Being a Peace-MAKER Rather Than a Peace-KEEPER: Conflict in Marriage

Being a PeaceMAKER Not a PeaceKEEPERThis week we’ve been looking at how to effectively deal with conflict in marriage.

I’ve said that too often in Christian circles women feel as if submission means that they may state their opinion, but then they back off and let him make the decision. They don’t question; they back down. They “duck”, so to speak, and let God deal with him.

I argued that I don’t think that’s a helpful way to look at conflict in marriage. Our aim should be to seek peace, not the absence of conflict, and I explained yesterday what the difference was.

I fear that too often when conflict arises in marriage, we think of it as a submission issue when it’s really just a communication issue. And that’s because we tend to see conflict as bad: we disagree, and so one must submit, or else the conflict will keep going. But what if handling conflict effectively means that you each find a win-win? What if not all conflict is win-lose? And what if conflict can actually be one of the routes to oneness–which is actually what we want in the first place?

Today I want to look at a specific issue and show the different models I’m talking about.

A woman recently wrote in saying:

We recently had a conflict after reviewing a source from Dr Jim Burns, it was a marriage minute. I thought it’d be fun to connect. It had suggestions to re-connect. It had ‘surprise your wife.”

I asked my husband if he ever thought of surprising me, and he became so defensive. He became mad and said if he sat at home all day and wasn’t so busy and overwhelmed he could do stuff like that. We are empty nesters and I watch our grandson.

He claims we have no money. I said we didn’t have to spend money, could use hotel points or a family cabin. He told me I was nagging him and he felt like he was being grilled.

We have started date nights and that is going well. We do some wkds with me planning it all, thought it would be nice is he took the reins maybe one time. What should I do?

To reiterate, she had an idea that she felt could make their marriage fun: he plans to surprise her this year! She expressed her desire to her husband, and he became very defensive, saying that she didn’t appreciate all he did.

1. Now let’s say that she reacted with the first model, where she submits (using the meaning that I used in this post, not what I believe is the biblical meaning of that word).

She says to herself, “he is the leader, and I am to submit to him. If he doesn’t want to do this, I need to be okay with that. I need to forgive him, and let it go.”

So she genuinely does. She says to him, “I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to put such pressure on you. I know you work hard for our family. I know you value our relationship. I respect you, I love you, and I love our marriage just the way it is. I know we will have fun this year regardless.” And she gives him a kiss and walks away. She honestly has forgiven him, though she sighs wistfully a bit.

What is he thinking? He realizes he’s off the hook, but he still knows that he has disappointed her. Sure she’s not holding it over his head, but he knows that she wanted something that he chose not to give her. So he still feels a little angry at her for wanting that. And he still feels a little defensive. That feeling may stay for a few days, under the surface, or even for longer.

Has she made peace? She has, after all, given up the issue. She has “submitted”, using the meaning of the word that I often see in comments and blogs. She has left the ball in his court to do anything, and she is not demanding that he try anything else.

2. Now let’s look at another model–what I will call the “healthy conflict” model.

In this model the goal is to understand each other and work through something so that you grow more intimate. The goal is to value each other and honor each other’s feelings. To explain this one, I’m just going to tell it as a story.

Jane says, “I see that you’re really upset by what I suggested, and that was never my intention. I really don’t want you to feel that I think you don’t love me or that I think you’re not a good husband, because that’s not true. Can you tell me what you’re feeling?”

John grunts a bit and folds his arms, and says, “I’m never good enough. You want the fancy hotel away from home and the fancy restaurant and I’m not that kind of person. I’m a stay at home and watch football kind of guy. When I’m not at work I want to relax, not worry about planning some vacation that’s going to cost a ton of money!”

Jennifer replies, “So what you’re saying is that you enjoy doing things at home, that don’t cost money, when you can feel really relaxed, right?”

John says, “Exactly. Why do we need to go do something fancy? Why do I have to plan that? Can’t you just be happy with our life?”

Jennifer then says, “Absolutely. I am happy with our life. And I love the new date night thing that we’ve started. But to me, one way of experiencing love is to realize that you have been thinking about me, studying me, and trying to please me. It isn’t the restaurant that matters; it’s the fact that I know you thought of something, or that you spent time thinking of what I might like. I know that can sound intimidating, though. Is there a way that we can make it easier? That I can not ask so much of you, but I can still feel as if you’ve been thinking of me?”

John: “Why do you think I don’t think of you? I think about you all the time. How come the only way I’m allowed to think of you is if I plan a date to a restaurant?”

Jennifer: “It isn’t. You know what would really help me? Can you tell me the last time you thought about me when you were at work?”

John: “Well, this morning I was passing the water fountain and two secretaries were talking about how to bribe their boyfriends into buying them expensive diamond rings. I thought to myself, “I’m so glad Jennifer doesn’t expect a diamond ring. She’s practical and appreciates being responsible about our retirement savings.”

Jennifer: “Really? I never knew you appreciated that about me. Can I ask a favor, then? How about the next time you’re at work and you’re grateful about something to do with me, can you text me and just tell me? That’s it. Just text me and tell me. That would make me feel so amazing! Now, what’s something that I can do that can make you feel so amazing?”

…and the conversation went on.

Can you see the difference? There was no name calling. They were talking THROUGH the issue, and at the end the couple found out new things about each other. They found out they were on the same page–they did want to show each other love. They did value each other. It’s just that sometimes it went unrecognized. By talking it through it brought those feelings out into the open and they felt better about the relationship.

That’s what I’m talking about. Sometimes we focus so much on “not causing any conflict” or on “submitting” that we actually work directly against building intimacy.

We turn submission into a goal rather than just an action. We think that the highest goal we can have in marriage is to learn to submit, when really the highest goal for marriage is oneness.

We should be aiming for oneness!

A peacekeeper simply avoids conflict. When there’s a disagreement, they retreat. A peace-maker is aiming for much more: they’re aiming for reconciliation. And reconciliation is active, not passive.

Don’t avoid conflict because you think that’s the biblical model. Work through it in a healthy way. Validate each other’s feelings. Talk through solutions. Be open to new ways of showing love. That’s a healthier model of marriage than one where the wife says, “I will always defer to you because you are the man.”

What do you think?

Day One: Submission Doesn’t Mean You Never Have Conflict
Day Two: Seeking Peace, Not the Absence of Conflict 

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Comments

  1. Good morning Sheila! I just commented on yesterday’s post. I have to say I don’t think this post is about submission but more about communication. I know in your first example that you’re saying she’s submitting in the wrong way because there’s still unresolved issues if the husband is still angry, but that’s communication problems. I feel like you’re talking about two different things. The comments that people are leaving on your posts are about obeying & the such. There’s nothing to obey in your examples, just better communication. I say this because there’s an impression that when decisions need to be made for the family that you don’t believe the husband has the ultimate authority. When what I think is going on is your just saying there’s a better way to communicate. Am I missing something? Let’s use an example when a decision needs to be made. He sets a budget for their spending and she wants more…who has the authority? She wants to homeschool and he wants public…who has the authority? She wants a new car & he thinks theirs is running just fine…who has the authority? I respect you a lot & love your books and this blog! I hope that the impression some are getting from you is wrong and that when the rubber meets the road you would say ” Wives your husband has the ultimate authority, ordained by God, and it is in your best interest to follow his lead. By submitting to your husband, you are ultimately submitting to God”. (Of course all of this is in a normal, healthy marriage where the husband is not asking his wife to sin.)

