Are You a Wife Who Unintentionally Undermines Her Marriage?

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

If you’re a wife, I applaud you for reading past the title. It’s difficult for any woman to believe she is undermining her marriage, even if unintentionally. In fact, a spouse is likely to name the other as the major contributor to any discontent in the marriage. What is the truth? Spouses influence each other by what they do and how they react to one another—they are both responsible and accountable.

As described in Marriage: Why Some Husbands Fail to Lead, some men unknowingly sabotage their marriages by failing to lead. A woman has a deep-felt need to be led by an honorable husband who is meeting her needs, and yet marriage is not a one-way street of getting and not giving. Regardless of a husband’s behaviors, a wife also contributes to the success of the marriage by her decisions and behaviors. Read on if you’re a woman who wants to:

  • Learn how wives become injurious to their marriages
  • Determine whether you are behaving destructively
  • Understand why you might choose damaging behaviors
  • Change your marriage by meeting your husband’s needs

Why Women Are Unhappy in Their Marriages

Men are struggling with leadership, which is putting pressure on women to take on more responsibility. Although many women derive personal reward and satisfaction from their jobs and careers, many wives and mothers would prefer not to have the additional burden of bringing home a paycheck. They want working-outside-the-home to be an option which they can rightly prioritize after wife and mother.

I encounter women who are run ragged as they are take on the combined responsibilities of childcare, home care, and a full-time job to make ends meet or perhaps because their husband is un- or under-employed. In a worst-case scenario, some husbands have given up on work and forced their wives into the role of bread winner.

Evans (2012) says women have a natural desire to be provided for by their husbands. Most women resent being forced to make money or lead their household when they have a husband. When wives are not led well, it takes a significant toll on the family. Women, whether they realize or admit it, are usually frustrated and angry for having to take on the male leadership role.

Why Husbands Fail to Lead Their Wives

More men are abandoning their leadership role. Many don’t know what true leadership looks like, because it was never modeled by their fathers who were weren’t skilled at leadership or absent from the home. Therefore, we have a society of women behaving like male leaders of their families and propagating the de-masculinity of their husbands.

My intention is not to beat up husbands and wives but to bring awareness to the dynamics that are likely playing out. Before sustainable change can occur, spouses must understand what they are battling.

What do Wives Need from Their Husbands?

You’ve probably heard that women are complex and men are simple. I would argue that women are also easy to understand, if a husband can accept his wife’s needs are quite different than his. What do women in general need from their husbands? First, and foremost, Evans (2012) states women want (1) security, (2) affection, (3) open communication, and (4) leadership. What is the most common compliant expressed in marriage counseling? Lack of leadership.

Are You an Undermining Wife?

When women take on leadership roles that husbands are designed to fulfill, they unknowingly start a downward emotional spiral in their marriage. The more women take on, the more husbands let them, and eventually the angrier wives become for having to take on more.  The cycle continues until many spouses are sleeping in separate bedrooms or divorcing. Wives need to understand that they can’t do for their husband what their husband needs to do for their families. By taking on their husband’s leadership role, it only serves to weaken their men. Essentially, women are self-sabotaging their own marriages out of fear of failure.

Are you unintentionally undermining your marriage? Answer the following questions to find out whether reverse leadership may be wreaking havoc in your marriage. If you find yourself hesitating with a firm answer, you may be on the slippery side toward what you don’t want to admit is true in your marriage.

  1. Do you find yourself arguing for control over things going on in your home?
  2. Do you worry that your husband or children will fail?
  3. Do you use frequency of sex to control your husband’s behavior?
  4. Do you refuse sex to get back at your husband for not meeting your needs?
  5. Do you find yourself the only spouse worrying about money or a significant family issue?
  6. Do you sometimes find yourself sneaking behind your husband’s back to do what you think is best because your husband wouldn’t agree?
  7. Do you placate your husband by saying you will do something when you have no intention of carrying through with it?
  8. Do you resent your husband for not working harder or providing more financially?
  9. Do you resent your husband for not contributing more to the household and childcare?
  10. Do you resent having to work outside the home?
  11. Do you wish you could stay home and raise your kids versus feeling pressured to work?
  12. Are you disappointed with how your husband interacts, or lack thereof, with your children?
  13. Do you correct your husband in front of your children?
  14. Do you criticize your husband in front of family and friends?
  15. Do you wish you husband would plan some date nights or family outings, so you didn’t have to?

If you answered “yes” to more than half of these questions, I would pause and reflect on what behaviors you led with that eventually had your husband withdraw from his leadership responsibilities.

Next Steps

When marriage leadership is out of balance, spouses respond with coping strategies, yet over the long-term come to resent their spouse’s behaviors. In many cases, the balance leans toward women becoming more dominant and husbands more passive. Husbands usually claim they get little respect from their wife, and her compliant is that she feels like she has an adult child to take care of. Does this ring true in your marriage?  If so, stay tuned for the next part in the series that discusses why some women choose passive men and why passive men choose dominating wives.


Evans, J. (2012) Marriage on the Rock: God’s Design for Your Dream Marriage. Dallas, TX: MarriageToday

About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership and premarital/marriage coaching.  She coaches individuals and couples as well as designs and facilitates workshops.  She has a passion to help people be the best versions of themselves.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website at