Editor's note: This is part 2 in a two-part series on "Letting Your Husband Lead." To read part 1, click here.

If you're like me, it's easy to grab the reins in the marriage and be the one in charge.

But if your marriage is like most, that  initiative might be seen as an act of war. Or maybe it's even seen by you as something you resent.

Most wives will say they want their husbands to be the leaders in their homes, but often they don't know when to back off and actually let them lead.

Chances are your husband is just as capable as you in dealing with a situation, but he doesn't verbally express it as well as you do. Or his thinking process is different than yours, because of his personality, upbringing, or the way he generally processes through matters. That’s when you and I need to know when to lighten up or back off, altogether. 

Our admonition to let our husbands lead is laid out in the New Testament as a spiritual responsibility to the Lord, as well as to our husbands:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. ... Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:21-24).

God's exhortation to wives in that verse is showing us that following our husband’s lead and submitting to (or obeying) him when it comes down to who has the last say is a spiritual issue. Our spiritual issue, not our husbands'. In other words, we are not told “submit to your husbands if they are acting like Christ.” We are told to follow their lead, as we would follow Christ’s. Even if your husband is not leading you as Christ would (and I know we can play that card, at times), we are still to yield to their lead as we would surrender our will and follow the lead and authority of Christ.

Just like men, we as women were created in the image of God. That means we, too, are naturally able to rule, oversee, manage, and administrate. We need those traits in order to parent our children, right? And in order to coordinate our family’s calendar, head up the project at work, or lead that ministry at church. Many wives are more than capable of leading. We just need to know where and when to back off and let our husbands shine.

I know that as you read this, some of you might be feeling very frustrated. Maybe even a little bit hurt. You are leading by default. You are leading because your husband won’t lead. Or you are leading because you feel your husband doesn’t know how to lead. This is where I want you to prayerfully consider this next thought: Your husband may be fearful of leading, of making the wrong decision, of not cutting it when it comes to your –or his family’s – expectations. If that is the case, that is where he needs your partnership, your prayer and your praise.

1. Partner with him. You can partner with your husband, first of all, by understanding the pressure he is under as the appointed spiritual head of his home. As mothers, we often take on much of the burden for how our children are developing spiritually, but wouldn’t it be intimidating if our God-given role was to be the spiritual head of the household? I will admit that I am a lousy role model in my own home, at times – to both my husband and our daughter. And although I serve a gracious and forgiving God, I am still accountable to God for my actions. I must still confess the times I blow it and admit to God that I so need Him to control my every thought, word and action. Yet, if I had to live with the pressure that God was going to hold me accountable for the bottom line spiritual health of my entire family, I wonder if I’d buckle under the pressure. I would probably constantly feel I was blowing it.

Do you think your husband might sometimes feel that way?

Men hate to feel that they have let someone down or disappointed someone who was counting on them. If he is blowing it in your eyes, believe me, he probably already knows that and therefore feels even worse about himself. In his eyes, he’s disappointed you, his family and God, whether he has a relationship with God or not.

Men naturally want to do things they excel at. If they’re not good at being a leader, in your eyes, they may shrink from the task, altogether. 

My husband is a pastor. But in his home he still feels inadequate at times because he is human, because his wife might give him a look that says What were you thinking? and because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

My husband already bears the weight of the spiritual condition of his congregation on his shoulders. How much more the weight of his own family? And how much more an added weight if I remind, chide, criticize, or instruct him about what he should be doing to be the spiritual leader in our home. Your husband might be a supervisor, manager, department head, VP or even a CEO and his decisions directly affect the wellbeing of his  employees and company. If that’s the case, your husband already bears the weight of responsibility to lead others – he needs to know you believe in his ability to lead you and your family, too.  Partner with him by believing in him as a leader.

2. Pray for him as you release him of your expectations. You may have a husband who is leading, just not in the way you have envisioned that he would lead. To lead in his home doesn't mean he has to lead family devotions every night. He may be leading  in how he disciplines himself and others, what he discusses with his children when you're not around, what he decides at work that benefits his family. Give your husband a break when it comes to meeting your expectations of a leader. And give him a break when it comes to being the spiritual head of the household. I’m not saying dismiss him from that responsibility (only God can do that). I’m saying lighten up. (And I say that with a smile.) Provide input graciously. Then pray for him continually.

Your husband wants to know you are in his corner. If you can’t say “I’m on board with you” and really mean it, then pray for a submissive spirit to be able to say “Because you’re my husband, I will honor your decision.” And then keep praying for him – and his decision – every step of the way.

3. Praise him – continually. The man in him will want to continue doing  what he feels he is doing well. Yes, there may be times he doesn’t lead effectively. But find something you can praise. His initiative. His courage in taking a step. His desire to do what was best. As he steps out and leads, he needs to know you are supporting him and the two of you are a team. 

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and the author of several books including When a Woman Inspires Her Husband (upon which this article is based) and When Couples Walk Together, which she co-authored with her husband, Hugh. For more information, encouragement and free resources to strengthen your marriage or your walk with Christ, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Publication date: April 18, 2012