    • I think thats actually Sheila’s point if I’m reading it correctly. She says ”
      I fear that too often when conflict arises in marriage, we think of it as a submission issue when it’s really just a communication issue.”
      I believe she’s just pointing out that often we use submission as an excuse to not state our point and work out our communication issues. For example and issue comes up and rather than talking through it we take the easy way out ( avoiding conflict) and “submit.”( and yes Sheila’s example was in an ideal situation, I find when I do this we don’t usually resolve quite that easily and tritely but it was just an example :) ) Submission isn’t bowing to his every desire, submission is truly following God which means living through the Spirit in your whole life using your life to honour God. So we can’t use submission as an excuse to let our opinions and needs get squashed. I’ve only been married 2 months :D but we have used this principle often. If I am to truly be a helpmeet, he needs to know my opinions, even if they differ with his and cause a little conflict. I think she’s trying to show what submission isn’t ie. getting your thoughts squelched in the name of submission. Sheila feel free to let me know if I’m misunderstanding :)

  2. I think I’m just getting more confused after reading the last two posts in this series. I kind of agree with the first commenter about feeling like you’re talking more about healthy communication than actual submission. Working through issues, talking about feelings, listening to each other, reiterating what we hear the other person saying…those all sound like normal communication to me.

    The question that I am still left with after these three posts is: What do you think submission DOES mean? How do you interpret the Scriptures about submitting to your husband and what does true submission look like in your marriage?

    Also, I think one person can practice the healthiest communication and STILL have a spouse who doesn’t listen or who doesn’t agree. The goal can be (and should be) unity, but a wife isn’t going to be able to force her husband to have the kind of ideal conversation that you were describing. What then? If it’s important to her to know he’s thinking of her and she wants to be surprised, but he shuts down the conversation, then what? Continue to push the issue? I think there’s a point at which, even if the issue is important to her, that she might have to realize that she can’t put her hope in having that perfectly good desire fulfilled. I think that’s what many people are talking about when they talk about “backing down” and letting the Holy Spirit work in him.
    Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

  3. Different Amy, here.

    I agree with the Amy above on the communication/submission focus. I wonder this: is it that failure to communicate daily about everyday events, thoughts, feelings, needs and reactions to life in general has one or both spouses clamming up? Then, when an issue arises on any point at all, a wife might haltingly allude to it or introduce it, or catapult the issue into the arena without much fine-tuning because the lack of communication hasn’t allowed her to sharpen her skills and speak her mind clearly (without too much detail and unchecked emotion) … and so she “submits” in what seems biblical fashion? When he rails at his assumption of her negligence on his contributions to their life, she puts up and shuts up, when she could quietly explain her needs or desires as HERS, and not as a reflection on him.

    Biblical submission is honoring a husband as a leader and backing up his decisions, which, if he’s a good Christian man, he will not present as if he’s a lord or master, but as a leader. Leaders instill the desire to follow, and they do the work, too, not command or demand. Leaders are not thunderheads or figureheads. They get in there and do the dirty work, inspiring their wives and families who follow that kind of lead and feel protected by it, rather than demeaned or taken for granted.

    The Israelites had a good thing going when they followed God’s command to take the first year of marriage to “learn to make the wife happy.” That had nothing to do with wining and dining, catering to her whims, or giving her leadership over the husband and had EVERYTHING to do with learning about each other, communicating, living life and becoming one.

    Our worldly understanding and activities can skew the outcomes early in marriage, and I believe this makes it more work for many couples, as they are unable to focus solely on how to be married and aren’t mature in how to balance life in general, much less pile a marriage on top of it. Culturally and economically, we aren’t taking that first year to learn and grow together in such a concentrated way, and our understanding of communication, submission, love, respect, godly marriage, and even right and wrong plays out in many shades. The Israelites had a good thing.

    Communication would happen and be hashed out in that year.
    Submission — the way it’s meant to be — would happen naturally and not have to be relearned (in theory).
    The learning curve would be very small without the distractions of working outside the home.

    I believe that submission, like any other biblical principle (command, lesson), comes with many parameters. I focused on good stewardship in a comment on the first part of this series. Communication is another one on the list, and isn’t more important than any other, but more difficult to measure, in my opinion, because of the variables between male and female, in understanding and in presentation, in frame of mind, in presupposition, in assumption, in experience, in tone (not THAT again!), and in relative meaning.
    Amy recently posted…Communication: Chick Flick Versus Action Movie (link-up!)My Profile

  4. Also, I think unity and oneness CAN be achieved by submission, provided that it’s willing submission. If my husband and I seriously differ about something (me wanting more time with him, a large purchase, education decisions for our kids), I can choose to create a unity of mind by agreeing to submit to his leadership. Obviously, if I “submit” while gritting my teeth and secretly harboring bitterness about thinking my way is the best way, then there isn’t going to be oneness. But I think that unity can be achieved by voluntarily choosing to do what my husband desires to do. Like in Philippians 2, when Jesus “made himself nothing” to do the will of the Father.
    Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

    • Hi Elizabeth, I am very curious about your viewpoint, and was wondering if you could give me an example of how this conversation would work in your experience. How would you go about talking about the large purchase, or the decisions regarding education? When and how would you decide to do what your husband wanted? How does the oneness look in your life post-decision? Thanks so much!

      • Sure! First of all, I should say that we really do have great communication; it’s always been one of our biggest strengths. We are mostly on the same page so differing about big things doesn’t happen all that often. Also, we both trust each other and he isn’t a dictator. I’ve got two examples that did happen fairly recently.

        The first one was the purchase of a new car for him. He had expressed to me that he didn’t want to finance a car or buy a brand new car, but wanted to find a used car and pay cash for it. He spent a lot of time with research, and talked to me about it, but it came down to him feeling like he needed a brand new car (he’s a realtor and needs navigation, blue tooth for hands free calling for all the calls he needs to make, four wheel drive for showing rough properties) which meant that we would have a fairly expensive car payment every month. I told him how I felt about that kind of financial commitment, encouraged him to stick to his original plan, etc. I told him that I really didn’t want him to buy a new car, but that I would support him in the decision he made. He bought the new car. Sure, it’s his car so maybe others would say that he should get the final say anyway, but it’s OUR money and it still bothers me that it was spent that way. But once I told him I would support him (essentially submit to his decision making about that), I backed off.

        The second big thing was that for the past year we’ve been going back and forth about whether or not to have a 4th child. I have wanted one and he doesn’t. At all. We’ve had much discussion about it. We’re probably never going to agree on that so after the last conversation about it, I felt as though I was faced with a choice. I could continue to push my point until he agreed with me, or I could choose to submit to his leadership about our family size. Internally, I was really upset, but I made a decision to stop talking about it, to stop asking him to think about it, and to pray about being of one mind with him. If God wants us to have a 4th child, I’m going to have to trust Him to work through my husband and change his heart about it. I can’t make him agree with me.
        Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

        • And to answer your question about what oneness looks like post decision…basically, I feel like I value my marriage relationship and our friendship more than I value agreeing on everything, even if it’s a big thing (like a car or a baby). I disagree about the car, but I’m not willing to let that disagreement change how we relate to each other. I am sad about not having another baby, but I’m not willing to let that sadness diminish our love and friendship. By submitting in those areas, I’m choosing to be united with his vision for our family and his purposes. I’ve really just worked on changing my heart, fighting bitterness or sadness or disappointment and being supportive and affirming of him.
          Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

          • I’d like to add something, Elizabeth.

            Strong-willed women often have very deeply-anchored opinions and have all aspects of marriage and family in mind, from emotional and physical needs of everyone to financial and material — and we feel very strongly that any concessions weaken the foundations. To spend that extra on a car shakes the stability of our finances, might look worldly to others, and seems like an extravagance that we should, for several reasons, avoid. That’s how my mind works. But, my husband has made that kind of decision, too, as a businessman who shuttles customers frequently. I haven’t felt happy, but I have worked to understand, and I do, but I still don’t LIKE it. I don’t ever have to bring it up again, for he knows my standpoint, just as I know his.

