Wifey Wednesday: What Does Submission in Marriage Mean?

What Does Submission Mean? A look at our role in marriage.

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts, or comment on what I’ve said! Today I want to ask a question that drives many of us around the bend: What does submission mean?

I have to admit that I still shudder sometimes when pastors preach on submission, because it has so often become the source of angst in so many marriages. What does submission mean? Does it mean that women are lesser? That we have to let our husband make all the decisions? That my needs don’t matter? In many sermons, it has almost sounded like that.

To many of us “submission” has a negative connontation.

Husbands are told to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25), and that doesn’t seem to sound negative. But submission, to many women, is a net negative. Part of that is bad teaching we’ve received on it. Part of it is us chafing at it. But part of it may even go further than that, and that’s what I want to explore today.

I’ve talked about what submission does not mean–it doesn’t mean, for instance, that we put up with abuse. But in that post, we had some great comments about submission, and one woman wrote that she felt really confused by the whole thing. She had a friend who warmed up her husband’s car every morning before work. Should she be doing that if she’s going to submit?

And that’s where I think we come to the crux of the problem.

I think what many of us would like is a list of things that we should do that comprise submission, so that we can say, “look! I submit!”. But God doesn’t work that way.

The Old Testament was filled with rules that the Israelites had to follow–everything from what they ate to what fabrics they could use in their clothing. Everything was proscribed. And so it was theoretically possible that if you did all of these things, you could feel righteous.

And many people gravitate towards rules. They don’t like living in that no-man’s land where it’s not actually clear what you’re supposed to do. We’d rather have a list.

Jesus, however, doesn’t operate that way. Do you remember when He’s having the conversation with the lawyer about the greatest commandment?

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Now, if I were listening to that, I don’t know if I would have been happy with that answer. The Law had specific things you do to get right with God, but how do you “love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind”? That’s not easily quantifiable!

And that, I think, is the essential struggle of the Christian life. It’s not about rules; it’s about the heart. It’s about a steady growth of submission and love towards God, which then affects how we act towards others. It’s about steadily being transformed to look like Jesus.

Take this passage from Romans 8:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

That’s the dichotomy:

We’re either controlled by the flesh or by the Spirit. And the flesh is the one with rules; the Spirit is the one with grace.

That’s why I can’t tell you what submission means, because it’s not a list of what to do. It doesn’t mean simply letting him make all the decisions. Lots of women do this, and then they reserve the right to say–or think–”I told you so” afterwards. It doesn’t mean that we don’t ever think about what we need, either, because that’s not healthy, and the Spirit does not ask you to do things which are psychologically or emotionally damaging. He wants you to be a full vessel, not an exhausted or trod upon one.

But He also wants us to love fully, and to think of others fully, and to care about what God is doing in others’ lives, rather than on focusing on what we want. And so to me, submission to our husbands as to the Lord is part of doing that. It’s falling into submission to what God wants to do. It’s learning to love our husbands completely. And it’s not a 10-step list. It’s a matter of the heart.

To tell you the honest truth, I have a great marriage, and I very rarely think about the word submission. What I do think about is, “am I working towards Keith’s best? Am I really caring for him in this situation, or am I pushing my own agenda? Am I showing him love? Am I seeking God in this?” And he tends to think the same way about me (for that I am eternally grateful).

But it comes down to understanding that God is not as interested in my happiness as He is in my holiness and obedience.

And the more I submit to Him, the more I will find happiness in all areas of my life.

I don’t think that’s a satisfactory answer to many of you, but I’m not sure God meant to give us one. The Bible is not full of easy answers; to almost every question, the Bible’s answer is “dig into the well of the Spirit more. Surrender more to God. Give more to God. Struggle in prayer more.” And I think that’s WHY there aren’t easy answers. God isn’t interested in easy answers as much as He is interested in drawing us to Himself. If we had easy answers we wouldn’t need Him.

So what is submission to your husband, to me?

Honestly, I think it’s submission to God.

That’s what it all comes down to. As we submit to God and ask Him to make us more like Him, to make us less self-focused, to use as an instrument in our families’ lives, to use us to bless others, we will find ourselves submitting to our husbands more, too. If you aren’t submitting to your husband, then you likely aren’t also submitting to God.

There is no 10-point plan! This will always require wrestling with God, and surrendering more to God. But maybe, after all, that’s the whole point.

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, what marriage advice do you have for us today? Link up your own marriage post below by putting the URL of the individual post into the linky! Or leave a comment and answer the question, “what does submission mean”?

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Comments

  1. I hadn’t thought about it like that– not a set list- submission might manifest differently in different marriages, because it’s the hearts that matter! Another great one, Sheila!
    Auntie Em recently posted…10-minute meals with Auntie Em!My Profile

  2. There’s also a verse that says we are to be submissive to our “own” husbands, which would prove your point, Sheila, that there are no cut and dried rules to follow. The way we submit to our husbands is going to be as different as the men we’re married to. The point that I think God wants us to realize is that it’s super important for us as wives to be in tune with our own husbands’ hearts.

