Submission Doesn’t Mean You Never Have Conflict

Why Submission Doesn't Mean that you Never Have Conflict--3 Part Series
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.

We saw it in my earlier posts about video games and your husband. Many women felt that submission meant that you didn’t question him. You let him know what you think once, but then you leave it. You shut up and never mention it again. You leave it in God’s hands.

That may sound like it’s the biblical model, but I think it’s focusing on a narrow interpretation of one verse–Ephesians 5:22–rather than the whole of Scripture. And it also goes against modern research.

Let me deal with the research issue first: in general, research backs up what we know about human nature. For instance, research shows that cohabitation before marriage leads to more divorce, as we would expect, because marriage is sacred. Research shows that those who wait until they’re married to have sex end up with better sex lives, which is also what we would expect because sex was designed for marriage.

God’s truth is timeless truth. Therefore, we would expect that the things that God wants also lead to better and healthier relationships. And research does indeed show that. Now, research does not determine truth; but if research goes against what we think is God’s truth, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate our interpretation and make sure that it is indeed God’s truth, and not an error in interpretation. We had better be sure, because I have yet to see something that is true not also borne out by research.

In this case, I think a re-evaluation is in order, because we definitely have an outlier.

Research shows that the healthiest couples are not those where the wife states her position once, and then backs off.

No, the happiest couples are those who FIGHT.

Those who wrestle through issues, and don’t back down until you rebuild intimacy and trust and closeness, end up closest, and have far lower divorce rates.

I see this in my own marriage. My husband and I do disagree, though not as often as we used to. But that doesn’t mean that we’re unhealthy. On the contrary; when I’m upset, I’m worried because that means our intimacy is in jeopardy. And so we deal with it. When he’s upset, we air what’s bothering us and we deal with it, too.

Now, there are healthy and unhealthy ways of fighting, and I’m certainly not arguing that fighting for the sake of fighting, or calling each other names, or manipulating, is a plus in marriage. Unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict do not lead to marital peace.

But when you have something that’s disturbing to you, sharing that with your spouse and working through it contributes to intimacy; it does not detract from it.

In fact, it contributes to healthier individuals in general (research also shows that individuals who suppress conflict actually die earlier).

That’s what the research says. What does Scripture say?

Scripture gives numerous examples of people working through issues. Paul and Peter had a protracted fight about whether or not the Jews were given special status in the early church. They didn’t back off dealing with the issue for the sake of early church harmony to avoid conflict; they worked through it and came to a great resolution.

Paul and Barnabas had a falling out over Mark, and they worked through it and came to an agreement, so much so that Mark continued with Paul afterwards.

Scripture calls us to deal with conflict, not ignore conflict. In fact, we are never called to avoid conflict; we are called to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14) (I’ll have a longer post up tomorrow about what that specifically means).

I don’t believe, however, that peace means absence of conflict. Peace means re-establishing a healthy relationship, and sometimes that must involve conflict. We must confront over sin. We must talk about hurt feelings. Jesus even said that if you’re about to give your gift at the altar, and you remember that your brother has something against you, you go and deal with that brother. Even if it’s an uncomfortable conversation, it’s one that you must have to restore the relationship.

Do you think the Bible meant for this to be true for EVERY relationship EXCEPT marriage?

Was God saying, “work through your conflict with people. Deal with issues. Confront issues. Be open about issues. Unless, of course, you’re a woman, and then you should only do so with absolutely everyone EXCEPT your husband.”

No, I don’t think so at all.

I’m not saying that if you’re upset at your husband, and you have an argument where you both just can’t agree, that you keep at it indefinitely to the detriment of your marriage. In fact, sometimes in marriage we have to decide to let an issue go. We have to say, “he just doesn’t see it my way, and I’ve tried telling him, and explaining it to him, and he doesn’t agree and he isn’t going to change.” And then you do let it go, as I spoke about here.

Some commenters, though, speak about this as if it is a FIRST resort, rather than a LAST one. He is the head of the house, in this line of thinking, and so he has the right to decide what to do and how to do it.

My problem with so much of this line of thinking is that the end goal seems to be keeping the proper order of things in marriage–in other words making sure that his preferences stand because you submit–rather than building intimacy.

Intimacy requires that you wrestle things through.

That doesn’t mean you don’t give way; but what is the goal? When Keith and I argue, we argue because we want to remain close; we want to feel as if we both value and cherish each other. If there’s something standing in the way, it needs to be dealt with because we want to feel like we’re “one flesh”.

On the other hand, I’ve heard women talk where the end goal seems instead to be “making sure that I’m letting him lead” instead of feeling like one. And if you suppress part of yourself, it’s awfully hard to feel like one.

Iron, after all, sharpens iron. But too many of us are not acting as iron in our marriages. We are acting as a rag, helpful for polishing a sword to make it look great, but not helpful for actually making that sword effective. And in the meantime we’re treating ourselves like we’re garbage, not worthy of having an opinion that we can express.

Submission means that you think of your husband’s needs above your own; that you study him and love him and seek to build him up; that you honour him as the servant leader. It does not mean that God asks us to leave our minds at the door as soon as we get married, or that He says, “in other relationships you can wrestle through issues, but in marriage his will goes.”

One woman wrote on my Facebook Page recently that she is trying to submit, but she has trouble, especially with the way her husband disciplines their 18-year-old. She then commented that he whipped him.

Is that truly the godly version of submission?

We must learn how to deal with conflict effectively. We should seek to get to the real issue, rather than going round and round. We should work on our friendship so that we have a base of goodwill so that it’s easier to bring up issues. We should not call each other names, and we should honour their opinions. We should practice humility.

But we should still work through that conflict, not bury it. We often play lip service to the idea that God designed marriage primarily to make us holy, and not to make us happy, but then we seem to forget that this applies to men, too. It isn’t about women ignoring our feelings and needs in marriage; if it were, how, then, are men to be made holy? What if you are the vehicle through which God wants to work?

