As a premarital and marriage coach, I often hear boyfriends and husbands say, “She’s wants to control everything in our relationship,” “If I don’t do it her way or when, she gets mad at me and just does it,” and “I’ve given up trying. I let her tell me what to do and avoid the fight.” As a man, boyfriend, or husband, do any of these statements ring true in your relationship or have you distanced yourself from relationships to avoid the drama?
If you said yes to either of the above two questions, you have a fair amount of male company. Unfortunately, there’s a power struggle going on in a large percentage of the marriage relationships and neither spouse is happy, leaving a trail of resentment that leads husbands to feel dominated by their wives and for wives to feel like they are raising an adult child.
“When husbands fail to lead, wives will step in, and husbands will then feel dominated. It’s an unhappy cycle that needs an intervention.” – Sandra Dillon
You might wonder “what’s going on” and “how did we get here” when just a few months or years ago the two of you got along so well. In today’s culture, family dynamics and structure have played a role in suppressing male leadership by not allowing boys to test and grow their leadership skills during the normal stages of child development. Leadership is a critical competency a boy must master in order to lead his wife and family. It’s not uncommon for poor leaders to emerge from intact families with helicopter parents who couldn’t tolerate their children to fail. Boys never learned leadership by suffering and working through failure to achieve success.
“If marriages and families are to thrive, husbands have to step up their leadership and women have to let go of their fear of family failure.” – Sandra Dillon
Divorce and its resulting family structure have also had an influence on the adult power struggle. Many boys and girls grow up in homes where mom is the head of household and primary parent—essentially the leader of the family. Children tend to carry into adulthood the family structure and dynamics they were raised under.
Of the couples I’ve seen who struggle with power issues, none have had an intentional conversion about family leadership. Questions I often ask couples to answer include:
- What behaviors and attitudes does a husband demonstrate who is leading his wife and family well? And for a father who is leading his children well?
- What behaviors and attitudes does a woman demonstrate who is being a Godly wife? And for a Godly mother who is raising her children?
If you don’t believe in God, take out the reference to God and replace it with “best in class”. Spouses should answer these questions from their perspective and then share with their partner. Discuss where you have similarities and differences. It’s important to agree on common ground.
Aligning on family leadership expectations is the first step in diffusing the power struggle in a marriage. The second step is to practice the behaviors you identified as common ground. A marriage coach can help couples through this process.
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves and to having thriving relationships. You can contact Sandra at email@example.com