Adam was lonely in the Garden of Eden, so he asked for a wife. God created Eve, to be, in the words of the Torah, an “ezer k’negdo,” which translates as a “helper opposing him,” or a “helper against him.” The biblical commentator Rashi sought to explain “ezer k’negdo” by quoting from the Talmud: “If the man is worthy, the woman will be his helper; if he is not worthy, she will be against him.”
If a man wants his wife to be a helper who respects him and is supportive, he has to be a leader who, at least in her eyes, shows his worthiness. When researching my book of relationship advice for men, many women recounted how they lost respect for men who don’t show leadership and won’t take charge of situations.
Being a leader is not being a controlling tyrant. A man who shows leadership knows what is going on in his family and steps forward to deal with situations that would benefit from his direction. He doesn’t wait to be told what to do.
There may be times when “yes, dear” is the right thing for a man to say to his wife, but if he’s always saying, “Whatever you want; you decide,” his wife may lose respect for him. He may think he’s showing that he’s not controlling, but when a woman always has to tell a man what to do, she will not see him as worthy. It makes her feel like he is a child and she is his mother.
Later in Genesis, Adam and Eve are given a single commandment: don’t eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. What happens? Eve eats it and then tries to get Adam to eat it, too. At first, he refuses, but she pressures him and he eventually gives in. Subsequently, God asks Adam if he ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge that he was commanded not to eat.
Does Adam take responsibility for what happened? No. He says to God, “The woman you sent me gave it to me and I ate it.”
Adam did what many men do today: he gave in to something he knew was wrong and then blamed his wife. He didn’t take responsibility. But does blaming his wife enable Adam to avoid responsibility? No. Just the opposite: God punishes Adam for eating the fruit and for not using his own judgment.
In researching my book, many women told me that they don’t respect men who don’t take responsibility for their actions. They expect a man to take responsibility for what’s going on in his home – just as we expect leaders of governments and companies to be responsible for what goes on in their organizations.
Men can learn important lessons from Adam. If you want to gain your wife’s respect and support, show your share of leadership and take responsibility. If your wife pushes you to do something that you believe is wrong and you give in and it goes wrong, just like you thought it would, don’t blame her. In the same way, if you leave making decisions to her and then blame her if a decision goes wrong, she will lose respect for you and not see you as worthy.
Elliott Katz is a speaker and the author of Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man.