Yes, consider your husband’s feelings. Yes, place his needs first. Yes, seek his well-being. Yes, support him as a servant leader. Yes, sometimes we need to let issues go. But overall, do not avoid conflict. That hinders your marriage, hinders both of you from growing, and ends up shoving you apart. Do we really believe that’s God’s design for marriage?

Over the next two days I’ll look at what lack of conflict vs. peace means, and then we’ll look at a practical example of how to resolve differences.

Day Two: Seeking Peace, Not the Absence of Conflict
Day Three: Being a Peace-MAKER Rather Than a Peace-KEEPER: Conflict in Marriage

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Comments

  1. This is a great post, Sheila, and it is the way my husband and I work out conflict because we both have great men who love God and love us. Unfortunately, I mentor women who don’t have godly men like ours. They weren’t raised in godly homes and have strongholds in their lives like pornography. The women have tried to resolve this through conflict, a lot of discussion, etc. and it isn’t working. It is like beating a dead horse. Then I encourage them to “win them without a word” just as Scripture commands them to do. It specifically commands this to women who have husbands who are disobedient to the Word. Many men could care less about the Word {unlike our husbands} and being in continual conflict with them about their sin, doesn’t help. I have witnessed many women win their husbands without a word. It doesn’t mean they never talk to their husbands about their sin, but there does come a time when many women need to be quiet and allow the Holy Spirit to convict and change their husbands.
    Lori recently posted…Parental GuidanceMy Profile

    • Yes, I would agree that at some point you have to let it go, as I wrote about here. My fear is that many people are letting it to too early, or are not really talking through the issue. I see so many marriages that never have any conflict, and that is not healthy, either. I think most people simply don’t know how to talk through issues, and so they avoid them. In this series I want to show people how you can talk through issues, and then in the next week or so give guidelines for how to have productive conversations, because I honestly think most people have no clue how to tackle something, and they get so tense and defensive that nothing productive happens.

      • I am sure it will be a great series because you have a lot of wisdom. I am presently mentoring a women who has been married for 27 years. Her husband wants out. He doesn’t want to talk to her or have anything to do with her. The last 7 years were spent arguing and they no longer talk. I have mentored her to win him without a word for now on. Let him see Christ living through her. Instead of being angry around him, be joyful around him even if she has to scream and cry when he leaves the house. Serve him every opportunity she has and claim God’s promise that she can win him back without a word. She finally feels like she has hope. Maybe her marriage can be saved.
        Lori recently posted…Parental GuidanceMy Profile

  2. Thanks for posting this! I also have been concerned about some posts among Christian bloggers making it seem like submission means never bringing up issues to your husband and actually discussing the issues to resolve them. Maybe that wasn’t the point of those posts, but it sure seemed like it was. I’m eager to read your following posts, especially the ones about specifically how to resolve conflict in marriage, which I think is a practical skill that many people in Christian circles don’t teach because the woman is supposed to “submit” to her husband in all things.

  3. Love this. Many people I talk to about submission, especially in context to Ephesians 5:22, forget about Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” We are to submit and serve each other. It is about relationship. Giving each other 100%. Not about being slaves to one side.

    • I agree so much with you, Michelle!!! If you’re doing Eph. 5:21 right, the rest isn’t really an issue. At least that’s how it’s worked for my husband and I. Submission isn’t really a word used in our household much. But, I do agree that my husband is the leader. I’ve always looked at it like a Fortune 500 company. He’s the CEO and I’m the Chief Consultant. CEO’s of fortune 500 companies don’t get there alone. They have a whole staff that they respect and take counsel from.
      Pearl recently posted…Supernatural Sex: Spiritual Dimension of Libido for Low-Drive WivesMy Profile

  4. Such a good article. I am looking forward to the other two parts. My husband is not a Christian, so confronting things as “sin” doesn’t really work. We do argue and fight and generally we are able to work things out. I am interested in how to work things out a little better though, as we usually end up with alot of hurt to work through.

  5. I have to respectfully disagree with this-
    “No, the happiest couples are those who FIGHT”
    We are quite happy and content. We have been married for 22 years and have never fought or raised our voices to each other. We talk a LOT. We have usually talked most things through so much that we already know what the choice or decision will be long before it needs to be made.
    My Honey does lead our family and I do submit to him. I am not a doormat and he is not a tyrant.

    I’m not commenting to cause strife. Instead, I want married folks to know that you can have such an open communication that means fighting and arguing never happens. Truly, he is my best friend. I have never had a reason to fight or argue with him.
    Laurie recently posted…Homemade Crescent RollsMy Profile

    • Laurie, that’s a beautiful testimony to an intimate marriage. I think what we often get caught up on is the word “fight”. Fight doesn’t mean that you raise your voices; it means you’re having a disagreement. When you don’t see things the same way, or you’re not sure how to come to a decision on something. Most people go through that, and it is not at all unhealthy. Any two people joining together will likely disagree on a myriad of things.

      If you never, ever disagree, that’s a beautiful thing. But disagreement doesn’t mean strife, and working through that disagreement is not a negative thing, you know?

      • I completely agree, fighting doesn’t always equal yelling.

        That’s why I included both. ;)

        What we have always done is talk, talk, and talk some more. We are completely open and honest with each other. We know each other better than anyone else. I complete his sentences and he completes mine. It’s not that we are any better than anyone else, this is just how we’ve always been together. The first time we really spent any time together (before even dating), we talked for hours. It was wonderful to have a man actually interested in what I had to say. It’s only continued and gotten better since then. He was my first date. :)

        I realize all marriages are different. Just as all people are different. I just think that marriage doesn’t have to include discord. :)
        Laurie recently posted…Homemade Crescent RollsMy Profile

        • I would agree, Laurie, but here’s what I’m getting at: a lot of people assume that if you hit something that you disagree about, this means that you have discord and this is bad and so you have to shut down the conversation.