  3. Really, really appreciate this post. Seeking God’s will for us through His Word and the good of others is so hard, but not because it has so many rules, because we have to set aside part of ourselves to do it. I love the reaction that I get from my husband, though, when I intentionally spend time affirming him and what he does for our family. Since I’ve focused more on respect, he really has gone out of his way to serve me as well.

    And just a note, because I know from reading where you stand on this, the amazon advertisement had Fifty Shades Darker as a top Christian marriage book when I was reading this morning. It made me laugh, but I thought you might want to be aware of it.

    • I know, Amie! I think someone classified it as a Christian book at one point, and now it keeps coming up in that list. I think that’s just horrible!

      • Brittainy S says:

        I think it gets classified that way because one of the characters names is Christian, so its a key word association?

  4. Excellent points that I can relate to on all levels. I have been thinking a lot about submission (as we are preparing to lead a marriage Bible study at our church starting this month). As I have been studying, praying and considering what God means it to be I have come to much the same conclusion as you Shelia, submission to God. Submission in my life with God is my allowing Him to speak, to correct and to hold me accountable to the person He has made me to be. If I apply that to my marriage it is allowing my husband to speak into my life, allowing him to “call me out” if need be and allowing him to help me become the woman God is making me into by being a Godly wife, mother, daughter, friend, volunteer, etc. Thanks for sharing you insights.

    Megan
    Megan @DoNotDisturb recently posted…Having the Conversation…With Your Kids:My Profile

  5. “And that, I think, is the essential struggle of the Christian life. It’s not about rules; it’s about the heart. It’s about a steady growth of submission and love towards God, which then affects how we act towards others. It’s about steadily being transformed to look like Jesus.”

    As a natural rule follower, I have struggled with this, but God has been showing me lately all of the ways He is taking care of me and all of the details that He has worked out for me. It makes submission easier when I see how much He loves and cares for me. And in turn, I learn better how to love and care for my husband and children with grace.
    Debbie Hendricks recently posted…Conversations with my KitchenMy Profile

  6. I *LOVE* the focus on this post on the squisy and intangible realm of our hearts, which are, by nature, private, if not secret. My intentions, focus, and beliefs are not easily measured by tangible and external means.

  7. In my journey I have found that submission is mutual, and it is about trusting each other and being vulnerable. When we submit (whether its my husband submitting to me, or me to him) we are saying to our spouse “I trust you on this” and showing that we are allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.

    Sadly in some marriages spouses need boundaries so cannot trust or be vulnerable, the the ideal is that there should be trust and vulnerability.

  8. “If we had easy answers we wouldn’t need Him.”

    SO true…and so easy to miss!
    Cheri Gregory recently posted…Good News, Bad News: Light Bulb MomentMy Profile

  9. Tracey Eyster says:

    Wise words! Nodding while reading! Blessings to you.

  10. The heart of the idea of submission comes down to this: yielding your right to be in control, your right to be right, and choosing instead to love and serve. It is not about whether or not you have dinner on the table when he comes home, with his paper in one hand, the remote in the other and a big plastic smile on your face. Rather, submission is bowing your will to recognize God’s anointing on your husband as the spiritual head.

    Remember there is no male or female in Christ. No slave, no free. There are new creatures. There is life.

    Marriage is God’s design to equip the world with unity of purpose, and supply the world with an example of God’s love for us.

    Since the fall, we have struggled because our desire is no longer singular. It is for our husband, and for our selves. A solid marriage realizes that whole people, who are living God’s complete yes are not each other’s crutch nor are they each other’s lords, but they are partners in the pursuit of God’s will for their lives.

    Submission says I give you permission to seek God with everything you are and I will support you along the way.

    Submission should not be confused with service. (this is not about a 50′s mentality, but about a holy attitude)

    At least, this is what God has shown this very strong willed, loud, and outgoing wife, who struggles as any one would with a concept as big as submission. I just surrender me and live for Him, and my other him (the hubs) reaps the benefits!
    Dayna Bickham recently posted…The Inconvenient Truth of God’s YesMy Profile

  11. BRAVO!!!! This hits the nail exactly on the head! Very well stated and absolutely agree 100%! Now, it’s time to put into practice!!

  12. Very well said. I struggled with the word ‘submission’ at first, but I agree with how you put it, submission and obedience to God is the start to it all. I also believe submission can be different in each marriage. What works for one couple may not work for another. Thanks for sharing!

  13. I can’t get enough of submission talk. I have blogged about it several times and love the dialogue it opens among women. It truly is not a set list, but more of what works for you and your own husband, and more importantly, what allows you to submit to God. Ultimately, if we submit to God, and our husbands do also, then things run smoothly!
    Melissa recently posted…To submit…or not to submit (it’s really not a question, it’s a command).My Profile

  14. First, I completely agree that there is a lot of misteaching on submission, and that gives it a bad name. Godly submission to a godly husband is a beautiful thing and doesn’t make women feel inferior to men.

