My husband, LeRoy, and I are different. What an understatement! My family of origin welcomed debate and practiced it loudly and frequently. LeRoy’s father ruled with an iron fist and no one spoke a word to disagree.

LeRoy grew up in a blue-collar family, in a rural area. His family never traveled, ate out, or shopped in malls. My father was a mechanical engineer and started a small business that provided a comfortable living for our family.

I feel at home in large cities and upscale social environments. LeRoy doesn’t. When I was in college, my family took a trip to Hawaii and I brought LeRoy back a T-shirt. He said that’s probably the closest he would ever get to reaching the “Big Island.”

Besides our differences in family backgrounds, there is the difference in our personalities. He’s an introvert, I’m an extrovert. LeRoy depends on God’s grace to function in large crowds; I say, “The more the merrier!” He is wired with the need for solitude and a slower pace. Me, not so much.

We’d only been married a year when we moved from the rural countryside to downtown Dallas. The transition was difficult for LeRoy, and I viewed his personal distress as weakness. I was too immature to recognize and appreciate his differences, and in my pride, I demeaned him for those differences. Five years into our marriage, I realized the confident, happy, driven young man I’d married was gone. In his place was a withdrawn, fearful, insecure, and miserable man who believed he could never measure up to my expectations.

Maybe you’re now where LeRoy was then. Maybe you believe you’ll never be free to lead your wife because she dismisses you as “inferior” or treats you with disdain. Your wife may not even realize how her behavior is affecting you. You may think she’s your biggest enemy, while she keeps wondering what in the world is wrong with you.

You may think your wife’s your biggest enemy, while she keeps wondering what in the world is wrong with you.

The tendency to emasculate, demean, and deconstruct manhood seems to be in a woman’s DNA. It comes far too easily to us. And what I want you to know is that your wife probably doesn’t even realize that’s what she’s doing.

The Desire to Control

Eve’s choice of the forbidden led to her curse, and every woman since Eve has had to contend with it: “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you’ ” (Genesis 3:16).

When I was younger, I thought the phrase “your desire shall be for your husband” referred to some kind of insatiable desire for my husband emotionally or physically. But when I dug a little deeper and checked out some reputable commentaries, I discovered this curse contains an interesting Hebrew word found only one other time in Scripture.

In Genesis 4:7 we find the other time the word translated “desire” is used; it’s in reference to sin wanting to dominate or overpower Cain: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

Notice sin is crouching, ready to pounce, ready to overcome and subdue Cain. That word “desire” is the urge to dominate. The flip side of the woman’s calling to be a helper is the curse of controlling. We want to control our husbands. The good stuff God put in us, which makes us beautifully fierce women and effective helpers, gets twisted into this dangerous tool of domination that we use to “whip the man into shape.”

So our DNA is to “control” our man . . . but at the same time, most men have a dangerous component at work that actually provides fuel for the woman’s ability to emasculate him. That dangerous component has a name: passivity. A destructive cycle forms as the wife experts her dominance, and the husband faces to his passive nature: the Fierce Woman/Fearful Man cycle. A couple can live in the black hole of this cycle their entire marriage.

Every male and female, in every generation of every culture, has experienced the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fatal choice. But today, we more clearly see the devastating results from Eve taking the helm of leadership: the emasculated male.

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Rise Up, Man of Faith!

The truth is, your wife, your family, and your church need a man who trusts God and follows him with unflinching courage.

This was the spirit of Caleb. Remember him? In contrast to the passivity of Adam, Caleb, one of the ten spies sent into Canaan by Moses, rose up to obey God: “But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it” (Numbers 14:24, NASB). Caleb had a courageous faith that pleased God.

Do you fear your wife? Do you think she is “stronger” than you? Better than you? More intelligent or “spiritual” than you? Do you think leading her is an impossible mission? Does she intimidate you? Do you feel inadequate? Have you given up attempting to serve her as her spiritual leader because you’ve lost all confidence?

God desires to come alongside you in this battle. He wants you to experience victory. The obstacles you’ve faced in your relationship with your wife may appear as gigantic as the opposition Caleb faced, but are you willing to look beyond what you now see?

Rise up in faith today. Don’t let fear weaken you. Trust the God who is able! The same Spirit that was in Caleb dwells in you.

If you want to be respected by your wife, don’t run from your responsibilities, but serve her at Christ serves the church. Be the leader, be the man, step up to the plate, and love your wife well.

Point Your Finger the Other Way. If you’ve assumed your wife’s fierceness is the whole problem in your relationship, take responsibility for the role you’ve played in your marital conflicts. Stop pointing your finger at your wife and consider these questions. Have you been passive? Have you retreated? Have you been lazy? Admit it. Take responsibility and let her know that you’re not going to hide in the bushes any longer. You’re making the tough choice to come out in the open and deal with the issues. Let her know you’re not going to abandon her or leave her to deal with your junk.

Take Out the Trash. I mean this literally. Are you leaving all the dirty jobs to your wife to deal with? The leaky faucet, the complaining neighbor, the car maintenance, the home-repair projects you keep ignoring? Ask your wife what projects she’d like you to take ownership of. And if you don’t know how to do it (can’t figure it out after using Google), get a friend involved or pay a repairman.

Talk to Your Wife About Her Needs. You may not believe this, but your wife needs you. She may put off an air of superiority, may function independently, and may refuse your help too often, but she does need you — more than she yet realizes. Talk to her about what emotional, spiritual, and physical needs she has that you aren’t fulfilling. Be ready for a strong response to this question and be open to her suggestions. If she comes out swinging (from years of repressed yearning), take a dive — then gently but firmly lead her to a place of calm by explaining to her that you truly want to work on these areas, but you need her help. If you’ve failed her in the past, don’t excuse or justify your sin; confess it and ask for her forgiveness.

Love Her Enough to Confront. Your wife’s fierce tendencies may be her personality type, but the way she expresses her fierceness may be sinful. Love her enough to come alongside her and care for her soul. We’ve seen God do amazing things in marriages that looked beyond hope — but the real key is the husband taking spiritual responsibility for his wife’s soul. Let your wife know you’re not going to let her continue down a path of destruction — you’re going to step up to take responsibility

For years, I begged God to give me a spiritual leader. I viewed LeRoy as weak and I’d reached the point in our marriage where I could barely tolerate being in the same room with him. How wrong I was. My perspective drove me to treat him in disrespectful and demeaning ways. But LeRoy was no wimp. I wore him down for years, but thankfully he got back up and began to lead me. He courageously took on his role of spiritual shepherd in our home, and I have the deepest level of love and respect for him today. I pray that as you begin to live out the truth of Scripture, you wife will respond with newfound admiration and a willingness to follow your lead.

Taken from Men Who Love Fierce Women by LeRoy and Kimberly Wagner (©2016), Moody Publishers. Used by permission.

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