            In comparison, a woman who has opinions and needs but has lived her life giving in to a stronger human will all her life will feel a natural bent toward submission, whether its biblical or not. Rather than face the insecurity she feels when taking a stand and offering an opinion, she settles in silently. She might not feel happy, but she also feels no other recourse, or that her opinions carry no weight because she doesn’t have that “oomph” that others seem to have.

            Both personality types learn to shift a little bit in a marriage that works at communication. The stronger-willed woman learns that by toning down her vigilant approach to protecting her household from all sides, she feels protected by her husband’s willingness to discuss and feels empowered in a different way by her budding abilities to cooperate and offer concessions. The weaker-willed woman learns that by practicing the offering of her thoughts in small ways with her willing-to-communicate husband, she will find empowerment and a tremendous feeling of oneness.

            Both types of women will experience a meeting in the middle with their husbands when they choose to work on communicating.

            The clincher in all of this discussion is whether or not all of these relationship factors are godly ones.
            Amy recently posted…Communication: Chick Flick Versus Action Movie (link-up!)My Profile

          • Yeah, I think you make a good point about personality differences and differences in family backgrounds (i.e. bending to a stronger person maybe being a very autocratic father) influencing your communication. I am a very strong-willed, opinionated, direct person and my husband will never NOT know what I think about something! But I can have a tendency to make him feel bullied sometimes so it takes a huge effort to stop talking once I’ve made my point and allow him to make a decision.
            Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

        • I love this example so much because the issue clearly isn’t communication. You both know how the other person feels, and you chose to submit gracefully knowing that your husband is making what he feels to be a good business decision. And, I think that if in the future you went to your husband and asked to review you finances with him he’d be amenable to it because you’ve already shown that you have a generous, loving spirit and that you respect his ability to lead.
          Natalie recently posted…Take care of all the things?My Profile

  5. I think what Sheila is getting at is that as Christians, we have focused so much on submission that we have lost the art of communication. Let’s be honest, in this post-feminism culture, the word “submission” is a hot potato! :-) We see it, and it stirs something inside us, and we want to talk about it. So what if – this is something I’ve been chewing on in my mind for several months – the enemy’s strategy has been to take advantage of that? He gets us so focused on defining this word “submission” and what it means for women, that we’ve focused more on that than on healthy communication in our marriages? If that’s true, it’s a brilliant strategy.

    So I think what Sheila is proposing is that we shift our focus to healthy communication, and when we do that, a lot of submission issues simply become non-issues.
    Melissa recently posted…Stuff I’m Going To Do This YearMy Profile

  6. Backtracking and possibly summarizing. I’m so befuddled. ;)

    Communicate first and always. Learn how (lots of good literature out there for it … my favorite again, “Now You’re Speaking My Language” by Dr. Gary Chapman) and pray through what you want to say, practice it with God, and then carefully introduce it to your husband (time, location, state of mind and rest MATTER — women tend toward spur of the moment talks, which often unnerve a man).

    Communication may cause conflict, not only because many people lack the skills needed, but because communication isn’t a straight path without tangents or feelings getting mashed by facts. Marital communication isn’t a boardroom discussion. We know too much about each other and share deep history. We have to be even more careful than with a work meeting, and also be willing to stop, rephrase, apologize and start from the beginning as needed.

    Because of the possibility of conflict, mum’s the word for some people. Women wrongly keep silent, while inside, they may burn with the need to explain needs or desires, or have some input in life decisions rather than stand by as an observer, or as a pre-Revolution American under the hold of “taxation without representation”. We don’t want to follow rules set by a dictator or a tyrant or an earthly king — these people don’t obey their own laws. We have a RELATIONSHIP in marriage, not a list of regulations to follow made by one.

    Misguided attempts at submitting to a husband’s authority make the problem worse. Some women zip their lips, silently hurting and burning their hope at oneness to ashes. Others fight, but without direction. The bottled-up feelings and needs ignite and spread the flames of emotion over everything, making any conversation stilted and dysfunctional from the very start. Dissatisfaction fuels even more poor conversation attempts. We need to read and study — each other and some good, solid, godly instructors.

    We need to learn communication skills first — our biological families probably failed at this, with our parents not always resolving their issues because they don’t understand the nuts and bolts of male/female minds. Many of us didn’t talk out issues pre-marriage (raising hand and looking ill at ease). We avoided disappointing our future mate, and we avoided feeling the pangs of longing for any dreams we might have to adjust in light of differing opinions. Pre-marriage, some of us had no clue about what “becoming one” meant, even with premarital counseling. Communication went deep into some areas and treaded water above others.

    These, I think, are what pull us down as we go through marriage. The ocean of unknowns does exist, and we refused to explore them. Faced with a term like “submission”, many women submarine their marital oneness rather than put on SCUBA gear and explore the depths.
    Amy recently posted…Communication: Chick Flick Versus Action Movie (link-up!)My Profile

  7. Elizabeth I completely agree w/ your approach! (This is the 1st Amy BTW) ????. As I’ve thought more about this (& I’m sticking to my original thoughts) I wanted to give a couple of examples from my own life and what I see in others. Issues is submission: 1) have a friend whose husband doesn’t want her to shop so much, she does it anyway 2) husband wants to send kids to public school, wife does it but lets him know & everyone else know she isn’t happy about it on a reg. basis 3) wife got a massage w/ husbands approval, he didn’t want her to spend the $ on a second one, she did it anyway. These are issues of submission. The issues I see Sheila bringing up are communication & pride. Husband doesn’t want to listen to his wife, wife feels neglected, walks away licking her wounds. I don’t see this as submission. My fear is that from some commenters (ie. I don’t have to obey him or he’s not my Dad) they are feeling justified in their disobedience to God & treating submission like its a barbaric idea. We can’t stoke that fire. Talking about your feelings and wanting to be understood has its place but let’s not make that the end game. The end game is to pursue peace in as much as you can, but if someone is prideful and is like talking to the wall, it will only make matters worse to seek your way & beg to be heard. I see the lines of submission & communication getting blurred here. The bloggers that I have read talking about say it once & leave it are not talking about communication. They are talking about when a decision needs to be made. Let your hubby know what you think (sometimes I think we repeat ourselves way too much) & ultimately let him make the decision. Just like what Elizabeth was saying. If we pursue, pursue, pursue and he’s finally fed up w/ the hounding and does what you want…he just submitted to you & you’ve clearly communicated you don’t want his headship in your home. In a disagreement someone ultimately has to submit…the Bible clearly says it should be the wife.

  8. One caveat I want to throw out there is that I’m hear lots of “well I need to let him know what I’m feeling and when there’s conflict.” This is all well and good. To a point. For instance, I tend to let my husband know when I’m feeling hormonal or when depression seems to be hitting because I don’t want him to accidentally get blindsided by it later in the evening. Ditto with feeling lonely or whatever. Far better to say “hey, I feel like I haven’t been seeing so much of you this week” than to start screaming/crying/yelling because you’ve been feeling unloved and neglected for the past two months. That’s great. On the other hand, he really doesn’t need to know every time he irritates me. No honestly, he doesn’t. You can swallow those feelings. Go take a walk or make some bread or run errands – get away from the situation. Believe me, I’ve driven away hopping mad over some ridiculous thing and come home perfectly calm and happy. Apply a little rationality to those emotions. There’s a difference between hormonal, picky, princessy irritation and legitimate grievances. And even the latter might do with a cool down period. The golden rule applies double here.
    Natalie recently posted…Take care of all the things?My Profile

  9. I agree with previous commenters that this post seems much more about communication than submission. Sheila, you said that you fear many women think of submission as meaning you state your opinion, then shut up and let your husband make the decision. You indicated that this is not what you believe is the true definition of biblical submission. But you never told us what you DO think is the definition of biblical submission. Could you please define it for us specifically? You’ve spent a lot of time telling us what submission is NOT, please tell us what you think submission IS. I was under the impression that these posts over the last 3 days were supposed to be about submission, but you still haven’t told us what submission is.

