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I'm trying to lead the way. Why is it hard for her?

Updated: Jan 19

This question was asked by a young man before his wedding as part of his prenuptial counseling with us:


I want to outline a path for my future household to follow. As far as I understand, this is a woman's desire as well. This is her ambition, that her husband direct and guide the household. So I'm really trying to chart a course for us and the home we will be creating.


Some things are agreeable to her, and some things are more difficult for her to swallow. This is a bit hard for me to understand. If she truly wants me to lead the way, why is it so difficult for her?


Answer:


What's clear is that this question is fundamentally misguided. This opinion, or part of it, is also found among couples who have been married for many years, as I came to know in multiple instances. So I thought we should examine the issue thoroughly.


Let's start with the premise that the husband is the one who charts the course for the household. Can we say that it isn't true? No, we can't really say that it's wrong.


On the other hand, I've heard too many times from men that a woman's desire is that her husband direct and guide the household, that it's her ambition. Is that true? Once again, we face the difficulty of answering using the concepts of true and false.


Let's ask further: "I want my wife to follow me, according to my way, according to my will. Isn't that legitimate?" Yes it is — as long as she follows willingly, within the framework of desire, not compulsion.


Now we can ask the real question, how do you create or inspire a desire to be followed? I will repeat what I wrote in earlier responses: without compulsion in any way, shape, or form! Your wife is not obligated to follow you, and that's the way it is, and the only way.


The issue here is really more complex, so let's try to understand it more deeply. This reality of a man and a woman exists at the level of the spiritual essence of their creation. The woman exemplifies the Shekhina, the Divine Presence of G-d, and the man exemplifies Kudshah Brikh Hu, the Holy One, blessed be He — that is, G-d. The Shekhina "receives" G-d's blessing and realizes its potential or puts it into practice. She "does her husband's will" completely.


That's how it was at the beginning of creation, "a full name over a full world" (Breishis Rabba 13:3). I've mentioned this foundation in previous responses. The woman, by her very nature, wants to devote herself to her husband. However, not long ago, I heard the following (difficult) sentence from a woman: "I want to surrender, but I don't have to whom."


A woman is likened to the Shekhina, the Divine Presence, as well as to the divine characteristic of malchus, dominion — and dominion must be accepted willingly, as per the verse, "They accepted His dominion willingly," (Emes V'emuna blessing) out of goodwill — only willingly! The role of the man is to bring the house to such a state that the woman will very much want to be "reliable among women" and "follow her husband's will" (Tana Dvei Eliyahu Rabba 89).


As the husband, ensure that she feels safe in the relationship, feels sure that her husband loves her, takes care of her needs, and is aware of all her needs even before she expresses them. Bring her closer to you by giving her your time and your heart, everything you can to give her the most beautiful life possible, both in the mind and in the body. Spoil her! Give and give and give without keeping any accounts. Let her experience be that all of you is there all for her.


When your wife is nestled in such a heaven, she will respond to you many times over. She will follow you under any circumstances and look only to fulfill your desires, as you are fulfilling her desires.


You should act this way toward her not just in order for her to fulfill your desires but because this is your true role toward her (and as we explained in a previous Q&A, not really toward her, because you don't owe her anything, rather toward your own desire to do the right thing).


You might ask, so should I leave my studies or job, just to find out what my wife's wishes are and fulfill them for her full time? No, not at all. If your wife exemplifies the Shekhina, and you exemplify Kudshah Brikh Hu, in order to give to her, you must first fill up your own batteries, so to speak, either through your studies or work, spiritually or financially. Then you can pursue your wife's good, in mind and body, with all your might.


Your giving includes understanding her difficulties, giving them "space," especially the natural and normal difficulty of accepting your way, the course you want to set. If she is not confident in the relationship, it won't happen. She will not be able to devote herself to your path. She will not want to; there will be no will to do so. And no one wants to be a tyrant in their own home.


If you want her to get stronger in a certain aspect, the first solution is to get stronger in it yourself. Study the subject, admit the need to strengthen yourself in the same thing. Many times, this alone will be enough. If she is connected to you — that is, if you connected her to you as stated above — then what you possess internally will also be within her. This is what we learned from the sages of Israel. If they wanted their spouse to be strengthened in a certain aspect, then they studied the subject well. That alone was enough.


However, if that's not enough, then you have to sit down and talk about it, correctly, without coercion, without accusations, only expressing your desire. Usually, except for special cases, a conversion will work very well.


Another point needs to be made briefly: what it means to be a man. It is difficult for a woman to devote herself to someone who is not a "man," someone who is not strong, who does not truly support her. The strength required is mainly toward himself, toward his soul and his passions. When a woman sees that her husband controls himself, then she feels there is a chance that he will also control his home, that he can truly set a clear path for the household. This was the problem of the woman I mentioned above who told me that she wants to surrender but doesn't have to whom.


In conclusion, for a woman to follow her husband, he needs to do three things:

  1. Bring her closer to him by real giving, a real concern for her needs.

  2. Be receptive to her difficulties, in particular this specific difficulty of accepting her husband's way.

  3. Be a "man" toward himself and personally demonstrate a strong way that she can follow.

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