Ep. 466 How Wives Motivate Husbands Into Passivity

How a Wife Can Motivate a Husband to Be Passive

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Shows Main Idea – Did you know a wife can unwittingly motivate her husband to continue in his passivity? Suppose she does not understand the dynamics of his heart, shaping influences, and habituated ways of responding to social challenges. In that case, she may be unable to cooperate with the Lord to restore him to the leadership role God has called him to. Though she is not responsible for his sin, a wife can complicate what is happening to him, motivating him to continue in his passivity. Discerning a spouse’s tendencies and strategizing how to serve each other are gifts from God.

Show Notes

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Set the Scene

Someone asked how you help a passive husband take the leadership role in the marriage. This problem has many angles, and the straightforward impulse is to admonish him, letting him know how he must “get over himself.” Perhaps that is appropriate in some situations, but in this episode, I want to address it with more sophistication and nuance. I’ll begin by sharing two specific personality types in Biff and Mable’s marriage. Biff is the insecure husband, and Mable is a secure wife. Let me paint the scenario.

Biff grew up in an unstructured, non-nurturing environment. His childhood home life was dysfunctional, though that is an understated way of describing what happened to him during those years. It was also not a Christian environment, so he did not have Christian moorings. Fear had chained Biff, keeping him from the anchoring of God (Proverbs 29:25; Romans 8:31). He never became comfortable in his own skin. He masked his inward fears with outward strengths—iterating a self-reliant mindset, so if you knew him from a distance, you would think he was “an okay dude.” Of course, he kept folks at arm’s length so nobody could get up in his business. He was relationally functional in the public domain but not relationally close to or known by anyone. People liked Biff, and he could perform well at his jobs because he always worked within his strengths, which fed his people-pleasing personality. Nobody ever perceived how insecure he was. Nobody ever really knew him.

Mable did not grow up this way. God gifted her with a different personality type; she was socially active, relationally competent, and comfortable in her own skin. To make matters even better, she was reared in a loving environment, so she never had to strive to be liked, loved, or accepted by others. Her parents raised her how a child should live—a normal childhood. She meets her future husband (insecure Biff), and he’s funny, charming, dynamic (working within his strengths), and handsome enough to be marriage material. Dating was perfect for Biff because of the daily reboot, never having to reveal his whole self because they did not live together.

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Growing Distance

Biff did not factor in the “two sinners in a box” worldview that came with marriage, where he could not keep Mable at arm’s length. She was not only up in his bubble, but Biff had no exit strategy—creating unwanted relational tension. He felt exposed. Vulnerable. It didn’t help that she was so different from him, i.e., active, social, and outgoing. Biff compares himself to her and realizes he cannot do what she did or be like her (2 Corinthians 10:12). He is intimidated by her.

She is engaging, flexible, social, free, exploring, and enjoying life. He is inward, rigid, distant, measured, cautious, and cynical. Biff wants to impress Mable but feels inadequate. He becomes more reclusive—the path to least resistance, keeping him from vulnerability, exposure, and reality. Biff becomes more passive when challenged; he shuts down. Mable expects him to step up. He gravitates to his old self (Ephesians 4:22), those habits that brought him this far. Mable gravitates to hers. They are opposites.

Mable does not perceive the kind of person he has always been; to make matters worse, she becomes critical of his passivity. She lets him know in different ways about her disappointment in him, exacerbating the alienation he already senses in his soul. To complicate matters, Biff turns to bad habits to make himself feel better, intensifying his bondage while his wife fuels the inward war in his mind (2 Corinthians 10:3-6; James 1:5-8, 4:1-2). I’m not blaming his actions on her, but I trust you can see how this analysis examines how two people can work against each other while never realizing they are so close but far from restoration.

Direct Video Messages

Try These Six

The first thing Mable must do is recognize what is happening to Biff. Though she won’t take the blame for how he is, she must understand that his longstanding shaping influences do not adapt to her experience, expectations, or personality. Mable will have to ask herself what it means to adopt the mind of Christ by counting her entrapped husband as more significant than her, hoping to be part of God’s restoration team (Philippians 2:3-4; Galatians 6:1-3). If she determines to be Jesus to him, she can implement these six things in her marriage.

  1. Impetus: The impetus is on Mable to discern the problem since she is more spiritual (Galatians 6:1), more in tune with God, more insightful, and more proactive when it comes to problem-solving. In short, she has what it takes to lead her husband to be a more effective leader.
  2. Maturity: Therefore, Mable must be mature in the marriage, evidenced by her discipling her husband to be her leader. Because she is coequal with him, as well as submitted to him, she can disciple him. Coequal, as in brother and sister, and submitted, as in husband and wife. What’s in view here is their co-equality.
  3. Leadership: A wife humbly guiding her husband while submitting to him is not an unusual perspective or posture. E.g., a mentor can lead a young Timothy to be an excellent pastor, even while Timothy is the mentor’s pastor, or an employee could counsel an employer while being submitted to him.
  4. Practice: The two keys for the wife to practice are modeling and encouraging: She should model Christlike characteristics, e.g., Galatians 5:22-23 or 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and she should lead her husband to change by encouraging him by grace (Romans 2:4).
  5. Assess: Two critical questions for Mable to examine her life: Are you a good Christlike example to your husband? Are you an encouraging wife?
  6. Repent: Even when she fails at leading her husband (1 John 1:7-10), Mable can confess that sin, which is one of the most effective ways she can lead him—by her humility. God will bless her for doing this because He gives empowering favor to the humble (James 4:6).

Call to Action

  1. Have you considered how your strengths can intimidate your spouse, even demotivating him from stepping up to lead?
  2. Do you recognize the temptation not to try at all rather than try and fail, or how the fear of failure, rejection, or criticism fosters passivity?
  3. How well do you understand the self-reliance construct? Do you realize some people will reduce their world to virtually nothing to be self-reliant? Self-sufficiency is the ability to run your universe without challenge or fear of failure. To pull this off, some folks must whittle their world down to where they can work within their power, even if it means being passive—the one thing Biff can control.
  4. What would being on God’s restoration team look like for you as you come alongside your husband to mature him?
  5. How would you order the six things Mable must do? What would be the biggest challenge to you, what would be the least, and what is your game plan to make a difference in your husband’s life?

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