    Second, I think it’s important to realize that I’m only called to submit to MY husband and you are called to submit to YOURS. That means submission in my marriage might look different than submission your marriage (which will look different than someone else’s marriage). A friend’s husband insists on choosing her clothing, and she happily submits to that. I personally couldn’t live like that, so I didn’t marry a man who would want me to! I’m a strong, outspoken woman, and when I was a new wife, it was SO hard for me to know if I was submitting or not. It would have been easier if I’d had a list that said, do this, this, and this. Instead, dh and I had to communicate (over a long period of time) about submission and what it would look like in our home, hammering out what mattered to him and what didn’t.

    • So true, Elise! And I’m glad I only have to submit to mine, too :). (Although I choose his clothes. He likes it that way).

  15. Totally agree wih the submission to God part and the fact that marriage is working us towards being more holy (as per Gary Thomas’ book).

    One of the best anallogies I ever heard was that respect adn submission are like two railway tracks. If husband is respecting and loving his wife as God calls him to, she will submit to him and love him, and if she is submitting to him and loving him as God calls her to do, he will respect and love her as God call’s him to. If either one goes akilter, the tracks begin to separate and the “marriage train” can ride on the rails anda crashes.

  16. I posted on biblical leadership and submission today, including some comments from a blogger who gains an understanding of submission by taking ballroom dance lessons. Here is what she says in her blog post (http://ow.ly/dFtzy):

    If you view marriage as a dance, you’ll come to realize that it can be exciting to let go and enjoy life together. Both husbands and wives have to submit to each other …

    I realized that if I was ever going to learn how to dance, I was going to have to submit to both the music and my partner.

    I always viewed submission in a negative light. I saw it as a threat to my independence. I never wanted to be under anyone’s control – that’s what I thought it meant.

    It took learning how to ballroom dance in order for me to figure out that submitting to my husband is not a threatening thing, but a necessary part – we both can‘t lead things or else we’re going to continue to bump into each other and other people.
    Dawn recently posted…True Leadership and SubmissionMy Profile

  17. After reading “The Love Dare” I decided to give selflessness a try. It was scary, because I felt I was handing control over to another imperfect human. I love my husband and he is a Godly man who always has shown respect toward women in general, but it still was a difficult thing for me to do. I took the 40 day love dare. The hardest part was telling my husband I loved him unconditionally; no matter what. Ugh! I felt extremely vulnerable. Here was my husband’s opportunity to totally abuse my love more him. To stomp on my heart. To take me for granted. He did not say anything, but he changed. For the better. I feel more loved and respected by my husband. He includes me in all of his daily decisions. He listens to my concerns about our kids. I feel like we are equal partners who are on the same page. We communicate well. The only way I could have done this was knowing that I could trust God and that God honors marriage.

  18. Thanks for being brave enough to broach this tough topic! I just want to remind any husbands reading here that there is nothing in the Bible about being responsible for getting your wife to submit. You only have to worry about your part: loving your wife like Christ loves the church and all that implies. That should keep you busy enough so you don’t have to worry with her submission!

    From my own post that I linked to above:

    Submission is the attitude of your heart that says, “I respect you as my husband and acknowledge the leadership that God has called you to in our marriage. I want to keep myself arranged behind that leadership, to follow your lead and to partner with you as we move along our marriage journey together. I submit to God first, and he has asked me to submit myself to you. I do so willingly and in much the same manner I do this unto Jesus in my spiritual journey. .”
    Scott recently posted…What A Shame!My Profile

  19. Yes, Yes, Yes! There is no ten step plan. God isn’t about recipes. We aren’t all the same. each of our marriages are different so God is dealing differently with each of us. And that is so good!

  20. I am really having issues submitting right now. My hubby and i are on totally different sides right now when it comes to food- i’m trying to change our diets to be healthier, but he just isn’t having any of it. He wants to keep eating junk, so i cook healthier versions for me and the kids and make him the junk, or i make the healthier stuff and listen to him complain. The tension between us is palpable, and it’s been like this for several weeks. I *know* I should submit, but i feel like i’m serving a death sentence with every bowl of pasta (he’s diabetic, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.). I’ve made some consessions (more gradual changes, “cheat” meals) but with all the hurt between is, they don’t seem to be helping. I’m struggling right now, our marriage is struggling on every level, and I’m just lost. Please pray for us.

    • Kelly, this is a really good question, and I think a common one that people deal with. I’m going to throw it on the blog as a Reader Question of the Week next Saturday (this Saturday’s is already scheduled) and see if people have any good thoughts. One thing I’d say: work on your friendship. Try to find ways to laugh together. And then really talk about this, and agree together that food is not bigger than your marriage. You have an issue, but it’s the issue that’s the problem, not the other person. And then see how you can work as a team to deal with the issue. If he has diabetes, I’m not sure just continuing to make him junk is necessarily the best way to deal with it. But the bigger question is how you can get on the same page, and I’ll see if our readers have any good suggestions. And yes, I’ll definitely pray for you!

