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Gentlemen, Please Remove Your Hats

The Five Kinds of Husbands

Updated May 31, 2006

Also read "The Five Kinds of Wives"



Question: Dear Sir: You always talk about husbands being in partnership with their wives. Can you be the head of your wife and still be her partner?

Answer: Dear Friend, to speak frankly, this is a tough question. Why? Itís not because it is difficult to answer, but it is because men have internalized the belief that they are the divinely appointed heads of their wives and homes. Some husbands are "nice" heads and never bully their wives. However, many of these "nice"  heads, when pushed against the wall, exercise male supremacy and lord it over their wives. You cannot be head over your wife and still be her partner.

To illustrate the point, when two individuals mutually conceive an idea to begin a new business and equally provide the capital and skills to make this business function, they are truly partners. They have equal voice and decision-making power. One will not make any major decision without consulting the other. There is no obvious person who will automatically make difficult decisions when there is a crisis. For smooth running of the business, these partners come to mutual agreement on how to deal with potential crisis. They recognize that each one contributes special talents to the success of the business. Therefore, when there is a crisis the one with the talent to deal with that crisis will make the decision. There are many examples of equal partnership in business. Why then, is it so difficult to grasp the concept of total partnership in marital relationships?

I was so happy a few weeks ago when the Right Honorable Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, and the Leader of the Opposition, the Honorable Perry Christie spoke very encouragingly of the potential of a female prime minister in The Bahamas. These stalwart male leaders of our country had no problem with a woman being a prime minister of The Bahamas. I clearly understood these men to mean that women and men in The Bahamas are equal partners in politics and have equal power, voice, vote, and the ability to make decisions in this developing country. What if Prime Minister Ingraham never intends for a female prime minister to have equal power as males do. Then, the constitution of the Bahamas and the laws that govern the authority of the prime minister should be changed. Imagine a female prime minister of The Bahamas who cannot make certain decisions simply because she is not a man. Would it be fair? Certainly not! Would Prime Minister Ingraham or the House of Assembly do this? Would the people of The Bahamas allow this to happen? Certainly not! Isnít that what many men do in the marriage relationship? How ironical! If a female prime minister can lead thousands and make decisions in times of crisis, why canít she lead in her home with her husband and make independent decisions in times of crisis?

Once again, I must emphasize that once there is a "head," no matter how nice he is, the idea of partnership is corrupted. In my counseling practice, I have discovered that there are at least four types of heads in marriage. All of these types of heads illustrate that you cannot have partnership and headship in a romantic relationship.

First there is the "lion king," authoritarian husband/head. This is the husband 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.

Second, there is the "passive-aggressive" husband/head. This 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.

Third, there is the "gentleman" husband/head. This 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 couplesí 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 wifeís opinion. Many Christian husbands fall into this category.

Fourth, there is the "ceremonial" husband/head. This 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.

FIFTH:  The ideal 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
Marriage is a trinity including God man and woman. God is at the head, and husband and wife are on the same level.  It can be illustrated with a triangle.  God is at the apex, and the husband and wife are at the base on each angle. In this kind of marriage, the husband and wife are servants.

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 reexamine our concept of roles in marriage and to review the concept of headship versus partnership. I challenge pastors to preach about being "servant husbands" 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. Letís be partners.   

Also read "The Five Kinds of Wives"



Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and board certified clinical psychotherapist, USA. Send your questions or comments to question@soencouragement.org or write to P.O. Box CB-11045, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 242-327-1980 or 242-477-4002.








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