          It sounds like you and your husband just talk it through; that’s what we do, too, and it’s very healthy.

          But some people are so afraid of conflict that they assume that ANY time you have different opinions about something you must therefore shut up, when really simply talking it through would, in most cases, be far healthier!

          • Sheila, any suggestions on what to do about a husband who feels that way? ie where politely having a different opinion he sees as an argument and an “attack” on him, even when he has asked for your opinion.

            And where he believes that if you don’t totally agree with him, then you should shut up and never talk about it?

          • I’ve found asking questions helps the most. If he gets upset, saying, “You seem upset. Can you tell me what you’re feeling right now?” And if he replies, answer with another question, “how do you think we should deal with this?” Just keep asking questions. Questions are not nearly as confrontational as anything else, and it’s a good way to get at what the underlying issue is.

            And it really sounds like you need a mentor couple or someone who can come alongside you, too!

          • Depends on his upbringing. Questions in my home were VERY confrontational and passive-aggressive. Kind of a perpetual stream “Did you really thing that was a good idea?” sort of tests. Every question had a right answer and a wrong answer, and you didn’t know necessarily what those were beforehand. Woe unto him who guessed wrong though :( Just my two cents. With a guy this sensitive you never know.
            Natalie recently posted…Take care of all the things?My Profile

    • My hubby and I didn’t raise our voices or argue for many years (about 10). But when I had an opinion, that he disagreed with, I was told to just “drop it”. This was true for my desire to be one in our finances. I wanted to pool our money and pay bills from one account. I brought it up once, and he said no. I brought it up one more time, about a year later, and he said ,”Just DROP IT, we’re not discussing it”. This is how most disagreements ended. Now, I am trying to be more assertive about staying with the conflict in order to resolve it. Now I’m being told I’m unforgiving, or that I can’t “let things go”. It would be easier to just stay silent sometimes, but I know the end result to that is more pain and confusion for me. Our last argument was about our teen daughter- who is disrespectful to both of us. He is angry that she talks to him with disrespect and will give her the silent treatment for days (which he does to me, too). When I tried to explain that respect is a LEARNED behavior, he got put out with me, and it started an argument on whether or not I loved him, which led to pushing. I have lost my desire to be one with him now. I just try to be friendly and considerate, and the intimacy has gone out the window.

  6. THANK YOU. :-)
    Melissa recently posted…Stuff I’m Going To Do This YearMy Profile

  7. I appreciate your view on this. I struggle with when to just let it go and when to confront. I tend to hold it in in a false idea of “submission” and then frustration builds and a huge conflict errupts. It’s hard to know when to lovingly confront over an issue or when to just let things go and pray instead. Don’t want to be a nag, but then also don’t want to not be one in our marriage. It’s a hard balance.

    • For me, I choose to confront when it’s an issue that: affects our entire family and not just him, regularly hurts my feelings or makes me feel disrespected, or is a negative behavior that could be taught to our kids by example. I choose to let it go when it’s something that doesn’t fit any of that criteria. For example, my husband “cleans as he goes” when he cooks, but the way he does it, it takes him twice as long to make a meal. Drives me crazy. But it’s not going to kill me or negatively affect our intimacy. So, if I know he’s going to cook that night, I have a snack in the late afternoon. Some things are harder than others to fit into either category (confront or let go), but if I take some time to think and observe how it affects all of us, I find I can make that decision a little easier. I hope that helps. :-)
      Melissa recently posted…Stuff I’m Going To Do This YearMy Profile

  8. Good post and a sensible definition of submission.

    Spousal behavior that is destructive to the relationship and intimacy, i.e. porn, alcoholism, adultery, drugs, sexual starvation, etc., needs to be confronted and dealt with directly and repeatedly. If the spouse makes no effort to change, then there must be consequences, especially for men.

    Men are action oriented. If we work hard, we get promoted. If we slack off, we don’t get promoted or we get fired. Actions lead to consequences which lead to reevaluation and a decision: change or no change.

    Behavior that is not destructive, i.e. leaving socks and underwear on the floor, not putting the cap on the toothpaste, not putting the toilet seat down, should not be turned into heated arguments. Yes, they are annoying, but they are not character or sin issues. Ask a couple times, then just let it go. But this doesn’t mean you do the chores for him.

    For example, if your husband doesn’t pick up his socks and underwear, then don’t pick them up for him. If you do the laundry, then only wash those items placed in the hamper. Once your husband runs out of socks and underwear a couple times and has to wash them himself, then he will likely change his behavior. See, you just won him over without a word. No nagging required. :)

    Overall, do as Sheila suggested, don’t avoid conflict. I would encourage you, though, to pick the conflicts carefully and wisely. Focus on the things that truly matter, then let go of the rest. Odds are, you’re not perfect and that means your husband lets go of a lot of issues everyday, too.

    • So true, Mark! I think, though, that often the issue is simply we feel hurt. It’s not any particular thing–it may simply be that we’re lonely, or he feels frustrated, or whatever. Those are most often the things that don’t really get talked about, and I want to start showing people how to talk about these things, too. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything bad. Talking through issues isn’t the same as having strife. But so often we don’t talk through anything whenever hurt feelings are involved because it feels like we’re “fighting”. And fighting isn’t necessarily bad, if it’s handled well.

      Thanks so much for your comment! I totally agree with you.

      • Agree, a conversation does not equal a fight.

        Isn’t it odd, though, that during the dating process a couple can have multiple conversations about X, but once married such a conversation so easily turns into an argument? We get defensive, a hint of snark creeps into the conversation, then we’re off to the races!

