Sometimes the Solution in a Troubled Marriage Is to Do Less!

Can a wife be guilty of helping her husband too much? At first glance, that may sound preposterous, right? I mean, of all the burdensome things a wife deals with during the day in managing her home and feeding her marriage, do we really have to add “don’t help husband too much” to her list?

Sometimes the Solution in a Troubled Marriage Is to Do Less!

The events of Genesis 2 speak to this, actually. Take another look at these verses that you are probably more than familiar with already:

  • God created man: “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (v. 7).
  • God put man to work: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (v. 15).
  • God recognized that man needed help: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him’” (v. 18).
  • God created the animals, but none were what man needed: “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, . . . but for Adam there was not a helper suitable for him” (vv. 19, 20).
  • Then in verses 21–23 we are given the creation of Eve out of Adam’s rib in order to be the perfect helper for him.

Did you catch that? Eve was created to be a “helper” for Adam in his work, not to do his work for him. So yes, if by “helping her husband too much” we mean she does it all, to the point in which he feels he is no longer contributing anything, though her heart is no doubt in the right place as she tries to love and serve her husband the best she knows how, she indeed can be guilty of helping her husband too much.

“Okay, Emerson, I hear you. But isn’t this kind of a ‘first-world’ marriage problem? I mean, ‘helping too much’? I wish we only had problems like that in our marriage! Do I really need to worry too much about that one?”

Well, you may be surprised to learn all the ways that your selfless acts of service actually can deprive your husband of the fulfilling work he was placed on earth to do and communicate unintended messages to him about being unnecessary, as well as the extent to which it affects the marriage. Read about one wife who was surprised to discover that she had actually been doing too much to help her husband:

I had been experiencing many of the marital difficulties you discuss on your website. For years, I was trying to come up with a solution. I tried everything I could think of. In fact, I thought my husband’s disapproval of me was because he felt I was not doing enough: keeping the house clean, looking after the kids, organizing the finances, etc. So I kept trying to do more and more. But he never seemed satisfied.

I was becoming very resentful of him because I thought he was so unreasonable. We rarely had sex and when we did, it was not particularly satisfying. I felt it was yet another obligation, yet another thing I wasn’t doing well enough. My husband and I were growing apart to the point where I really believed he might leave me.

Then one day, I began evaluating the characteristics of wives in marriages that seemed to be working. Suddenly I realized, it wasn’t more I needed to do, but less. I suspected that my husband was feeling unnecessary in my life—that I could do it all without him, so what was he there for? Shortly after this realization, I came to understand that my husband really needed my admiration and unconditional support. After all, how could I expect him to be the man I wanted him to be if I wasn’t encouraging him? So I did my own kind of “respect test,” and sure enough, he responded immediately.

I couldn’t believe the results! I had to keep myself from laughing out loud I was so happy. I thought after so many years of bad feelings that it would take months to win him back. But the results were almost instantaneous. Within twenty-four hours, he was telling me how much he adored me and he has been yearning to tell me this but he thought I didn’t like him (even though he knew I loved him). I couldn’t believe it—my husband was desperate to love me, I only had to let him!

My own experiences along with your advice have resulted in a miracle in my life. I enjoy my husband as I did when we were courting (more, even). Our sex life has improved 100 percent as I find respecting my husband a turn-on (believe it or not). Today, he gets more than enough respect (and sex) and I get all the love and protection that I could ever want. There is now great joy in my marriage thanks to your help.

She was insecure about her husband’s love, so she kept trying to do everything to gain his approval, which made him feel unneeded since she did it all but which also made him appear dissatisfied with her! Talk about two people who confused the other!

And don’t miss her acknowledgment that she tried doing so much for him, tried to please him in so many ways, that it negatively affected their sex life! Because her husband felt unnecessary—in more ways than one.

Wives, consider today if in your incredible, selfless, generous acts of service to your husband you have unintentionally communicated to him that you do not need him, that you can do it all. As I explain in Love & Respect, a wife shows respect to her husband with the acronym C.H.A.I.R.S. And the first letter, “C,” stands for Conquest: your husband longs for you to respect and appreciate his desire to work and achieve. He has a natural, inborn desire to go out and “conquer” the challenges of the world. But not only does he need you to respect this desire; he needs you to not take this job of his away!

Ask yourself: Could the answer to your marital problems actually be to do less for your husband?

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you agree that a wife can actually be guilty of helping her husband too much? Why or why not? Why would he want to be responsible for doing more, not less?
  2. If a husband hears for too long the unintentional message of “I don’t need you” from his wife, what can result? How will this affect long-term his desire to continue working and achieving?
  3. Why might a marriage like the one above where the wife is doing so much have a negative effect on the couple’s sex life?
  4. Does your husband have a desire to “work and achieve”? How can you support and help him in that, without depriving him of this God-given desire?

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