Chapter 4. Understanding the Enemy


Chapter 4 - Understanding the Enemy

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[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Chapter Summary”]This chapter is all about preparing you for the challenges you’ll face as you put husbandly leadership into practice. This chapter is about getting everything on the table; the biggest and most common obstacles men are faced with today.[/thrive_text_block]

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Understanding the EnemyIn the last chapter you learned why it’s so important to focus on what you can control in your marriage. We learned that it’s pointless to try and control your wife (or the people around her) because until you develop powers of mind control, you cannot force her to feel differently about the marriage.

In this chapter we’re going to take a strategic look at all the things that will work against your self-control.

If you’ve read through my free e-course, 10 Steps to Gain Husbandly Leadership, then some of the lessons in this chapter will sound familiar.

Here’s the truth:

It’s easy to feel in control of yourself when there’s nothing in your life trying to take that control away from you. It’s much harder when you’re surrounded by enemies and obstacles determined to undermine your self-control.

In this chapter we’re going to quickly cover all the major obstacles that you will face as you try to regain control of yourself and revive your marriage. By developing a clear awareness of these obstacles, it’ll be much easier for you to make yourself immune to their influence.

Why You Must Understand Your Enemy

One of my favorite movies of all time is the second installment in Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman trilogy – The Dark Knight. Have you seen it?

It has an awesome musical score, stellar acting (R.I.P. Heath Ledger), and a truly inspirational ending which is the reason I’m bringing it up here.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, here’s a quick rundown of what happens and why it matters to you as a husband. And yes, I know I’m a bit nerdy for using this as an example… Bear with me.

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Gotham City is in turmoil. Crime is rampant and gang lords run the city completely unchecked. A young upstart, Harvey Dent, is elected mayor. He’s a fiercely ethical lawyer with a passion for fixing the crime problem in Gotham. However, there’s an evil force working against him – The Joker.

The Dark Knight

Throughout the movie, The Joker does everything in his power to drive Harvey Dent away from his innate goodness. He even kills Dent’s fiancée right in front of him, all to convert him from good to evil.

Finally, The Joker succeeds. He drives Dent insane to the point that he becomes a villain himself. By the end of the movie, Dent, aka. Two Face, has come to blame everyone around him for his fiancée’s death. He decides to exact his revenge by killing all the people he believes wronged him.

In the last scene of the movie, Batman is forced to kill Dent because he’s about to murder the police Lieutenant and his family. But, because of the mass chaos The Joker has brought on the city, nobody except Batman and the Lieutenant know just how evil Harvey Dent had become. Gotham doesn’t know that their shining ray of hope – the mayor that was going to save them – had himself succumbed to evil. 

Moments after Harvey’s death, police arrive on the scene. All they know is that there were gunshots, and that Batman was in the area. As the sirens get closer and louder, Batman is faced with a choice:

  1. He can stay and tell the truth. Batman can explain to the police that Dent went insane and tried to murder the police Lieutenant’s family, and that he had to kill the fallen mayor as a last resort to save an innocent woman and children. In doing so, he would preserve his own name and reputation, but he would completely shatter all of Gotham’s hope for a better city.[blank_space height=’3em’]
  2. Batman can flee the scene and tell the Lt. to blame him. He can run away and let the police think that Batman was the one that turned evil, and that Dent was killed in cold blood. In doing so, he would sacrifice his own reputation; everyone would blame him for murdering the city’s savior. But, by sacrificing his own name, he’d guarantee that the once-great Harvey Dent would live on as a shining ray of hope for Gotham’s future and serve as motivation for further change.

In the end, Batman decides to take the fall. He runs away into the night and sacrifices everything to bear the burden of Harvey’s sins, all for the greater good of the city. And that’s the end of the movie.


What’s this have to do with you?

In The Dark Knight, two good men face the same enemy, but one stands strong and the other falls away. The difference between Batman and Harvey Dent is that Batman understood the enemy better than Dent. He knew that The Joker’s final goal wasn’t just to drive Dent insane – he wanted to shatter hope for all of Gotham City.

Batman knew his enemy, and he knew what his enemy was trying to do on both a personal and big-picture scale. Because he understood his enemy, he could withstand the personal attacks in order to save the city.

