Learning to Let Your Husband Serve You

by | Jun 23, 2020 | Uncategorized | 24 comments

Learning to let your husband serve you
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Do you have a hard time letting your husband do things for you?

All month we’ve been talking about mental load and emotional labor, and how much many women feel overburdened by bearing too much of the load.

But there is another side of this: some women have a hard time allowing/encouraging our husbands to help us because we want to be independent, or we don’t want to feel as if we need help.

So I thought, as we’re getting ready to wrap up this series, it may be good to hear from someone coming at the issue of mental load and emotional labor from a different point of view: what if your husband wants to share the load, but you’re not letting him?

Here’s Kat, the Pensive Soul, with some thoughts!

Sheila

“I’m trying to love on my wife.”

Ten months into marriage and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this phrase from my husband. The most recent may have been a several weeks ago when I was sick and miserable, (I mean on the couch, not moving, miserable) and my husband was in the kitchen taking care of things and asking me what I wanted for lunch. Of course, my stubborn butt said that he didn’t have to do it and I could get it myself.

However, my husband is just as stubborn as I am, so you can probably guess my response didn’t get very far off the ground.

So, when I continued to argue that I could get it and he didn’t have to take care of me, that’s when I received the “I’m trying to love on my wife” statement.

It’s beautiful and I’m so grateful to my husband for loving me so well. The countless times he’s said it to me (usually when I’m trying to be stubborn and just take care of something so that I’m not a burden to him) has made me think about the nature of letting our husbands love us.

I’ll start by saying that I’m all for equality.

Women can do a lot of amazing things and don’t have to be treated in any sort of condescending manner simply because we’re women. But, that being said, sometimes, in the quest to be strong, we forget the great gift it is to let someone else serve.

We’ve become so convinced that we as women have to be overly competent and able to take care of ourselves that we’ve lost the ability to let our husbands love on us.

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m a strong, independent woman, who don’t need no man”?

Yes, the grammar is horrible but the phrase has often become women’s battle cry. I’m strong, I’m independent, and I don’t need help. The end.

I like to think of myself as strong and independent. I’m uber competent. I can take full and complete care of myself. And I’m not the only one. 

But what happens when we take that attitude into marriage?

After all, what is it that God asks of husbands?

Love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

That’s huge. But it’s easy to gloss over because in the Western world few, if any, of us, will be in a position where our husband literally must give up his life for our sake.

But the concept of laying down one’s life for the other person doesn’t just have to be literal. In marriage, we are to become selfless servants, man and woman, taking care of the needs of the other person.

Yes, we are independent women, we don’t need to be taken care of. But here’s the thing that I’ve been learning.

Needing to be taken care of is not the point.

The point is that in allowing my husband to take care of me, I am letting him love and serve me and I am in turn loving and serving him.

But wait! I’m still a strong independent woman and I don’t need a man!

Yes, I hear you. And you’re right. You’re strong, and you’re independent, and you’re completely capable. But what I’ve learned is that it’s not about whether we need it or not.

Allowing our husbands to love on us doesn’t mean that we can’t do the thing ourselves, whatever it is. Rather, it’s our own act of allowing our husbands to express their love for us in their provision, in their serving.

If my husband weren’t there, I could have gotten the chicken soup by myself. No questions asked. I still could have gotten it with him in there and offering to do it.

But if I would have gotten up to get the soup, I would have shot down his manhood. I would have virtually spat in his face saying that I didn’t need his help when all along he wasn’t offering because he thought I needed help getting the soup.

He knew I could get it myself but he was offering because he wanted to care for me.

I know it’s hard to restrain ourselves, to let someone else take care of us. So many times, I have to hold myself back from doing things I am perfectly capable of doing because my husband wants to do it for me. And it feels really weird, because I can do it.

But our capability to do it isn’t the point at all. The point is loving our husbands, and letting them love us.

Sometimes, okay a lot of times, we’re going to have to stay seated and let our husbands love us. And it doesn’t mean we aren’t strong, independent women. It means we are honoring our husband by letting him love us.

Kat Kalinauskas writes The Pensive Soul, a Christian blog, through which she uses the lessons God teaches her to encourage others in their walks with Christ. She and her husband live in Illinois where she spends her time reading, writing, and enjoying family & friends.
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Kat Kalinauskas

The Pensive Soul

What do you think? Can you relate to this side of the emotional labor/mental load debate? Is it hard to let your husband do things for you? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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24 Comments

  1. edl

    I’m convinced that allowing / developing this mindset toward our husbands is essential to a mutually enjoyable sex life as well; something I’m still working on.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, absolutely! I think that’s VERY difficult for many women. And that’s often why we rush through foreplay, even if he’s willing and eager to do more. We feel guilty, like we shouldn’t need it. And it does really impede everything (now, of course, there are many guys who just don’t do foreplay. But not all. And in some cases the people rushing through are female, not male).

