I was a full-time freelance writer when I first started Husband Help Haven. The Haven was a personal passion project that I did not share with potential clients in my writing portfolio.
One of my ongoing clients was a woman who owned a marketing agency. We’d met in-person several times (rare when you work online) and she had me on retainer to manage content for a few of her client's sites.
Then she stumbled across my side project, Husband Help Haven...
Completely my fault. I accidentally sent her a message her from my @husbandhelphaven.com email address instead of my freelance writing email.
When she emailed me back, she had visited my website to check it out...
At the time, this site was just a handful few articles about the importance of the husband stepping up as a leader, especially during marriage crisis.
I wish I still had her response. She asked me if it really was my website or if my email had been hacked!
After I told her that no, it was MY site, she made it clear to me that my views on marriage were sexist. She pretty quickly ended our business relationship.
Now, I have nothing against this client, I loved working with her and she runs a great business that's still alive and well today. Not everyone has to agree with me; she is entitled to her opinion.
The question is...
Why is it that this idea of husbandly leadership is sexist?
Husbandly Leadership… Isn’t That Sexist?
After all, if the husband leads, doesn’t that mean the wife follows or submits? That can't be good.
Why would anyone believe such an antiquated, medieval idea?!
When I started this site, I thought for sure that I would be swarmed with accusations of sexism for saying that a man should lead his marriage.
Turns out, the vast majority of women I hear from are contacting me for advice about how they can get their husbands to start doing the things I talk about on Husband Help Haven.
While I do get the sexist objection every now and then (from both men and women, poke around the comments and you'll be able to find a couple accusations), the vast majority of women who email me are desperate for their husband to step up and lead the marriage...
Like, “Please help me, because if he doesn’t change now, then I’m getting a divorce” desperate.
And in fact, I also get objections swinging the other way - some MEN have reached out to me to tell me that I am being unfair to men, that no man should neuter himself to the point that he serves his wife above himself. These are usually the guys leaning a little too hard into the MGTOW movement, but who am I to judge.
ALL THAT TO SAY!
Even though I don't personally get this objection very often, I'm writing this article for two reasons:
- My long-term hope is that the concept of husbandly leadership takes a foothold in our culture... But I know that before that can happen, people need to understand why and how this concept fits into our modern-day ethics.
- I want YOU to have confidence in your beliefs - perhaps NEW beliefs - about marriage and what your ideal marriage looks like. I want you to have that internal certainty that what you believe is justifiable, even if it doesn't quite fit with our current social norms.
Through the reasons below, I hope to justify that husbandly leadership is NOT sexist, and in fact, that a man striving to lovingly lead his marriage will naturally have a BETTER view of women than his non-leading counterpart.
6 Reasons Husbandly Leadership Is Not Sexist
1. Authority Is Not Superiority; Different Is Not Worse
Our culture often equates authority with superiority.
In other words, when I say “The husband should lead his marriage,” many people hear me say, “The husband is better than his wife,” or, “The husband should have more rights than his wife.”
This is NOT true, this is NOT what I mean, and it certainly is NOT what I believe.
Even though the husband and wife may have different roles in marriage, the value of the husband and wife remain completely equal. And they should treat each other as such.
The leader is not superior to his follower, and in fact, the best leaders will humble themselves below their followers, putting more worth on their followers’ thriving than their own.
2. Everyone Is Both Leader & Follower In Different Areas
Speaking of leaders and followers, remember that most people are both a leader and a follower in various roles in their life.
- As citizens, we are all followers to our president (whether we like it or not) because countries run better when a dedicated group or person takes responsibility for the overall well-being of the people.
- As employees, we are all followers to our boss because companies are more profitable when a dedicated group or person is responsible for the performance and direction of the business.
- As parents, we are all leaders to our kids because families work better when the parents are in charge and the kids are not.
Do we find moral inequality with the role of follower in these roles?
Are we as citizens worth less than our leaders on a human level?
Are we as employees worth less than our bosses on a human level?
Do we as parents have more innate worth than our children because we lead them? No, in fact, most parents would take a bullet for their kids in a heartbeat.
We come back to the point that authority does not equal superiority. The husband is not worth more, does not have more human value, because he strives to lead the marriage. Similar to the case of parents and child, most husbands wouldn’t think for a moment before taking a bullet for their wife because to them, their life is worth LESS than their wife’s!
3. Husbandly Leadership Is Unique To The Marriage Relationship
Remember that we are talking exclusively about marriage here.
Marriage is something special. There is nothing else in life, no position or job or lifestyle, that is like marriage. Marriage as an institution, and thus being married, is different from everything else.
Therefore, I can say that I believe that it is appropriate and best for the man to lead his marriage, and still 100% genuinely say that I believe women can and should pursue leadership in every other area of life.
And in marriage, neither role is better than the other, but both roles are needed. And, it just so happens that based on all of my research and experience, both spouses tend to be happier and more fulfilled when the husband leads. Again, a husband who feels superior to his wife is both a bad leader and a bad husband. It’s not about superiority, but responsibility.
4. Left To Their Own, Most Husbands Don’t Want To Lead
Because it’s hard!
If husbandly leadership came easily, Husband Help Haven wouldn’t exist.
Most men don’t want to lead their marriage, or it doesn’t come easily if they do.
If most men wanted to lead their marriage, then I wouldn’t get so many emails from women asking how to get their husbands to step up and lead!
Very few men come to Husband Help Haven already aware of their responsibility to lead the marriage, and even fewer were already doing a good job of it before being told how important it is.
While yes, there is something that just feels ‘right’ about it, proper husbandly leadership is an ongoing learning process because we as people are not perfect.