    • I hope this isn’t overstepping since you asked for prayer and not advice. I feel for you, and I don’t know exactly how you feel. However, I do have some advice for YOU…not him.

      You are a grown woman as he is a grown man. If you have the desire to eat well, and be healthier then so be it. You cannot, will not, and will have a miserable marriage if you try to dictate to him what to do. So long as you are submitting directly to God you have 2 choices (that I see), you can feel free to hush and cook for him what he wants (knowing that he knows his own health and is choosing to ignore it). Or, you can cook the healthy food, and allow him to be mad and upset and just pray for a change of heart and that he opens his eyes to the health implications. You will never change him, and that is not the goal. The goal is that you cannot change someone else, but you can change how you feel about what he does and how you deal with your feelings, and how you react to him.

      My husband made a switch from being a meat and potatoes guy to full vegan so he could drop weight, and get off his BP and cholesterol meds…it can be done, but it won’t be until he wants to. Your attitude toward his choice to NOT do it now will only make him pull back harder and not want to change. If you are encouraging and nice even though he is hurting himself, he may eventually come to his senses, but that will be on God’s time, not yours.

      Accept what you cannot change, and live your life in a healthy way so you can show your kids what grace, love, submission and health is all about.
      Melissa recently posted…Home is where the heart is.My Profile

  21. Thank you so much for this definition. So often growing up I would hear women talk about another woman being “so submissive” as if the word itself put a bad taste in their mouth. And usually they were talking about a woman that was allowing herself to be horribly mistreated somehow, so I, like I think so many other women, just learned the wrong definition of what the word meant as it relates to marriage. It’s taken me a long time to understand that submissive is not synonymous with “weak,” but is instead a way to be fully invested in God’s will for us.
    Aja recently posted…I Wish I Had Known to Go to Bed AngryMy Profile

  22. Someone else touched to this too, but I think that one other key – especially in newer marriages is A LOT of communication. My husband and I spend a lot of time in the evenings, after the kids are in bed, talking about our life and our future and what we want it to look like. We talk about our goals – especially our relationship goals. What do we want our marriage to look like in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. We both know that we can’t accomplish any of our goals by either of us being selfish. By knowing what our goals are and knowing what each of our wants and needs are – we can more effectively meet them in each other. I have to TRUST that my husband and my God are going to take care of me. When I truly trust them, then it’s easy to take myself out of the equation and focus on my husband’s needs first. I also ASK – still communication – my husband, what can I do for you? Is there anything you need from me? What would be helpful in your situation right now? When I help bear up his burdens and struggles, he is able to be more present and involved in our family – he’s better able to give back to us.

  23. This is something I’ve had questions about as well recently. I know there are things I have failed at in the past and there are things I will fail at in the future. I know that if my husband says he doesn’t want anymore children that since he’s the head of the house my feelings in that area don’t matter at all. But if he makes the decision to no longer have a marriage relationship with me at all ever- no affection, no intimacy; just a marriage of convenience for him: I keep the house, do the laundry and cooking, raise the children and in return for my services, I am allowed to live in the house and eat some of the food that he pays for; is that submission to accpet that? I actually feel that is wrong. But since he’s the head of the home, I’ve been told what he decides goes. On one hand this makes me really really angry and on the other it leaves me crushed with sadness. I don’t know how I’m supposed to accept that decision. It hurts that I have to. It hurts that I feel I’m being ‘stiff-necked’ b/c my heart really isn’t in it even though I go thru the motions. I can’t let myself love him and want him that way, it hurts too much. But if I don’t show respect and treat him well and make him feel at home and welcome then I’m sinning. I wish I could quit thinking about it. It comes into my mind everytime I get the email about this blog. It comes into my mind when I see other husbands&wives interacting lovingly toward each other. It comes into my mind every time I see him; every time I go to church; everytime there’s not something else pressing at hand. I try to just sing the gospel songs and repeat scripture from memory to keep it at bay but it comes creeping back. Mostly I just want to give up and hide for a long long long time. But I know I can’t do that either b/c I do have the job of raising the children and keeping the house and even as bad as I am at meeting his expectations in those areas as well as everywhere else, not doing them at all would hurt things more. So I keep on cleaning house, cooking the meals, doing the laundry, picking up after him and the children, trying to teach the kids to be responsible and kind, trying to do what I’ve been told I have to do in order for him to trust and love me…..and I have yet to see any results. And then I wonder if that is b/c I’m just doing those things b/c they are the thing to do, not b/c I feel love or want to feel love for him. I don’t know.

