Marriage Destroyer: Passivity

March 17, 2014

in Marriage Killer, YOU4HER

pas·sive adjective \ˈpa-siv\

—used to describe someone who allows things to happen or who accepts what other people do or decide without trying to change anything [Merriam-Webster Dictionary]

It seems increasingly common to hear a woman complain her husband is too passive. How they state it varies, but the complaint often matches the definition above.

Passivity can be going along to get along, or it can be fear based. Some men are so tired from “fighting” at work they have no desire to fight at home. Many have heard men are abusive, so they become passive to avoid being that guy. Some are so consumed by self-doubt they can’t step up.

Passive Man © Wavebreakmedia Ltd |

You might think a woman would love a passive husband. She’s free to be who she wants and do what she wants. A wife may feel this way at first, but she can’t respect a man who won’t stand up for himself or what’s right. Because she can’t love a man she doesn’t respect, she will grow cold and distant. She may ultimately leave or try to drive him away. If she remains married it will be in name only.

I’ve seen this up close several times. After two or three decades of being a “devoted husband,” the passive man finds his wife has neither love nor use for him. By the time he knows there’s almost no chance of fixing it, even if he does change.

Being passive is as bad for a marriage as is being demanding or too aggressive. The passive husband won’t hear complaints, but the damage is just as real and it can end a marriage.

If you think you’re passive:

  • Offer your opinion more often.
  • Stop saying, “whatever you want” as a reflex.
  • Learn to be okay with conflict.
  • Pray about what matters, what you should stand up for no matter the cost.
  • Be willing to fight for your marriage, even when it means opposing your wife.

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I write from a wife's perspective and wish to emphasize that what I have learned here as well as from other similar sources (some named by High Country) have led me to a deeper understanding of my husband's needs. The conversation and insights have freed me to be less controlling, more respectful, more appreciative in my marriage. I value my husband's masculinity and sexuality. And these changes brought about a healthier self image for me as well. Thank you for your dedication to this ministry. You are making a positive difference in many, many lives.

Much of what I have learned supports the theory that, generally speaking, husbands seek their wives' approval and long to be the most important part of their wives' lives. I think passivity sets in when husbands feel they have tried everything they can think of to accomplish this, and meet with defeat. They believe there is no way to succeed, and they give up.

I appreciate your suggestions for husbands, but feel this is an area where wives are called to leadership. By choosing to treat their husbands tenderness and respect, they free those husbands to love their wives as God intended. Women have immeasurable power in this regard.

Thanks again for answering God's call to this important ministry.


Passivity and apathy are an issue. Men are meant to fight for what they believe in rather than give up. Marriage and our wives and families are always worth fighting for.

Apathy often comes due to repeated failure, lack of recognition and reward, no sense of purpose and/or an emotional disconnect / rejection. I am sure there are other reasons but these are the ones I have mostly come across.


@High Country Well said. I am re-reading Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. Men have to be given reign to be the men God designed us to be. Rough around the edges. Rugged at heart. Hungry for a challenge. Different.


Or in other words, the passive nature comes from little evidence that taking the lead makes things better. An example of a relatively unimportant decision, where to go for dinner. She says "you pick" and then responds to each choice negatively. You begin to wonder what is the point of even having a preference when, apparently, it's not really wanted. You get that push and pull, "why don't you ever take me out" vs "I don't feel like going here." You ask what she wants and she may.say, you pick. However, empirical evidence doesn't support the premise that she wants you to actually pick.

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@UBAwesome I love the approach of John Eldredge (just mentioned him in another comment). One problem he confronts is "taking it to the woman" - looking for women to validate our masculinity. If we need a woman to validate it, we don't have it!

@High Country The problem is not what women have done, it is what men have done and failed to do. That does not mean women are without wrongs, they certainly have done plenty wrong. But if we look to blame them we surrender our power to do much to change things. I do not need to be told how horrible women are to become a real man!

Creating a common enemy is a tried and true way of winning the hearts and minds of a group. It works to get them all to follow you, but it is not the best approach to positive change, and it certainly is not the biblical approach. I do not need someone to make me feel better by telling me how horrible women are. I need someone to help me see where I have failed so I can make changes.


@TonyB Als. We get stuck in these little vortexes that are trivial but enough of them can amount to the insurmountable.


