Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Submissive Wife?

Yesterday I came across the following article on a web-site called Start Marriage Right : 


I thought it was interesting. I'm not sure where I stand as a woman on the whole submissive wife thing. It seems to me that many Christian men abuse this concept to be controlling and sometimes abusive.

The author did make some great points though.  I agreed with her conclusion that many women expect their husbands to fulfill all emotional needs. Which as I have learned, does not a good marriage make. Our deep emotional needs should first and foremost be brought to the Lord. He is the only one who can truly understand, shoulder, and heal our hearts. He fills the empty parts of us, not our men.

I liked the verse she used to talk about a wife's behavior - 1 Peter 3:1 "Likewise, wives be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives."  But I would add 1 Peter 3:2 which finishes the sentence, "...when they see your respectful and pure conduct." This verse seems to me to be talking about a specific situation, rather than a blanket statement about submission. It's addressing a wife whose husband is an un-believer and telling her that by her conduct and respectful treatment of him, she will be demonstrating the love of Christ most effectively and clearly. 

The passage most often referenced in relation to submission is:

Ephesians 5:22-33
New International Version (NIV)

"22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

"25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

So often we focus on the first part of the passage where it could sound offensive in today's culture. But the passage as a whole addresses the conduct of BOTH the husband and wife. That is key. I think that there will probably always be a debate as to exactly what "submit" means in the everyday life of a modern marriage, but the overall point of the passage is (to me) that husbands and wives are to be mutually submissive to each other; just in different ways.

Wives who act and speak respectfully to their husbands communicate that they love them. Respect is very often the love language of men.

Husbands who act loving and speak loving words to their wives communicate their care. This is how women receive love.

I honestly don't agree with everything mentioned in the article. Do I think the Bible tells women that they should just be quiet, stop crying, and listen to their men tell them where to go? Probably not. That probably wasn't the best story/illustration to use. And her article did have a tone that women should always be "behind" their men, which I don't love. Women have wisdom, leadership skills, and are out in the world doing great things. Perhaps the author was suggesting that wives should be supportive of their husbands?

To me the submissive wife thing should be how women can respect, support their husbands, listen to their opinions and help the family and marriage succeed. The passage in Ephesians should be taken as a whole I think. We husbands and wives should take from it that Christ desires good, loving, and mutually submissive behavior from us both. Men and women are different. We experience love differently and so the Bible gives gender based guides for how to best treat one's spouse. The fact that Ephesians lumps the expectations together for me is a big deal. Marriage is to be done as a team. We work together, sacrifice for one another, and submit to the needs of the other person. We're different, but equal.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic of submission and we hope that it opens up a respectful dialogue either here or at home. Many people disagree about this topic, so it's important to talk about it in a manner that is considerate and kind, no matter how strong our opinions are.


  1. My best friend got married this past weekend and this was the topic of the message the pastor gave. While, I found the message inspirational and not offensive at all, it stirred up a pretty heated debate ( I later learned some of the women at the ceremony wanted to get up and leave if the word "submit" was used one more time!). I can see how some people would take it the wrong way and it got me thinking on the long drive home from the wedding about submission in marriage...
    I have three observations to share:
    1. I feel that the passage is talking about mutual submission and addressing the different love languages that men and women have. It's not requiring women give up everything and get nothing in return - it's saying women respect your husbands and husbands respect your wives by striving to love her each and every day.
    2. God sets a pretty high bar for how much a husband should love his wife... is it possible for a man to love his wife as much as Christ loved the church?? I don't think so, God's love is so vast it's unknowable so men are inevitably going to fail. Women are inevitably going to fail at submission and God knows that and it's okay.
    3. If both people is a marriage are willing to submit to God and His plan and are actively seeking His will their lives and goals should align and a woman should WANT to submit to her husband.

    That's my humble opinion...

    1. Wow thank you so much for this post. It has made me understand this whole thing about submitting to my husband better. I was raised as a child to always submit to men no matter what!! Which lead to very bad dysfunctional relationships. It took many years, before I got up enough gumption to start standing up for myself. Then I went through the roaring years of hear me roar I am woman I do as I want not as you tell me. That lead to a lot of headaches and more bad relationships. Now I have come to a part of my life where I meet with God and I decide to give Him control in all areas of my life. In return I was bless with a husband. The only problem was I didn't understand what God really wanted from me or what He wanted from me as wife. Then the good old I man hear me roar came back like a freight train. Panic set in me and I was I like not this submit thing again God. Now for almost the last year God has been working on me to learn the real meaning of submitting to God and my husband. It has not been a easy especially living with a husband who still has an attitude of I man do as I say. God has been great in this whole process He showing my husband what it really means for me to submit to him. And showing me what God means by submitting to Him, one and another, and my husband. More and more I growing to love the whole submitting that God intended it to be. That is to love unconditionally, make sacrifices for one another, and respect one and another. I love how God works!!! For me Jesus is the great example of what true submitting is. I choose to follow His way. May God Bless you all and thank you.

  2. Fantastic, very well stated Sarah!

  3. Finally, another non-scary site about submissive wives, lol. You got to be careful what you click on out there, haha. I just posted my third (and final?) section for my series "The Joy of Being a Submissive Wife". I would love your feedback on the series. I'm going to add your post to mine for additional reading.

    Part 1 and 2 are linked within part 3.

  4. Minister's Wife: I read all three of your blog posts on this subject and love that you address this issue in a manner that leaves areas open for discussion and personal interpretation. Your words came from the heart and that's invaluable as all of us work towards becoming more Christ-like in our hearts and marriages! - Melissa

  5. It was refreshing to see you read the texts within their contexts.

    One thought.

    "Wives who act and speak respectfully to their husbands communicate that they love them. Respect is very often the love language of men.

    Husbands who act loving and speak loving words to their wives communicate their care. This is how women receive love."

    Can you provide examples of each i.e. what a wife might say that is respectful that would communicate love to her husband and would be materially different than what a husband who acts and speaks to his wife to communicate care instead of respect?

    In a marriage relationship is love (agape) not a reflection of the respect and value one holds for the other? In a marriage relationship is respect and the value one holds for the other not a reflection of one's love (agape)? Think 1 Corinthians 13.

    Disrespectful acts of condescension, derision, ridicule, sarcasm, etc. is unloving not only to men but to women.

    Acts and words of self-sacrificial love (agape) communicate value and worth--respect--not only to women but to men.

    It appears to me they are not exclusive but maybe different sides of the same coin.


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Our goal of this blog is to share stories (both good and bad), thoughts and insights about our marriage and we would love for you to jump into the conversation.

The goal is to provide three things:
1) HOPE for struggling couples that they are not alone.
2) GROWTH in our marriages and our understanding of marriage.
3) ENCOURAGEMENT to keep loving your spouse unconditionally.