  10. I honestly can’t imagine a man ever talking to me like that. Though I realize that I have been way outside of the submit to your husband thing lately. I am just so tired and feel so empty. I am chronically ill and the effects of it cause severe fatigue. All the energy I really have for any amount of physical activity goes to getting as much house cleaning as possible done, cooking the three meals and that’s about all there is to my life. Meanwhile my family will throw their trash and dirty laundry on the floor for me to pick up and anything they touch is left wherever they last had it – dirty dishes by living room furniture, a tool on the dining room table, etc. If I leave them and gently remind them they are there, I am ignored. When I was feeling very depressed and unappreciated in the midst of all of this I was reminded by an older (and healthy) woman that I am to serve these men with gladness and realize that this is serving them like I would serve the Lord.

    I just keep wishing I had a life that was more than taking care of livestock, picking up people’s discarded things and generally being a servant. I just wish I could have time of my own to pursue photography, work on writing some and generally invest a little of my effort in myself. No one else does. :(

  11. I’m awaynfrom home and my Internet is sketchy, so I’m going to try to reply quickly.

    Here’s my issue: every single time I bring up conflict resolution, or talking through your feelings, either here or on Facebook, invariably someone brings up submission, as if that’s the most important issue. I disagree. In the vast majority of conflicts, communication is far more the issue than submission. And the more we start talking about submission, the more we give the impression that disagreements are always bad, and that women need to give in and be quiet.

    I disagree, and believe that is harmful to a marriage. I think we need to learn to communicate, and perhaps if we talked about that more, and about how to deal with it when we feel hurt, the fewer walls we would have in marriage.

    • I really think you’re trying to communicate something valuable here, but the problem is that there really are times when a wife needs to back down. She needs to submit. You can’t just say, “Well we’ll just talk about it until she doesn’t feel like it’s about submission” because sometimes there really isn’t time (or energy) for that. And as much I feel like it’s important for women to talk with their husbands that too happens through the medium of respect and submission.

      True story a friend told me – her friend was having a hard time moving to another city, and one of the primary issues is that her husband really, really needed her to be happy with the decision, and she really wasn’t. She understood why they needed to move, but she wasn’t going to say she thought it was a super dandy idea. What she needed (and told my friend she needed) was for him to just make the decision without her being happy about it so that she could submit and move on with her life. She didn’t have trouble submitting to his decision. She had trouble feeling like she had to “ok” it. Eventually they worked it out (communication) and they moved (submission), but in this case her husband needed to be less concerned about his wife’s feelings and more concerned about what she needed from her leader. That’s not the sort of thing that you address very often but without it the subject feels rather unbalanced.
      Natalie recently posted…Take care of all the things?My Profile

    • Sheila, you are the one who brought up submission first. Your first post in this series was titled “Submission Doesn’t Mean You Never Have Conflict” and you began the post by saying “I’d like to start a 3-post series this week on something that I’m really concerned about: a dangerous thread in Christian teaching regarding *women’s roles*.” (emphasis mine). I’m pretty sure we all thought that this series was going to be about submission. Now you’re only talking about communication and seem to be saying we need to stop bringing up submission because we’re talking about communication instead.

      You have been asked many times by many different people “what do you actually believe about submission?” But you have still not answered anyone. You keep telling us what submission is not, but refuse to tell us what you believe it is. Even if you intended this whole discussion to be about communication and we all misunderstood that it was about submission, now that multiple people have begged you tell us what you really believe about submission won’t you PLEASE just tell us? If this blog is about marriage, submission needs to be discussed because no matter what you believe the bible specifically says “Wives, submit to your husbands.” You can’t talk about marriage without ever touching on the subject of submission. I beg you Sheila, please give us an answer. It is very obvious that you have purposely ignored this question and it’s starting to cause concern.

      • Sheila, First I want to say I love your blog! I have recommended your books to several friends & respect your opinion. I’m a little confused by your reply though. The only reason why I’m making this about submission is because you put that as the theme. If you would have titled your three day theme “effect ways of communication” or something like that then I don’t believe submission would have been such a focal point in the comments. I agree with Mrs P that you set this up to be about submission. I agree w/ what you’re saying about communication. Talking to your hubby about how you feel on things is very healthy and good. There is no disagreeing w/ that. Submission is definitely a hot button & my opinion was that this wasn’t about submission but communication, that’s all.

  12. Why is it so important to many of you that Shelia say “yep, the husband has the ultimate authority”? I believe that Shelia questioned what “submit” really meant in another post. She has stated that in her marriage, that she and her husband communicate when they have conflicting views, they are able to solve their issues without her husband saying “I have the final word”. Some readers seem so threatened by this.

    I wrote a reply yesterday, in which I stated that my husband and I have equal decision making power. We have been happily married for 20 years…it works for us! If you want to follow your interpretation of submission in your marriage…go for it. In my reply, I also referenced “Anonymous”, who said that if Shelia didn’t clarify that a wife needs to submit and obey her husband that he would ask her to stop reading Shelia’s blog. This was part of his reply to me:

    “If Sheila does not state her opinion on this or responds like the second article you linked (same type of modern day Christianity that has no problem with homosexuality) then yes I will ask my wife to not read her writing as I believe she is not coming at it from a Biblical perspective (in fact the very heart of marriage, women need love, men need respect). It is close to the heart of what makes a marriage work, even more so than communication because it’s our belief’s, our foundation…then I believe it not in my wife’s best interest to read things that go against God Word”

    He obviously feels that submission does not just mean he has final decision making power, but he feels that he needs to choose what his wife can or can’t read. Is he so threatened that he feels his wife will rebel against him because Shelia wrote that submission doesn’t mean the wife can’t speak up for herself? All Shelia is saying, is that conflict and disagreements are okay. In fact, they are healthy, and can make a marriage stronger, if worked through correctly.

    • I’ll speak for myself about why it’s important…I get that she’s saying that not all conflict is bad and that submission doesn’t mean that the wife should never disagree with the husband. Conflict isn’t bad. We should be working through things as a couple, listening to each other, making big decisions together, telling each other our feelings even if they make the other person uncomfortable sometimes. As a husband’s helper, a wife should speak up and offer her opinion, perspective, etc. But if we’re really going to talk about submission, I would like to know what Sheila thinks it actually is. I’m curious about what she believes the verses on submission should mean to wives. Most of the time, my husband and I are on the same page. I defer to him in the areas that he’s strongest in and he defers to me in the areas I’m strongest in. But we’re not clones of each other (we’re actually very opposite), so there are going to be times when we really don’t agree on something pretty big (like having a baby or buying a car or how to discipline our children). Who gets the trump card? We can communicate and have all the healthy conflict we want about it, but in the end, someone’s gotta make a decision.
      Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

      • And I would say that that husband is misunderstanding what submission means. It doesn’t mean absolute control. It’s supposed to be a choice that the wife makes, not something the husband demands from her. So, I hope that you don’t think most men believe that’s what submission means.
        Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

        • It’s a choice, but it’s also a constrained choice. (And I really love what you’ve had to say about all this). My husband doesn’t get to unilaterally define what “submit” means and make me toe the line any more than I get to unilaterally decide what “love” means make him toe the line. On the other hand we definitely get to go the other person and say “I don’t feel very loved/respected right now, and we need to talk about how you’re neglecting me/second guessing me” simply because those are potential sin issues that we should bring to each other in the spirit of brotherly love.
          Natalie recently posted…The Progressive Christian ImpulseMy Profile

    • Anonymous says:

      Me again…sorry to keep pestering you. But yes, I would ask and she would go with that decision. For the record, she has media she doesn’t like me to consume. Downright porn is a for sure & that’s a no brainer, but there is stuff that most Christians watch that I won’t watch because it makes her uneasy and I care about my wife’s feelings, thoughts, etc.

