QUESTION: In your articles and on radio, you talk about male leadership in the home. But it’s also clear that, when you and Barbara are making a decision, you have a lot of interaction with each other. So what happens when Dennis feels strongly one way and Barbara feels strongly another way?
Dennis: First, I think it is clear that the Bible teaches that the husband is responsible for the direction of his home, family, and marriage. And so he is what is called “the head of the house.” To me, that means it is my responsibility to go prayerfully before God and with my wife to consider the circumstances and to make a decision. If we can’t come to a consensus, it falls upon me to make a decision. And we prefer it that way—if you have a “roleless marriage” where there is no final authority, that creates a greater ambiguity.
Barbara: And insecurity, too. It seems to me they would be in a state of indecision.
Dennis: In those marriages, it seems that the stronger personality would win regularly.
QUESTION: Do you ever make a decision to go with Barbara’s option rather than your own?
Dennis: Absolutely. Any good leader knows that you need to gather all the facts and enlist those who may know the situation better than you before you make the decision. In many situations with the children, for example, Barbara would be far more versed and have much more insight into what was going on with the child emotionally and circumstantially. There were numerous times when we disagreed and I asked her to go with me on a decision. But there were, I would guess, just as many where she disagreed with me and I changed my mind and went with her.
Barbara: You were really good about deferring to that woman’s intuition in our relationship when our kids were still at home. There were times when I just couldn’t explain why I felt something was the right thing to do with a child. Unless you felt you had a strong case for another choice, you would go with what I was feeling. That validated me as a woman—that my opinions were worth considering and you were going to listen to them.
Dennis: I think we’ve developed a good amount of trust over the years as we have discussed so many decisions. We’ve learned that we need the other’s input and advice. She will help me avoid problems, and vice versa.
The one area where I typically have not gone with Barbara’s opinion over mine repeatedly is in the area of schedule. She had such a desire to see our children develop their gifts that it was easy for her to overcommit them and herself. I witnessed the toll that took on her. On more than one occasion I’ve urged her not to head in certain directions because of the need to protect our home. I’ve always felt that part of my responsibility is to spiritually, emotionally, and physically protect my family, not merely from evil, but from overscheduling, from busyness, and from activity. A good shepherd doesn’t lead any faster than the sheep can follow!
Barbara: We went through a time when I was making a lot of decisions regarding the kids without Dennis because I knew how busy he was. I assumed I was saving him some grief, but as a result I was getting everyone overcommitted. I needed the protection that he offered when we made those decisions together.
I’m glad to have him to help make decisions. And to tell me if I am wrong.