    • Elizabeth, my heart is breaking for you right now. Your marriage has issues that go beyond submission, and having more kids will not fix it. I hear your pain in every word and I want to say I am sorry you are going through this. Oh honey, God sees you. He hears you, but going through the motions of relationship won’t work with God and they won’t work with your husband.

      I tell you this because I read your comment and I see you “trying”. I also see you. You are lonely. You are hurting. You are angry. You are trying to earn his devotion by folding laundry and making meals. Real love is not earned it is given. Freely. That is why God told our husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the Church right after He told us to submit. It is a 2 way street.

      The hurt and anger you feel are real. Do not sweep them under the rug of submission. That is a stew pot that will run over eventually. You have to address these issues. My hope for you and your husband would be to talk this out with each other, but I can tell from your comment that may be difficult. So my second suggestion is to go to a Christian counselor or Pastor who counsels. If your husband will not go right away because he does not see the need, then go by yourself at first. You need it.

      Every marriage goes through difficult periods. We are, after all, human. But you are not alone. God is there. Right now. He is husband to the husbandless. Father to the fatherless. He is the lifter of your head. The lover of your soul. Right now He is singing over you.

      I do not say these words lightly or as a trite response to a hard situation. Ultimately, no matter the status of your relationship with your husband, you have some heart issues that God wants to take on. He wants to show you real love, and peace, and give you joy and peace once again. Until you are okay, the rest will never get better.

      Finally, I want to say this. Love yourself. Stop beating yourself up. In between the lines of what you did write I hear the silent screams of what you didn’t write. You are God’s child. Stop beating up on His kid! Jesus said the greatest two commandments are this: love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might, and to love your neighbor as yourself. AS YOURSELF. Love you. Jesus would not of said it if it too were not important.

      Why did He phrase it that way? Because this is how God loves you: with everything, just as He loves His Son. You are Loved Elizabeth. You are worth more than anything to God. He sees you. He hears you. Reach out for Him. Let Him take your hurt, your anger, your bitterness, your pain, your loneliness and let Him heal you, give you a soft heart full of love, quell your troubled spirit and ease your pain. You do not have to be lonely anymore.

      I am going to pray for you. Right now. Ladies please join me in praying for this woman and her husband and their family. Father, You created the heavens and all that is in the earth. Then you created man. You saw he had a need. He was alone. He needed a partner. Someone to come along and become the one to help fulfill Your calling in his life. This is when you gave him Eve. Lord you ordained marriage from the beginning. You call us to be an example of how your love works. When something goes wrong in our marriages, it hurts like no other pain.

      Father, I bring to you Elizabeth and her husband. You see her. You see this marriage. You see what is going on. Father, show Elizabeth right now that she is not alone. Begin to move in her heart in new ways and stir up in her a supernatural love for her husband that will transcend all the pain and hurt and will win back the marriage that you called them to. Father, line up counselors, confidants, and wise men and women to speak into each of their lives. Move on her husbands heart and begin to do a work in him. Lord, I ask that you would heal these hurts, stir these hearts, breathe new life into this marriage. In all things Father I ask this: that you be made the center of Elizabeth’s world, so that the love you want to pour out onto her spills over onto her husband and her kids and you begin to revive their lives and their family Lord. These are dry and dusty bones, Bring them to life! Father I ask that You would make a way where there seems to be no way. You are the giver of life, breathe new life into Elizabeth now Lord and be a balm to her hurting heart. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

      I will continue to pray for you Elizabeth. May you be blessed and feel God’s love around you right now.
      Dayna Bickham recently posted…Here Lies Dayna BickhamMy Profile

      • Dayna, this was a beautiful comment. Thanks so much! I’m so grateful to my wonderful readers for stepping in and encouraging others. I didn’t see Elizabeth’s comment until just now, so I’m glad you got to it first!

        Elizabeth, I echo everything Dayna said, but I want to especially echo that it really sounds like you need a counselor. You need someone who knows you in real life to share this with, and who can help give you godly counsel and encouragement. And you need someone who will walk alongside your husband as well. Submission does not mean that we ignore genuine problems in the relationship. So I really encourage you to find a godly woman to talk to, or a counselor, who can help you through this.

        You are loved, and you are precious to God. And He does see your hurts, and He really does care. I pray that you will feel His arms around you, and I pray that He will show you who you are to talk to, and that He will also appoint someone to come alongside your husband.

      • Dayna, thanks so much for that beautiful prayer. Elizabeth, we’re praying for you too!
        Lisa recently posted…You See Dead People? I See Trains. No, I Really Do.My Profile

    • I really feel your pain Elizabeth.

      Do you feel that you have fallen out of love with your husband? (Just your last sentence seemed to indicate maybe this is the case). That happened to me anyhow in my marriage. It is hard, but there are things you can do to help revive that romantic love, I can post a few things which helped me if that would help. Xx

  24. “It comes down to understanding that God is not as interested in my happiness as He is in my holiness and obedience.” Love it. And oh so true. He wants to draw us into a right relationship with Him, and when we are, everything else falls into place, including our relationship with our husband.

