Can you relate at all with the following scenario?

A husband says to himself early in the marriage, “I’ll pray with her and we can be in a Bible study together with other couples.”

As the months pass, he experiences something that de-energizes him: Immediately after one of their regular prayer times together, his wife comments, “You forgot to pray for my mother who isn’t feeling well.” After another prayer time a short time later, she accused him, “You didn’t pray for me. Do you ever pray for me?” Then a couple weeks later, after their couples Bible study one night she says to her husband, “I can’t believe you said what you did to Mary about her son swinging from the rafters at church and needing a time-out. She is struggling as a mother. That was insensitive.”

It doesn’t take long for the husband to pull back from his wife spiritually. As a result, he stops offering to pray with her and grows quiet at the Bible study.

Thousands of Christian wives are complaining their husbands are not the spiritual leaders in the family that they desire them to be. Certainly that is true for an alarming number of families and an important topic to discuss with men and challenge them unashamedly to step up and become the leaders God calls them to be.

But could it also be true that many wives have not given proper thought to the ways that they have unknowingly contributed to the lack of male spiritual leadership in their home?

Most wives expect their husbands to support them when they are emotionally vulnerable. Day after day they expect their husbands to be their burden bearer. They want to talk to their husbands about their emotional needs and experiences as wives, mothers, and women.

Yet, when it comes to empathizing and affirming a male in the area of his struggles, which few women have, it is amazing to me how many wives tend to confront their husband’s behavior from the point of view of a mother. Instead of building on the man’s spiritual strengths and continually affirming these, many women look at what he is not doing and tries to change him.

Bottom line, a husband loses energy in his efforts to be a spiritual leader in the same way an overweight wife loses energy every time her husband says something negative to her about how she looks or what she is eating. God did not design the nature of the female to respond positively when the husband continually has an attitude about her body image. Instead, she’ll shut down. So too, God did not design men to respond positively to a woman who continually has an attitude about his spiritual image.

What makes the latter point worse is that a man can love his wife’s spirit while challenging her to be healthier. But, when a wife judges a man’s spirit, she has gone to the core of his being. Where does he go now? He stonewalls. He closes off. He protects himself from her. She, of course, feels unloved and cannot imagine why he is treating her this way. All of her girlfriends and her mother and sisters agree. And the Crazy Cycle spins even faster. Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love.

I do not share this in order to excuse husbands from serving in their families as the spiritual leader. The husband is called to serve in such a way no matter the response of his wife and children.

Scripture does not allow space for the husband to place blame on others and become slack in his leadership responsibility.

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However, what is his wife doing to affirm his strengths? How does she encourage him when he begins to take even the smallest of strides in leading their family spiritually? Does she allow him grace when he comes up short in the standards that she has set for how she wants him to lead?

This post was originally featured in Love & Respect. All rights reserved.