A friend tells you about an argument he had with his wife over the weekend. “It had been a tough week, and I was really exhausted. I just didn’t want to go to church, but my wife got really frustrated with me. She started with this spiritual leadership stuff. We keep having the same argument, and she keeps saying the same things: ‘You never want to go to church,’ ‘You don’t seem to care about God or our spiritual relationship,’ ‘We never pray together,’ ‘You’re not leading this family spiritually.’ I just wanted to chill at home, and she turned it into this big deal again.”
Does this situation sound familiar? Have you heard married people you know describe a similar scenario along with their feelings of disconnection from their spouse?
- How do your wife’s statements make you feel?
- How do you define spiritual leadership and how does your wife define it? Maybe you and your wife could talk about that.
- How would you characterize your relationship with Jesus at this point in your life?
- Consider the list of verses defining a spiritual man. (See “Share Scripture” below.)
- Here are two articles that might help you with your conversation:
Follow the L.U.V.E. response (Listen, Understand, Validate, Equip).
The topics of spiritual leadership and spiritual intimacy are a common source of conflict in a Christian home, says Greg Smalley, vice president of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family. While it may be tempting to instantly offer this husband a solution to this problem by pointing him to tips for how to pray or fast with his wife, resist that urge, Smalley says. Instead, first listen well.
Remember to ask questions so the mentee recognizes emotions that might not be immediately apparent.
Mentor: “That sounds like a brutal argument. How did it feel when your wife said all that?”
Mentee: “I don’t know. I’m not even sure what being a spiritual leader means. I guess I feel like a failure. When she says all those things, I feel like I’ll never measure up. It’s like she wants me to be a pastor or something.”
Mentor: “So you feel like you’ve failed?”
Mentee: “Yes! That’s it exactly.”
According to Smalley, people relax a bit when their emotional state is identified and understood. “When people get in touch with an underlying emotion, it often creates a peacefulness,” he explains. “They’ll now start to contemplate the problem a bit.”
Mentor: “I’m so glad you shared that with me. If my wife said those things, I’m sure I’d feel the same way. It’s understandable that you would feel a sense of failure.”
If you’ve experienced a similar situation in your marriage, share that with the mentee. “You’re a more experienced married person,” Smalley says. “God gave you a story, and it’s your responsibility to steward that story well. That’s what God expects from you. He wants you to show others how He showed up in your life.”
The goal of sharing your story is to show the mentee how you and your wife dealt with the issue and grew closer as a couple, giving him hope and a vision for his own relationship. If you haven’t shared a similar experience, you can still tell your mentee:
- Many other men have felt the same way.
- Honest communication with a spouse is the first step to resolving this conflict.
- Think about how you define spiritual leadership. How does your wife define it? Maybe you and your wife could talk about that.
- I can help you practice for this conversation with your wife.
Mentor: “Here’s how one husband talked to his wife about the issue. He said:
‘I’m feeling super discouraged about being a spiritual leader because I really don’t have any idea of how to do that. In my mind, spiritual leadership means that I’m always supposed to lead you in 5 a.m. daily devotionals and offer a worship song before we do that, and then have all the right spiritual answers and all the right Scriptures memorized. I don’t really know what to do, and it makes me feel like a failure. So maybe I’ve just thrown this whole spiritual leadership thing over to you. Is that how you feel?’ ”
- Offer to meet with your mentee after he has a conversation with his wife.
- Consider passing along the “Quick response” article links about spiritual leadership.
- You may also want to ask the mentee about his relationship with God.
Offer this list of verses that describes what a spiritual man is like. A spiritual man:
- Leaves his parents and cleaves to his wife (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:31).
- Is faithful (Malachi 2:15).
- Serves sacrificially (Ephesians 5:25).
- Loves his wife (Colossians 3:19).
- Becomes involved in the parenting of his children (Proverbs 22:6).
- Provides financially for his family (1 Timothy 5:8).
- Cherishes and nourishes his wife (Ephesians 5:28).
- Resolves conflict biblically, keeping temper in check. (Ephesians 4:31-32).
- Asks for forgiveness and forgives others (Matthew 5:23-24).
- Honors his wife (1 Peter 3:7).
- Teaches and models a proper respect for authority. (Romans 13:1).
- Provides an encouraging environment (Hebrews 3:13).
To prepare for a discussion about spiritual leadership and connection in marriage, rate your own marriage in this area. What spiritual disciplines do you share daily (prayer, worship, devotions)? What roadblocks may you have (busyness, conflict, lack of interest, etc.)? How could you grow in this area?
If the couple’s conflict continues, suggest counseling. You can help them find a counselor, or they can call Focus on the Family at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (Mountain Time) to request a free consultation with a counselor.