        We humans are such weird but fascinating creatures! LOL!

        • Anonymous says:

          So Mark,
          Using your reasoning, if I work all week and come home to dinner not cooked or a messy house a couple times after I’ve talked to her about it do a therefore not get to pay the light bill or food bill (the opposite of your arguement of not picking up socks, putting the lid on the toothpaste, etc)…geez, seriously, turn your arguement around and see how far that pony runs. I’m dumbfounded by the lack of respect for men anymore. I am a man that takes my family’s love, needs, etc as seriously as any husband/man I know. And I know there are a lot of deadbeats out there but sometimes I wonder if some of those men have just given up because there is no way for them to win because of reasoning like yours.

          • No, you just bring home dinner for you and the kids. You do your laundry and teach the kids to do theirs. Ditto with picking up around the house. You and the kids can handle your bit because y’all are all productive members of society. Your wife. Well, it’s understandable that you don’t have as much time to spend with her because you’re doing her job as well as your own (assuming she’s a SAHM). If her reaction is “well that’s ok because I can Facebook more” you shut down the router. Internet time is a reward for going to work and doing your job. You do your job, so the router stays with you. She doesn’t do her job, so the router (or the desktop or whatever) doesn’t stay with her. Set small goals (dinner three times this week and the den/your chair/the bed cleared when you come home from work) and let her know how pleased you are with her when she meets them. If she pleads being tired then tell her to make a doctor’s appointment to rule out endocrine issues or depression. The expectation is that we all may have bad days but in this family we all keep pushing forward.
            Natalie recently posted…Take care of all the things?My Profile

          • Natalie,
            Sorry we will disagree on this. If picking up his socks and putting the toothpaste back on are the worst of his habits and you can’t handle or compensate (go ahead and pick them up for him a couple times a week) for that you’ve got more serious problems then he does. Trust me he’s making just as many compensations on his end. I just can’t understand how many women on here feel like they are the only giving, compensating, giving grace to annoying habits….it’s mind blowing to me. I honestly get a feeling on here from a slight majority of women that feel they are the only ones trying, that it’s the man’s job to completely conform to them and their wishes. My question for Mark was if you reversed the genders and “headache causing issues” it would totally not fly on this forum or most. Iin a way you answered that. If he fails to live up to somehthing like not picking up his socks, his suggestion is to just not pick them up and make him deal with it. But when the tables are turned, and it’s a failing of her the suggestion is then I need to go out and buy dinner and take care of the kids….do you see?

          • I actually think we agree more than you think. The point I’m trying to make is that you take care of the things that directly affect you. If she doesn’t fix dinner for you then you simply go out and get dinner for yourself. Leave her at home to rummage through the fridge and think about the benefits of planning ahead. Better still if you can call up one of your friends and have dinner with him. The point is that there are ways you can enact consequences. She gets left out. She doesn’t get access to the internet. She doesn’t get “help” when hasn’t lifted a finger all day. The implied statement here is that you’re inviting her to join your life. If she can’t be a responsible adult then she doesn’t get to tag along. Athol Kay has a lot of good advice along these lines. He’s not a Christian, but he really does have his finger on how men and women tick.

            As for taking care of the kids – well unfortunately someone has to take care of them, and unless your wife is a crack addict doing tricks in the carpool line the law won’t support you removing them from her. So you simply become the leader in any way that you can. It’s sure not fair. I’m not saying that it is. But until we get a better church/marriage culture there are things you can do to bring natural consequences.
            Natalie recently posted…Take care of all the things?My Profile

          • …and unless your wife is a crack addict doing tricks in the carpool line the law won’t support you removing them from her.

            Absolutely hysterical line, thank you for that!!!!

            I just had a chance to catch up on this thread and I believe Natalie’s comments covered the above questions quite well. Actions have consequences. A failure to act also has consequences. Some people will learn quickly, some more slowly, some not at all. Hopefully, everyone is married to a spouse that is teachable. :)

          • Anonymous says:

            Natalie,
            I don’t think we agree at all…unfortunately. First off, my wife is the treasure of the world and this is not about my marriage (although it once was when she was very sick with PMDD and basically mentally ill). What I believe is necessary on both ends is less consequence and more love & grace (not no consequence but that is saved for the desperate measures). I don’t have a problem with buying dinner, taking care of the kids & vacuuming while I’m at it (and this is on top of working 60 hours a week every week as I run my own business…but then my family is my life, my free time is spent with them except for a couple hours in front of the TV every night)…my problem is with the response to the husband up above. This lady is so frustrated because he can’t put his socks up and put the toothpaste back corrrectly—GEEZ, really? That’s the worst of his problems and it’s so bad you’re complaining about it on the internet? And then Mark further compounds it by saying well just don’t do this for him so he’ll see the consequences. My reaction is no, how about loving him like Christ loved us like your’e called to and pick up the stinking socks…even if it means everyday. Trust me, he’s making what I’m calling compensations in the name of love also. And that is my frustration here, it seems like these ladies want the perfect man…my feeling is though they’d have just as many and probably more troubles if that perfect man (Jesus) came to live with them in place of her husband.

