Following Your Husband’s Leadership
About the Guest
Barbara Rainey helps wives understand that a husband is designed to be the leader of the home, and a wife is called to follow him. Much like a dancer working with her partner to create a beautiful dance, a wife needs to know what to say, how to say it, and discern the best timing.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Barbara Rainey helps wives understand that a husband is designed to be the leader of the home, and a wife is called to follow him.
Following Your Husband’s Leadership
Bob: The dance of marriage can get a little bumpy as husbands and wives learn how to relate to one another more effectively. Barbara Rainey says it takes time and patience.
Barbara: There are going to be a lot of bumps in the road. We tend to think, when we get married, that life is going to be happily ever after and that we love each other more than anybody else on the planet has ever loved one another; therefore, our life is going to be easier. Then, to make it more complicated, we think: “Oh! And we’re Christians! So, therefore, it’s going to work smoothly; and we’re not going to have bumps in the road.”
I just want to appeal to young women, especially—but also to women who’ve been married ten and fifteen years or even longer—to recognize that this may take some time.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
How we love and serve and work together, as husband and wife, is something that takes years—actually, it takes a lifetime—to get right. We’ll hear more about that from Barbara Rainey today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think you should probably just take charge today—just be in control / lead. I think—I think—
Dennis: Just be the man!
Bob: Be the man! And lead on!
Dennis: There are some women, who are saying, “Why don’t you guys just be the man? Huh?”
Bob: “Just step up!” Is that what you think?
Dennis: Yes; let’s step up in love.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: Step up and die to self.
Dennis: Step up and nourish and cherish your wife.
Bob: That’s what real leadership is supposed to look like.
Dennis: It is. It is not the pound-the-table demanding leadership that—
Bob: Not “My way or the highway,” kind.
Dennis: Not exactly. My wife of 44 years joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Barbara, welcome back.
Barbara: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Dennis: It’s always good to have you here.
Barbara: I like being here.
Dennis: You are so much sweeter, looking across the table, than—
Bob: —than me?! [Laughter]
Dennis: —whom I’ve had to look at for coming up on—this is our 24th—we’re starting our 25th year!
Bob: Now, let me just say—
Dennis: We’re getting ready to move toward 25 that I’ve been looking at Bob!
Bob: I’ll just say, I agree with him 100 percent, but you didn’t have to say that! [Laughter] I mean, there are some things you can just keep to yourself, Dennis.
Dennis: Ah, that’s right. But the subject on today’s broadcast is not one of them. We want to talk to wives about following your husband’s leadership. Barbara has written a book called Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. This book has done extremely well. A lot of moms have been buying this book for their daughters, coaching them on what it means to be a wife / to be a helpmate.
Bob: Barbara, it is one thing to think about this subject of responding to your husband’s leadership when you think about it for yourself, as a wife; but the way you approached it in this book—you were actually writing letters to your daughters and daughters-in-law about issues they would face in marriage. One of those issues was going to be the issue of leadership and how a wife ought to respond. When you think about it in terms of a mentoring relationship, it does give a little different perspective on the subject; doesn’t it?
Barbara: Yes, it does; because every marriage is different. Every man is different / every woman is different; so, therefore, every couple is different. Each couple is going to have unique challenges. Every wife’s relationship with her husband is different than her sister and her husband or her friend and that husband; because we each bring unique personalities, and gifts, and talents, and traits, and background experiences into the marriage.
So, what it looks like for me and my marriage to Dennis, and the way we work this out in our relationship, is going to be very different than the way my girls and their husbands and other young men and women work out this part of the marriage relationship.
Bob: Now, some people will hear you say that, and they’ll think, “So you’re saying we just kind of have to work it out for ourselves, and however it works for us—that’s okay?”
Barbara: If you’re following the blueprints. In other words, God has made it really clear in His Word that there are some very simple rules / some very simple guidelines—whatever term you want to use for that—it is clear in Scripture that God has made a pattern. I think that that’s the big idea that I want young women to understand. I want them to see that God’s design is not constrictive. It’s not meant to be restrictive in your life. It’s meant to actually set you free.
God intends for His pattern, when it’s worked out in a marriage relationship, to create a thing of beauty in that marriage relationship.
Dennis: I was counseling a young engaged couple a number of years ago. I asked them about this area of their marriage relationship: “Is there a difference between what it means to be a husband and what it means to be a wife? Or are these two responsibilities interchangeable and equal in all ways?” They said: “Oh, sure! That’s right / that’s how we’re going to operate. We’re just two equals getting married.”
I said: “Well, the Bible does teach that you both have equal value / equal worth; but that you do have, at points, different functions. As a husband, a husband is called to certain things—that If he doesn’t do—the wife is going to be frustrated.” We’ve got some female listeners, right now, who are nodding their heads, going: “That’s exactly right!