  25. I was once told that as a married couple, you make all decisions together, working together in love. But if you truly cannot agree on an issue, that is when you submit to your husband and trust his judgment. As a wife, we submit our will for his and trust that our husband is focused on his accountability to Christ. It’s tough though!

  26. I tend to think of these kinds of things in terms of “I need to let my husband be a man.” He’s not my girlfriend, my sister or one of our kids, and I shouldn’t treat him as if he is. He’s a man and my husband. As a man he isn’t “better” than me, but he does have strengths, abilities and responsibilities that I don’t have (and vice versa). So I never really think much in terms of submission, but I do sometimes think to myself – “let him be a man; don’t try to make him to be/do/decide what I as a woman would be/do/decide.”
    Gaye @ Calm.Healthy.Sexy. recently posted…This Week, Feel Calmer – 4 Ways to Create Margins in Your LifeMy Profile

  27. The challenge is to balance submission with the courage to address his problems and failings.

  28. What a great post. I have saved it to read when I had more time to think about it and truly take it to heart.

    I love how you point out that basically submission is different for every person and every couple. There are no rules, it is how God leads you and grows you.

    I struggle the most with the idea of submitting to my husband because it has always been presented in such a way that submitting means giving over complete control. Of allowing someone else to make the decisions for my life. I think your input will allow me to get past that obsticle and leave that to God to bring me to and/or past in HIS time.
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  29. I have gone back and forth over whether to comment on this which is why my comment is so late. You and I have discussed our difference of opinion on the topic and I have no interest in picking a fight with you.

    Nevertheless, I think you’re splitting hairs here and looking for a way to get away from Scripture’s clearly expressed directive to wives. Leave aside abuse and adultery and all of those things which the average Christian wife does not have to deal with (rebellious-hearted women use those as red herrings).

    To say that submitting to our husbands is best translated as “submitting to God” seems to give us an out. There are plenty of scriptural admonitions for the believer to submit to God. It seems odd that God would say “submit to your husband” when what he really meant was “submit to me”. It doesn’t make sense.

    We are supposed to obey our husbands in all things except sin. Hard pill to swallow, but swallow it we must, if we believe ourselves to be submitted to Christ.
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    • I disagree. The bible does not tell wives to obey their husbands. It is very specific and tells children to obey their parents and slaves to obey their masters so if God wanted wives to obey their husbands wouldn’t he have been specific as he was with children and slaves? I recently read an article in which It talks about wives submitting to their husbands and after reading it I do not believe only wives are to submit to their husbands husbands should also be submitting to their wives. If you both truely put the others needs and feelings above your own you should be able to live in harmony. This article can be found here http://christianthinktank.com/not2obey.html This article takes a much different approach to wifely submission than I have ever heard by others but If you read it it makes so much sense and clears up so much for me. My marriage works best when we are both being mindful of each other and it is not always me giving in or him giving in but communicating through our differences. It also means that if something does go wrong there is no one to blame because we have made the choice together. I also think that the way submission is being pushed toward only women actually pushes girls away from christianity and God because why would they want to follow a religion where they will be controlled their whole lives. Remember Ephesians 5 starts by saying “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”

      • I disagree. Sure, the Bible doesn’t say, “Thou shalt obey thy husband” directly. But it DOES offer Sarah as an example of submission, pointing out that “Sarah OBEYED Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters ye are if ye do well and are not afraid with any amazement.” So apparently, obeying your husband is part of submitting to your husband.

        I notice the comment about the right to say, “I told you so.” If you work a job, and your boss makes a bad decision, you probably don’t go into the bosses office to wag a finger in his face and tell him “I told you so” if you’d pointed out a weakness of his plan in a team meeting a few weeks before. It was his decision to make and you respect that.

    • I agree that submitting to one’s husband is submitting to God. That should be in the heart of a woman who submits to her husband. By submitting to her husband, she is submitting to Christ and to God. By obeying her husband, she is obeying Christ. Of course, she shouldn’t blaspheme, worship idols, and murder people if her husband tells her. That would be not submitting to God. But if what he expects of her is not sin, she should submit to God by submitting to him.