            Being open here, my wife was suicidal sick, homicidal sick, hate me, try bashing my head in and leave me a hundred’s of times sick over thirteen years…but I was being a good husband. I was doing the same stuff I am doing now, nothing different, but now I’m considered the best husband in the world. It took years of loving her, caring for her, forgiving her, being abused even…but that’s what I signed up for- a life long covenant. A promise to love her always even when things were terrible. Finally her eyes were opened, God healed her with the help of nutrition and a couple months of counseling and she saw that I loved her, deeply. Sure I screwed up plenty of things along the way…many times it was dark and lonely and I’m sure there were better choices to be made but did the best I could given the circumstances but in the end I tried loving my wife as Christ loved the church. I know it’s radical…but that’s what Christianity is. God calls us to love our spouse radically, deeply, even thru immense hurt…and I’m sorry socks on the floor doesn’t even put a blip on the radar. I am astonished at the lack of Biblical submission here on this sight…seriously, I lay down my life everyday for my wife and family. I’d take a bullet for them, anything….and I mean anything. But I do have needs and one of the greatest is to be respected as the head of my household. Does that mean tyranny…heavens no. I care about my family’s feelings more than my own or I wouldn’t put in the hours I do so she can be home with them, stay with a sick wife for 13 years…basically every choice I make is run thru a God filter and family/wife filter…but that doesn’t mean she will always agree with me and that’s okay because she knows I have her best interest at heart. She trusts me. I am being honest when I say one of the main problems facing Christian marriage today is the feminist movement has crept into the church and men honestly feel they cannot win. They can give it everything they have and still can’t win. We can try to live by God’s Word and there are still a thousand hoops lined up after that and some of them are impossible to jump thru, some counter to just being a man. I’ve asked Sheila several times do you believe in submission and I have yet to hear an answer, she keeps using the language “let it go” , for a wife to “let it go”…. This whole article has been approached from the women’s perspective and while I’m all about compromise I want to know what does she believe about submission? I’m all about communication, talking, trying to make my wife feel understood and heard but at the end of the day she knows I would lay down my life for her and I know she will respect me (dare I say the word submit?).

          • Ok, I think I see where you’re coming from here. I thought you were saying that there’s nothing a man can do short of ceasing to provide that would have any consequences for his wife.

            I do believe in submission, and I believe that wives really shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. When I pick up the bedroom I’ll grab my husband’s clothes and put them away or put them in the laundry. However, there are natural consequences because I don’t always know what’s clean or dirty when things get left out. So maybe I wash something clean he wanted to wear today, and maybe I don’t wash something dirty he wanted to wear today. So to a certain extent it does seem a little silly to worry about getting him to pitch in when the reality is that if he’s confusing things and making my job harder eventually that will show up and need to be addressed. And visa versa I imagine.
            Natalie recently posted…Take care of all the things?My Profile

    • I wouldn’t put not putting the toilet seat down in the not-destructive category. As someone who has been hospitalised from serious injuries due to the issue, I guarantee it can be a destructive issue. I’m also a nurse and treated women with serious “down there” infections picked up from falling into the toilet due to male partners not putting the toilet seat down.

      If a woman leaves a toilet seat down, the worst that can happen to a guy is a little mess on the seat. If a guy forgets to put the toilet seat down, a woman can end up with serious injuries or with a nasty urinary infection or worse.

      Same with leaving clothes on the floor. My first husband did that to me, I fell on his stuff and I needed surgery to fix the damage done and because it was when I was carrying our daughter as a baby, I not only seriously hurt myself, but fell on her which meant we were in hospital 12 hours waiting for an xray because we thought she had a broken arm. Thankfully it was only a really bad bruise to her arm, but it could have been so much worse – falling an inch more to the left could have left her with a broken spine.

      I think too many people (and this goes both ways, as women can be equally bad as men for trying to claim their destructive behaviour is harmless when it’s not) make too many excuses for their destructive behaviour and try to claim it’s non destructive – and it’s not until someone is seriously hurt do they realise their spouse was right to raise the issue – and sadly it’s usually the spouse who tried raising the issue or the children who are the ones who get hurt.

  9. Thanks so much for this rocking article. I was at my parents’ church this weekend, and in Sunday school, they were talking about “biblical femininity,” which got me thinking about what submission means. I really appreciate the reminder that it DOESN’T mean giving in before even having the conversation. Which is good, because I think my husband and I are getting decent at talking things out! So thank you for the encouragement and the check.

  10. It’s always funny sometimes the timing of messages we receive.

    I am struggling so much with my marriage right now that I really don’t want to be married anymore. I don’t believe in divorce for non-biblically justified reasons, but it’s so bad I’ve considered suicide to escape it.

    My husband believes in “avoiding conflict at all costs” so much so that he is causing severe conflict to the point he is abusive every single day.

    I will explain…

    He says he hates conflict and wants to avoid it, but his actions to “avoid conflict” are actually creating conflict where there is none. He has been doing this ever since we got married last year.

    Simple things like asking if he picked up his payslip at work leads him to going off at me, accusing me of “attacking” him simply because I’ve nicely asking him it, at an appropriate time where there is no distractions, nothing else on his mind, he’s relaxed. I’ve tried not asking him things, but it’s led to absolute disaster such as we owe the government over $500 and may lose a further $5000 simply because he didn’t pick up his payslips from work for weeks on end and eventually the government department involved refused to give us any more extensions.

    The same goes for another financial situation where all he had to do was sign and post a document. I signed it 3 months ago and it’s costing us $10 every day he doesn’t sign and post it. We are having financial difficulties as it is (I believe due to him mismanaging our money but he won’t tell me anything – he has a good job so we shouldn’t be in the situation we are in), we really can’t afford it. It’s getting to the point where I can’t afford my medical treatments due to his money mismanagement.

    I can’t simply leave it in his hands either as it’s me the government is chasing for money, and it’s me debt collectors are chasing over the second financial situation as I was the primary signatory on the original thing. I can’t cope with being chased constantly for money I don’t have that he has the ability to take care of and just doesn’t.

    I don’t nag. I don’t even ask once a day. I ask about once a week just so I can let the debt collectors/government department know when they call and bug me. Just today again I basically got called a liar by the government department when I said I don’t know my husband’s financial position. They refused to believe me that after a year of being married, that he still hasn’t set up our finances to be jointly even though he has been promising since the day we got back from our honeymoon.