“I’m in a marriage where my husband won’t lead, won’t love, won’t honor, wont’ cherish.” That makes it really difficult to follow someone like that.
I appealed to this young engaged couple—I said: “You really have to decide: ‘Does the Bible teach that there are distinct responsibilities for a wife and for a husband within the marriage relationship?—how you’re going to relate to one another going forward.’”
As Barbara said—and I really like what she said there at the beginning, Bob—if you establish these blueprints at the beginning of your marriage, there’s tremendous freedom, on downstream, in that relationship.
Bob: Okay; so what are the non-negotiables? I mean, if it can look different from one marriage to the next—but there are certain walls that have to be in place / there are certain blueprints that you have to follow—what are those things that you would say to a young wife, “This needs to be at the core; however it looks in your marriage, these things need to be in place”?
Barbara: Well, the one thing that I want to say—that we’re trying to narrow in on today in this broadcast—is the whole issue of husband as leader and wife as follower. Now, does that mean I never lead? No. I lead a lot. Does that mean that Dennis never follows my suggestions or my ideas? No; he does follow me. But, when it comes down to who is going to play that role in the marriage, God—has built him / has designed him—has created him to be my leader in our marriage relationship. He has created me and designed me to be the follower.
I know we’ve talked about the dancing analogy numerous different times on the broadcast—and we talk about it on The Art of Marriage® too—but it’s a perfect picture of the way marriage works; because when you are doing a dance with two people, you can’t both do the same steps—one has to lead and the other has to follow. There has to be a blending of those two positions—of those two roles / of those two responsibilities—to create a beautiful dance in the end.
It helps us understand that it’s not that one is better than the other—it’s that we both have different responsibilities. When we work them together, it creates a beautiful pattern / a beautiful picture of what God intended marriage to be in the first place.
Dennis: I was talking to another engaged guy, a number of years ago, as well. I was talking about what I learned about dancing with Barbara—I said, “The dance instructor told me I had to have a firm, stable frame for how I positioned my hands, my arms, my shoulders—not too rigid—but, at the same time, not too soft.
Interestingly, Bob—and you’ll get a kick out of this—the instructor criticized me for being a little too loose / a little too sloppy on the frame! [Laughter]
Now, you’d have thought—maybe, because of how outgoing I am—maybe my frame would have been really solid and firm. No, I was sending Barbara some wrong signals by giving her a loose frame. It was very difficult for you [Barbara] to follow as a result of that.
Barbara: And that’s the whole point—is that: “We’re learning this. This is a learning experience throughout marriage. It’s not something that you read the rules—you read the instructions / you read the pattern—that God established in the Bible and you go, “Okay; check!—got it!”
Men have to learn how to lead. They have to learn how to know who she is and how to lead her in a way that she can respond. The whole thing is wrapped up in trust. Trust is a word that is very, very crucial to marriage. It’s a commodity that is often in short supply in marriages today. Because we enter marriage with all kinds of baggage, and we enter marriage with all kinds of brokenness, it’s hard to trust one another.
We can’t lead and follow / we can’t fulfill the responsibilities that God has given us if we don’t trust one another.
Bob: And I think, for some young wives, a good question for them to ask themselves is: “Do I struggle trusting my husband because he has demonstrated that he is fundamentally untrustworthy?
Bob: “Or do I struggle trusting my husband because I’m afraid to trust somebody, even if that person, generally, is a trustworthy person?”
Bob: Some young wives, who have a trust issue, the issue comes back to them just being afraid to surrender control to another person.
Barbara: That’s exactly right. And it is hard—it’s very hard to trust another person—because when we’re dating, and we’re engaged, and we start off our marriage, we feel like we can trust one another completely; but, then, he may make a mistake or two—or, I should say, he will make a mistake or two. [Laughter]
Barbara: Then she goes: “Oh! Well, I didn’t see that. Maybe I can’t trust him as much as I thought I could.” She may not—and probably won’t—have that conversation with herself; but internally, she’s taking note of these mistakes or of these times when she thought she could trust him and then he didn’t come through. Then it happens again and again—so her distrust grows rather than her trust growing.
That’s when conversations need to happen—thousands, and thousands, and thousands of conversations—between a husband and wife, where a husband learns from his wife: “How can I lead you in a way that helps you trust me?—that helps you know that I really do have your best in mind?” And she says, “Well, it’s really hard for me to trust, because I’m afraid you’re going to…:—whatever. And then, when he understands why, then he can work better to overcome that and to fill in that gap.
The whole leading and following thing is really, at its core, a trust factor that will take years, and years, and years in a marriage to rebuild; because all of us have trust issues.
Bob: And there will be some small violations of trust between us—
Bob: —where, “I thought you said you were going to be home at 6:00, and you didn’t get home until 6:15.