      I’m not worried about my wife rebeling because of what she reads here, although I do think the thoughts we put in our head influence us…most of it not drastically but eats at the edges, nibbles away at our thoughts and hearts until one day yes, we are indeed drastically different. God calls me to protect my wife, whether that means from an intruder in our home, a mugger on the street, a wild animal on our ranch, or crazy lady at church! or from teaching that is not biblical. I’m sorry that offends you. It truly offends me when we wipe submission out of marriage…I feel very strongly about it. It strikes at the center of being a man/husband. It would be like saying who cares about a woman’s feelings…that’s crazy talk, right? For the record, anyone who has every been in our home or seen us in church knows I’m just about the most selfless, loving husband they’ve seen. MY wife and my kids are my whole life…I give them everything. I’m not a dictator or even mean, I’m a teddy bear. Can I ask you this? Does a child have to submit to parent? Think of your kids, would you ever harm them? Why is this idea of submitting such a bad thing in your eyes? Should a child have to submit then also if submission is a bad thing? You asked me why I was so troubled, and I have answered, because it cuts right to the core of being a husband/man…maybe that is hard to understand as a woman, I don’t know. Can I state this any more clearly, my wife is my world, I love her more than myself, I care for her, love her, cherish her…why is it so bad for someone who cares so much for someone to be under that person’s leadership? Obviously I have her best interest at heart. I keep responding, when I shouldn’t because I’m way to busy at work, because this is cutting right through husbandry and that is why I am so troubled by a great many of the comments and Sheila’s lack of saying, “yes there comes a time to submit.”

      • Anonymous,
        I understand that you love your wife. I don’t doubt that. I also see how important submission is to you. If your wife agreed to be submissive to you, great, it works for your marriage. However, not all husbands and wives feel submission has a place in their marriages. I’ve been married to my husband for 20 years. We have a wonderful relationship. We are both comfortable making decisions together. If we have conflicting views, we talk about it, and either one of us backs down, or we compromise. You mentioned that wives need love and men need respect. I do need love from my husband, but I also need respect. He has my respect AND he has my love.

        Yes, I agree with you, that children are to obey their parents. That is because they’re minors, who are incapable of adult reasoning. That argument does not apply to a martial relationship. Wives are adults. They are not incapacitated when it comes to making informed decisions.
        To summarize, I get that submission is of great importance to you. However, people are entitled to their on interpretation and/or opinion about submission. If people, including Shelia, disagree with you, you and others need to accept that. It’s okay, we all don’t have to think alike.

        • Anonymous says:

          Julia,
          Here’s the thing, and I really, really appreciate your sincere and thought out reply. It’s not about me or my wife, we are talking about what the Bible teaches. If you and your husband are making it work, I think that is okay (however, I think somewhere along the line it will show up…). But Sheila is advertising this sight as Christian marriage advice for women. I think there are things in the Bible that are definetly up for debate, I’m sorry to say this isn’t one of them. It is old testatment (hebrew), new testament (greek), it Jesus saying the husband is the head of the wife… I”m not trying to jam this down your throat but I am trying to keep what the Bible says very clearly from being distorted. That was my reference to “christians/churches teaching homosexuality is okay” of yesterday. Anyone who actually reads a Bible can see that it teaches the opposite. It’s the same here. You may be uncomfortable with that but you can’t be coming on here and saying the Bible doesn’t teach that. This isn’t a you and me thing…it’s a God’s Word thing. That’s why I keep coming back to this….I hope that makes sense.

  13. Honestly, I dislike this entire series. Before you know it, makeup sex will be a thing of the past.

    Sigh.

  14. Love, love, love this entire series Shelia, keep up the fantastic work. I am very much like you, a bit too opinionated and blunt at times but EVERYTHING is out in the open in my marriage and it has made so much difference in our intimacy. I am admittedly put in my place at times by my husband and through his Godly leadership and gentle way of calling me out on things, I submit to his headship. Submission has nothing to do with being able to have open communication in marriage, they are two completely separate issues. Thank you for having the courage to say it.

    Jess

  15. I find it concerning that this was supposed to be a series about submission (a Biblical concept) and there is no discussion of what the Bible actually says about submission. All 3 posts are about communication and making sure the wife does whatever she needs to so she “feels” right.

    The Bible is very clear on submission. There are plenty of Biblical examples and verses that could be discussed. Instead this whole series seemed to be telling women, ” Every time you have a feeling you need to discuss it with your husband until he agrees with you.” Please tell me how that idea is Biblical, because I just don’t see it.

    Our feelings are not to rule our lives. The Holy Spirit is to guide our lives and we are to live according to Scripture. Which means: husbands love sacrificially, wive submit respectfully.
    Amanda recently posted…Video Games are Not the EnemyMy Profile

  16. I think the thing that disturbs me the most is the HARD focus and emphasis on submission. Submission is a PART of the marriage equation, but so is being loving, generous, true to your design, being honest and a bazillion other things.

    The hard focus pulls the relationship off center and makes it a distortion of what it should be and you wind up doing silly things (like not speaking, or not warning of a problem, or not taking a stand against sin) because it’s ALL about submission.

    I do understand that our culture has done some real damage and we need to talk about subjects like respect, submission, interdependence, etc., but we need to be careful that we do not swing the pendulum so far that we create another wrongful distortion.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lori,
      Can I ask where you are finding the HARD focus on submission. Is it my posts and the other posts, because we certainly aren’t be hardliners here at all…not even close. I’m just amazed by the total lack of it, dancing around it, downright saying it’s wrong….Sorry I’m trying to understand where you are coming from. Are my posts HARD focus on it? Because I talk over and over about loving, cherishing, communicating on and on…it’s so hard to hear someone’s heart over the internet. That’s why I’m trying to give Sheila the benefit of the doubt, she’s crazy talented, and I enjoy her writing immensely. She and the other’s posting help me to better love my wife but I won’t lie and say at least once a week I feel there is either feminism or a total lack of a male perspective on something and this series in particular I find it troubling about the dancing around the topic of submission. See it’s not about submitting to your husbands every wish. I must pull the authority card once a year at the most in my marriage, probably not even that. It’s about whether the wife views the husband as her leader, whether she views him thru that respect lense. Because I definetly view my wife thru the cherish and sacrificially love her lense and my heart as man cries out to be viewed thru the respect lense. Hope that makes sense. Again, I agree with 100% of what Sheila is saying about communication and how we all need to work on that, but if wives are not viewing & treating their husbands thru the approprieate lense/filter/eyes/attitude it’s just like a husband who does the same. Be we are different and it’s different needs we have and I don’t think the women commenting understand that. They dont’ mean their husband ill will, they just trying to love him like he was a woman. Also, I suspect much of this bad talk about submission has to do with women that have been hurt by men. I’m not even talking about bad husbands…but if you have a husband that is making an honest shot at being a good, loving, godly husband…now that doesn’t mean you agree with him all the time but that he truly puts in effort and you aren’t treating him with respect/authority…whether you know it or not he’s hurting, his tank is not getting filled just as yours would not be if you wasn’t respecting your womanhood, feelings, thoughts, cares, etc.

