PWs and PW husbands come in all personality styles. For this issue of Peter’s Wife we are looking at the strong wife and the more easy-going, quiet husband. How do they manage in a cross cultural situation?
Many PWs have strong personalities or they wouldn’t survive in a cross cultural situation. These women are gifted in certain areas and are capable leaders. Some of them are married to strong, visionary, high-energy husbands and have the usual adjustments to submission and cooperation. But for strong, capable, verbal women married to more easy going, quieter husbands, the adjustment may be much harder.
Linda is a strong, motivated woman serving in Asia. She said for her the process began with a conscious decision made in prayer. She needed to learn to trust not only her husband, but God. She needed to truly believe His word with regard to her husband’s place in the home. So while she rarely disagreed with her husband’s decisions, she learned that it was her responsibility to support what he believed to be right.
Linda identifies two important keys: trust and respect. A wife must trust that God has given her the husband who is right for her, and He has placed that same man in authority over their home. “I am not my husband’s ‘Holy Spirit’ or conscience, and it is not my responsibility to point out his faults or say ‘I told you so!’ I must trust God to do so.” And respect is a mutual thing. “My husband respects me and the strengths and gifts God has given me. There are areas in our life that I am just ‘better’ at than he is and he is, strong and secure enough to recognize and admit that. He trusts and respects me, and I him.”
My husband, Mike, has an example of mutual submission that helps to illustrate this point. “In a jetliner there are two people in the cockpit who are equally capable of flying the plane, but one is the captain. The co-pilot submits to him as leader, but the captain must also be submissive to the wisdom and views of the co-pilot. It is that way in any successful marriage. The husband is the head, but as the head he values the wisdom and gifts of his wife. She, in turn, learns to trust his leadership and helps him become more confident by affirming and supporting him.
“The purpose of submission, is always for protection, not for domination and control. So when a more forceful wife marries a quieter man, both of them have to see submission as a safety measure. If he is to succeed in leading effectively, he will have to get past any insecurities he has, and allow his wife to become the person God has made her to be. That is the mark of a secure leader. His wife, however, may need to dial back her energy a little, or she will overwhelm him. If they can learn to do that, they will have less conflicts. There may still be some, but they will get through them without damaging their marriage.
“The real trouble comes if the man is insecure about his leadership, and threatened by his wife. Some men are not just quiet leaders, they are passive. They refuse to make decisions, get involved, or give direction, so their wives and children live in a vacuum. Worst of all, some passive men get angry at unexpected moments, blasting their wives for some decision they made. There is no hope for a man like that but a heart change. It is simply not fair for him to be uninvolved, then rant and accuse when something happens that he doesn’t like.”
So how can a couple like this lead the family effectively?
Most important decisions should be made jointly. One may verbalize what the choices are and briefly discuss the pros and cons. Then both should pray and ask for God’s wisdom. They may pray together or on their own, but they should allow enough time to sense God’s leading. They should each pray about when and how to present to each other what they believe is the right choice.
A wife can sabotage the process by the way she presents her opinion or reacts to her husband’s opinion. If she comes across too strong, her husband can give up his role as leader and just let her make the decision–not a good choice. Or he can ‘rebel’ and choose to do the opposite–also not a good choice. Here is the best way: she can present it to him in a way that still allows him to feel that he may or may not choose that direction. But ultimately it is the husband’s responsibility to make the decision and the wife’s responsibility to support him.
For the smaller, more immediate decisions both husband and wife needs the freedom to make decisions without ‘permission’ from the other one. For decisions that relate to finances, perhaps setting a dollar amount that can be spent without discussion would help. For decisions that relate to the home and children allow the one who has the better grip on the current situation to make the decision.
Of course, there will be occasional disagreements about who should lead in a particular situation, but with practice the marriage will grow stronger and healthier.
We’ll close with the acrostic my husband uses in teaching on team leadership in the home: PRAISE.
- Mutual PRAYER – We will intercede for each other and support each other in prayer.
- Mutual RESPECT – We will seek to be respectable people and we will respect the qualities, character, and sincerity of our partner.
- Mutual APPRECIATION – We will always be thankful to our partner and for our partner.
- Mutual INVOLVEMENT – We will do our part to make this marriage and this family successful.
- Mutual SUBMISSION – We will acknowledge one another’s wisdom and insight, being ready to change our minds if it will help us fulfill God’s will.
- Mutual ENCOURAGEMENT – We will build each other up, especially when the challenges are great and we feel small.