Bob: “Now, can I trust you in the bigger things of life?” Or there are going to be large breeches that come along, where we violate trust in significant ways. When that happens, how does a wife recapture / how does she regain an ability to relax and trust her husband?
Barbara: Well, as I said a minute ago, I think it starts with a conversation. It starts with her asking some questions—and prefacing those questions by saying: “I want to trust you. I want to follow your leadership,”—“but this is how it feels when I’m expecting you to be home at 6:00”—or 5:00 or whenever—“and you’re not there when you said you would be. It’s okay if you’re not there when you say you will, but just let me know.”
Barbara: He may think, “Well, it’s not that big a deal.”
But when he understands that that is signaling to her that she can’t trust him—and if he cares about leading in such a way that she can grow her trust in him—he will want to make those changes. He will want to say: “Oh, I see what this does to you when I’m repeatedly late,” or “I see what this does to you when I…”—whatever. Those conversations have to take place so that trust can grow.
Dennis: You know, life is not just always repeatable. I mean, if it was, then we’d learn how to do the waltz, as I did, and we could just go through life waltzing. But, Bob, you knew all of this / you’re the music guru here—I didn’t realize there were all these kinds of dances: the rumba, the salsa, the samba—I mean, all these dances—jitterbugging! Now, there’s where a guy gets in trouble; because he gets the waltz down—[Laughter]—
—are you with me?—
Dennis: —and then his wife wants to jitterbug.
Bob: —or do the cha-cha. And the cha-cha is completely different from the waltz.
Dennis: It is totally different! At that point, you do step on toes again.
Dennis: And that’s what life is—life is constantly moving us to different seasons / different rhythms.
Dennis: We have to learn how to lead—as our wives age, as our families mature, and as we age. It’s a fascinating dance to go for a lifetime.
Barbara: Yes; and there are always changing circumstances in every marriage. When you get married and you’re newlyweds, you just have each other. Then you have kids, and that changes the dance / that changes the relationship. That changes the way a wife needs her husband to lead. He may not know that she needs him to change the way he leads. It’s a surprise to him when he discovers that she wants him to lead differently now that there are kids in the picture.
You’ve got the whole issue of raising your kids and discipline, and how you celebrate holidays, and a gazillion other things, where she has expectations; and he’s clueless that she had any expectation at all.
Barbara: So it’s a new dance. It’s a new way of relating. It constantly takes conversation to discover: “What is it that you both need? What does she need, and what does he need so that he can lead well and she can follow as effortlessly as possible?”
Bob: So the wife who says: “I’ve had the conversations that you’re telling me to have. I’ve brought up my anxieties. I’ve explained how, ‘When you don’t do this, it makes me feel like I can’t trust you,’ and bigger things. We’ve done that dance around the barn dozens of times, and nothing changes.
Bob: “So am I supposed to just keep on trying to follow?”
Barbara: The answer is, “Yes,” in a nutshell. The reason that I say that is because I think sometimes we—we, as women—
—and I think all of us, as people, but especially women in this situation—sometimes, we’re just impatient. I don’t blame the women—that are listening—for thinking that; because there have been plenty of times that I’ve wanted the change, and I wanted it now: “Please. Could you go ahead and do that?” [Laughter]
But it isn’t—you know, changing our lives / submitting our lives to Christ, and then allowing Him to do His transformative work doesn’t usually happen instantaneously.
Barbara: It’s not a switch that we flip. The more pressure she puts on him, the longer it’s going to take. That’s why I say the answer is: “Yes. Live with him, because there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road.”
We tend to think, when we get married, that life is going to be “happily ever after,” and that we love each other more than anybody else on the planet has ever loved one another; so therefore, our life is going to be easier. Then, to make it more complicated, we think: “Oh! And we’re Christians!
“So, therefore, if we follow the Bible and we follow what the Bible says, then God is obligated to make this work. It’s going to work smoothly, and we’re not going to have bumps in the road.”
I just want to appeal to young women, especially—but also to women who’ve been married ten and fifteen years or even longer—we need to give one another grace. We need to allow one another the space to recognize that this may take some time. There have been issues in our relationship that have taken a lot longer to resolve than I would have ever desired; but we both hung in there with each other; and the change came—but it came at God’s timing and not my timing.
Bob: You know, we’ve talked about some of these trust issues around things like what time you get home or whether you pick up the right stuff at the grocery store. Some of these trust issues are a lot bigger than that—
Bob: —like, “Can I trust you to watch the kids and keep them safe?” or “Can I trust you not to look at other women?”
Dennis: —“or pornography?”
Bob: So, a wife who knows that those kinds of big issues exist—again, would you say to her, “Just persevere and pray”?