      I’m not trying to insinuate that Sheila means bad here. What I am trying to bring to the table, and am obviously doing a very poor job of it, is a males perspective…because after all this was about a win-win situation right?

      • I am responding to a part of church culture as well as to what I read in blogs and in comments (not specifically to anyone).

        I believe that wives are supposed to submit to the leadership of their husbands, but I am bothered by the extremes.

        You have people who teach that men and women are no different (egalitarians, I can’t see this in scripture) and you have those who focus on submission like that is the absolute focal point of the relationship. That would be a bit like telling employees that their total focus should be on how they treat their boss. Yes, that’s a part of what needs to be addressed, but a total focus on that will skew the working relationship.

        I do understand that our culture has a problem with respect, submission to authority, etc., but the hard emphasis still seems a bit off to me and, in a back handed way, creates the impression that women need to shut up and do as they are told, instead of being real people in a real relationship.

        • Anonymous says:

          Lori, I think I can agree with that. It never ceases to amaze me what we as people can screw up/pervert! God continually gives us the truth and we never seem to be able to just submit to him and realize he has the best way. I agree there seems to be two extremes, although I see 5 wives who “wear the pants” for every doormat wife. I don’t know how many “correct” couples I see for those, because I like everyone else seems to notice the extremes more I guess….

          • I know, I try not to let the (more seen, more vocal) extremes get to me, but mostly I am concerned that what is written will be seen as right and normal. If we don’t speak up our silence will be seen as tacit agreement.

            You and I must live in very different worlds. Many of the women I know (IRL and online) very rarely voice an opinion and wouldn’t dream of working through a difference in their marriage. Many of the marriage blogs I read have a strong focus on submission (I skim a lot of blogs to keep an eye on what is being said in Christian women circles).

  17. Sheila I really like this series. I don’t think communication and submission are conflicting ideas (like some of the comments suggest). Correct me if I’m wrong but my feeling from all of your writing (not just these 3 days) is that communication is ideal and should come first, but if a win-win can’t be found then the wife should submit and let it go (that’s assuming it isn’t sin).

  18. Also for those wondering what Sheila believes submission is, here’s an older post:

    http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2012/09/wifey-wednesday-what-does-submission-in-marriage-mean/

    • Thanks for digging that up, Amber…it was helpful in answering my questions and putting things in a larger context. (Hope you’re not feeling too terribly ganged up on, Sheila! :))
      Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Drive-By Book Reviews: JanuaryMy Profile

      • Thank you so much for posting that…it really helped. Eases my frustration…I didn’t know I could get frustrated over an internet blog! Only one line I disagreed with in there and in the context of submitting to God, “His Spirit never asks us to do anything that is physically or emotionally hurtful (maybe she used the word damaging…I’m not sure)”…I can’t agree with that. There are people that literally die everyday because of their faith. Peter, Paul, Jesus himself, the list goes on…people go to prison for submitting to God. I’m the crazy one here…I know! But to be clear, submitting doesn’t just mean when it feels good.

  19. Whew! What a discussion!
    I can see how people would gt confused over the lack of definition of submission in this series. However, I also get why Sheila would not want to define it because it might look different in every marriage. Also, so much of what I’ve personally seen in the “submission realm” IS “husband is head. Wife should whisper her requests and be happy wih whatever husband decides. The end.” So much of what some people think falls under “submission” can actually be resolved BY communication. I do not see biblical precedent for “wife makes request one time and then shuts up”. I don’t see it. I talked with many of my Created to Be His Helpmeet-loving friends about this. Where is the verse that says a wife needs to stop talking after one time? This IS a relationship, not a monarchy, not a dictatorship, not the military. My husband and I have been married for 16 years. We communicate. He desires my opinion to help him hash things out. I rather think that’s like in Proverbs 31 where it says the husband “trusts the heart of” his wife. I’m not my husband’s child. He’s twice my size and at least twice my strength, but I’m not afraid of him because he doesnt want me to be. I don’t approach him as anything else than my best friend, who genuinely holds my thoughts dear. I am also not a “screaming woman”, swinging wildly with my emotions (and I kinda resent it when someone talks about women that way). I am quite practical and decisive. Likewise, I trust and respect my husband’s opinion and seek it out about everything.
    That said, I will not redefine what the Bible says. My husband IS the ultimate leader in our home. On the rare occasion we disagree on a major issue, and a decision MUST be made (not just that one of us wants something, but that a decision has to be made), I know and respect that the final decision rests with him. I regularly defer the decisions on what we do on a daily basis to him, especially in front of our kids. I want them to respect him as the leader he is and for our boys to model their lives after his very gentle leadership.
    Bottom line for us? There is actual submission commanded by God’s Word. However, it is not a tool to be lorded over the wife–its not a trump card to just not have to listen to a wife’s (hopefully) Godly counsel more than once. So much of these issues can be understood fully by thorough communication. If both sides are willing to talk it out, true peace and oneness can be achieved on the vast majority of issues.

    • Stephanie, well said. I agree with you. That’s how it is in my marriage as well. I believe whole heartily that women are their husband’s helpmeet but that does not mean slave or anything inferior. My husband is always telling me that we are a team. He’s the leader of the team but we work together and try to achieve oneness. I believe that is both biblical and healthy.

      I do not believe that Sheila is avoiding or refusing to give a definition for submission or an answer to everyone’s questions and confusion. She has said that she is out of town and the Internet connection is sketchy so I think we all need to have some patience and give some grace. I’m sure she will give a response when she is able.
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  20. Stephanie,
    Personally, I don’t believe that ” created to be his helpmeet” pushes that idea! They do not say that women are ”doormats” as I have heard on here before. They are not talking about a tyrant.

  21. Faith–I read CTBHHM more than once. They definitely promote the idea that a wife should speak once and not again. There is also an “appeal” if a wife disagrees with her husband. The tone is very authoritarian in the book. There is some dangerous advice in the book–I mean physically unwise and dangerous. After reading the book I felt beat down, not encouraged. And I am no feminist!

    • Stephanie says:

      Realizing I sounded like you were accusing me of being a feminist. What I meant was that I did not have the opinion of the Pearl’s book because I was a feminist, but that I saw real danger in the advice in that book, even coming from a pro-man woman.

    • Stephanie, I’m not a feminist either and I totally agree with you about that book!! Sheila has also reviewed it and pretty much came to the same conclusion.
      Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Ridiculous RespectMy Profile

      • I read Created to be His Helpmeet early in our marriage, and found it to be very damaging! My husband’s being trying to UNDO the thoughts that book placed in my mind for over 3 years now

  22. Sheila, thanks for this series – it has helped me a lot. I was just a tad concerned about your last post…the “ideal conversation scenario”…wives should not talk to their husbands like that. She sounds so teachy, like she was talking to one of her children, and the husband sounded so dumb. It did give me the sense that husbands don’t have a clue and we need to enlighten them. Am I making sense?

  23. Jasanna Czellar says:

    Those were really great illustrations!

  24. Anonymous, first your wife is so blessed to have a husband who desires the Lord and her so strongly. I agree and appreciate what you have said.
    I do have a question for you, that since you’ve shared your heart I thinkiI know the answer to, but I think it will shed light on the core of submission in a loving God-focused marriage. Have you and your wide ever had an issue come up that you’ve discussed and then changed your opinion on and made the decision that she was looking at?

