Are your words demanding something that your life isn’t? To the man who wants to be the head of the house…
I’m always fascinated by common patterns and trends in human relationships. Maybe underneath my IT, technology focused veneer and career is an anthropologist lying in wait. But I find myself so interested in statements that get repeated in or about relationships, as well as paradigms that drive people together or tear them apart.
Some common phrases I’ve explored in the past include “I’m too busy for a relationship“, “I’m not ready for a relationship“, “nobody is good enough for me“, and even a whole bunch of ways I believe all marriages to be the same.
One I’ve heard recently in multiple arenas being thrown around is a number of men saying they want to be the head of the house, and a number of women saying they want a man who takes the lead in that regard as well. I’ve seen a big push about it in mainstream media outlets (such as Mama Mia’s married women’s worst marriage advice in 2022 which originally got me thinking on this post), I’ve heard it from single men and women saying that’s the way it should or shouldn’t be when talking about dating, and I’ve heard from a number of married men and women recently saying it’s come up to the benefit or the detriment of the relationship.
In our modern era, it’s a very contentious view that anyone holds a position of “head of the house”. However in many cultures, marriages and families, this statement still makes the rounds and is held on to by many.
As a Christian, I would like to explore this from a Biblical perspective, given it is a notion in a few places (Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, 1 Peter, Colossians) put forward as a relational ideal. After all, most of the people I know banging the drum demanding respect or looking for someone they would like to esteem as such are Christians with these verses the driving force of their concerns.
So, to the man who wants to be the head of the house, to the woman who wants to live with him, and to all those who want to be in a relationship looking at these verses and not being entirely sure of what it looks like, let’s take a dive into it.
Men need respect
I think it’s worth calling out that in a relationship, respect is a core need for men. Just look what happens when a man doesn’t feel respected by his wife – he’ll either overcompensate in areas where he feels like he is succeeded by spending consistently ridiculous hours at work, on the golf course or in the stock market, or undercompensate by abusing substances or hiding every other hour of the day in a video game or other form of entertainment.
The best book I’ve read exploring this topic was Love and Respect by Dr Emerson Eggerichs. In the book he explores the point in Ephesians the apostle Paul makes on wives giving respect to their husbands, and via research and exhaustive (perhaps too exhaustive in some places) anecdotal accounts, highlights the difference it makes when a wife respects her husband, and conversely what happens without it.
What I love about the book is it brings balance to what becomes a very see-saw war between men and women on who should do what. I’m a firm believer in loving women well (more on that as we go on) and have written extensively pleading with my fellow man to be the man he should be, but one brave quote Dr Emerson puts forward to remind us of the heart inside the man is this: “The problem many women have today—including Christian wives —is that they want to be treated like a princess, but deep down they resist treating their husbands like a king“.
Whenever any relationship takes one person’s needs completely to the detriment of the other, you run into all sorts of problems. As Zig Ziglar said, “Many marriages would be much better if the husband and wife clearly understood they are on the same side”.
Men live and die by the respect of their wives. The whole world could love you but if she doesn’t respect you, then it feels hollow and empty. Your respect carries that much power in a man’s heart.
But even in larger society we see a man’s need to feel capable. Little boys always want praise for their achievements. That little boy never really grows up in that regard, no matter how old he gets. I explored more of the societal evidence and impact of this in Why Men Need Purpose, Direction, and Income.
To be honest I find in any man who wants to be the head of the house and has become demanding about it, that this need for respect is absolutely at the centre of this struggle.
He either feels disrespected in his current relationship, or is battling trauma from previous relationship/s where he didn’t feel capable, confident, or respected, he’s feeling disrespected in other significant arenas of his life, or worse still – it may be a combination of all of these.
In the words of Bishop TD Jakes in He-Motions on men – there is a king in every kid, and a kid in every king.
Women need safety and love
I needed to highlight one of the needs underneath a lot of the conversation on this from a man’s perspective, but I must absolutely also hammer the fact that women need to feel safe in their own home.
The tragic reality on why this conversation around wanting to be the head of the house is so contentious is because it has been abused by many men over the centuries, and in turn their wives have also been abused.
I can remember being mortified in my early 20s being over a few people’s homes of different cultural descent to my own where the women were literally doing everything while the men were literally doing nothing but sitting around. Granted, there are many cultures where this has been the norm for a long time and many women don’t despise or look down on this arrangement. However the shocks came when something was taking a bit longer in the kitchen, or some food wasn’t quite right, or someone dropped something and these men had the audacity to become angry about it. Not to help, not to understand, but to complain and demand.
And lo and behold, pulling out their “head of the house” line to justify their behaviour.
But it wasn’t just then – it happens everywhere. The World Health Organisation estimates 30% of women have been abused domestically. This is a ridiculously high percentage. I learned semi-recently that the rates in other places such as the Pacific Islands are even higher. He wants to be the head of the house, but he also wants to treat her like crap. Incompatible approach right there.
I need to tell you that if you’re in a situation where your physical or emotional safety is compromised for yourself or your children, you are entitled to run. At least to get out until it calms down. Talk to someone. There are many hotlines and support services that can help you work out what the behaviour you’re experiencing is.
But if it’s continual and unrepentent, that’s abuse, and you deserve much better. Absolutely one of the great killers of marriages and unfortunately many women. More thoughts in Men and Rape Culture.
The head doesn’t bash the body
To the man who wants to be the head of the house, I ask you – have you ever seen a head before?