      Reply
  2. T

    I think the author raises really good points here. In this situation, I often struggle with an inner monologue that I’m being needy when I accept help. Like, if I accept my dh’s help, I’m a burden or a bother to him. Does anyone else have this issue, or am I just weird, lol?

    Reply
    • Angela Laverdi

      No, T, you’re not alone. I have the SAME issues with asking for help. I was brought up that It was bad to ask for help, it made you incapable, weak, selfish, not dependable, not worthy. So I struggle with asking for help when needed and also with asking for other needs to be met.

      Reply
      • Lisa

        Really important to remember. Thank you for the reminder.

        Reply
    • Kay

      YES. This. A “good Christian woman” serves her husband; she doesn’t burden him with her neediness.

      Reply
  3. Kay

    It wasn’t about independence or strength for me. It was the clearly defined gender roles and what was seen as “women’s work.” If my husband was trying to serve me by helping me with “my work,” it meant that I was a failure as a good Christian woman because I wasn’t doing my job of serving *him.*
    “Biblical womanhood” screwed me (and my marriage) up big time.

    Reply
  4. Bwthany#2

    Yep! Had to learn the balance of this in marriage and it was even harder before marriage. I didn’t like asking for help because I know that someone is not always going to be there. Sometimes it can be tricky!

    Reply
  5. Sarah O

    This is really hard. I cannot tell you how much positive feedback I’ve gotten since childhood for being “low-maintenance”, “self-starter”, able to “get things done on my own”.
    I have also definitely heard the negative messaging around being “high-maintenance”, “over-emotional”, or “nagging”(terms I personally have never heard applied to a male).
    It’s really hard to ask for help and there are lots of valid reasons for that. But I know how good it makes me feel to be able to help someone. Like when I start a new job and a senior colleague actually asks for my help, it makes me feel like part of the team. When someone has a need I am able to meet, it makes me feel reliable and trustworthy to be asked for help.
    I am sure this is the same for a lot of guys, especially as they get all kinds of messages about the “bumbling/clueless husband/dad”. I bet for most guys it makes them feel like a valued, contributing partner when their wife asks them for legitimate help. Something that requires effort beyond “can you open this?”
    So I gotta get better about being direct and asking for help, even help that’s just “nice to have” instead of “must have”.

    Reply
  6. Ami

    I needed to read this today, thank you so much! I’m a life-long too-independent-for-my-own-good. I married last year and I’m in my later 30s. I had lived by myself for *years* and I was good at being self reliant. I had to be. It’s been a challenge to let someone else help take care of me, but I just keep trying to remind myself that I love to do special things for him because it helps me express my love. Why would I want to rob him of the same joy?

    Reply
  7. Anon

    Ok I know I’m a dude so I can’t say much but as someone who always have tried to work hard to both work and trying to do all chores and right now is on paid vacation and taking care of the kids and taking care of the home so my wife can relax when she comes home, how much does guilt play into not wanting help?
    I realized today that I feel so much guilt if I let my wife do something. Again, I’m on the other side but the new message I have heard much is that men should serve and love our wives as Christ loves the church also she will love me more if I do chores and etc. so for a long time I have tried doing everything to live up to this. Today I had as usual cleaned and cooked and was taking care of the kids. There is a room that none of us have had time to fix but I stressed as much as I could to even do that plus preparing everything to go out with the kids so my wife could just come home and relax without any of us there. My wife told me that she could clean some of it when she comes home but I felt so guilty. Like I was a really bad husband for letting her do something. I wonder how many women who struggle with that guilty conscious and instead of letting their husband do some things out of guilt tries to do it all. I must work on that but I think I have put my identity in the things that I do. That I am loved as long as I do things. Sadly I think that’s pretty true about my relationship with God which explains why I sometimes struggle to feel loved by Him too.

    Reply
    • Ina

      Yes. And, yes, it did affect my relationship with God. A ‘work-based,’ legalstic faith feeds into all relationships and self worth big time.

      Reply
    • Hannah

      Anon, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. I, at least, feel like that often too, like if I let my husband do something for me, it’s because I’m not working hard enough, and if I’m not working hard enough, then I’m a bad person. Of course, it doesn’t matter how hard I work, I never feel like it’s enough. I’ve gotten better at that over the years but it’s a hard road.

