I have personally only known one woman who was intentionally manipulative. She married a man for his money. All the other wives that I’ve known personally married men they loved and respected, and they desired to be helpful, not hurtful.
Husbands, please know that most of us wives are not usually manipulative on purpose. When we appear that way, you are most likely simply seeing a woman who’s struggling with surrendering her desires or what she thinks is best, just as you probably struggle in surrendering your will to God’s and yielding to Him. So, when we step on your toes, please gently and lovingly let us know what we did to offend you. We can only change if we know and care that we did something hurtful.
Now I will turn my attention to my fellow wives. One of the most important skills we can learn is the art of being a good helpmate to our husband, which includes knowing how to follow his lead. I am still learning, but I’m happy to say that, with the Lords help, I’m making progress.
I will share a number of examples of where I made mistakes or did something right and discuss what I learned from those situations. I hope this will be helpful to you.
Mistake/Correct: In 1992, our family went to the annual company picnic. As one of the company owners, my husband Tom was busy seeing to everyone’s needs, which left me in charge of entertaining our young children. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good attitude about this and made a self-pitying comment to Tom. I should have understood his situation and made the best of it.
Later that night, Tom said he always feels guilty about ignoring his family at those things. This time, I did something right. I said, “A lot of men feel unnecessary guilt because their wives fail to recognize the Lords calling on their lives.”
It isn’t easy for a man to follow God’s calling, either. It requires sacrifices that they may feel guilty about. We wives need to do our best to ease their burden of guilt by sharing in the load and doing whatever we can to support them.
Mistake: In 1992, our family was on a mission trip to Mexico. Our daughter, Heather, had asked if we could use our car as the babysitting car and Tom said no. Later, when I was at the car that was being used for the kids, the owner commented that there were far too many children in the car and the boys were pretty wild. What I should have done is go to Tom, explained the situation, and asked if he was willing to help out. What I did was give the girls permission to go in our car. I also told them they could eat in the car if they were careful not to make a mess (which went against Tom’s rule of no eating in the car). What I did for the ministry was nice, but I should have been supportive of my husband.
I did it right! When our children were ages 11, 8 and 6, a friend of mine, who was going through a rough time, called to vent. We talked awhile, then my daughter Kristy needed me, so I prayed with my friend and hung up. I asked Tom if we could invite her and her daughter over later, and he wisely said I could if that didn’t take me away from my family. I decided not to invite her over. I needed to focus on my family and my friend needed to focus on hers.
Mistake in 1992: When our daughter, Heather, was 8 years old, our family was in a restaurant. Heather wanted a salad, but the waiter forgot it. I then asked Tom what we should do and he said she should first see if she could eat all her dinner. At that point, I should have remained silent and supported his decision. Our children knew that we considered Tom the head of our household, having the final say. If I had remained silent, Heather would have eventually accepted it. But I was fearful that she’d make a scene and spoil everyone’s dinner, so I wanted to make her happy and, whenever the waiter returned, and Heather looked at me, I asked Tom what he thought, and he finally gave in. I’d allowed Heather to manipulate us, which wasn’t healthy for her and, even worse, I’d failed to show respect for Tom’s authority.
Mistake: Sometimes, even when I’m not totally at peace about an idea of Tom’s, in an attempt to be supportive of his desires, I’ll bring things up when I should just wait to see if he follows through.
Yes, when Tom expresses a desire or an interest in something, I should listen respectfully, share my perspective, and pray about it. But it isn’t my role to bring it up again. I should wait and see if he mentions it again. I’m slowly learning that the best way to know what he’s truly interested in is to wait and watch to see where he takes the initiative.
I did it right! Tom knows what kinds of movies I can or can’t handle. In this instance, he was being protective of me and I appreciated it. Normally, I don’t like high action movies or violence. But I heard a lot of Christians raving about the latest version of Ben Hur, so I suggested seeing it. Tom asked if I felt I could handle it. I wasn’t sure, so he pulled up the movie trailer about it. I decided I’d pass and thanked him. It might be a great movie, but I wasn’t sure it was right for me. I was glad I followed Tom’s lead.
