"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Power of "No"

“What do you think?”
“I don’t know.  What do you think?”
“I think we should buy the green one.”
“Okay. Whatever you want” 

It happens all the time.  A wife asks her husband for his opinion and his forehead begins to bead up with sweat as he figures out the best way to answer, only to come out with the safe, default answer, “whatever you want.” 

Why does he answer this way?

It’s generally the only logical response to his wife’s default answer.  “No.”

The word “no” has a special power over men.  When used consistently over a period of time it changes a man from a leader into a follower.  It turns him into a “yes, dear” kind of husband who shakes in his boots when pressed for an opinion or a decision.

This isn’t the kind of thing that happens overnight.  Rather, it’s a slow, steady path that chips away at a husband’s confidence until one day he wakes up and realizes his wife and children don’t respect him.  Worse yet, many husbands find that they are subject to their wives’ authority, submitting to their wives, rather than the other way around.

How does this happen?  A wife who uses the power of “no” doesn’t always utter the word “no,” but the negative answer is implied by her, and understood by her husband. 

For example ….

Example #1

Husband:          “Let’s buy the red station wagon.”
Wife:                “I don’t like the color.  Besides, it doesn’t have enough room for an extra child.”

Translation: “No.”

Example #2

Husband:          “We need to get on a budget.  There isn’t any money left at the end of the month.”
Wife:                “Are you sure you’ll stick to it?  Remember what happened the last time?”

Translation: “No.”

Example #3

Husband:          “Let’s try something new in bed tonight.”
Wife:                “Maybe we can talk about it later.”

Translation: “No.”

The implication in each of these examples is that the husband isn’t going to get his way.  He knows it and so does his wife.  As a result he is forced to comply with his wife’s wishes to keep peace in the marriage. Moreover, Christian husbands are commanded to sacrifice for their wives, loving them as Christ loved the church, giving up His life for it (Ephesians 5:25). 

After several years of hearing “no,” many husbands give up trying to express an opinion.  They keep their feelings and desires to themselves because they already know the default answer.

Voila!  The power of “No.”

How can we counteract this situation?  Is there a way to turn it around so that husbands can reclaim their respect while at the same time loving their wives with sacrificial, Christ-like love?  Where is the line between loving your wife sacrificially and being a doormat?

First, husbands need to make decisions and stick with them  If you have reasons for making a particular decision, (buying a particular car, for example), tell her your reasons.  After all is said and done, if her reasons are legit and outweigh yours, then by all means go with her choice.  However, if after prayer and consideration you still feel your decision is the best for your marriage, then go ahead and do it.  Stand firm on the knowledge that your position is that of leader.

Also, you need to express your opinions, needs, and desires to your bride.  If you need things to be a certain way, say so.  Most wives I know speak up when things aren't right.  We husbands must do likewise. We are doing our wives and ourselves a serious disservice when we deny our genuine feelings and go along to get along.  It eats away at us until the roles are reversed.  NOT what  God intended.

Wives, if your husband has stopped taking the lead, ask yourself how many times you've allowed him to lead.  Have you said "no" to him a little too often?  Have you made it difficult for him to be in charge?  Do you accept or disregard his authority? 

Let him lead.  Say "yes" more often (unless he's going to do something outrageous like sell one of the children or something).  Be supportive of his decisions and don't question his authority. 

And above all, let the Lord be in charge of your life and your marriage.


  1. This is a constant struggle for me. My husband is naturally a giver and wants to please me. He also came into our relationship believing that he doesn't deserve me so I tend to take the lead by default. We have learned through counseling with our Pastor that this is not the way God intends us to be in our marriage and we work on it every..single..day..

    1. I don't think you're alone in the "leading by default" department. Many husbands lay off the leadership role because their experience has not been successful in that area.

      Kudos to both of you for getting help and working through it. Leadership / submission is not easy. I truly is something you have to work on every..single..day.

  2. You said it right, letting the Lord lead is the most important thing in any relationships and all else will fall into place.

    1. It's often easier said than done. We all have our agendas and we try to impose them on our spouses, our children, our friends, and even God. I'm very thankful for the grace He gives me when I try to take over for Him.

  3. Great piece! I really like how you've encouraged husband's to communicate more of their opinion/needs, give more details of their thoughts. I am a wife who likes to discuss. It doesn't mean I'm saying no, I just want more information. Nor, do I want to say NO and take the lead in any way. Women being more verbal need to bounce the ball back and forth in discussion, at least I do.

    1. Yes, thank you for bringing that up. Many wives are more verbal and need more discussion before decisions are made. Husbands sometimes think their wives are questioning their authority and leadership when all they really want, like you said, is more information. And sometimes they are actually trying to control and take the lead in their marriages. I'm the first to admit it isn't always easy to tell the difference. That's why it's important for husbands to put themselves out there and express their thoughts. The conversation, comfortable or not, needs to happen.