A young wife read a popular Christian how-to-be-married book. As a result, she decided to become doormat submissive. She never questioned, never discussed, and didn’t express her opinion. She was trying to be the perfect submissive wife.
It didn’t work. Her husband treated her worse than before.
Noticing this result, she decided to change. She made her opinions known. She stood up for herself from time to time. She shared her thoughts with her husband.
He respected her more.
Why are Christian wives uncertain about how they’re supposed to act?
Many Christian women misunderstand the word submit. It’s in several different places the Bible, but the most familiar verse is this: Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord (Ephesians 5:22). The words Be subject (in verse 21) are from the military term that originally meant “to arrange or rank under.“* It doesn’t mean that women are less important. It doesn’t mean that wives cannot express their opinions. It means that the husband has the last say and that the final decision is his responsibility. Just as the general leads troops under him, the husband leads his wife. Just as the sergeant yields to the general, the wife yields to her husband. The wife is one with her husband. She can share her heart with him. Their family is a unit, and there needs to be communication at the top of that unit.
So, how does this concept translate to everyday husband-wife interactions?
- Be honest. Tell the truth. Be open. If you have a different opinion, you may express it respectfully.
- Share. Do things together. Share life and laughter. A lot of marital problems would disappear if partners did more of life together.
- Demonstrate love. Love is looking for the other person’s good. Look for ways to bless your spouse. Love is also a heart disposition to show love. “I love this man, therefore I will do this for him.” Learn his love language.
- Strive for oneness. When the Bible says they shall be one flesh (from Genesis 2:24), it means it. A husband and a wife become one when they marry. Each is a vital part of the other. Each contributes to the union. Unity is important in marriage. Division is fatal. That’s why the Bible advocates submission. The wife yields to the head of the family in order for the home to run smoothly.
- Enjoy each other. Marriage is the most intimate relationship anyone can have. It’s about knowing each other in every way. Sometimes though, “familiarity breeds contempt.” When we know all about our spouse, he may seem less desirable. But marriage is supposed to be enjoyed. Our husband should be our best friend. He is the best and most fun person we could possibly be with. (Titus 2:4 says to love their husbands. The word used for love means a brotherly, friendship love. You can also read the book of Song of Solomon, which is about enjoying intimacy.)
Two people will never agree 100% of the time. That’s impossible! We can agree most of the time, though—and the last five or ten percent is easily yielded to our husband’s judgment.
What if your husband makes the call, and later everything falls apart? Instead of saying, “I told you so” or singing “Na-na-na-boo-boo” and mocking him, you can be sure that he will have marked this up in his mind as a lesson learned. You don’t even need to mention it. He will seriously consider your opinion in the future. Biblical submission is a win-win. You do the right thing, and your husband learns to respect your opinions, just as you respect him as head of the home. It’s perfect!
Most women have the biggest issues with their husbands in these two areas: 1. the discipline of children and 2. spending. Let’s take them one at a time.
- Almost always in a marriage, one parent is stricter than the other. You probably won’t see eye-to-eye with your husband on every parenting decision. Discuss your differences privately. It’s important to present a unified front—and be mutually supportive—to your children. You can defer to your husband on certain parenting issues, and he can defer to you. In the end, it will all balance out.
- We’re all pretty touchy when it comes to money. Why? It’s a question of values. One spouse spends more freely than the other. One thinks this is important, and the other thinks that is something we can’t do without. It’s not really a matter of who is correct; it’s about deciding together or yielding to your husband’s decision. Usually one’s a saver and one’s a spender. My experience is that these matters usually work themselves out as the years go by. Spouses grasp what’s truly important and what isn’t. It’s okay. The family survives.
Mutual respect begins with transparency and trust building. When a wife never voices her opinion, her husband cannot respect her. When she discusses issues calmly and with love and courtesy and leaves the final decision up to him, she earns his respect.
Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her,
so that he shall have no need of spoil.
She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.
Strength and honour are her clothing;
and she shall rejoice in time to come.
She openeth her mouth with wisdom;
and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
Her children arise up, and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praiseth her.
(Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-26, 28)
*The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Ephesians. John MacArthur, Jr.