Suggestions versus Directives

Posted on 04/01/2014 by



In marriages it is inevitable that one spouse is going to be more dominant than the other spouse. That may be a 51/49 split, a 75/25 split, a 99/1 split, or anywhere in between. While I hope most are not on the extreme side of that split, it is only natural that one spouse is going to have an unequal share of control in a relationship. Is that bad? Not necessarily. The key is that we understand each other and learn to communicate in ways that are healthy for the marriage.

In my marriage and probably a large percentage of marriages today, I have been a passive husband. I suggest that growing up in an atmosphere where chivalry was still expressed, manners were essential, and expectations of you were always to do the right thing and be successful at it played a large role in my mindset. My guess is that after you have spent years with a ladies first through a door, letting others go first at a four way stop, and saying, “Yes Ma’am and No Ma’am”, you lean to being on the passive side in the name of being selfless.

I say all that because one of the first things that is thought of when one says that their wife is submissive to them is that their wife must be a doormat. When they say doormat they mean a wife that has no voice, no opinion, and no ability to think for themselves. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth in my marriage. While my wife looks to me for direction in our marriage, my role has not been to dictate her life. I try to make decisions when needed and make those decisions looking at the best interests of the whole family. I try not to let my own personal feelings be the only deciding factor. I cannot say that I do this perfectly and that I do not ever make mistakes with this.

So, if I make a decision, how do I relay that decision to my wife? Coming from a passive background, I find that I err on the side of presenting my decision as a good suggestion. I can feel good about the decision I have made but I do not want to feel like I am pushing my decision over my family with an iron fist. If I have made a good decision she should get it even from a suggestive tone and go with it, right? Well, maybe not. It is possible that because of the way that I relay my decision that my wife may totally miss it. My wife is constantly seeking my direction and happy to follow them, but because I communicated with a suggestion instead of giving her a confident direct answer I can fail to get my decisions listened to. My passive attempt at leading my family can turn into a failure to communicate.

Recently, a wife on my wife’s blog,, sent her an email describing a conversation she had had with her husband.

I have to share part of a conversation my husband and I had last night. He had made a comment earlier in the day that he wished I had listened to him and went to the doctor sooner for my pain. I told him I didn’t remember him telling me to go. I remembered him mentioning it but not exactly telling me to go. I told him that I took that as a suggestion… you know, like when I say, “Maybe some Tylenol would help your headache” or “Maybe those socks would feel better with those shoes.”

He said, “Honey, what you take as suggestions from me are really directions I intend for you to listen to.”

I was surprised at this…. I have been happily listening to him when he told me something DIRECTLY. I have listened for his instructions willingly and happily and tried my best to follow them. But a lot of things I haven’t listened to – I have thought over them as I do any suggestion but not listened to them because I didn’t understand they were direct instructions that were veiled as what sounded like a suggestion to me.

He gave me another example:

He said that when he suggests that maybe I should come home and go back to bed after taking the kids to school (which he only does rarely- maybe once every couple of months and usually when he notices I am exhausted in the morning) that he really means that. It isn’t a suggestion… I have heard him say that in the past and would say, “I would love to but I need to clean” or “I have work to do”.

I just thought I would share this with you. If it was news to me, I thought it might be news for other wives?

I SO get what you think because that is how I thought. Why would you say, “Maybe you should,” if what you mean is, “I want you to,” but this is a situation where husbands seem to not speak as literally as I personally would like.

I believe that it stems from our husbands trying to cushion directions with kindness and not go into overdrive in directing even though all the while we are hoping for more leadership and hearing things as a suggestion can throw us! It did me! I didn’t know! This is another verification that this is a way that many men think- that when they suggest something, they truly mean it as something their wife should do.


Greg and I went on a long walk that night and I asked him about this issue. I realized, “Hmm! I might have a problem here, too!” I told him I try very much to honor anything he asks me to do, but I wondered if I might be missing some things he really intends for me to do because a lot of times, what I hear are “suggestions” not “directives.” I shared with him that I would love any directives he thinks would be appropriate. I am completely open to any way he wants to lead me that he believes is right.

Greg thought about it for a bit and then told me,

“I think that when a man has been passive for a long time, he probably is more likely to communicate with suggestions rather than directives.”

Interestingly, in the past week, Greg has been giving me, our children and even people at work more directives and has been stating his ideas, perspective and desires more assertively. I LOVE IT!!!!!!!! He is not harsh, abrasive or aggressive about it. But I can just see him standing even taller. It is a blessing to me when he shares his perspective and his heart with me. I WANT to know what he wants and what he thinks. It is much easier for me to understand when he shares what he would like. I also appreciate suggestions, too. And I greatly appreciate his trust in me to make many decisions for myself. But I love it when he directly states his mind. It leaves no room for doubt or confusion in my mind. I am a pretty awful mind reader – so I appreciate direct, honest, loving, gentle, firm, kind, truthful communication from my husband.

I personally do better if things are written down. Sometimes I can forget verbal suggestions or instructions. I often have to immediately write things down so that I don’t miss anything important and can remember to carry out whatever the task might be. Thankfully, Greg is very understanding of this and lovingly reminds me of things so that I don’t forget – which I appreciate so much! My memory is often not so sharp.

This past week, Greg has been more direct in telling me that he wants me to be with him more, that he wants more of my time and attention (WOOHOO!), what he wants the children to do, etc… He has been more firm about the children obeying quickly – which I love. It’s amazing to watch as God grows my husband into a stronger and godlier leader who knows how to use his God-given authority for the good, blessing, benefit and well-being of our family.

It has been 5 years and 4 months since the beginning of this journey. We are both still learning and have MUCH, MUCH more to learn. But it is exciting to get to walk this road together as a team and to watch God molding my wonderful man into the man He desires him to be. I feel like I am the most blessed woman on the planet to have this chance to learn to do marriage God’s way and to experience God’s power, love, peace and joy every single day.

So, what do you think? It appears to me that a wife would value clarity over your attempt to soften a decision. Can you think of ways that you have offered decisions as suggestions in your marriage? Do you relay your decisions to your wife based on who is impacted the most from your decision? For example, if it involves an activity your wife is doing do you tend to go passive in your approach as opposed to a decision that affects you. If our motives are correct and our decisions are sound, let’s step up and work on being more direct in our communication with our wife, our children, and even with our coworkers.