    I would think the answer is yes….which would help show that submission isn’t about being domineering and a dictator but about love and communication andtthen the wife trusting her husbands heart and desires and leadership….while he values her heart and smarts and opinion.
    Does that ring true with you?

    • I really like your question for Anonymous Jen!! I think I was following along with what he said fairly well, not completely agreeing, but seeing valuable parts, and I think we all appreciate the male perspective at times, but when he stated he only has to “pull the authority card”….well… It is statements like that that completely make me want to stand up and defend women-kind! I too wonder if he has ever had a discussion with his wife where he listened to her opinion or concerns with an open heart and mind, seeing his wife as an equal partner, and then changed his mind. If he always thinking he can “pull the authority” card, is listening to his wife’s concerns or opinions just a way to patronize her, as he would a child, and then tell her how it will be?? That probably is a form of submission, but it is this example that has so many women saying, if this is how it is to be, then I will not submit.

      • I’m sorry I have not responded as I’ve been on the road all day for work (it’s a blessing though as my wife and children always come with me the day a week I have to travel for my business). Yes, I often will disagree with my wife, she’s a very “strong” woman (don’t get me wrong, she always has a submitting/serving heart it’s just she’s not a whatever you think is right woman…hope that makes sense) and then will change my mind. I don’t know if it was this one or the last comment section (#2 out of 3) that I said 9 times out of 10, I’m going with my wifes desire/choice because I love her more than myself. But there are times when I strongly believe in something that I’ll make the decisions but rarely, like I said once a year at the most do I “pull the authority card”…but that’s only after we have discussed it (maybe argued???, no that never happens!), looked at if from all vantage points, etc. I trust my wife, she’s smart and has a good heart. She does our finiances (as she puts it I earn it, she spends it (…I think it’s probably more like keeps track of it), taxes, makes important decisions etc. But we discuss the important things and thankfully agree on the big issues, although sometimes timing, etc can effect things even if you agree on the big issues. I can think of only a few things I’ve had to “pull the authority card” over the years and I don’t think I would have had to do that even 1/10 of the time if she had been healthy. My wife suffers from PMDD (PMS x 1,000), and while now almost completely cured there was a decade plus of our marriage where she was literally out of her mind for days, weeks, months at a time. I can think of a handful of times I had to pull the authority card 1) moving 2) starting a business 3)moving 4)getting her into the doctor for your health (she refused to think anything was wrong) 5)sex…but that was related to the PMDD, hormonal issues so I don’t know if that’s just a continuation of #4

        I’m afraid submitting get’s a bad wrap, I’m sure it’s tough if you have a husband that doesn’t truly put you ahead of himself but if you have one that does I would say the faster you can learn to look at him as your leader/hero/head/etc…the faster you are on your way to maritial bliss. My wife literally tried to love me for over a decade, but to be honest I’m not sure she did (her PMDD & upbringing). We married young, maybe shouldn’t have gotten married but I was a pastor at the time and nothing like being in the ministry to make you go thru with an engagement…talk about pressure! My wife was really sick, maybe immature too, but really sick although I didn’t see that until after the marriage (we think the birth control pills started it, and then it got worse with each child). I’ve literally been left hundreds of times (she was always back in 4 hours when the hormones wore off), been abused, called every name in the book, etc. But when she was well, she had such a desire to love God and try to love me, and she is/was an amazing women (I’m not trying to make it sound like my life was hell, only a few days out of every month was it hell…the rest it was just lukewarm you could say even though we loved God and tried doing all the right things) and then it was like one day God opened her eyes and she realized I loved her more than I loved myself (seeing a naturopath that taught her about nutrition helped immensely to as western medicine helped zilch). Since then I’ve literally got the best wife in the world. I wouldn’t trade a women with Julia Roberts body, Mother Teressa heart, and a nobel peace prizes brain for my wife…she’s the grandest of them all. But this has been my point through it all and I’ve tried to open up our lives to get the point across, whether your a husband who needs to love sacrificially or a wife who needs to respect her husband or whether it’s about communication you have to be all in. You have to be so all in you are willing to be hurt even. The kind of all in that’s scary. If one person in the marriage can be all in I believe most of the time the other’s heart will change and they will decide to be all in also. And if two people decide to be all in you’ve got the greatest thing that can be found this side of heaven.

        • Anonymous says:

          PS. I should note that even though 9 times out of 10 I’m going to go with her desire, after I say okay we’ll go do that (her wish) she’ll often say no that’s okay, we’ll….. it’s about two people looking out for one another…even though sometimes it can take a decade and a lot of hurt to get there. Also, it’s two different lenses we see life thru, different needs…sure I need my wife to love me but I experience that love differently than she does…hence my persistance, not trying to be a jerk-more just trying to say you can have the best intentions in the world but if you are trying to love him like yourself, we’ll he’s a man- it just don’t work!

          • Thanks for this explanation — and I love what you say here about “two people looking out for one another.” I think that’s about the best thing you can have — I really want to be doing that for my husband, and I know he does it for me. This is way better than power struggles and competition.

  25. Some spheres of Christianity seem to place an inordinate focus on submission by wives. The whole Christian life should be about submission, and the Bible is clear about that. But many people want to focus on wives submitting and ignore the other realms of submission. Some of that is a push-back against feminism, but I think that some of it reflects a real fear of women having any voice, input or, heaven forbid, power. I could quote remarks by prominent Christian leaders that clearly reflect more of a desire to “keep women in their place” than to encourage Christ-like marriages and relationships. So I think that a lot of people see that and are turned away from what the Bible actually says about submission. In addition, it’s hard to get away from the idea that if a woman needs a “leader,” then she’s not really a fully-functioning adult, just sort of a grown-up child.

    In addition, for some people the word “submission” simply carries too many negative connotations, and they aren’t able to think in those terms or use that word. For various reasons, I don’t ever think in terms of “submission.” But, I have great respect for my husband and view him as the leader of our family. Our personalities are such that we generally just discuss things and work them out. But, in the few instances where we cannot agree, I generally go with what my husband wants. But I never think in terms of “okay, I’m submitting to him.” My brain just doesn’t work that way. A recent example is that he wanted me to make a certain change in my career/employment that I don’t particularly want to make. We discussed it several times, but didn’t come to a decision. Eventually, though, I decided to pursue making that change, and am going to discuss it with my boss next week. I still don’t really want to do it, but I understand his reasons and believe they are valid. I guess that’s “submission,” but I don’t think in terms of that word because of the strong negative connotations it has for me. In the example of the car that Elizabeth gave (and I appreciate her thoughtful comments), it wouldn’t occur to me to think of that as “I’m submitting to him.” My thought process would be something more like, “He’s an adult, it’s his car, we’ve discussed it, he should get what he wants/needs for his work.” I don’t know that one way of thinking is better than the other; I’m just saying that people can and do have positive, healthy Christian marriages without having a heavy focus on the word “submission.”

    I really like Athol Kay’s (“Married Man Sex Life”) model of a Captain/First Officer relationship between a husband and wife. The husband, as Captain, is the leader of the family, but the wife, as First Officer, is a fully-functioning adult who is capable of running things should that be necessary (thank you, military wives!) Athol is not a Christian, but in some ways he has a better understanding of marriage, sex and family life than many Christians who pontificate on those subjects.