Are you starting to see the connection here?

As a husband, you need to have this same awareness of your enemy.

You need to be able to withstand the personal attacks in order to save your marriage. You need to know the individual obstacles that will stand in your way, and the impact they can make on your marriage.

By knowing the obstacles you’ll face ahead of time, you can prepare yourself to overcome them and keep your eyes on the prize – a happy and loving marriage to the woman of your dreams.

I’ve divided these obstacles up into two categories:

  • External Obstacles – These are the obstacles that are ‘just part of life’, but that when left unchecked will add salt to the wounds of a bleeding marriage. These obstacles come from outside of your relationship with your wife, but they can still have an enormous negative impact on your marriage.
  • Internal Obstacles – These are the obstacles that come from within your relationship with your wife. Even more dangerous, internal obstacles are the things that you or your wife will do that will stand in the way of a healthy marriage.

Let me be clear: These obstacles – these enemies of husbandly leadership – they exist in EVERY marriage; not just unhealthy ones. The difference is that in a healthy marriage, you have power over these obstacles. In an unhealthy one, you don’t.

External Obstacles

I want to remind you about the last chapter one more time before we dive into these external obstacles. Remember what it was about? Focus on what you can control.

With these external obstacles, remember that the obstacle itself is not the problem. It’s how you handle it that creates cracks in a marriage. Disagreements and challenges are a natural part of any relationship, but they become poisonous when they take center stage.

Honestly, entire books could be written on each of these obstacles. My goal here isn’t to teach you how to solve every single problem related to these obstacles in one chapter – that would be impossible. Instead, I want you to be prepared when problems arise in any of these areas, and we’ll spend more time talking about most of these obstacles later in the course.


When money is tight, it creates problems. Maybe your wife blames you for not making enough money. Maybe you have different priorities for your money and so you disagree on how to spend it.

Either way, we’ll learn more about how to lead in money management in Chapter 6 about areas of husbandly leadership.

Domestic Duties & Work Schedules

Countless surveys have found that domestic duties are one of the most common sources of conflict in marriages today.

Has your wife ever accused you of not doing enough around the house?

Or maybe you’re the one doing more than your fair share…

Work schedules go hand in hand with domestic duties. For example, one spouse might feel like because they are the primary breadwinner, they don’t have to contribute as much around the house. Meanwhile, the other spouse might feel like there is more housework to do than one person can reasonably expected to keep up with. As a result, resentment builds on both sides.

It doesn’t always have to be this exact type of situation. Maybe both of you work day jobs, or maybe you’re unemployed right now…

Either way, the point is that when one spouse feels like they’re contributing more to the running of the household than the other, problems arise. Striking a balance between domestic duties and work is an obstacle you’ll need to overcome, even if you’re not the one working at the moment


It’s hard to call kids an obstacle, but they certainly don’t make things easier.

Just like domestic duties and finances, many surveys have indicated that parenting disagreements are a major source of strife in most marriages today. One recent study found that becoming a new parent creates more stress and unhappiness than catastrophic life events like divorce or the death of a spouse. Crazy, right? Even if you don’t quite agree with that, there’s no denying that parenting is a responsibility that you and your wife share that lies outside your direct relationship with your wife, therefore I’m classifying it as an external obstacle.

Generally, parenting disagreements will be over responsibilities or policies. One parent might feel like they’re forced to do unreasonably more child-rearing than the other. Or, maybe a new challenge has come up with your kids and you and your wife disagree on how to handle it. Either way, if these problems aren’t resolved, they’ll fester.


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Facing an affair? Start with these blog posts:

Emotional Affairs 101:

Other Resources:


The most challenging external obstacle of all is infidelity. We actually have an entire chapter about affairs in the third part of this course. For now, know that there is nothing more difficult to deal with than when your wife has strayed for another man.

If your wife is having an affair – whether it’s emotional or physical – it’s more important than ever for you to focus on what you can control. It’s too late to stop your wife from having an affair. If she’s unrepentant, you won’t even be able to get her to end the affair… You’ll have to wait for her to do it of her own accord.

