could receive from the Lord is dismantling.

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Taking Decisive Action

There are many more things that you must know to help your husband, but in this article, I want you to focus on two of them:

  1. Find your starting point by discerning some of the idolatries in his heart that are motivating him to be as he is.
  2. Guard your heart as you seek those “civil moments” where you can help him change. One of the most vital things you can do is see him as a prisoner to the chains of his making.

Perhaps you will have to take a different kind of decisive action later. I have written many articles on the “advanced stages” of a marriage that may be terminal. You can find many of them throughout this piece. But before you make decisions that are hard to walk back, make sure you’re talking to a competent mentor who understands you, your husband, and has the courage to walk you through your marriage crisis.

You should not feel any guilt for seeking help outside your marriage. If your husband is as you say, then he has disqualified himself from discipling you, and you must submit yourself to your church authority as they guide you through the next steps.

Call to Action

Thank you for your question. You’re a careful wife who wants to explore all the options, but it’s evident that your primary objective is the redemption or restoration of your husband. You’re imitating the gospel in this matter: Christ came to the imprisoned to set us free. Perhaps your husband will have a similar experience as you lead him to Jesus. Here are a few thoughts as you explore how to do that.

  1. Describe your prayer life, specifically as it relates to your husband. In what ways do you express gratitude for his leadership? What are a few ways in which he is leading well? (Read 1 Corinthians 1:1-9)
  2. Have you crossed the line and are now more of a grumbler, complainer, or gossiper about your husband? If you have transgressed that line, what is your plan for change? Who are you going to enlist to help you change?
  3. Talk about what “gentle correction” looks like in the verse that you mentioned to me—Galatians 6:1-2. Would your children characterize you as a person who corrects their daddy with a spirit of gentleness? If not, why not, and what is your plan to change?
  4. Are you asking God to break him—to dismantle him? The sympathetic person wants the captured to experience freedom. Sometimes that liberty comes by dramatically breaking the bonds that have him incarcerated. It does not have to happen this way, but it may be what needs to happen.
  5. How have your fears hindered you from bringing comprehensive care to him? How have his authoritarian and persuasive ways trained you to “over-guilt yourself” to where you believe that his sinfulness is your sin? If this is true for you, the tendency will be to over-react by losing all self-awareness, which will make you a complete victim with no need to change anything about yourself. I realize that this condition can cloud your thinking, which is why you want a sympathetic friend to walk with you through this.

I have talked about the interplay and differences between sympathy and empathy a couple of times in this article. If you want to learn more about the dangers of empathy and the necessity of sympathy, please read, The Destructive Force of Empathy and Why You Need to Know.

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