  26. To One and All,
    I sometimes am so amazed at our ability to pull things out of context and have a bone to chew. I seriously doubt any one of us can say we have not chosen the wrong words to get a point across at one time or another. The word submit in my younger feisty days was nothing more than a red flag. For those of you who do not balance all things out with the sacrifice Jesus made this will fall on deaf ears, but for those of you that believe in Grace & Mercy the word submit has a different meaning. One more point I would like to kindly make is men are not women and if you want a man to talk and feel like a woman then you should speak to a woman. Men are different creatures they respond differently, they think differently, they react differently, they basically are not women. If you want a man to understand you and how you think then understand him and how he thinks and stop throwing him under the bus every time a word comes up you don’t like. Just saying!
    Signed a 57 years young married woman of 36 years who has had all the ups and downs of married life and still wouldn’t trade it for the world.
    Bette
    PS
    I have never experienced abuse in my marriage and would not tolerate it for one minute. Once again it falls under Grace & Mercy. Does anyone have a stone they would like to throw.

  27. If I may I would like to say you women responding to this topic are amazing. So much thought so many ideas. I would like to thank Elizabeth @ Warrior Wives for such great input.
    Bette

  28. Wow, Sheila, this mini-series is so good. Given me loads to think about. Thankyou x

  29. Elizabeth says:

    This makes alot of sense to me actually. I do have some questions though! Anybody with advice is welcome to chime in.
    So. Say a husband and wife disagree on an important matter- birth control, whether to have to sex, whether the wife should receive any affection if the husband doesn’t desire to give it. Say the wife has stated her needs and believes that those needs are not out of line, ungodly, or wicked. Husband has agreed that they are not….but. He refuses to change his opinion on any of those issues. He wants sex when he wants it, doesn’t care how much it hurts her, then refuses to have sex with her for years because *he* claims to not want it. He refuses to allow her to use birth control and tells her they will trust God with family size….until she gets pregnant when *he* doesn’t want her to- he willingly had sex with her!!, then he refuses to have sex ever again. He verbally agrees that she needs affection but refuses to provide that. Pushes her away if she hugs him, turns away if she kisses him, pulls away if she touches him.
    So. Does she keep bringing it up, trying to get him to *hear* her needs, point of view? Or does she just submit to him, since he is the ‘head’ and pray that God will take away her need for affection and love?? I guess I can understand that I should submit to him not wanting more kids. Yes, it makes me sad, but who really cares how it makes me feel?? I won’t die b/c I don’t have more kids. I will always regret that, but I can live with it. But can I live with no affection and love?? Its pretty hard right now. Many days I wonder if my kids would be better off with me gone. I pray that God will remove my overwhelming need for love and affection and make me what my husband wants me to be. But inside I’m still angry and hurt and confused. Someday it will all end and truthfully, I can hardly wait. I do take risks that I might not live so long. Maybe I’ll “get lucky” one of these days.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    So now I forgot my question with all my blubbering.
    When is it time to stop being a peace-keeper and just keeping it to yourself? When is it time to just give up on making peace and creating oneness and just submitting to whatever he wants? How long does one keep bringing an issue up and creating trouble and getting nowhere before giving up?

    • Elizabeth,
      I seem to be the hardcore “submit” guy here, and I would say you need to talk to your husband now. And I would recommend you get some marriage counseling. I would recommend the conversation with your husband go something like this, ” honey, I love you so much. I’m so glad you are my husband, but I need you to know I’m hurting really bad right now. I really need you to be here for me right now. I’m lonely, afraid and confused. I always want to be married to you, but our marriage isn’t good right now.” Tell him what you told us, heartfelt but brief and then ask if he will be there for you and either way I’d ask if we could go see a marriage counselor (this is tricky, hopefully you have someone at church…but I realize that maybe 20% of the churches out there). But if you tell him what you told us, and how deep you are into this hurt & lonliness, if you don’t get a positive reaction something else is seriously wrong and I would call on family, church, friends whatever for support as something is deeply wrong for a husband to not respond to a wife that is hurting this bad….I will say it might take a few minutes, even hours for him to process this. I don’t know your marriage and maybe he his hurting just as bad…sometimes if you have two people who are hurting so desperately they have hard time hearing the other over their own hurt. But whatever you do, be there for you kids and keep living…things will get better. If you read my story up above, there were hundreds of days where I felt so alone, so sick and tired, so frustrated, angry, etc. But there is hope, things, people and relationships change for the better. Submitting is more of an attitude, rather than a one off choice/situation and most women who care enough to ask about it as tenderly as you are 90-100% of the way there…I wouldn’t worry about that issue at this time. You hang in there and you’ll be in my prayers tonight.

  31. Hi!
    I just wanted to say that I agree wholeheartedly on your post here. The example conversation you gave sounds like my husband and me when we resolve conflict (most of the time). My father is a pastor, so I grew up in the Christian community with wifely submission meaning “letting the guy win,” essentially, and I always felt that it was wrong. Your definition of Biblical submission rings so true for me, and my husband too. We’ve always tried for oneness in our marriage (of 5 years), and it is freeing to find that there is Biblical evidence for our model. Thank you for your insights and through-provoking articles!

  32. Melissa Bosi says:

    I just found your website and am blessed by your godly perspective. Thank you. I look forward to reading more posts.
    Melissa

  33. Anonymous Please says:

    I really appreciate this series of posts. I am married to a man who will avoid conflict at all cost, and I have learned to not try to discuss anything that would be remotely “controversial.” When he says he doesn’t want to talk about an issue for whatever reason, I feel like I am required to back down. As a result, our marriage is in a very bad place. I go through the motions of being a wife and mother, and all looks well from the outside, but I battle resentment and anger constantly. I don’t think I’m alone in this situation, and I feel like this series addresses it perfectly. I’m not being unsubmissive in spirit if I push him to communicate with me for the betterment of our marriage (and spiritual) relationship. Rather, if approached with humility, I am seeking oneness. That’s a very important distinction for someone like myself.

    Thanks for the series, Sheila. I honestly believe I am a member of the target audience for this one, and I think I “get it.” Keep up the good work. :)

  34. You are so right, Sheila…we tend to either stuff our feelings or come off the wrong way when we voice it. Men see/hear things so differently and don’t always tell us how they hear us so we can correct it. When they get defensive, we just see it as them resisting us. Thanks for the perspectives..as you always give good advice.
    Jennifer Travis recently posted…Enduring TrialsMy Profile

  35. Sandy in Los Angeles says:

    I don’t know. Maybe I am a coward, but I think the first example is healthier than the second example. If she truly “honestly has forgiven him,” then I would find peace there.

    At least in my marriage. You say: “he still knows that he has disappointed her. Sure she’s not holding it over his head, but he knows that she wanted something that he chose not to give her. So he still feels a little angry at her for wanting that. And he still feels a little defensive.” I just don’t think my hubby would feel that way. He is not that complicated. He is off the hook and that would be that.

    We would both be more at peace than if I tried to continue the communication until we found a good compromise.

  36. I am certainly a believer in having my wife expressing her opinion, after all i did not marry a maid but a companion and an equal one as well. Women have so many good ideas, so having my wife expressing her views that will allow us to have a meaningful discussion is certainly healthy stuff.

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Trackbacks

  1. [...] Day Three: Being a Peace-MAKER Rather Than a Peace-KEEPER: Conflict in Marriage [...]

  2. [...] Day One: Submission Doesn’t Mean You Never Have Conflict Day Three: Being a Peace-Maker, not a Peace-Keeper [...]

  3. [...] Here are some other thoughts on resolving conflict that I’ve written before: Being a PeaceMAKER Rather than a PeaceKEEPER [...]

  4. […] I said in my post on being a Peace-Maker not a Peace-Keeper, keeping problems to yourself doesn’t help in the long run. Sometimes the route to peace lies […]

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