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by Justin Davis

There is a universal fear that every husband has. This fear keeps us up at night and wakes us up in the morning. It isn’’t talked about much because we don’’t like admitting we’’re afraid. Being afraid, we believe, makes us less of a man.

Most of us had childhood fears. There is something endearing about a little boy that is scared of the dark. But as we get older, we’re taught we shouldn’’t be afraid. Fear becomes something we hide, get over, and conquer.

Real men aren’’t afraid.
“Face your fears.”
“Have courage. Be a man.”
“Don’’t be a sissy. Get tough.”

Your husband probably has fears and he works really hard to manage them. But there is one fear that is hard to manage, difficult to overcome and almost impossible to defeat without bringing it into the light. This fear is the driving force behind many behavior patterns and decisions.

Here is your husband’’s greatest fear:
He is afraid of disappointing you.

Actually, he is afraid of being a disappointment. He equates disappointing you to him being a disappointment and that fear drives him.

Most guys are taught to be achievers, to be goal oriented, to accomplish things. As a guy enters into a marriage relationship, he believes he has accomplished and achieved the goal: he got the woman he loves to marry him. Mission complete.

But it doesn’t take more than 24 hours of marriage to realize that a lifetime of his wife’’s needs and desires weren’’t fulfilled at the altar…—they started there.

So many couples launch into this dysfunctional behavior cycle of milestones and achievements. Where she thinks acquiring things will make her happy and he thinks accomplishing things will make him a successful husband.

The problem is a larger house doesn’’t fix her. A nicer car doesn’t make him feel long term success. Acquiring more things doesn’’t make her content. Having kids doesn’’t calm his fears, it only increases the number of people he is working hard to not disappoint.

Most guys equate their wife being unhappy or discontent with them being a disappointment. In an effort to manage that fear they make choices that feel healthy but usually cause bigger issues. So many problems in marriage come back to this fear.

  • Men who are workaholics are driven by a fear of being a disappointment as a provider. Guys find their identity in their ability to provide because we’’ve equated providing with success. Many don’’t consider the cost of overworking and being absent until it’’s too late. There is an irony to the fact that what they think makes them successful actually brings disappointment to their family.
  • Husbands that struggle to lead their family spiritually fear that they don’’t have what it takes to be a good leader. So rather than fail being a spiritual leader they become passive participants in their family instead of leaders.
  • Guys that hide a battle with pornography are driven by this fear. It doesn’’t justify a man’’s decision to hide, it just explains it. If a husband’s greatest fear is disappointing his wife, what could be more disappointing than struggling with something that he doesn’’t want to struggle with and that will bring tremendous pain to his wife’’s heart?
  • Men that are constantly upgrading are fearful of being a disappointment. A bigger house. A nicer car. A new toy. Guys want to prove they are successful. So many men make poor long term financial decisions in an effort to not disappoint their wife in the here and now.

How can you help? If this is your husband’’s biggest fear how can you help him overcome it? I have a few suggestions.

  1. Create a culture of grace and safety in your marriage.
    Most couples don’t share deep stuff with each other because they think they will be judged or shut down. Approach your husband with a spirit of love and understanding and not accusation. No one wants to be shamed and ridiculed into opening up their heart. Seek to understand him and it will make all the difference.
  2. Tell him you’’re proud of him.
    Do a quick inventory of your words and the tone of your voice over the past week or two. How many words have communicated pride? How many have communicated to him that he isn’’t doing enough, being enough, listening enough, earning enough, loving enough, providing enough? If your husband’’s greatest fear is failing you, disappointing you, and letting you down how much have your words fed that fear rather than help him overcome it? When you tell your husband you are proud of him and you appreciate him, it changes him. Your words carry power in your husband’’s heart. Most of the time in marriage we don’’t wound each other because we want to hurt our spouse, we wound each other because we don’’t understand our spouse. My prayer is that you understand more of your husband’’s heart, it will help you both love each other more fully.


Justin and Trisha Davis are bloggers, authors, teachers—and parents to three boys. They co-founded RefineUs Ministries and frequently travel around the country speaking at conferences, churches and retreats. You can follow Justin on Twitter at @justindavis33.

Reposted with permission. This article originally appeared here.