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When Your Husband Needs Help—and Doesn’t Know It

You have strengths your husband doesn’t have. It takes a bit of wisdom and skill to help in a harmonious, nonthreatening way.
By Barbara Rainey

Editor's Note: As her daughters began their married lives, Barbara Rainey wanted to share some of the lessons she learned throughout her own marriage as well as those gleaned from years of ministry to couples. In these heartfelt, insightful letters that eventually evolved into the book Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, she answers the tough questions and addresses the realities of marriage. Enjoy this excerpt from the book and visit for more information.  

Dear Mom,

You've always been such a good helper for Dad, and I know he's always appreciated that in you. But I'm finding that when I try to help the Hubs, all I get is push back. What am I doing wrong?

Dear girls,

One winter evening early in our marriage, we went to a church where my new husband had been asked to speak. I remember sitting near the front, feeling proud of him, because I genuinely thought he did a great job. But I also noticed a few mistakes, mostly grammatical errors that I'd never noticed in everyday conversation. On the drive home he asked what I thought about this speaking, and I told him I was impressed, that I felt he communicated clearly and effectively.

Then it was quiet for a few minutes as we continued driving home. In the silence I rehearsed what I wanted to say, took a deep breath, and said, "Do you mind if I mention something I think you could correct?"

He said he'd be grateful if I did. I was immensely relieved. I had taken a risk with my young husband and had no idea if he would feel attacked or put down. My motive was to help him improve. I wanted to be his ally, his helper in a practical sense. By asking permission to be heard, he understood my motives and intentions were for his good.

Each of you has strengths your husband doesn't have. He needs what you bring to the relationship, but the key is in how you use your strengths to help. It takes a bit of wisdom and skill to help in a harmonious, nonthreatening way. Don't bail on trying to figure it out if you run into some trouble up front.

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  Each of you has strengths your husband doesn’t have. He needs what you bring to the relationship.

A life-and-death crisis

I know you all remember the story of Esther. One of our favorite bedtime storybooks was a beautifully illustrated version about the orphan girl who won a beauty pageant and became queen of Persia. This woman, who lived millennia ago, married a man who did not know her God, which makes her story even more instructive. Esther lived out Paul's later instruction to wives to "be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the work, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives" (1 Peter 3:1, NASB).

Early in their marriage, Esther's husband, the king, had some cabinet members who manipulated him with some very bad advice. Unbeknownst to him, the result was going to send Esther to her death, along with every other Jewish person in Persia.

This piece of the story is a reminder that our husbands can make decisions that bring us unintentional harm. No man, even a king who has abundant resources and advisors, will avoid making some bad decisions. Marriage is risky business.

The crescendo of the story is Esther's response. Upon the wise and godly advice of her cousin, who adopted her and raised her, Esther began praying. She also fasted and called on her friends to join with her. The situation was a life-and-death crisis, and it demanded an equally dramatic and serious approach.

When I think about what Esther must have felt, considering her own imminent death along with the entire Jewish race, I'm amazed that she did not panic and dash off to the throne room crying and screaming. Many of us wives, had we been in her shoes, would have panicked and screamed, "How could you have done this? What stupidity! Do you not see what is about to happen because of your edict?"

Don't most of us feel like doing that when our husbands make decisions that hurt us? When your dad announces to me that he just booked another trip that I must attend only because I'm "the wife," I have felt angry, not valued, as though his agenda is always more important than mine. I have not always handled this well, and Dennis would heartily agree.

The struggle of responding well

Every wife knows those flash points in her marriage where her husband has created a situation that feels like a crisis or is in fact a stressful circumstance—whether it is intentional or unintentional. It could be a small thing that feels huge, like perpetual tardiness; or a truly big thing, like consistently missing the deadline for paying bills, leading to the electricity being cut off. Every marriage struggle is unique, but the struggle of responding well is common to all wives.

Esther was far wiser than I. Instead of overreacting, she invited her husband to a very nice dinner she'd prepared. On the following day, again over food (don't we all feel more ready to tackle hard stuff when we've been well fed?), she asked permission to inform the king that he had made a big mistake. She was asking to correct him.

Let's be clear: It was very risky to challenge the king of Persia. As in, he could've immediately had her beheaded. But her cautious and calm attitude and actions demonstrated to her husband that she was not a threat, she was not against him; instead, she honored him. She showed wisdom and a heart that trusted God's sovereignty over all when she said, "If I perish, I perish."

When Esther asked her husband for the privilege of being heard, she communicated respect for him as a man and as a leader. I learned that myself in that first year of marriage when I asked my husband if I could offer corrections that would help him be a better communicator. He felt my respect, from all the kudos I gave him for the great job he did. He saw my offer to help as an asset, not a condemnation.

Again, the heart of the matter was, and still is, my attitude. He will know if you are for him or if you are against him in how you approach him. And it has to be real, dear daughters, not an act. It has to be something we've gotten straight in our own hearts.

Remember in the crises that will come:

  • Don't panic or overreact.
  • Ask, "Can I talk to you about something?" before bringing something difficult or potentially threatening to him.
  • Pray for wisdom to speak in words he can hear and absorb.

May you each be like my friend Esther, with hearts that trust the sovereignty of God and not the fears that threaten to overwhelm. It will be music to your husband's ears.

With love,



Taken from Letters to My Daughters. Copyright © 2016 by Barbara Rainey. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

Next Steps
Read more FamilyLife articles that are written to wives.

2. Listen as Barbara Rainey talks with young women about their roles as wives and mothers and encourages older women to pass down their wisdom to the next generation.

3. In Letters to My Daughters, Barbara Rainey shares lessons she's learned through her own marriage as well as those gleaned from years of ministry to couples. She addresses the realities of marriage with honesty and warmth. Order a copy of Letters to My Daughters.

Meet the Author: Barbara Rainey

Barbara Rainey is a wife, mother of six adult children (plus three sons-in-law and two daughters-in-law), and "Mimi" to nineteen grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1971. She and her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1972, are co-founders of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru that is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Barbara has published articles on family-related topics and is the author of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and When Christmas Came.  She speaks at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences and is a frequent guest on FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated, daily radio program.  She and Dennis are the coauthors of several books, including Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, Starting Your Marriage Right, Moments Together for Couples, The New Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, Parenting Today's Adolescent, Rekindling the Romance, and Moments with You. She co-authored A Mother's Legacy with her daughter, Ashley Rainey Escue and joined Dennis and their children Rebecca and Samuel on the book So You're About To Be A Teenager. Barbara has also co-authored Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest, with close friend Susan Yates, and A Symphony in the Dark, written with her daughter, Rebecca Rainey Mutz. And Barbara has written a series focusing on character traits for families, including the titles Growing Together in Gratitude, Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Truth.

Having faithfully served alongside Dennis for more than 30 years, both in ministry and at home, Barbara has recently launched a new endeavor called Ever Thine Home™.  This new line of products, including Christ centered ornaments for Christmas, teaching tools for Lent and Easter, and beautiful additions for your home for thanksgiving and year round makes it easy to express faith at home in a way that is both biblical and beautiful.  Her heart for Ever Thine Home is based on the familiar Old Testament instruction:

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9, ESV)

You can read more about Barbara's work at

Find Barbara online on:
Twitter @BarbaraRainey and Facebook



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