But, just like with any other obstacle, you can control your response to her affair. If you become the kind of man she can’t say no to, then she’s much more likely to stay.

Again, we have an entire chapter about this, so I’ll leave most of the affair advice until then.

In the meantime, you can find a collection of affair-related blog posts on Husband Help Haven in the box above.

Internal Obstacles

These are the obstacles that come from within your marriage. These are the classic marriage problems that many, many men struggle with.


Communication is so important that the entire second part of this book is dedicated to mastering leader-like communication in your marriage. You’re going to be sick of hearing about communication by the end of this book, so I’m not going to say much about it right here.

For now, let’s just say that you aren’t the only guy who struggles with understanding your wife’s needs and speaking your mind effectively.

Nice Guy Syndrome

Nice Guy Syndrome is a classic way that passive-aggressive men try to control the people around them, and it happens all the time in marriage. I’m guilty of this myself sometimes.

Basically, Nice Guy Syndrome is when you’re nice to someone with the expectation that they will be nice to you in return. It’s a form of conditional love (as opposed to unconditional love). It’s a devastating obstacle in a marriage because it prevents you from taking responsibility for the problems in your relationship. After all, you’re a nice husband; what more does your wife want?

We’ll talk more about Nice Guy Syndrome and the best way to be kind without being passive-aggressive in Chapter 12 about affection.


Disagreements are just part of marriage. Inevitably, you or your wife will do something that the other spouse doesn’t like.  How do you ask the other person to change their behavior without offending them or hurting their feelings?

The correct response to these disagreements is to isolate the specific behavior that’s causing the problem and to ask your spouse to change that specific behavior in a positive, results-oriented way. Then, you can encourage them and thank them when they carry it through.

What usually happens instead is that one spouse attacks the other spouse’s character instead of their behavior. In other words, you criticize the person, not the problem, and that leads to contempt and unhappiness.

I actually have an entire blog post all about this. You might want to check it out… It’s called The Real Reason Your Wife is Bossy.


Earlier we learned that domestic duties, money and parenting are three of the most common sources of marriage problems. Well, the fourth most common source of marriage problems is sex. Or, more accurately, expectations about sex; what I like to call sexpectations.

Over the years, I’ve heard all kinds of sex-related problems. I’ve heard from men who expect more sex than they’re getting, from men who can’t seem to be intimate with their wife, and from men who have performance problems due to stress. But whatever the specific problem may be, it usually goes back to expectations in the bedroom.

We’ll talk more about sex and intimacy in Chapter 6 when we discuss areas of husbandly leadership.

Blame & Forgiveness

Forgiveness is perhaps the most challenging part of being married, and forgiveness goes hand-in-hand with blame. When a couple struggles with forgiveness, the result is blame.

If you’ve read the 10 Steps to Gain Husbandly Leadership course, you know that blame can be one of the most poisonous problems in a marriage. It will continue to stand in your way until you learn to overcome it, both for your wife and for yourself.

Just like many of the other obstacles, we’ll talk a lot more about blame and forgiveness later on in this book. In fact, Chapter 14 is titled ‘Forgiveness’ – we have an entire chapter about it.

Marriage Problems & Results Identification Exercise

Every marriage is different. The obstacles you’ll face on your journey towards husbandly leadership are much different than the obstacles that I’ve faced and will face in my own marriage.

Even if I could tell you exactly what problems you’ll face in your marriage, part of becoming a good husband and leader is being able to identify and overcome these problems on your own. You have to learn to trust your gut and implement your own decisions.

So, here’s what I want you to do. It’s really easy:

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Estimated time: 20 minutes
Click here to download PDF worksheets for this exercise

  1. Get out two pieces of paper. (Or print out the PDF worksheet that came with the course, “Chapter 4 – Marriage Problems Worksheets”)
  2. Draw a line straight down the middle of both sheets. At the top of the left column on both sheets, write ‘Problems’. Write ‘Results’ at the top of the right column on Sheet 1. Write ‘My Answers’ at the top of the right column on Sheet 2.
  3. On Sheet 1 under Problems, write down every single problem or obstacle that you have faced in your marriage over the past six months.
  4. On Sheet 2 under Problems, write down every single problem or obstacle that you’ll need to overcome now and in the future to make your marriage healthy and keep it that way. It’s okay if there’s some overlap here.
  5. On Sheet 1 under Results, write down the impact that each of those past problems had on your marriage. How did they affect your relationship with your wife?
  6. On Sheet 2 under My Answers, write down a short description of how you intend to solve each problem. (Don’t have an answer yet? That’s okay – hold onto this sheet and write down your answers as they come to you throughout the rest of the book.)


