Saturday, June 29, 2013

Submission in Marriage

Disclaimer: I do not at all think or claim that I am a perfect wife, or fully submitted to my husband, and that all the time. It is possible to understand and believe in a concept, without oneself having perfected it. I am sharing my insights here, not giving a run-down of my wifely accomplishments.

On the most recent Q & A, the question was raised how exactly, from a practical standpoint, a wife submitting to her husband would play out in everyday life:
What I'm wondering is that your husband talks a lot about how he is the boss in his own home, and how you as his wife have to submit to him. I do get that in theory, but how exactly does this work in your every day life? I'm also asking this, because you seem to be pretty "independent" when it comes to managing your household (like putting the family on a organic only diet an so on). So a few questions, to get a better idea: who decides on homeschooling things, like which book to use, you? your husband? What if you, during the day, forbid/allowed a child to do something, and your husband doesn't agree with your decision? I mean, sure with the big things, you could call him, but with the thousands of small decisions every housewife and mother has to do every day? How does it work with the finances, do you get an amount of money and can decide yourself how to use it? and with general big decisions, like chosing where to live, which house to buy, your childrens names and so on, do you get to say anything, or does your husband decides everything, without considering your opinion? Like would he give a child a name he knows you don't like?

I'm sorry for asking so many questions, but while it is commmon to hear that the husband is the head of the home, it's sometimes tricky in everyday life.

And from another reader:
I also wonder about this? Exactly how a wife should submit to her husband in everyday life but still be a strong mother and woman in charge of her household.

A clear chain of authority is nothing unique to marriage. Just about any aspect of our society is built on them. Children are supposed to obey their parents. Employees are supposed to be working for the boss according to his wishes, not their own agenda. Courts have higher courts over them. None of these examples seem to throw anyone for a loop as much as saying, in the 21st century, that wives are supposed to obey and reverence their husbands, and submit unto them as unto the Lord. 

Since the other areas are not as much of a mental struggle to wrap one's mind around, let's use them for illustration purposes. 

Does the Supreme Court of the United States hear every single legal battle in this country? Are they the only ones qualified to decree justice? No, of course not! There are many lower level courts that hear the everyday, common, straightforward cases. It is only if there is a dispute or disagreement that the next higher up court is called upon. If an agreement cannot be reached, it gets passed up to the next court, and so on.

Or let's imagine a big company with many employees. Is the CEO making all the decisions? Is he hiring all the workers, choosing the stationary, answering the phone, analyzing the finances, etc? That would be absurd at best, as well as impossible. Does hiring employees to fill the various positions, and taking over certain responsibilities, mean that the owner of that company no longer is the head of it? Of course not!

The husband being the head of the home does not mean that he makes every decision. The Bible makes it clear that while the husband's duty is to provide for the family and protect it (i.e. mostly dealing with the world outside the family), the wife's duties are mostly within the family (i.e. raising the children, and keeping the home). My husband knows and appreciates my competence in this area, and trusts me to make the best decisions to keep us moving forward in the course we have set for our family based upon the Bible and his preferences. So yes, in my home, I am the queen, and as such, very independent. There is no need for my husband to monitor, veto, or override my every decision. I do not call him throughout the day to run this-or-that by him.

If we come to a conflict, an area where we do not see eye-to-eye on, my opinion is carefully taken into consideration, as any wise and loving husband would do. Ultimately, however, the burden and responsibility of decision-making for these "big" areas is with the husband. These would typically be important decisions. Some examples are: where to live, how many children to have, how to educate them, where to go to church, etc.

Have I always agreed with my husband and his decisions? No, of course not! But thankfully, I have a higher power above him that I can appeal unto, one that is always wise, just, and perfect - God! If my husband and I have two very differing opinions on what we should do, both of us can't be right. Either he is right, and I am wrong, or he is wrong, and I am right. Knowing this simple fact, I can pray to God that He would either show my husband the error of his thinking, or else if my husband is indeed right, change my heart so I can easily get on board and submit. True, if God were not a factor working in our lives, marriage would be quite scary and difficult. But the same God that creates life, saves us from hell, and guides us into all truth, can make either one of us have a change of heart effortlessly. I can think of a number of vital areas right now in which we had vastly different opinions, but over time, with prayer, my husband came to see and agree with my standpoint.

