Last week you read in this column about the five kinds of wives. Since then, I have received a number of requests to present the different kinds of husbands. That is fair. Note that when it comes to the husband, for many, it is in the context of being in charge, or about headship. Thus, I will present four kinds of heads and then a husband who is not the head. Here’s what I discovered over my 25 years as a clinician. Once there is a “head” – no matter how nice he is, the idea of partnership is corrupted. All of these types of heads illustrate that you cannot have partnership and headship in a romantic relationship. Here are the different kinds of husbands.
• There is the “lion king” authoritarian husband/head who makes it known who is the boss. He sits, as all lions do, waiting to be served. When he roars everyone must move. His children respect him as head, but they are really afraid of him. His wife nervously honors his wishes so as not to cause him to become angry. Other words that can aptly describe this type of head are “domineering” and “military commander” head.
• The “passive-aggressive” husband/head is the husband who insists he is the head, but is seldom seen or heard, and he is not visibly involved in the life of the family. Sometimes these husbands are alcoholics or religious addicts. They often use put-downs and manipulation to force their wives and children to accomplish tasks or fulfill their requests. When they become angry, everyone trembles.
The “gentleman” husband/head is the husband who is respectful and does all in his power to enrich the marriage, although he will never change his views about it. He is usually willing to attend married couples’ club meetings and marriage seminars. He will never talk down to his wife. If he washes the dishes or helps with the laundry, he makes it clear that he is just helping his wife do some of her chores. Nevertheless, he insists that he is the head of his wife. He argues that the husband must have the last say in important decisions, although he tries not to disregard his wife’s opinion. Many Christian husbands fall into this category.
• The “ceremonial” husband/head is the husband who deep down inside really believes in equality, mutuality, and partnership in marriage, but he is afraid to let his friends see how often he washes the dishes, cooks the food, and takes care of the children. He avoids getting involved in the discussion about headship because his true feelings conflict with the traditional lifestyle of his friends and associates. Only when he is pressured, does he stand on the side of tradition and states shyly that he is the head of his home.
• The fifth kind of husband is not a head, but a partner with his wife. He is the vitalized-harmonious husband. Theologians refer to him as the “Christ-centered” partner. He is a part of the companionship model from creation. He is not the head of his wife but a head with his wife – co-leaders as God intended from the beginning.
The vitalized-harmonious husband believes in total equality and mutuality in the marriage relationship, and his wife is equal partner in home government. This husband views the difference between husband and wife as just that – differences intended to blend together two persons in a unique partnership and companionship. His emphasis is: “We are equal partners”. The wife is free to explore her chosen calling and career while still feeling feminine and motherly. The husband, on the other hand, is free to be compassionate and affectionate, but he is still masculine and fatherly.
I challenge all ministers of the gospel of all faiths to re-examine your concept of roles in marriage and to review the concept of headship versus partnership. I challenge pastors to preach about being partnership husbands or co-leaders instead of “heads” – to preach mutual submission, not wifely submission. If we do, these concepts will create a new dimension in the life of our Bahamian families. Let’s be partners.
• Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board-certified clinical psychotherapist. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org; write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas; visit www.soencouragement.org; or telephone 242-327-1980.