    It’s not just finances, it’s everything. He is so paranoid about “conflict” that the slightest thing will set him off. If I nicely ask him how his day was, he starts going off at me about how I’m “attacking” him. He rants and raves and then takes off and even when he comes back, he won’t talk to me for the rest of the day.

    He keeps going on and about how he hates conflict, but in his paranoia about avoiding conflict, he sees everything (even neutral and even positive things) as somehow “attacking” him. I know he has problems with depression and anxiety, but it’s bordering on paranoid delusional his behaviour and I don’t know what to do.

    The next day, after he’s calmed down somewhat, he says he does it because he hates conflict and is trying to avoid it. He’s not saying this as a reason he’s sorry, because he makes it clear he’s not sorry and that he doesn’t feel he’s done anything wrong – he makes it very clear that he thinks I’m the one in the wrong, and doubly so if I tell him I don’t find his behaviour acceptable.

    He does this over neutral and positive topics where there really is nothing to be conflicted over, so you can imagine how hard it is when it’s a topic where we do have different opinions (such as when to move out of our current house, where to send our daughter to school for high school eg I want her to go to a christian school due to her special needs, and he thinks it’s a waste of money). They aren’t topics we can avoid – we need to discuss what school our daughter goes to, even if for no other reason than he expects me to organise it and even if he chooses with absolutely no input from me, I need to know his choice to do the organising. Other things like we need to work our what health insurer we need to go with because I need surgery and I need it as soon as possible and there is a 12 month wait from when we sign up, so I need him to talk to me about it so even if he chooses which one, that it’s one that will cover my surgery (otherwise there is no point). I’ve been waiting months for him to talk to me about it without exploding for “daring” to ask him if he’s had time to decide. I’m in constant agony and really need the surgery and that’s an extra three month I’ve waited that I didn’t need to.

    But any time I bring up anything with him other than trivial things (eg discussing shared interests in tv shows etc) he goes off at me, takes off for a while, and then refuses to say a word to me for nearly 24 hours and then will only talk to me about trivial things. If I bring up anything non trivial, the cycle begins again – he explodes, takes off, won’t talk to me for 24 hours, and then will only talk about trivial things – and then claims he explodes because he doesn’t want to talk about things because he doesn’t want to argue. And we don’t even have to get around to serious things – most days it’s trivial things that set him off before we can even get to talking about anything serious.

    I should say… I’ve never “attacked” him as he claims, In our marriage only twice have I ever got angry with him and told him off – and both times were after he had yelled at me and sworn at me and called me names for literally hours and I could no longer take it anymore. I feel like a total doormat. He is constantly moody and snappy and says snarky sarcastic mean things to me, swears, call me names etc – mostly the mean snarky comments are the problem. He is constantly moody.

    I eventually told him yesterday that what he’s doing is actually abuse and I can’t take it anymore. I’m staying with my parents for a few weeks while he is away on a work conference – with him being snarky and nasty every time we talk (and not being able to not talk for two weeks until he gets back, if for no other reason than the government debt/payment issue that could literally see us risking criminal charges for fraud for making a “false” claim if we don’t provide the financial information they’ve asked us to provide for the genuinely legitimate claim we have made – they see refusing to provide financial information for a claim as meaning the claim is fraudulent, even when it is genuine). I don’t want to lose $5000+ and risk being charged with fraud all because he explodes and won’t talk every time I try to raise anything serious with him.

    But the truth is, even if he does talk to me long enough to give me the financial info I need, I don’t want to move back home. He is starting massive fights and is being verbally and emotionally abusive and then claims it is because he’s “trying to avoid conflict” by not talking about anything where we might have different opinions. I’ve told him always I am happy to follow his lead when we have different opinions, and not only do I SAY it, I actually DO it. Whenever we’ve had different opinions, I always follow his lead, and I do it without grumbling or complaining. I always accept his decision and back him up.

    The problem is, he sees having a different opinion as “conflict” and “arguing”. Anyone who doesn’t agree with him 100% is “arguing”. He cannot understand the concept of “agreeing to disagree” on an issue. He cannot accept that people can politely have different opinions, or that in a relationship or group situation, that people can follow an idea or goal while having a different opinion about what is the best idea or goal. To him, stating you have a different opinion but will follow his decision is “arguing” with him. He asks people’s opinions, but then if they give them and they don’t 100% match his, he accuses them of trying to start an argument with them.

    I no longer know how to cope with this.

    This is my second marriage. My first marriage fell apart from a combination of my first husband being violent and a cheat. While I don’t think my second husband will cheat (he doesn’t like sex and we don’t even have sex enough to get pregnant), I do worry very much he will become violent. It was several years before my first husband became this verbally and emotionally abusive – my second husband has been doing this since the day after we got married. He already smashes things up. And he’s apparently been doing this his entire life – smashing things up when he gets even the slightest bit annoyed. He never told me this and he never did it in front of me before we got married.

    I went through this with my first husband, and I’m very scared the next step is violence against me. We’ve tried couples counselling with a christian couple and he made all these promises and has broken every single one – and then accuses me of ignoring the counsellors and when I ask for examples, he raises things that simply aren’t true such as, the counsellors suggested that if there was something I wanted him to do, to write it down with all the details which I have been and can’t understand why he accused me of not doing it – I still had the notes I had given him to show him this, and even after showing him, he insisted I hadn’t done it.

    He said he’s happy to go back to counselling after he gets back from his conference, but he constantly tells me it’s so the counsellor can tell me how wrong I am and how he’s totally right, and if the counsellor agrees with me on anything I say, then the counsellor is a bad counsellor and has no idea what they are talking and we should find another. Which again is exactly what my first husband did – every time we tried counselling, without me even saying a word (just listening to my first husband explain the “problems”, they’d pick up immediately he was abusive) he’d storm out and say the counsellor was wrong and a bad counsellor and that he refused to ever go back.

