Marriage Myths-Part 2: I’m the King of the Castle

October 19th 2023

Marriage Myths–Part 2: I’m the King of the Castle

On my last blog entry I called for us as God’s people to retire the slogan, “Happy Wife, Happy Life,” in exchange for a more biblical principle, like the following one: “When God is glorified above all else as we seek his will–then there will be true joy in our home.” Moving away from that slogan may be harder than you thought. Also, we shouldn’t move so far away from it that we end up in another dangerous territory that men can find themselves in (especially husbands and fathers). Let me explain:

Avoiding Extremes

If “Happy Wife, Happy Life” encapsulates the mindset of a husband who has abdicated his leadership in the home to his wife for the sake of peace–the opposite extreme is not the answer either. In other words, many a husband may agree that “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is not God’s answer for the family, but are guilty of possessing the opposite mindset. So, what is the opposite?

The opposite extreme would be that the husband, rather than the wife, takes center stage. Apart from its rhythmic inferiority–the answer is also not: “Happy Husband, Happy Life.” This mindset can easily sneak in under a philosophy like this one: “I’m the head of the household, therefore, what I say goes.” Now, I’m sure those words haven’t been uttered out loud (or have they?). Although most likely unspoken, this type of thinking can surely still be evident. This other extreme is simply being a type of “control freak”–all under the disguise of leadership/headship.

Evaluating Perceptions

Whether you’ve said those controlling words out loud or not, maybe you’re wondering (or should be wondering) how you can know if that’s the way your wife and kids perceive your attitude as a husband/father. Let the following small sampling of bullet points serve as a “gut–check” to help you discover whether or not you are in fact a “control–freak”:

  • You deem any disagreement by your spouse as “disrespectful,” even if she’s been godly, civil, and kind in her approach.
  • You’ve said or thought the following phrases regarding your wife: “Just let me lead, even if it means I fail”, “I’ve made my decision; that settles it”, “Your role is to submit. Period.”, etc.
  • You make most decisions alone–especially the “big” ones–because you like it that way.
  • Your wife and kids walk on eggshells around you–especially when a decision needs to be made.
  • You can’t take any criticism, even the constructive/gracious type.

If any or all of those resonate with you, there’s a good chance that you are a “controlling” husband and father. Being controlling is based more in sinful attitudes such as insecurity, arrogance, narcissism, and resentment than it is a biblical understanding of being a leader in your home. Men, our responsibility is to lead, not control.

Obviously (I hope), you know that we should lead as Christ led. We lead our wives by “loving them as Christ loved the Church” (Eph 5:25). Again, how did Christ love the Church? He gave up his life for her. Jesus also said, “The greatest among you shall be your servant” (Matt 23:11). Amidst an age when war is being waged on true biblical masculinity, kingship in the home is not the answer. Rather, our Lord and Savior washed the disciples’ feet. And he commanded us to do likewise. That’s the kind of King he was and is.

Leading Biblically

So, then, how do we servant–lead our wives and children?  Rather than a heavy-handed/controlling approach in decision-making, why not humbly ask for input, and weigh the choices in light of that input, before making a final decision? This simple act could very well be a type of “foot–washing” for your family. Your wife or children’s input may end up being faulty, unbiblical, not feasible, etc. But if you at least take the time to hear them out and explain what you think, before merely barking out royal edicts, it can be a demonstration of love, care, and respect. If we lead like Christ, our love will reflect his love. Paul reminds us of Christ-like love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7,

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

All in all, the servant­-leadership of husbands negates both the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” and the “King of the Castle” mindsets. By being a servant-leader, you are deciding to be neither a “cowardly-butler” nor a “dictatorial-king.” Loving our wives as Christ loved the Church is simple. But it’s not easy. Much grace is needed. Much grace is available.

Seeking Humbly

Maybe the first step is to repent before God for how you’ve failed as a man to lead your family the way God intends. Know that God will not only forgive you, but will enable you to lead the way he desires (1 John 1:9; Eph 3:20-21; Phil 4:13). Denial doesn’t make it better. So own it. Confess it. Repent of it. And receive more grace than you can possibly imagine.

Secondly, confess to your wife if you’ve wrongly led by either of the two false mindsets (“Happy Wife, Happy Life” or “King of the Castle”), or some strange mixture of both. Ask her to join you in reclaiming Christ as the ultimate head of the household (Eph 5:21, 23; Matt 6:33), and seek to operate in a way that better reflects God’s design. Can you think of a brother in Christ who will hold you to it? The goal in marriage is for you both to be moving toward God, his grace, and his rightful position in your household. The result will be that there is one King of the Castle, Jesus Christ. And your household will be in line with Christ’s design.

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Author: Todd Burgett

Todd is married to Lisa and they have 3 adult children. He has been pastoring since 1995 and joined the RBC pastoral team in 2022 giving oversight to several ministries including the Redeemer Training Center. Todd went to The Master's Seminary where he graduated in 2021 with an advanced degree in expository preaching.