The point of this exercise is to (A) develop a clear understanding of what specific problems have damaged your marriage and (B) to start thinking strategically about how you’ll deal with the obstacles standing between you and a happy marriage.

Marriage Problems vs. Marriage Opportunities

After going through this exercise, you might feel discouraged.

Maybe you had so many problems that you needed to get an extra piece of paper to write them all down… Or maybe you couldn’t think of any answers to your future problems.

Either way, don’t be discouraged. In fact, if anything, it should be a relief that there are a lot of problems in your marriage, or that you have so much left to learn about husbandly leadership.


Because every marriage problem you face is an opportunity to prove your worth as a husband.

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this point:

A couple months ago, I noticed that was loading extremely slowly. Using a stopwatch, I found it took a solid 11 seconds just to load the home page! As a result, I was losing hundreds if not thousands of visitors every month because people didn’t want to sit around for 11 seconds waiting for my website to load (hey, I don’t blame them).

So, I hired a programmer to help me diagnose what was wrong with my website and to improve its loading speed. I was shocked when, after looking through the code, he came back with a long list of over 30 different problems that were all making my site load super slowly.

Apparently I was doing a LOT of things wrong that were all adding up to make my site almost unusably slow. He also told me that my goal should be to load the home page in under 2 seconds!

I was extremely discouraged. These problems were things that would’ve been really obvious to someone who knew more about programming than me, and I had a TON of work to do to get my website’s loading speed down to his 2-second goal.

That’s when my programmer said something that stuck with me. He said…

“Actually Jacob, it’s a GOOD thing that we found all these problems. It would be worse if I couldn’t find anything wrong, because that would mean you’d be stuck with a slow website forever. Having lots of problems just means you have lots of room for improvement.


This is exactly how you should be thinking about your marriage right now!

Yes, there are a lot of problems. In fact, now that you’ve taken the time to think about it, there are probably a lot more problems than you first realized.

But, that’s actually a good thing!

It would be much worse is if you DIDN’T see any problems in your marriage, because then there would be no room for improvement. You’d be stuck with a crappy marriage with no possible way of fixing it.

Instead, all the problems you see right now are actually opportunities for you to get your wife back. That needs to be your mindset moving forward.

And you know what? It took a lot of work, but I did finally get to load in under 2 seconds! Check it out:

Website Speed Test Results

Remember, this first part of the book is all about understanding the dynamics of a healthy, happy marriage. As we said earlier, these internal and external obstacles are part of every marriage… The difference is that in a healthy marriage, love is sturdily at the center of the relationship. That makes it possible for a husband and wife to use these obstacles as opportunities to increase their love for each other.

In an unhealthy marriage, love isn’t at the center, so these problems are just that – problems.

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  • As the husbandly leader, you have many obstacles both inside and outside the marriage.
  • These obstacles are thrown at every marriage. Healthy marriages overcome them and grow from them, while unhealthy marriages ignore them and let them fester. The one thing that all these enemies/obstacles have in common is that they will tear your marriage apart if you let them fester.
  • By increasing your awareness of the obstacles that will stand in the way of a happy marriage, you will help you…
    • Prepare yourself to face each problem head-on
    • Make good decisions about what areas of y0ur life to focus on
    • Have an accurate view of where your marriage is at right now
  • With every problem, the most important thing to remember is to focus on what you can control.
  • If your marriage is on the rocks and you can see a LOT of problems that need to be fixed, that’s actually a good thing… It just means you have more room for improvement!

[thrive_link color=’blue’ link=’’ target=’_self’ size=’big’ align=’aligncenter’]Go to Chapter 5. Why Husbandly Leadership Isn’t Just For Alpha Males[/thrive_link]


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