It's Okay to Say I Can't

i can't
i can't

In high school, my husband had (and has!) an amazing voice, and enjoyed being part of productions such as Annie Get Your Gun. I'd never see that musical, but I was familiar with one song from it, "Anything You Can Do." This musical is set in the late 1800's, Annie Oakley is a sharp shooter in a contest with the dashing Frank Butler (my husband was Frank Butler in high school). In this song, Frank and Annie are bantering about their abilities to sing softer, high, sweeter, hold a note longer, as well as opening safes and living on bread and cheese. Annie always counters, and ups the ante, Frank's position. Apparently neither can bake a pie, and that's okay.

Is your marriage this same scene from Annie Get Your Gun? Are you Annie, attempting to run circles around your husband, doing things he is more than capable of, and created to do for himself, you, your marriage and your family?

It's Okay to Say I Can't

In Chapter 14 of The Surrendered Wife, author Laura Doyle suggests setting limits by saying "I can't." You have limits. You were not created to be superwoman and to do everything. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when the serpent approached Eve, challenged what she knew, appealing to her desire for independence and her selfishness, and tricked her into disobedience to God. And we've been falling prey to that same trick ever since.

As a wife, you were created, as was Eve, to complement your husband. In our fallen nature, propelled by fear (which, by the way, is often False Evidence Appearing Real), we strive to do everything in our lives, marriage and family, fearing that if we don't do everything, it will be done wrong (aka, not the way we'd do it).

As we've discussed throughout this series, a big part of husbands not leading is their wives not letting them. Husbands and wives perpetuate the cycle all over the world until one of them decides to do something different. (By the way, since you are reading this, you KNOW better now. So do better!)

What's the cycle? Over time:

  • the wife takes on more and more, gets burned out, lashes out, cajoles and orders the husband to do his part
  • the husband responds to put out the fire, completes some taskes, not in love, but to appease the wife
  • the wife is dissatisfied with the husband's efforts, criticizes the husband, saying it's easier to do it herself
  • the husband retreats, isolated by the perception he can't do anything right

Sound familiar? Time to jump off this crazy cycle. Your husband was created to care for you and take care of you. So let him.


Say "I Can't." Practice saying it in the mirror if you have to. It is okay to admit you can't do everything. You weren't created to do everything. You were created to come alongside your husband as his helpmate. So say "I can't" and let him step in.

Invite Your Husband In. When you tell your husband that you can't do something, ask him to help you...or to do it. Don't show him how or explain how to do it. Being vulnerable, admitting you are not superwoman and cannot do everything invites your husband to step in to save the day.

Let Him be the Hero. Your husband was created to nurture, protect and pursue you, to help you become all that God created you to be as a woman, wife and mother. Let him be your knight in shining armor, let him save the day...the way he was created to.

Don't Take on the World. Your husband is uniquely equipped to fight your families battles. Let him address conflicts with your children's teachers, the utility companies, the cable company, and the mechanic. Certainly come alongside him with pertinent information, be a resource for him, but let him steer. Pour your energy and time into your relationship with Jesus Christ, building your husband up, taking care of your family, your job (if you have one) and your ministry.

Take on the Word. Dive into the Word of God, reading all you can from your Designer and Creator about being the woman and wife He created you to be. There are great places to start like 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5, Titus 2, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 3, Proverbs, Colossians, James, Ephesians....the entire bible leads us on this journey. Seek out strong women of God to walk alongside you and mentor you.

“Eve was not taken out of Adam's head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.” -Matthew Henry

Imagine how different history would have been if Eve had said to the serpent, "hold on one moment, I'd rather you discuss this with my husband." 

When you are doing what you were created to do, you do it joyfully, don't you? You have a sense of accomplishment, that feeling of being in your sweet spot. Give your husband that same opportunity in leading you and your family. He was created to do that!

NOTE: One thing I want to mention here is that yes, I am disappointed that with all God has to say about the role of wives and submission, the author doesn’t cite any scripture, yet manages to quote Buddha. It’s still a great book, most of it still lines up with God’s Word, the author’s frankness was a practical wake up call for me…I just wish she’d embrace and share that God is the author of surrender. PLEASE, with this and any book you read, take EVERYTHING and hold it up against the Word of God and reject the parts that conflict with the Truth.

In case you've missed it, this post is part of a series following along with The Surrendered Wife. I'd strongly encourage you to pick up the book and read along! Catch up on the blog series now by reading: Control or IntimacyDid You Marry a Loser?Chauffeur or VIPShhhh!Crazy ResentfulYour Heart's DesireYou Bought a What?!Just Say Thank YouGirlfriendsButton PusherExpectations, and a Wife's Role.

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