I did it right! Tom and I decided to attend more events together (besides church and family events). So, one day I shared a list of concerts and he selected the Beach Boys. I said I’d see if we could get tickets. There weren’t many left, but I was able to get two good ones. Then he asked if I had included our son. I said no, but he was welcome to see if he could get tickets for Shon and his helper if he wanted to. I said they wouldn’t be near us, however. I was about to leave, so I gave him the information and said he could call if he wanted to. (He did, and he was able to get them seats.)
This is an example of being a good helpmate. I was following up on an interest Tom had expressed, I did him the favor of making the call, and I consulted him about which tickets to purchase before doing so. When he later asked about Shon, I gave my approval and left it in his hands. (If I had had strong feelings about wanting a date just with Tom, I would have expressed that desire and then left it up to him.)
A mistake corrected: Tom and I facilitate and host a Bible study in our home. One day, I handed Tom some discussion questions and asked which ones he’d like to discuss. He glanced at them and laid them aside, so I said no more. I realized my mistake. What I should have asked is whether or not he wanted to use those questions at all! So, I decided to say nothing more until closer to the day of the study.
The day before our group meeting, I asked Tom what we would be doing. He said, Don’t we have some written questions? I said I did and asked if he wanted to see them. He said he did, so I printed a copy, handed it to him, and said he could select the questions he’d like the group to discuss, and he did.
Do you see the subtle difference? In the first instance, I was taking the lead and placing him in a secondary position. I had selected a format and then gave him the role of choosing the questions. The second time around, I let him take the lead, by simply asking what he wanted to do, without offering any suggestions. Once he had a plan, I was able to assist him by making a copy of the questions and letting him decide which ones to discuss. Since it didn’t matter to me which questions we discussed, that worked out fine. If I had wanted to share my opinion about which questions to discuss, I could have said, “Would you like to discuss which questions to cover?”
A mistake corrected: An important issue came up that could negatively affect a friend of ours. For reasons I won’t go into, we wondered whether or not to tell our friend what had happened. I gave Tom my opinion, but I forgot to ask his opinion! So, the next day, I asked what he thought, then said I’d follow his lead, and I did. I also prayed for protection upon everyone involved. It turned out fine and our friend received the necessary information in another way. So, I’ll call this example a mistake corrected. My failure to ask Tom’s opinion the first time was wrong, but when I realized what I’d done, I corrected it.
Mistake: Tom and I were discussing an item we had loaned to someone and Tom stated when he would like it back. I said, “You’ll need to let them know that. He said, “Yah, yah” in an annoyed tone that said I should say no more, and I didn’t.
What I should have said was, “What do you plan to do about it?” I need to learn to let him resolve his own issues unless he asks for my opinions.
What I had said most likely sounded like a command to him, even though I didn’t mean it that way. I have been learning to stay out of the middle of other people’s issues unless invited in, and since this was more Tom’s issue than mine, I was letting him know he (not I) would be the one to bring the matter up to them. I am a problem solver by nature and it takes a lot of prayerful re-programming to learn to let other people solve their own problems and speak for themselves.
Mistake: Tom had offered our rental house to someone. After we discussed it, we decided that may not be the best solution for her or us and that he would talk to her about it. A few days later, when she and I were hanging out, I mentioned it to her, and she was actually relieved. However, I was guilty of usurping Toms initiative. Just a little while later that day, Tom told her, and then I mentioned that I’d already discussed it with her. If I’d been patient just a little longer, Tom would have handled it. If I want him to handle something, then I need to let him!
I did it right! One day a situation came up in our son’s household that needed to be addressed. (Our disabled son has 3 roommates and numerous helpers, so situations do arise at times that require our intervention). I reported the incident to Tom and asked how he wanted to handle it. He said he would talk to the people involved and I said ok.
After he talked to them, I wondered if he had shared the solution with our son. He hadn’t had time. I wanted to let Shon know, but I prayerfully decided to keep quiet and not even say anything further to Tom. Here’s why: if I had said anything to Shon, or even suggested to Tom that we should, Tom most likely would have felt I was saying, “You didn’t do a complete enough job in handling this.”
Interestingly, because I handled this correctly, he listened to my perspective on another related issue and agreed with my suggested solution. (This second issue was less complicated than the first one.)
In conclusion, I simply want to say this: wives, if we want our husbands to learn how to lead, then we have to learn not to! Since neither they nor we are perfect, we need to exercise patience and grace in the learning process. But we can rejoice in the fact that we are making progress!