@High Country @IntimacySeeker I will rephrase: Your part of this conversation reminds me of times when I have been more interested in being right than in loving others and being open to God's ongoing work of creating, renewing and restoring. I apologize for hurting you.  


@High Country @IntimacySeeker I do not know any women who desire to RULE over anyone. They only seek to answer God's calling and use the gifts God has given them to spread the Gospel. Those callings include spouse, parent, and other roles.


@High Country I know some seminary professors who could take you on but probably not open your closed mind and heart. Would that your faith could be more about loving others than being right, and more about asking questions than digging in your heels.

God has put women in leadership roles throughout history and continues to call us into the ministry. Those who use isolated passages of Scripture to support their agendas and hide their fear make our faith undesirable to others.

Male-dominated cultures have shaped our theology rather than the other way around. Just know that there are many churches and pastors with a richer, deeper, broader understanding of the Scriptures than you articulate here.

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@High Country  I would really like to understand what you think, but we spend most of our time arguing about your perception of what I think. I do not put women on a pedestal, but you think I do. I do not think women are less sinful than men are, but you say I do think that. I hold men and women accountable for their actions, sins and otherwise, but you do not see that.

I would like to understand why your perception of what I believe is so different from what I actually believe but we never get to that.

I’m going to stop arguing with you about what I really think. It is silly and insulting. If you are willing to assume you do not know my mind better than I do, perhaps we can have a real conversation.  

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@High Country @TheGenerousHusband  I said "If you understand the culture of the time, they would have been seen as rabid feminists!" That is hardly me saying I am a feminist!

You do not see sarcasm in Galatians 5:12? I put "St Paul sarcasm" in Google and got over a million hits. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks he used sarcasm. 

I have no idea why you think I put women on a pedestal. Frankly I don't know how you can read what I actually say and get that. I have given up on being able to change your mind since you clearly are not hearing what I mean.

My point on slavery was it has been accepted by the chruch for most of history. According to you we cannot know better than those who were closer to the time of Christ. Ergo they were right about slavery and we are wrong. Same for Protestantism - based on what you said it must be wrong.


@High Country @TheGenerousHusband Some of the information in the Scriptures provides the cultural landscape of the time and is not to be taken as God's will for our lives. Different parts of Scripture are to be read from different perspectives. We should not be so naïve as to take it all literally.

TheGenerousHusband moderator


Tony, really? I said MARRIED women are involved in fewer affairs than MARRIED men are. You keep muddling the water for reasons I do not understand.

Among those who are married, more men than women cheat on their spouse. (But that is changing rapidly, and I expect it to even out in the next few years.)

Just in case you have missed it, I think all sex outside of marriage is sin. Period, end of story.

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@High Country

#2) actually my thought on why women divorce more is because men are guiltier of physical, emotional, and mental abuse, and commit more adultery.
I do think women are more likely to fight for/complain about a less than great relationship while men are more likely to put up with it, which may be what you are recalling.

#3) Even when I admit I am wrong you do not let go. This is one reason I always stop discussing things with you.

#4) I have yet to talk to anyone who has studied history who thinks we can be that sure.

#5) I’ve not listened to FoTF for decades. I was doing this long before Sheila, and my awareness of Family life is limited and out of date. Most of what I say conflicts with what I learned growing up – it comes from significant study of the Word of God and a good deal of prayer.

#6) I said what? Care to point to that? I can link to where I said:

  • "I have long said feminism was a wrong response to a very real problem."
  • "I have long said that feminism is a wrong response to a real problem."
  • "As for a feminist view, the feminists I have argued with would laugh in your face at the suggestion that I am a feminist!"

I can also show you where I proved feminism was wrong about men being bad for kids and where I agreed with Sheila that “The Costa Concordia, which ran aground last week off the coast of Tuscany, was , in part, a feminist tragedy.”

#7) By your logic those who thought keeping blacks of as slaves were right and we should not be so arrogant as to think they were wrong. Beyond that, I must assume you are a loyal Roman Catholic because the Protestant reformers could not possibly have truth that the RCC had missed for so many centuries.
Still waiting for you to explain the joke/sarcasm comment, I have no idea what you mean.