Barbara: I think it depends on what the issue is / I think it depends on what the problem is. I think if it’s—you know, staying with your kids—all of us moms feel nervous when we leave our children with their father. I don’t care how good a dad your husband is—he’s going to do it differently than you do. That’s a part of the problem—is that he is going to do a lot of these things differently than you would do.
When I used to leave Dennis and go on our church’s women’s retreat, I knew, when I walked out the door, that they would have candy, and junk food, and pizza, and that the house would be a disaster when I got home. [Laughter] I just knew it, because Dennis’ goal with our kids was to have fun.
Bob: Yep! [Laughter]
Barbara: And that was more important to him than all the things that I valued.
Bob: Good nutrition and a clean house!
Barbara: Exactly! That was my job—
Dennis: Party time!
Barbara: Yes; exactly.
Dennis: It was party time with Dad! [Laughter]
Barbara: And they always had a great time.
In fact, I kind of resented the fact that they had so much fun with him. [Laughter]
Dennis: —and that you had to clean up. Later on, I did get the message—
Barbara: He did get the message!
Dennis: —and you did not come home to a dirty house.
Barbara: You got better and better, but it took a lot of time / it took a lot of years for you to recognize. I think it takes us longer to recognize the needs in our spouse than we think it’s going to.
Dennis: And I just want to get very pointed with husbands and with wives for just a moment. First of all, the guys: “As a husband, you are called to give up your life on behalf of your wife. Listen to me—if you chose a woman as your wife—God calls you to sacrifice your life on her behalf—and to give up your rights, to give up your selfish agenda, and what you’d like to always go do and how you’d like to have it done. You’ve got to give it up! It’s no fun.
“I talked to a young man, not too long ago, who was getting married. He goes: ‘Man! This is a tough assignment!’ I said: ‘You’re beginning to get it. You’re beginning to get it.’”
Now, the wives—I want you to hear me—when I was a young man, starting out my marriage, it was Barbara’s belief in me, even though I was clumsy on the dance floor of our marriage / unable to lead her as she wished I could do the dance of marriage with her; she still unequivocally expressed her belief, trust, and respect of me. I just want you to know something—your husband knows it, whether you have used the words or not—he knows what your attitude is.
Now, your assignment is: “Find fresh ways to express belief, trust, and love to your husband so that he can grow; and he’ll get better.” You know what? We’re all in the process of growing; and hopefully, getting better.
I think the grace of God is plenty ample enough to be at work in your husband’s life to help him become the man, husband, and maybe the dad he needs to be.
Bob: It always helps in this process if you have someone, who is a compassionate mentor, to come alongside and coach you, and encourage you, and cheer you on. I feel like that’s what you do, Barbara, in the book that you’ve written, Letters to My Daughters.
Dennis: And I just want to say—that’s what FamilyLife Today wants to be—whether it’s Barbara, whether it’s me, Bob, or a guest that we have on here—we want to help you. We want to be that mentor to help you be successful in life’s most important relationships.
I just want to say, “Thanks,” to our Legacy Partners, you know, here at yearend—as we come up on the final couple of months of the year—I just want to say, “Thanks,” to the Legacy Partners who keep this broadcast on the air.
How many broadcasts do you know that are helping you in your relationship with God, your spouse, and your kids? Thank you for making this broadcast possible, not only in this community, but in more than a thousand others around the country. Thank you for standing with us.
Bob: If you’d like to find out how to become a Legacy Partner, go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s information available there about becoming a part of the team that makes FamilyLife Today possible, month-in and month-out.
If you’d like to help with a one-time donation today, you can do that today as well. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can donate online, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223. If you do help with a donation today, we’d love to send you, as a thank-you gift, a resource we’ve designed for preschool and early elementary-aged children to help them, during the Christmas season, learn more about who Jesus is.
It’s called “The Twelve Names of Christmas.” It’s our gift to you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife.
While you’re on our website, be sure to order a copy of Barbara Rainey’s book, Letters to My Daughters. It’s available from our FamilyLife Today Resource Center as well. You may want to get multiple copies and consider these as Christmas gifts if you have daughters or daughters-in-law. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d prefer to call to order, the number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, it was a year ago today that a couple of our staff became husband and wife. Sandy and Sharon Spangler got married one year ago today—everybody here, at FamilyLife, was cheering them on. “Congratulations!” to the Spanglers on their one-year anniversary. I hope it’s been a great first year.
We think anniversaries matter—we’re The Proud Sponsor of Anniversaries™. We appreciate those of you who have been celebrating with us, this year, our 40th anniversary in ministry.
Thanks for your partnership with us in all that we do, here at FamilyLife.
And I hope you can join us back tomorrow. Barbara Rainey is going to be here again. We’re going to continue our conversation about how a wife can encourage her husband to be the man that God has created him to be. That comes up tomorrow. I hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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