      • MeMe,
        A husband is never told to make his wife submit to him. If that is his focus he is not Christ centered and he is sinning. A husband is commanded to love his wife, (Love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13)” Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” The husband is also told to cherish, honor, nurture and provide for his wife and family. If a husband loves and follows all commandments from God about his treatment of his wife he will not be demanding and bossy towards her. He will be loving, respectful, honoring, cherishing and sacrificial towards his wife. He will remember that he is to grant her honor lest his prayers not be heard. To do anything or require anything of his wife that doesn’t meet any of the above requirements is sin on his part. I always think it is surprising when in the name of God we say wives must sinlessly and perfectly submit to sinful, imperfect husbands. While that may be what happens no one should think that a husband who behaves in a selfish, sinful manner will not be called to account for his behavior. He is not acting as commanded. The command to wife does not eliminate commands to the husband. In other words, God’s perfect plan is for a wife to submit to a husband who would never demand or treat her in a way that Christ wouldn’t. He must have a servant attitude towards his wife. It is not what can she do for me or what can I demand from her but rather how can I best love, honor, and serve her. To make, controlling, self-serving, demeaning, or selfish demands of his wife is sin. A husband should not be focused on whether his wife submits to him because he has some very high expectations laid upon him by God concerning his role in marriage. Doing his own job will take all of his efforts. He must model his love after our perfect savior who laid down everything including his life for his bride. Christ gave up the comforts of heaven for his bride and took on the cross. I daresay if a husband is truly laying down everything for his bride why would she not want to submit. Hard not to love a man who gives his all for you and forgets self. A man who does this is easy to love and submit to because he is not self serving. He will also find that his wife does things out of love and respect for him rather than because he demanded. She will be motivated to make his job easier because she loves him and knows he truly loves her.

  30. Isn’t really more about mutuality? I prefer that term than “submission” because mutuality implies than husband will on occasions also submit to their wives as part of their love for her.

    I think that there is a slightly cultural thing here – in America patriarchy is a strong force – seen and pushed in subtle ways in Dr Eggeriech’s “Love and Respect” theology promoting that men really want and desire “Hierarchy” in order to function well in a marriage as a husband. Well some men DON’T want hierarchy in a marriage – they prefer shoulder to shoulder mutuality and consent! :)

  31. Yes, Yes, Yes! There is no ten step plan. God isn’t about recipes. We aren’t all the same. each of our marriages are different so God is dealing differently with each of us. And that is so good!
    Tulisa recently posted…Does Pregnancy Miracle Work? My Detailed ReviewMy Profile

  32. I really appreciate your take on the submission issue. Unfortunately, many Christian men use that submission verse as the excuse for using their wives as “doormats”, and in turn, the wives allow it. What the men forget is their part is which is to love their wives like Christ loved the church.

  33. Brittainy S says:

    I used to have a big problem with submission. I was raised to be an independently thinking woman who doesn’t need a man in her life. As I grow closer to God I feel that I understand more what it means to be submissive. I completely agree that it will look differently in each marriage. For me it meant understanding that my husband really is looking out for the best interests of our family. We still discuss major decisions and most minor ones and I still tell him how I feel, but ultimately after I express my thoughts on the matter I have learned to TRUST that he will consider them before making a decision. My husband isn’t a man of many words and often he will take me by surprise on something because he has been thinking about it for months and is just now speaking up. I have learned to express my concerns and give him the opportunity to address them, and then to TRUST his decision. When I started to let go of the control I felt I needed over decision making, I started seeing God work in BIG ways. I realized that my husband was not the spiritual leader he could be because I simply wouldn’t give him the time or opportunity to be that leader.