You act as if the churches in the US are of the same mind, which they are not. I see churches which practically require men to be castrated to attend and churches that do not allow women to speak and do not say a word when they KNOW a man is beating his wife. I happen to think both of those are wrong and both are extremes. I wonder about the circles you run in, because they are not the norm or majority for any of the places I have lived, visited, or have friends. Certainly, I have run across such churches, but they are not nearly as common in my experience as in yours. (Of course I have never lived as close to Seattle as you!)

That is the real difference between you and me, and none of the rest is going to change unless that does. You think I am blind to an obvious truth, while I think you have created a false truth by extrapolating from a small non-representative sample. You think I am dangerous and need to be stopped – I respect your desire to stand up for the truth. I also understand how frustrating it must be not to have the power to stop me. I can only imagine the level of frustration this blog causes you. My suggestion would to be to give it over to God and walk away.


I would say not.  In our previous discussions about who is involved in more affairs, men or women, your response gives a pass to women in affairs if they are not married.

Both partners in an affair are sinning against God.  At least one is violating his/her vows.  The other at the least is violating God's law of not having sex with anyone other than your spouse.

But when I've suggested that both men and women are equally represented in affairs, assuming that same sex affairs are outliers, you've told me that it isn't the case.

Which basically means you are not holding the women in these affairs accountable for their actions.  You are saying their contribution, their sin doesn't count when it comes to addressing the situation.

So let me be clear, it doesn't matter the gender, nor the marital status if the affair partner to make their participation sin.  It's the fact that they are having a sexual relationship with someone who is not their spouse that makes it a sin.

But when you insist on saying that women are involved in fewer affairs than men, you are saying we don't need to hold these women accountable for their actions if they are not married.

I disagree.  Their marital status doesn't matter.  It's sin, period.   Men and women are equally represented in affairs.  Men and women equally choose to disobey God by having sex with someone who is not their spouse.

There is no gender based moral high ground, period.

To suggest otherwise is to say that men are more sinful than women, and frankly scripture doesn't support that.  We know that ALL have sinned and fall short.  We know that once you sin, you are guilty, period.  More sin events, or more heinous sin events don't make you more or less a sinner.  Sinner is a binary flag, true or false.  Only one human has had false as the value for the sinner flag.

@High Country@UBAwesome

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@High Country @TheGenerousHusband @UBAwesome  

1) Probably, but it is closer and closer these days. 

2) On the whole, yes. There are certainly plenty of exceptions.

3) I agreed I was wrong on that a long time ago. Drop it.

4) No, I do not.

5) I'm sure I support some who you think do that.

6) I am no feminist. The fact that someone in the past would have scoffed at something does not make it wrong. Equality for all races would be an example.

7) Yes I think understanding the culture of the writer and recipient is vital to understanding the passage. This is basic hermeneutics. On the second point I have no idea what you mean.

There are places where my take on Scripture is more conservative or fundamental than in at least 100 years.

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@High Country @TheGenerousHusband @UBAwesome  Even if I thougth men were 90% of the problem (which I do not) that would not prove I do not hold women accountable for their sins.

Do you think women are the cause of the majority of marriage problems? Is your goal to get me to agree with that?

Who cares who is "more wrong" when is clear both men and women are at fault? Why waste time arguing who does the most harm? 

I will continue to encourage both men and women to grow up. I will point to their sins and errors and do whatever I can to get them to confess, repent, and change.


@TheGenerousHusband True Paul. Very true. However it gets lonely if no one follows. So long as we keep leading ourselves rather than give up.

TheGenerousHusband moderator

@TonyB @UBAwesome I lead because I choose to lead. If my wife, or anyone else choose not to follow that does not prevent me from leading. You are correct that it does not do much good if the other person does not follow, but we need to continue to do what is right.


@UBAwesome @TonyB

My point is if you are not "allowed" to take the lead on something so trivial, what evidence is there that you will be followed on something more important.

For example, my bride suggested we get in better shape.  So I research diet, I now work out 3-6 times/week.   Dropped about 50 pounds, feel better, sleep better.

Will DW follow along?  Of course not.  Can't club her over the head and drag her to the gym.  Leading by example doesn't ensure folks will follow.  It's not like my days in the military when I would say we are going here and my team would gear up and follow.

If someone wants to be lead, they will follow the leader.  If they are not following, then they don't want to be lead.

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