Lastly, God appoints authority (in this case that of the husband) not as a tool for the one in charge to serve  themselves, but rather for that leader to use his power to serve those under his care and protection. My husband is commanded to love me as Christ loved the church, which means he should be willing to lay down his life for mine. He has the say in decision making, but it is all tempered by having to consider what decision will best serve me and our family. 

Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty - and within marriage, and life in general, I enjoy great liberty. There is a chain of authority that rules our day-to-day lives, but if we both do our part - me acting according to my husband's wishes and him ruling in my best interest - it is hardly ever seen.

No marriage is perfect, ours included. Friction between family members under the same roof is inevitable. Having clearly defined roles is one of the tools that helps reduce conflict, rather than add to it. 

I will end with what another reader shared in this response to this question, as it was so perfectly worded: 

I get this same question a lot. I explain it like this:

Think of a property owner who owns an apartment complex. The property owner has an apartment manager that lives on the property and manages the property. The property owner has given the manager full reign to run and operate the property following the guidelines and standards set up by the owner. The manger makes all daily decisions on their own while considering what would be pleasing to the owner. If something unusual or serious comes up and the manager is unsure how the owner would like that situation handled then the manager consults with the owner for guidance.

My husband is very much the leader over the home. As the leader of our home he understands that the Lord has called me to be the keeper of the home. My husband has given me full authority to “keep” our home under the principles set by the Bible and the preferences set by my husband. I make all day to day decisions in our home on my own with keeping in mind what would be pleasing to my husband. If something major comes up and I am unsure how he would want that situation handled, then I call him for guidance. This rarely happens because my husband and I are like minded and I as the keeper of the home have learned what is pleasing to God and what is pleasing to my husband that that is how I proceed.

Being submissive doesn’t mean you are a doormat, have no opinion or can’t make a decision on your own. That is a great misconception. Submissive women are very capable women. Their goal is to make daily decisions in the home that reflect the standards set by their husband, which is not hard to do if you and your husband are like minded, have the same goals and most importantly serve the same God.

On big things like where we live and which house to buy my husband prays and seeks God’s leading. He will talk to me about what I think about the decision, but he has the final word. Typically we are on the same page because his heart is to follow God and my heart is to follow my husband. There are times that we disagree such as naming children. He likes the name Uriah. I can’t stand that name it reminds me of Urine. We do not have a child named Uriah. I would prefer that each of our children’s names don’t start with the same letter, but he felt that the Lord gave him a particular name for a youngest that happened to start with the same letter as our oldest. It meant a lot to him, so our youngest got that name. So like with every couple there is compromise. But my husband is the final authority. My husband loves me like Christ loves the church and he treats me accordingly. He is not going to give our child a name that I hate because he wants to consider me and please me…. just as I do him.


  1. Good points - excellent explanation. :)

  2. Excellent answer to that question!

  3. Something I find myself constantly explaining is, submitting to your husbands will does NOT mean you don't have an opinion or even that his opinion always wins! I am a very opinionated person and that didn't end when I got married, my husband and I can get into some very heated debates about various decisions, and I am not at all shy to let him know what I think! We spent many evenings discussing and debating infant baptism vs adult baptism before my husband finally made a decision, and though he ended up choosing against my belief, I have no doubt I was heard thoroughly, and the decision regarding the baptism of our children is now between him and God. I am free from the responsibility of it being right or wrong, it's on him. I don't have to worry about it, I am free from that pressure, and the worry of if I am doing the right thing or not. My duty now is to do the best I can with the decision made, by preparing the children and other things that come with it.

    It also doesn't mean he ignores my opinion and that his always wins, for example, when we discuss things such as his job, changing or perusing something new or whatever, he truly values my opinion and wants cherish me. As such, there have been times where he has actually chosen not to do something that he would like to do, because I disagree with the decision, or because the decision would make things worse off for me.