  34. I agree that submission will look different in every marriage. The idea of submission to a husband is something that I have struggled with since I was a teenager and first starting paying attention to bible lessons on the subject. I have been married for over 29 years and I don’t know exactly why but even to this day every time I hear lessons on it I feel intense shame and self loathing. It can take me months to move on after hearing lessons on it. I literally become so obsessed that it is all I think about every waking moment of my life. It nearly drives me insane. I have even felt suicidal many times. Even now, though I am 50, suicidal thoughts still enter my head when I begin dwelling on the idea of submission. However, I always seem to come back to my senses and realize that I would be casting my soul into eternal damnation if I took my own life.
    I never intended to get married as I despised the very idea of having a man dominate, degrade and control me and basically becoming a man’s personal servant and sex partner. I often wondered, “How can you ever be one with someone who gets to dominate you and have their way(final say) all the time?” The resentment level due to the selfishness would be so intense I would never be able to bring real love to the marriage bed. The only thing I could bring would be a robotic body only there physically but not in heart. This would prevent any real intimacy from every occurring. I concluded that I would rather be dead than married. I determined that I would never allow myself to be degraded by marrying.
    However, my family moved to a new city when I was 19 and I met my husband at church, and he was nothing like any of the other men that I had met and especially not like most I encountered at my previous church. His dad was wonderful to his mom and she absolutely adored him. This was something I wasn’t use to seeing. I ended up marrying my husband when I was 20 and he was 21. To this day unfortunately, I sometimes lapse into times of feeling like what did I do? How did I get deceived into marrying? The strange part is that I actually have a very good husband, who is very good to me and has absolutely no desire whatsoever to dominate me. I attribute a lot of my phobias and fears to some very bad experiences growing up. My dad was not extremely dominating but he was selfish. I watched as he put self first in many matters especially those pertaining to my mom and time spent with her and us kids. He always got “final say”. Head of a family meant getting to do what he wanted, when he wanted, buy what he wanted, often to the neglect of his family. My mom was by no means a wallflower, even still, dad got what he wanted about 90% of the time. My mom was angry, resentful, bitter and made no bones about it. I was the oldest child so I heard about it all the time. I do believe my mom was wrong to use me to vent to even though it was easy to see why she was angry. My mom should not have shared her frustrations with me. I was too young to handle it or to be able to advise her. It just left me angry and resentful as well. Dad often left mom with 5 kids(from oldest to youngest there was only 6 1/2 years) to drag to church by herself so that he could attend sporting events. Leaving mom to try to evade questions as to his whereabouts by other members of the church. Dad also got into trouble with bookies due to gambling debts. I remember the police being at our house to talk to him. Fortunately he didn’t have to go to jail but he did have to supply them information about the bookies. To top it off the church we attended presented a very dictatorial degrading picture of marriage. Lessons all seemed to focus on wife submit and obey with no exceptions or limits. Almost nothing uttered as to what a husband who loves like Christ should do or be like. Husbands were given a free pass. It was a small congregation with only about 70 members but we still managed to have in our midst a man who beat his wife and children, a man who molested his daughters, another man addicted to pornography who also fondled one of the younger female teens. As well as men who could not keep their hands to themselves. I often escaped to the family car as fast as I could after church service because I didn’t like the way many of the men didn’t keep their hands to themselves. I could never understand why my dad never told them it was not appropriate for grown married men to be hugging on teenage girls every week. I hated it. One of the older married men even physically picked me up. It doesn’t get much more inappropriate than that. High school was no better than church. Boys snapping your bra strap, grabbing at your chest and smacking you on the behind. Unfortunately, I was very well endowed which garnered a lot of unwanted attention and evidently teenage guys can’t control themselves. I hated school and basically all men. So, in my mind why should I ever have to submit to such a subhuman creatures as a man. The majority seemed to lack self control, common sense and good judgement. How in the world could a just God be so unfair and horrible to women as to want them to submit to one of these sinful creatures?
    I know this is a very long post but there is a point to all this, my husband knew about my hangups and fears but chose to marry me anyway. He said that he didn’t want a robot who would blindly do whatever he wanted, he didn’t want someone to dominate or control. He wanted someone to love, have a family with, go to church with, make decisions together, and grow old with. Sounded good to me. He probably didn’t realize I would still be battling phobias nearly 30 years later but he insist we will get through this and he reminds me that he married me for better or worse and he meant it. I love him so much, I don’t think most men could deal with all the emotional baggage I continue to deal with to this day. I wish I could just erase that part of my mind as it keeps me perpetually tormented. My husband frequently has to remind me that I am not them(men from my past). You didn’t marry them you married me and I love you and would never hurt you.. He has to regularly remind me that he has no desire to dominate me, to insist upon his own way, or have final say. He said marriage to him was about each person putting the other first, NOT JUST THE WIFE putting husband first. He said in spiritual matters God should have final say and we can study the bible together to figure out what His will is. He also feels that in matters of preference, where we live, type of car, big purchases, these items should be decided together with neither one moving forward if the other objects. I did stay home with our children but this was also something we both agreed would be best. He doesn’t treat me like a child who must have his permission to make every little decision. He said I married you because I trust you and know you will do nothing to harm me or our family. All money earned is considered ours. We discuss major purchases together. Whichever one has the greater knowledge or expertise in a given area is often deferred to by the other. He does lead family prayer and bible study but I like that. Weird part about all this is that I worry are we living the way God wants us to? I do not feel oppressed, dominated, or subjugated. My husband does not insist upon his own way and we get along wonderfully. But I often obsess that since I feel like a free person and actually like and love my husband we must not be doing it right. My husband says he has no problem with the way we do things and he feels like it lines up just fine with God’s commands. He said people become so legalistic that they miss the spirit of the laws. When he does get frustrated with me it’s because I try to let others define how we should do things and he says I am happy with our life and it does not violate any biblical commands so let’s enjoy what God has blessed us with and stop worrying about everyone else. I think this is what the poster meant when she said submission looks different in every marriage. I just wish I could get myself to accept this and thank God for the wonderful husband that he has blessed me with. It helps to read post like this that remind me there is no list. I owe it to my husband to get this through my head and stop obsessing and enjoy the blessings we have from God.

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  1. […] I think what I mean by submission and what some other people mean by submission are really two different things. I consider […]

  2. […] Here’s the thing, though: when you married, you promised that you would now be “one flesh”. That doesn’t mean that you cease to exist, but it does mean that what he wants needs to be important to you now, too. And we are called to consider others interests ahead of our own (Philippians 2:4). We are even called to submit. […]

  3. […] treated horribly, but He was treated horribly for a purpose. You cannot take one without the other. Does God ask us to submit? Yes. Does God ask us to be abused, used, and discarded? Rarely. There may be times when we have to […]

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