My Husband Is Passive—He Likes for Me to Lead


God created man to lead. In Genesis, it was Adam's refusal to lead his wife in a godly way that led to the Fall.

“I would love to be able to follow my husband’s leadership, but he prefers for me to lead. When I ask for his opinion, he usually tells me to do whatever I want to do!”

This is not an uncommon statement to hear from a wife. Many husbands opt out of leadership and take the easy route to avoid conflict, or because they are passive by nature. Others were raised by strong mothers and passive fathers--or single mothers--so it feels natural to allow their wives to take the leadership role. And still others tried to lead early in the relationship and gave up after their leadership was met with strong resistance.

The first husband of all time comes to mind when I think of passive men. It was awhile before I understood that Adam was actually present when Satan conversed with Eve. I assumed Adam was busy tending to the garden, tilling the fields. After all, what self-respecting husband would allow the enemy to have a bold conversation with his wife without any type of intervention? But Adam was indeed there.  He was “with her” (Gen. 3:6) and never uttered a word. When God calls Adam to account in verse 17, He chastises Adam for “hearkening to” his wife–for following her into sin, rather than leading at that critical moment.

In similar ways, passive husbands sit idly by today while the culture and the enemy ‘converse’ with their families. Many have abdicated their leadership roles by choosing to not discipline their children, lead their families in church attendance, or engage in day by day decisions that are essential in the running of a family. Many sit in front of the television in secluded “man caves” and offer nothing to enhance the health of their families.

So, what’s a wife to do? I think it’s important to do a bit of self-analysis first, as passive men are often coupled with aggressive wives:

  • Do I have a need to control every aspect of my marriage?
  • Do I become angry and hostile when things don’t go my way?
  • Have I been a constant critic whenever my husband attempted to lead?

If I am an aggressive wife, I need to bear a share of the responsibility for the state of my marriage. I need to confess and repent of this behavior, before the Lord and to my husband as well.

And if I have been forced into a leadership role because my husband has opted out, it may be necessary to talk with him and explain how desperately his leadership is needed. In Fit to Be Tied, Bill and Lynne Hybels offer a practical explanation of how husbands become passive. They explain that by nature men are task- or goal-oriented, capable of focusing only on one thing at a time. A man persistently showers his prospective wife with attention, affection, and affirmation until she says “yes.” Right after the marriage, however, he shifts gears to working hard at his career. He does this in good faith, thinking that he should now focus on providing for his family and getting ahead in his career–he sees it as a natural progression in his life. His wife, however, experiences this as a major betrayal. 

So, how can this wife take steps to set things right in her marriage?

  1. Ask him to lead. If you have been the leader in your family either because of your aggressive personality or because your husband has opted out of the role, it’s important to let him know his leadership is desired.
  2. Follow his leadership. When your husband begins to take steps in leadership, it’s important for you and your children to follow–not with cynical attitudes, but with supportive ones.
  3. Give positive reinforcement. Husbands who are passive are often afraid to lead. They see their wives as very competent leaders and fear they don’t measure up, or that their efforts will be met with criticism. Try to affirm his efforts, no matter how small.
  4. Seek his counsel regularly. It’s easy to establish patterns of relating where you’re not communicating with your husband in the decisions that are made. These patterns can be broken when you seek input from your husband in day to day decisions. This habit will also build confidence in your husband as his input is affirmed.
  5. Encourage your children to seek guidance from their father. If your children see you as the leader of the family, you’re the first one they’ll seek. When they seek input from their father, it will affirm in his heart that his family needs him.
  6. Be prepared for a rocky ride. A husband who has been passive will make mistakes as he assumes his leadership role. Expect mistakes and be gracious when they occur. Your patience will allow him to admit his errors and learn from them.
  7. Pray diligently. Pray for your husband as he walks in the role God intends for him in your family. Pray that your own heart will remain soft toward him and patient with him. Pray that your children will get a vision of what God intends for the Christian family.

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