    To give some practical examples of day to day life. I research and select homeschooling curriculum, and when I have compiled my book choices and approximate goals, I show them to him for final approval. Now, it is very very rare that he will overrule me on a homeschooling decision because he knows the time and research I put in, and he knows I know far more about this than he does. But sometimes he will bring up a point of concern ('how much grammar is going to be covered in these courses?') or disagree with a method used ('I don't believe catering to learning styles in such an extreme way is beneficial as our children integrate into the adult world'). He has every right to ask those questions as their father. Also, sometimes I will be torn between two or three paths in curriculum, and I discuss them with him. Once he approves books and courses I am free to go ahead with planning. I don't know if he's ever seen my semester planning charts or any of that, he trusts me to handle it so that, when he is home, he can spend more time with me and the children.

    For big everyday and discipline decisions I will call him, but those are the really big ones. For the every day decisions and discipline I make a judgment call. I also do not recount these events to him when he comes home. If there is an issue, i.e. it comes up or one of the children is unhappy with things or he asks about something that happened during the day, then we discuss it. Most of the time he will agree with what I did. Sometimes he will disagree but also accepts I am a different person to him and I have some freedom in my actions and choices. The very rare time he really disagrees with something, he will not go back and change or correct what I have done, but we will discuss it in detail, with reasons and opinions from both sides, and decide how I will deal with it next time, again with his decision being final after he has listened to my reasons and opinion. I don't think this is very different to any other home really.

  4. Money. The big purchases, the budget amounts etc we talk about and decide together, if there's a disagreement he hears my side yet again then makes a decision. I have free reign to use the grocery budget as I like. Again, if he disagrees with a purchase I have made, and feels it needs to go further than simply being my personality and differences, we will talk with reasons, he will make a decision and I will work towards doing as he has decided in the future. Large purchases are discussed, whether I make them OR he makes them. Surely most married couples do this? We BOTH also have a small amount of spending money that we can use freely without discussion.

    My husband loves me, the command for him to love me is right next to the command for me to submit to him, and these BOTH need to happen, so he would never give a child a name I hated. He would never move somewhere I absolutely did not want to go unless he felt a very good reason to and completely confident it was in the family's best interest (although, if he really wanted to go, I may choose to go because I love him and trust him despite my feelings, without him making a 'decision' for me to submit to)

    Ultimately, the biggest difference between the average marriage and a marriage with submission is that I work to built my husband up and value/respect his opinions and decisions, to include and turn to him for the big things. When there is a stalemate, and a true difference of opinions, someone has to win, and instead of arguing it out for weeks and having resentment, I know he will 'win' and accept that. It means he is responsible for the decisions of the family, it is not a joint responsibility, so he needs to be in the loop for everything that's happening and have the option to veto the big things. It means I trust him to take leadership.

    The other big difference between an average marriage and a submissive marriage is that, after a stalemate when one person gets their way, the other will often make it hard, they will be prepared with a pull down or an 'i told you so' but in a submissive marriage I accept the decision and make the best of it that I can. Once the decision is made, arguing it further would be wrong (unless circumstances change) and so I do not hold it against him and I work my hardest to see it through.

    One last note. There are many conservative christian marriages where 'submission' seems to mean that the husband micromanages everything, and the wife never states her opinion, ever. That is not submission, that is abuse. The wife is being a poor helpmeet by never helping her husband by offering another viewpoint or perspective (something my husband relies on when he goes too far when beginning a new project) The husband is not trusting his wife as a capable intelligent woman, and not seeing her as the equal but different partner God made her to be. A wife is not a slave, she is a half to a whole, just as he is. It just so happens that God decided he would have more responsibilities on his shoulders as leader, and as such, more power to lead.

    1. I don't think that only (some) conservative Christian marriages suffer with a micromanaging husband. I know of several people who's husband act that way that are not Christian. There are also people I know that claim to be Christian that don't lead a true Christian life. These are peripheral people...not close friends and honestly I don't really know why I keep in contact.