      Reply
  8. Em

    I know this is focused on husbands serving wives, but I think it can extend to friends also. I love my friends and am more than willing to help in any way if needed. The problem is there is rarely any need shared. Maybe this is just my experience, but I get the impression that the “I’m a strong independent woman, etc” mentality keeps women from reaching out to other women. The Bible talks about being the body and bearing one another’s burdens. I don’t think we were meant to shoulder all trials ourselves. It’s not like we’re going to get a gold star in heaven for powering through a difficult situation until it breaks us. Personally, It hurts me to find out one of my friends went through a difficult time and didn’t even reach out to ask for prayer. Again, writing from my experiences not disclosing all background info.

    Reply
    • E

      So true about friends! There was one week last year where I hurt my leg and I could barely walk/couldn’t drive just as my husband was leaving town for work for a week. Of course he got us groceries and whatever for the week ahead so I didn’t really need anything and the kids were old enough to help with the meals/lift the baby.
      This particular friend kept asking me how I was and how she could help so finally I gave her a short list of grocery items that would come in useful. She brought the stuff to me and was so happy and taking care of me. It was so cute and it was a blessing to me to see her so blessed to be able to serve.
      So it is a blessing to give and receive.

      Reply
  9. Ina

    Oof. This post resonates. Several months after our second baby was born, my friend showed me a picture of a woman in bed nursing her baby. She had a huge tray of food with her. My friend was gushing over this photo and talking about how she needed to save it to show her future husband. My husband happened to walk by and said so softly, “that’s what I wanted to do.” It was like a knife throughmy heart. I hadn’t wanted him to feel butdened or start to resent me because I was “lazy” so I pushed myself do hard during that postpartum period. I still fall into the trap of feeling like my worth depends on me doing it all, but that memory has helped me accept help much more readily. This last baby, he took a 3 month paternity leave and I let him do everything until I was so bored I needed to start helping!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow! What an amazing story and a great illustration of the point today. Thanks, Ina!

      Reply
  10. Gwasamil

    Well, yes, it’s hard but what’s harder is asking for help with something and it NOT being done… I’d prefer no disappointment or rejection and I’ll just do it all myself thanks.

    Reply
    • E

      I struggle with letting someone help and then feeling like I owe them something in return. Some of this is in my head, some of this is me just being a bit sensitive in this area, but there have been times where people close to me have ‘called it in’ when I let them do something nice for me…so most of the time I would rather just do it myself, or go without.
      I know this is an area where I am sensitive, but last night was a perfect example…I had a migraine, and my husband offered to massage my neck and shoulders, which after an internal battle, I let him do (which was nice, although I still felt guilty throughout). Then, a couple of hours afterwards, he brings up sex (which I kind of thought was off the cards due to my migraine & the accompanying churning stomach etcetc), and I felt SO pressured, even though I really couldn’t, and then felt so guilty when I said no (giving my reason). I would much rather have not had the massage and then not felt like I owed him anything in return!

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That is a very common dynamic. Do you think your husband actually expected it, though? Or was it something that you just felt guilty about? I think in some cases we women may do this to ourselves, and in others the husband honestly does put pressure or thinks “we owe.” But I think when we women grow up with the obligation sex message, that men are owed sex and that they need sex, it’s easy to feel as if he’s pressuring when he’s actually not. (And then there are other cases where he actually is!) So many dynamics going on!

        Reply
        • E

          I think maybe it’s a bit of both…he was definitely disappointed that there wasn’t sex, but I don’t think he consciously felt I owed him sex because he did something nice for me.
          I have tried to explain this to him in the past (in the hopes that he might tread lightly in this area) but so far have been unable to get it through to him.
          The best waythat I have come up with to explain it is that he was brought up with the expectation that if you tell someone what you want/don’t like, they will honour that; whereas I feel like I was brought up with the expectation that letting someone know what you want/don’t like gives them power to hurt you. Being vulnerable is really hard for me! Just one of the many things I’m working on!

          Reply
  11. G.C.B.

    This sold me on “Wives, submit to your husbands” far faster and sounder than any Catholic education I’ve had on the subject. #thisishowyoudoit

    Reply
  12. Monica

    I agree with this post. God showed me I was stealing a blessing from my husband by not letting him do something nice for me. Then I thought about how I feel when I know I am doing something nice for him. It makes me feel good to see him enjoy a gift of service, time, words, or gifts. So why would I steal that pleasure from him? It has helped me to learn to be gracious in receiving. Which I believe blesses God. It blesses my husband. And I receive a blessing too. It’s a win-win-win situation!

    Reply

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