5. Two Leaders Doesn’t Work
By definition a relationship cannot have two leaders, and having a single leader tends to be most effective for running any organization big or small. That’s why most countries have one political position above the rest (e.g. President, prime minister, king) and why most companies have one CEO.
So, if the husband doesn’t lead his marriage, one of two things will likely happen…
- The wife takes the leadership role. Over time, she grows tired of always telling her husband what to do. She starts feeling more like his mother than his wife.
- Nobody takes the leadership role. The marriage stagnates, you grow apart, and nobody steps up to fix the problem. Spouses that once prided themselves for being loving partners feel more and more like loveless roommates.
Perhaps there are a rare few truly happy, sustainable egalitarian partnership type marriages out there, but I haven’t seen them, so I’d feel confident saying they are the exception and not the rule.
And, even then, even in those completely equal partnership-marriages, whose responsibility is it to right the ship when things get off course?
In marriages that strive for 100% shared leadership, what happens when the passion fades for both spouses simultaneously (as passion tends to do) or when life gets difficult because of external things outside of either spouse’s control?
From what I’ve seen, it’s easy for these couples to fall into the, “Well, they’re not trying so I’m not going to try either,” mindset, whereas with husbandly leadership, there is a clearly defined responsibility.
Since nobody is perfect, no couple is perfect, and so there needs to be someone who is able to take the responsibility of ensuring the marriage is moving along a positive trajectory when things get off course. With husbandly leadership, that responsibility falls on the husband.
Just like the captain, it’s the husband’s job to keep an eye on the compass of his marriage and ensure things are moving in the right marriage. It’s the husband’s job to prepare for the worst before it happens.
6. Saying The Husband Should Lead Doesn’t Mean The Wife Can’t
We’ll talk more about this below.
For now, let me just say that I know firsthand that the wife CAN lead. I saw it with my parents. My mom is a natural leader.
I don’t think it leads to the greatest possible happiness or contentment for either spouse.
Why do I still recommend husbandly leadership, even in relationships where the man is naturally passive and the woman is naturally dominant?
What About Type A Women?
Oh, I love this objection.
Surely there must be some wives out there who WANT to lead the marriage.
What about the type A, career driven, successful women with dominant personalities?
What about the marriages where the wife is the primary breadwinner and the husband stays home?
My mom is a physician with a type A personality while my dad was the stay-at-home caregiver for my entire childhood, so I have first-hand experience with this sort of marriage.
People automatically assume that a type A woman wants to come home and lead her marriage, just as she leads in her career.
The reality could not be further from the truth.
In my experience with my parents’ marriage and what I’ve seen in other similar marriages, the Type A woman actually has HIGHER expectations for her husband.
She expects him to match, if not exceed, her own input into the marriage. Nothing is a bigger turn-off for this woman than a husband who is content to coast, and on the flip side, nothing would make her happier than for him to step up and proactively steer the marriage.
My mom was and is a natural leader in all areas of her life - she leads at work, at church, in her family and in her relationship. But in her marriage, it didn’t work for her to lead and it didn’t work for my dad to follow.
Let’s be clear here - the practical day-to-day responsibilities are not really what define the husbandly leader.
The specific, practical day-to-day responsibilities of every husband will vary because everyone’s life circumstances are different.
The husbandly leader is set apart by his attitude towards the marriage and the traits he aspires to as a husband. You can be selfless, proactive and patient… All those good leadership traits… and still be the stay-at-home dad.
My parents’ marriage is just one piece of anecdotal evidence, I know that, but over and over again I’ve seen that the wife leading just does not work well for the vast majority of couples.
In my experience, the husband’s obligation to lead is actually INCREASED when he’s married to a woman with a dominant or type A personality, as are the consequences when he fails to do so, since her high expectations for herself also carry over to the expectations she sets for her husband.
The Eye Test - Which Man Is More Appealing?
In case you’re still not convinced, let me paint you a picture of two men.
- Takes responsibility
- Shows unconditional love
- Doubts himself
- Needs someone else to make decisions
- Cracks or spirals under pressure
- Waits for his wife to initiate everything from chores to sex
- Blames those around him for his problems
- Only shows love when love is first shown to him
Guys, tell me which man you think is more likely to keep his wife attracted and engaged in the marriage.
Ladies, tell me which man you’d rather be in a relationship with.
Then, take it one step further…
- Which man do you think has a more positive view of women?
- Which man do you think puts more value on his wife?
- Which man is selfless and which man is self-centered?
If you honestly think that there is a single woman out there who wants Man B, then I will admit that I am wrong.
However, all of my experience with men and women alike makes me believe that men and women are both happier when the husband leads.
If You're Happier & Your Wife Is Happier...
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks about it – both men and women are happier when the man steps up and leads the marriage.
I know there are people out there who cannot be convinced that anything involving different expectations or responsibilities for men and women could be anything but sexist. Perhaps there is a dictionary out there that defines sexism as ANY prejudice or discrimination based on a person's gender - whether positive or negative - and in that case they can make a case against husbandly leadership. But if we're just talking sexism in the way 99% of people use it, no, husbandly leadership is not sexist.
I’ll finish with saying this:
I strive to lead my marriage not for my own happiness, but my wife's.
And I do my best to encourage all other married men to lead their marriages in the same way.
If some would label this as sexist, so be it.
Meanwhile, I and the rest of us will go on enjoying our happy marriages and striving to be the best husbands we can be.
With much manly love,
I'm Stephen, the guy behind Husband Help Haven. I'm not a marriage counselor or a lawyer, I'm just a guy on the Internet who has talked to a loooooot of men going through separation... Over 2,000 in the past 5 years. My goal is to give men the tools they need to save their marriage from separation. Read more here