Adapted from Reading Your Male: An Invitation to Understand and Influence Your Man’s Sexuality (David C. Cook, 2009) by Mary Farrar.   

What a man needs is an emotionally grounded, God-dependent, soft woman who understands her husband, loves him deeply, knows how to draw healthy boundaries, and—most important—encourages every step he takes toward true manliness. This means that we women have to grow just as much as our men do. We cannot fully study healthy femininity and how to achieve it in this article. But for now, let us simply say that the more healthy we are in our femininity, the more we can encourage our men in healthy manliness.

True femininity stirs the embers of manliness. It awakens a man’s calling, and breathes life into his manly quest.

Our men and boys need such women.

In this feminized world, where else will your men be encouraged towards healthy manliness? Your encouragement will be like rain in the desert.  

The Hebrew word for “encourage” means “to strengthen.” And the Greek word carries the idea of “putting courage into.” That’s what every man and boy needs from us.

There is nothing more encouraging to a son or a husband than a woman who believes in him. One man put it this way: “It’s all about whether my wife thinks I can do it. A husband can slay dragons, climb mountains, and win great victories if he believes his wife believes that he can.”

Oftentimes men don’t step up because they feel it will involve a battle. Or they may simply find it is much easier to be enabled by a wife who will do their job for them.

May I tell you what many men from around the country have expressed to my husband? An astonishing number who grasp their call to godly manliness and decide to make a serious change in their lives, face a surprising resistance at home. Not long ago Steve received an e-mail from one bitter wife:

My husband has left me in charge of the house for so long that I will not give it up … I REFUSE TO GIVE THAT UP. THIS IS MY HOUSE AND CHILDREN. I’m the one who has been reading the Bible to the kids. I defaced the book my husband bought from you, and hid it in a place he won’t find it. If he really wants to be a leader of the house, then he has to KILL ME FIRST, OR YOU CAN.

Okay. Is it any wonder that this man didn’t feel overly inclined to attempt his manly role sooner? As over-the-edge as this e-mail was, it represents a certain kind of control that kills a man’s spirit. A man needs to know that if he is attempting to step into godly manhood, he is not going to have to face a continual counter-attack. Or be killed. If your husband expresses a desire to become the man he has not been in his home, love him for it and give him all the space he needs to grow into that role.

Most of us, however, are guilty of enablement. We have allowed our men to depend on us to discipline the children, oversee their education, make family decisions, and basically determine our social, financial, even spiritual lives. The single best thing an enabling women can do is to step back. Way back. And we must do it graciously, without great drama.

If you never step back, he will never step forward.  

This doesn’t mean that you drop everything or cease being his helpmate. Think of it rather as gently laying the mantle of leadership at his feet. Where once you would have led the charge, you are now turning to him. Let your husband hear, see, and feel by your actions that you are serious about stepping back. Dead serious.

“What if I do this and he does nothing?” you may ask. Give it time. Hold off. Let the void be felt. Let the chips fall where they may. Pray for him. Let God have an opportunity to work in the void. Your children will not die and your marriage will survive. Men need time and space and all kinds of encouragement.

Is this easy? No. It may be the hardest thing you have ever done.