    I can’t stay with my parents forever. In fact they didn’t want me to stay this long. And they aren’t very supportive people at the best of times. But I don’t want to go home and I don’t know what to do. We’ve recently moved so I know no one where we live, haven’t got a church home yet and feel so lost and alone.

    • This sounds like the man I married. He has changed almost 100%, with time and lots of struggle. God had to take charge and we learned the hard way, but we learned. Our marriage is on the right track now. I never thought it would be.

      While we were engaged, I saw shades of his anger issue. If I wasn’t where he expected me to be when he expected me to be there, he’d lose his cool, shouting and blaming, and shouting how I didn’t care about his feelings because I didn’t even try to inform him of basic goings on.

      When we were married, he was fine as long as I didn’t ask questions about where he spent money or why, and as long as I didn’t want to make any purchases or have any needs — mental, financial or emotional. I didn’t have any of those things in our early life together.

      When we had children, the anger rose. Anything regarding money became an instant blame on me. I didn’t spend wisely, or I frittered money away. I handle all the paperwork and arranging of household matters because he doesn’t want to do it — his work has him doing that kind of thing all day, and so he depends on me to do it, but would be the first to point out mistakes or “should haves”.

      When asked, he’d say he hated conflict more than anything else. What he really hated, though, was his inability to handle responsibility and stress with self-control. He lived his entire life with controlling parents who didn’t show him the ropes of life, but hauled him along, telling him how to do everything in exacting detail, leaving nothing to chance. They didn’t allow him to experience his own life, they directed all of it.

      He lashed out verbally and physically over any misunderstanding. Not physically abusive to me or anyone, but to inanimate objects, like walls and wooden beams.

      Stress of work — not the actual work, but the financial support of a family, even though he made very good money — topped his temper. Men like this blame all the extraneous parts of life as the largest stressors. They leave work each day, but the stress rides with them … they just transfer it to wives, children and financial obligations that hang in the air like gnats. Annoying, and always in your face.

      The guidance I can offer is this: Begin praying — lots of it and long times of it. Spell out for God all the struggles you feel, in whatever way comes naturally. Crying, screaming and acting out violently won’t hurt Him and they may make a difference — after several sessions with God, you may feel a bigger peace than you imagine possible right now.

      I think I would try to say very little to my husband about the financial issues. I would, though, make one list — large print — of the pressing matters that affect you for the long-term (the large sums of money you can lose, your needed surgery, for instance). During a trivial conversation, let your husband know you respect his working every day, the good income he provides and the benefits of your life. Praise the man. Find ways to praise him every day and don’t miss a chance to do it. Don’t show him the list yet.

      As you go along, bring a little more to the conversation, letting him know that having the responsibility of a job and family is something you feel very thankful that he does for you. As his wife, you want to help where you can, and you have interest in keeping track of filing of papers, sending of fees, etc., with his help, if he would like assistance to help take off some of the stress.

      See where this leads. If he blows up, don’t back down fearfully, but wait patiently. Pray while you wait. Ask him to back up, and to tell you what you said that brought out anger. Work at ironing the disagreements in these small ways. Keep backing up to the point where the anger started until you find the source — don’t keep trying to push forward to get through it.

      Pray all the way. God can move mountains.
      Amy recently posted…How to Destroy Your Marriage the Easy WayMy Profile

      • I’d agree largely with Amy, but I want to say a few more things.

        You say that you’re worried he’ll become violent. If he does, you simply must get help. Immediately.

        Also, if ignoring the financial issues is pushing YOU into bankruptcy, or hindering your financial situation significantly, as it sounds like it is, you may need some outside help if he just refuses to take action. By ignoring the issue you could be seriously hurting your future.

        I would ask him what he would suggest. Say to him something like: “Everyday that we don’t get your payslips or that you don’t mail this in costs me $x. What would you like me to do to help you mail this in? Or what can I do to help move this along? Do you have any suggestions for how we can make that $x in another way?”

        And if he gets angry, then set some boundaries and a time limit. Simply say, “I love you, and I thank you for how hard you work. But if this isn’t taken care of by X date, I am going to have to seek some other help. It’s not that I don’t trust you or love you, but I simply have no choice.”

        And then make a list of all the things that you need done. If they aren’t done, seek out a pastor or some help at church as I outlined in this post. This isn’t an issue of submission or something that can just be left, and he may need some help getting his house in order. But endangering your own health or your own future is not wise.

      • Thanks Amy… a few things I should add…

        We don’t share finances. I’ve been supporting myself since we got married. Due to the whole moving house thing, I’ve been supporting myself at one house while he’s been living at the other for most of our marriage and I’ve been staying with my parents this week til he gets back from his conference. I don’t even have keys to “his” house. I’ve been borrowing money from family and friends because I lost my job just before christmas and he gets aggressive every time I ask him to sort out our finances.

        He’s also been off work pretty much since we got married. He’s only just returned to work a week ago. He took time off to “recover” from the honeymoon, he’s taken time off for “stress” leave.

        I praise him nearly every day for working hard and supporting us but the reality is he doesn’t. The barely working and not supporting me at all has taken its toll. I owe quite a bit of money for the month between losing my job and leaving my house when my lease ended because he won’t help out. It’s not that he refuses, just that every time I ask for him to pay the rent or electricity or other bills, at best he says “I’ll sort it out tomorrow” but never does, and after the bills have past their due dates and my credit rating is in tatters and got late fees added, he gets angry and throws a tantrum and accuses me of nagging if I say they’re threatening legal action if the bills aren’t paid soon – and then still doesn’t pay them.

