My husband is in over his head – how do I fix him?

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Dear Shaunti,
I recently read For Women Only and I now realize how important it is for my husband to know I respect him – which I do. But I come from a long line of “strong women” (as my dad puts it) and none of us is afraid to voice an opinion. Including telling our husbands how to do things, like what to do with the kids while we’re out for a few hours, or the most efficient route to soccer practice that avoids the traffic bottlenecks. It’s not that I don’t trust him, I’m just very particular, I guess. But it makes him upset. How do I convey respect to him when I just know he’s in over his head and needs help?
-WIT (Wife In Training)

Dear WIT,
I’m trying hard to read your last sentence with a straight face. Did you really just say “how do I convey respect” and “he’s in over his head and needs help” in the same sentence?

Sister, you need a wake-up call. Let’s be really honest about the main problem here: you don’t trust him. If you did, you wouldn’t have to give him a minute-by-minute schedule of everything that needs to happen with the kids during the three hours that you are out with your sister. You’d be totally fine with the fact that he prefers taking the five extra minutes on the way to soccer, instead of appreciating the brilliance of your winding-back-road-and-hair-raising-left-turn-across-two-lanes-of-traffic route.

Instead, you want it your way … so you feel a need to tell him what to do. Which comes across as though you view him in the same way as you’d view a slightly in-over-his-head 14-year-old on his first babysitting job. (“So first, you have to make sure you microwave the soup about 90 seconds, because 2 minutes will make it too hot…”)

I mean, seriously: how must your approach look to him? After all, there are other day-to-day things you probably trust him with completely, right? You trust that he’s not going to take Fido to work in the middle of the summer, and leave him locked in the car all day with the windows rolled up. You don’t need to tell him that, because you know he’s not an idiot.

So realize that each time you tell him what to do in these other similar day-to-day things of life, that it automatically means that you think he needs the help, the poor dear. In other words: in your mind, he is an idiot. And that feeling is terrible for anyone – but especially guys, since their greatest emotional need is to feel able and respected for what they do.

Yes, absolutely, there are always things that any of us might need help on. The first time my husband showed me how to use the snowblower, it took some getting used to. The first time I showed him how to use a complicated inhaler contraption for our toddler daughter, he needed to try it a few times. All the men I interviewed for my book For Women Only told me that they realize there are times help is needed. The key is to ask him, “Do you want any help, or are you good?” And if he says he’s fine, let him give it a shot… without standing there anxiously, which means (in his mind) you’re just waiting for him to fail.

If you can reach out to your husband and find a way to be a true, respectful partner and not an I-want-it-my-way-criticizer, I promise you it will build your relationship. Because instead of giving up because he feels like he can’t win, he will feel confident that he can step out and become the man you want him to be.


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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.

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About Shaunti Feldhahn

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.
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  • http://www.genamccown.com GMC3MOM

    When we were first married, I micromanaged my hubby. To the point that if I was gone for the weekend, I’d have our kids clothes for the weekend organized into ziplock bags by the day, same for the food.

    It wasn’t that I didn’t trust it, but since he wasn’t part of the everyday… I felt like I was just doing my job in advance ahead of my absence. Because, I had worked my way through the ins and outs. However, I’d come home and find he did it his way. The clothes wouldn’t be touched, they ordered take out instead of preparing the meals I made. I was a bit annoyed that I spent the time/effort for nothing.

    Then, I was speaking with a group of moms. Their husbands wouldn’t watch their kids or run the errands. If they wanted to run out for a few hours or go away on a weekend retreat, they’d have to line up a sitter or send the kids to the grandparents. In that moment, I was so grateful that my husband would be with his kids while I went out… that I just didn’t care. As long as I came home and they were alive, that was good enough for me.

    In her book A Confident Heart … Renee Swope talks about how we need to allow our husband’s to be the father God created them to be, not duplicate copies of ourselves. God chose him to be their father, he has unique gifts and perspectives to share with them. He will shape their lives in ways I can’t. So.. I need to let him.

    As for the rest of it.. if you micromanage everything it becomes hard to distinguish the difference between offering your expertise and being controlling. I would bet if you would back off on the little every day things, he’d be more apt to listen on the bigger stuff. And it doesn’t hurt to ask, “Do you mind if I make a suggest”.


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