Who’s Flying This Marriage Anyway? (Part 2)

Imagine that marriage is like flying a plane—and you’re trying to work out who will handle which controls. Here are some tips to avoid a bumpy ride.

The last thing you want to overhear as you board a plane and walk by the cockpit is:

“Give me the controls!”

“No! Give them to me. I’m flying this plane, not you!”

A conversation like that would be unnerving! It might make you want to turn around and walk off as quickly as possible.

While this may not ever happen on a plane, it happens all the time in marriages.

Dueling spouses

I recently worked with a couple, Elliot and Kim*, who struggled with this very problem. I was immediately struck by Kim’s strong personality and her long list of complaints.

“Elliot doesn’t help out at all around the house,” she griped. “He’s lazy; he won’t help with the kids; and I can’t trust him.”

Upon further probing and listening to Elliot, it was evident that Kim ruled the roost! Elliot couldn’t do enough, or do it quickly enough, to make Kim happy. He’d stopped trying a long time ago. Elliot, however, was afraid to step up and take charge of his family; he didn’t want to make Kim angry. He would pacify her with half-hearted efforts to do what she wanted, instead of becoming the kind of man she could respect. His self-serving behaviors only made Kim angrier and made her feel she had to take charge.

When flying a plane, the pilot and copilot have designated roles. Both roles are important, yet different; ultimately someone has to have the final say. The pilot has the main responsibility of navigating the plane, while the copilot assists in a multitude of ways—everything from preflight duties to actually flying.

Spouses must complement each other—not duel

The same can be said of a husband and wife in marriage. They have different, but equally important, roles. Husbands and wives should not be in competition over who’s in charge. God made it very clear in Ephesians 5:22-33 that wives are in the copilot position, while husbands have the main responsibility of leading and navigating the family.

Do you struggle with the same issues in your marriage? If so, you are not alone. No longer does our Western society treat women as inferior. Instead women are told that they can and should do anything men do, while guys are sent confusing messages about what it means to be a man. I see a lot of couples like Elliot and Kim who are very mixed-up—and deeply unhappy.

Here are some tips for getting your roles figured out:

Tip No. 1: Communicate.

Talk to your spouse. Ask him or her how he or she feels about the way things currently are. Is he or she happy with the status quo? Chances are, the answer is no. What would your marriage look like if your roles were more aligned with God’s biblical instruction in Ephesians 5? Talk to God as well. Ask Him to help you see what needs to change within yourself—and with both of you as a couple.

Tip No. 2: Stop focusing on your partner.

When you stop griping about your spouse and focus instead on what you need to start or stop doing, it gives you the power to change! The only person you have control over is you. Sadly, often one spouse finds a problem in the other spouse and focuses on correcting that problem in the other person—often in ways that create new problems in the marriage.

Tip No. 3: Define clear roles.

A lot of couples don’t discuss responsibilities before they get married, but they do have unspoken expectations. When those aren’t met, conflict arises.

For example, Kim expected Elliot to work a full-time job to support her and the kids and then come home and relieve her of parental duty so she could have a break. Elliot expected to have time to relax when he got home. On his days off he wanted to go golfing. She wanted him to watch the kids so she could go to work. And she felt it was only right that she come home to a clean house, while Elliot believed that other things were more important, and he’d get to the dishes when he felt like it. These might seem like trivial things, yet they were serious enough for them to consider separating.

Discuss your responsibilities and determine who is primarily responsible for each task, like child rearing, housecleaning, yard work, meal preparation and the finances. Do you both need to work outside of the home or not?

Tip No. 4: Have a clear leader, and let Him lead!

While the husband is to be the head of the family, your ultimate leader should always be God. If you both submit yourselves to Him and seek His will for your relationship and your family, then He will guide you to the solutions you need and will help you to establish your roles as He wants them, not according to what others tell you they should be.

If your spouse does not follow God, your relationship with God becomes even more essential. God should be at the center of every decision you make. Trust in Him, and you will find the peace that is lacking in your marriage.

To learn about more potential pitfalls that can affect a marriage, read “Marriage Problems.”

*Names have been changed.

Read Part 1: Preflight Planning: “Where’s This Marriage Going?”
Read Part 3: “Beware Turbulence Ahead”

Topics Covered: Relationships, Marriage

About the Author

Debbie Caudle

Debbie Caudle

From Canada to California and then Wyoming to Texas, Debbie Caudle’s journey has taken a lot of twists and turns, but through it all she’s had a lifelong desire to help others improve their lives. She has worked over 25 rewarding years as a licensed counselor, working with individuals, couples, children and families. This experience has taught her a lot about the challenges people face in conquering their worst fears and hurdling their toughest obstacles. 

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