  5. I defer to my husband for all decisions, not because he is a man but because he has a much higher success rate for making decisions that benefit us (long or short range, important and trivial). Of course, he isn't comfortable making decisions without regarding my opinion, and we often discuss options before he comes to a decision.

    It isn't god telling us to do this, justlogic... Couples should be a team, not a figurehead and a subordinate.

  6. I love the way you explained this! Jason once told his co-workers in a conversation that he believes women should submit to their husbands and they laughed. They asked if I agreed and when I told them I did, similar questions arose. It isn't that difficult to comprehend. I believe a lot of the misconceptions stem from the fact that some men don't care to take their wife's thoughts into consideration and it turns into an egotistical macho man thing. If both parties are equally doing their jobs, the majority of the time it works out perfectly!
    <3 Nina

  7. " Either he is right, and I am wrong, or he is wrong, and I am right."

    Or you both are wrong. Or right.

  8. Zsuzsanna, you are an extremely strong willed woman. I can picture you putting your husband in his place any given moment of the day. I know that you are glade that he takes over once he gets home but you are definitely not someone to be ordered around.

    1. Anonymous,

      You may be able to "picture" my wife "putting me in my place any given moment of the day," but that scenario only exists in your imagination. As my wife explained in this post, and as I have often explained in my preaching, I give her a lot of freedom and don't feel the need to micromanage her. She is a very skillful homemaker; she is very frugal, wise, etc., so I don't waste my time second guessing her domestic decisions.

      You say that my wife is "definitely not someone to be ordered around," but I assure you, there are many times that I DO order her around, and she is very submissive and obedient. Although my wife is very humble in her disclaimer at the beginning of this post, the reality is that she definitely practices what she preaches in this area.

      In my opinion, Zsuzsa is the most amazing wife in the world because not only is she very competent, intelligent, skillful, opinionated, and energetic, but she is also extremely feminine, submissive, old-fashioned and obedient. The best of both worlds! Then on top of it all, she is stunningly beautiful! But what is even more attractive about her than her looks is her wifely submission.

      - Pastor Anderson

    2. Having a wife that submits to direction/guidance for something that needs to be done immediatly because she wants to is different than having a wife that is fearful and submits because of that fear.

      ZsuZsanna doesnt come across as a "fearful" wife. She comes across as a wife that submits because she truly wants to and believes you are the head of the household and have her/the family's best interest at heart.

      I think (just based on what I read here) ZsuZsanna has strong opinions about lots of things. I think that's where people get the mistaken impression that she "puts you in your place" She doesn't come across as a meek church mouse cowering in the corner and she has stong opinions. I've never gotten that impression (that she would "put you in your place") but I can see where someone might.

    3. Pastor Anderson --- Are you not worthy of submission, at times, to your wife's wisdom and skill?

    4. I get the impression the ordering around takes place mainly in the bedroom, and that I must admit I find quite cool.

  9. If women thought they had to submit to their husbands through out their marriages maybe they would consider the Godly character of their future husbands more seriously and not for superficial reasons with no eternal value. The affect this would have on the divorce rate would be profound.

    1. I also think its a shame that people give up on their marriage so easily. Marriage can be hard. It takes a lot of work to make it successful. People have become lazy and when the going gets rough, people decide to just bail instead of work on it.

  10. I am curious as to how someone with this theology of marriage would cope, if (for example) her husband suffered severe brain injury and she were forced to take more of a leadership role? Or would she seek out authority from another male, a father in law, perhaps?

  11. Can you address what in your marriage you would do if you believed God (or the Holy Spirit) was leading you to do something different than what your husband was asking you to do? This is the main issue I am having. I believe I have a connection with God where he leads me a lot in my life, and it often comes into conflict with what my husband thinks is right. Thanks.


Your KINDLY WORDED, constructive comments are welcome, whether or not they express a differing opinion. All others will be deleted without second thought.