I dunno about you, but in no human or animal on this earth does the head intentionally attack its own body, unless it is sick. Even then, mental illness isn’t an excuse for cruelty.
No company or organisation on earth where the staff actively undermine each other or set unfair working conditions achieves true success, and we’ve seen multiple instances where such cases result in class actions that big companies lose out on (I’m looking at you, Electronic Arts).
So if that’s true of bodies and organisations, why do people want to act differently in their marriage?
Seriously, it is not the role of the head to have every single one of its own needs met. It’s the role of the head to provide all it can to enable the body to be all that it can be.
A few Christian authors have pointed out that kephale, the Greek for “head” used in these places in the New Testament, also is attributed to “life source”. In the same way your head is the co-ordination centre for equipping the body and empowering it to function, so too is the mandate on a husband’s life.
For the man who wants to be the head of the house, you better not be trying to take that big old head and smash it into your house – you should be doing what a head is called to do and empowering your wife and family to be all they can.
Love her like Christ
The main problem I have especially when men pull out the “respect me as the head of the house” card and dominate their families is they’re missing the whole point on the full picture of how the Biblical authors were suggesting relationships should work.
Because the further comparison and mandate for men is to love their wives like Christ loved the church. Christ is described as our head as well.
Look at how Jesus served in Scripture. He washed the disciples feet. He listened. He stayed. He expressed compassion and emotion. He cared when people had their feelings hurt. He could have rightly demanded everyone’s respect but instead lived in a manner that demanded it for Him.
He went to the Cross. Hello somebody?
Husbands, like Christ.
And He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped but laid down his life as a ransom for many.
Husbands, like Christ.
And He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf so we could become the righteousness of God.
Husbands, like Christ.
And we do not have a high priest who is indifferent to our sufferings but can relate.
Husbands, like Christ.
And the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.
Husbands… like Christ.
Can you hear what I’m saying here?
Let’s not take one single verse about what being a husband and a father is supposed to be like and miss the fuller picture.
Even if you do get into a more traditional position where a man made all the decisions or the final decisions in a house (which I don’t think should happen to the extreme either), if you were following through on the full mandate and requirement on husbands to look after their families selflessly and servant-heartedly, I would hope that a woman’s heart would be able to trust such a man’s decisions.
If you want to be respected, love your wife like Christ loves the church. More ideas on that in Husbands, Love Your Wives
Are you responsible?
In the Biblical record, the first man Adam was charged to look after the garden, and when he got married to Eve, they were charged to subdue the entire earth. Alone he could only do so much, and together they were called to so much more.
I believe that’s God’s true heart for marriages. That as much as you could do alone, you can do even more together. Thanks to Joseph Prince for pointing that out to me.
But if you’re the man who wants to be the head of the house and help contribute to the direction of the family, you actually need to be heading somewhere yourself.
The late Myles Munroe absolutely owned the men at the Manpower Men’s Conference a number of years ago with his message, “Why Men Needs Visions and Dreams“. Speaking on marriage, he said of many men that they take a highly skilled and intelligent woman, ask her to partner with them, and then get annoyed at her when she’s frustrated that “you ain’t doing nothing”.
So you want to be a leader. You want to be the servant to the house. You want to bring your family up a certain way and make a difference in your world. You want to be the head of the house.
Then make sure you’re actually doing something and living on mission yourself.
Before Eve met Adam, he was already doing what he was called to do in life. But a lot of men come to their wives hoping that she’ll tell him what to do.
Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s hard to partner with anyone who doesn’t know what they want to do in life, and doesn’t care enough to try to find out. The prophet Amos reminds us that two cannot walk hand in hand unless they are in agreement.
Moreover, when Adam and Eve made their famously huge mistake and brought in the knowledge of good and evil into our world, guess who was held responsible for it? Eve did it first, but it was when Adam did it that the world fell into ruin. The question from God was, “Adam, where are you?”.
Because if you want to be the head of the house, you need to recognise you are to be held responsible.
We can’t control people. We can’t control what our wives do and don’t do. We can’t control how our kids will grow up, who they’ll be friends with, or what decisions they’ll make later in life.
But we are called to do all we can with our influence to help them live their best life.
Are you trustworthy, brother? Can you hold down a job? Can you find support? Can you seek information and learn the things you don’t know? Or do you just keep blaming your parents, the government, your ex, your best friend in high school for your mess?
If you don’t sort it out now, you’ll bring it into your next relationship and have to repeat the cycle all over again. Are You The Problem In Your Relationships?
He who is faithful in little will also be faithful in much. We have to start with what we have if we ever expect or desire to be or receive more.
In closing, my final charge to men who want to be the head of the house is this:
You should be more concerned with the responsibilities of the position you want than you are with demanding respect for it.
Because if you’re truly living out who you’re supposed to be, you become a man whose life commands respect without even saying a word.
Bible commentator Matthew Henry has perhaps one of the best quotes on the whole issue: “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved“
You may have noticed I didn’t mention the “S” word in this post but I have explored the topic before in Women and Submission – What Exactly Does It Mean.
Find your calling. Love your wife. Be the man you were born to be. The man who wants to be the head of the house will find himself doing so with greater ease when he fully embraces what it truly means.
PS. I write a lot about a lot of topics like this one. Maybe you read this and realise you need some more help. Have a look at some of my Featured Posts for some more ideas that I hope will serve you well.