        Every time I can get him to share why he’s gone completely off at me (which usually takes a few days, sometimes a week or more), it ends up being something completely unavoidable (eg asking him to pay a bill) or something completely harmless (eg asking him how his day was) or another recent one was to go off at me because I asked him not to move a box of my breakable things until I was back from my parents house – he moved them, broke some (which I said nothing about) and then got angry because I didn’t thank for him moving it – even though I had asked him not to move it.

        I keep praying but things are getting worse. I’m really scared of him – his constant nastiness has brought back my PTSD which hasn’t bothered me for many years. I’m scared it won’t just be things he breaks – and I’m scared our daughter will see him smashing things up. I think she already has (I thought it was hidden from her but she’s started getting really aggressive and throwing things and breaking things so I think she’s seen it).

        He’s just constantly angry about anything and everything and it started since we got married. I don’t know what’s causing it. For quite some time now, it’s felt like there is something financial he’s hiding from me, especially as anything financially related sets him off immediately. What he has shared about his finances with me, doesn’t quite add up – he always seems to have way less money than what someone on his income should have. I know how much he earns, just not how much he spends on anything, bills, debts anything. And he’s just said some weird comments when talking about financial stuff that has me thinking all is not ok.

        Thinking about… everything seems to come back to finances, whether it’s talking about paying bills, sorting out joint bank accounts, his promise that our daughter (I say “our” but she’s actually his stepdaughter) would go back to a christian school as soon as a place became available where we moved to (which has tuition fees unlike government schools), his promise to her that she would continue music lessons after we got married, moving our debts into a consolidation loan that is much cheaper, sorting out the government debt vs being paid by them, sorting out the health insurance issue, even asking how his day was… everything seems tied to his work and finances. I have openly asked him if there is anything he’s not telling me and he swears there isn’t, but I don’t know….my daughter and I have comfortably lived on less than 20% of his income but he is always saying how he struggles to make ends meet on his income (and he’s not supporting me and our daughter – me and my family have been).

        I don’t know if I’ve been overly sensitive – my first husband did some very dishonest financial things which left me in large debt that took a long time to pay off and nearly bankrupted me when we divorced. For him, it was a drug problem that led him to sneak money out of our account, and spend his entire pay on payday and leave nothing to pay the rent and bills and buy food – I know my second husband doesn’t use drugs, but I keep wondering if there is something else he’s not telling me, finance related.

        I’ve been praying and our families have been praying but it’s getting worse. I talked to his mum (he suggested it so it wasn’t behind his back or anything) and to be honest, she didn’t even believe he was swearing at me (although did believe the yelling) and it wasn’t until they next spoke and he told her that he actually had been, that she actually believed me.

        I wish I had a christian friend or elder or someone here I could turn to. My best friend is doing her best to support me, but she’s not a christian and doesn’t understand why I won’t just leave him and divorce him. She’s seen how rude he can be without even trying to be and has heard some of the mean and snarky things he has said to me.

        I need someone I can talk to for support. Praying is great and all, and I’ve been doing it, but I need a real person.

        • You do need a real person…I know you said you were new to your area so I had a few ideas. First of all, Focus on the Family has a 1-800 counseling line that you can call but it sounds like you already have a counselor? (If not, here’s the info: http://family.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/14190). Are there any churches in your area that offer counseling to the community? If there are, that might be a good way to start getting plugged in somewhere.

          I know it might sound cold to throw out a book title, but these came to mind when I was reading your posts so I thought I would just suggest them in case they were helpful. Leslie Vernick – a Christian counselor – has written two books 1) How To Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong and 2) The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. The first one basically talks about the role suffering plays in our life, and how to still show love and act in a godly way when your spouse is acting in a sinful way. She believes there are times to overlook sin and stay silent, and there are times when it is wrong to NOT stand up against sin. In the second book, she defines destructive relationships and then talks about how to take a stand against them – 1) speak up 2) stand up and 3) step back. She then also talks about how to find personal healing even while you remain in a relationship with a destructive person (and she’s not talking about staying in a physically abusive relationship.)
          Elizabeth@Warrior Wives recently posted…Do Women Change More Than Men?My Profile

    • The thing that most immediately caught my attention and concerned me greatly is the fact that you said that you have contemplated suicide to escape this situation. If you are serious about that, you need to take steps to ensure that you don’t have means and opportunity available to you! I was very close to suicide (for completely different reasons) – I’m talking I already had a note written – 10 years ago. Praise the Lord, someone realized what I was doing before I could go through with it and got me the help I needed. So I understand that feeling of desperation, the sense of unbearable mental and emotional pain that seems that it will never end. I’ve compared it to when a trapped animal chews off a limb to escape; death seems like the only way to make the pain stop. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that the pain WILL end! You will not always feel the way you do now. God has a plan for your life, and suicide is NEVER part of it. He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3), and Jesus came to give you abundant life (John 10:10) and peace (John 14:27). Lean hard on Him, and don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help!

    • This is a textbook abusive relationship. Get help immediately. You deserve better. All women do.

  11. The word “submission” has lost it’s meaning in today’s world. It alludes to weakness, mindless drudgery, and low self-esteem.
    The truth that God created us for specific purposes, with woman as the “help-meet” defines submission more fully. I look at the topic of submission the same as every other biblical lesson — you can’t read one verse and know the full meaning. Each time I read or learn about a particular biblical truth, I attach it to those I already have experienced, and I continue to build in all directions. Our faith path is life-long … isn’t this why? We can’t possibly understand everything in one reading of the Bible, and we can’t learn and grow from only one source.

    My husband and I avoided conflict like the plague — both in our dating/engagement and throughout most of our marriage. We had tremendous conflict, but it came in the form of huge blow-ups. I have a long fuse, he has a short one. I could ignore his short bursts for a long time, storing up for the big BANG. Through researching communication and proven marriage workings, I have been the vehicle for change in our marriage … certainly not a worldly submissiveness!

    I submit myself through my study of marriage for the benefit of my husband. For his good. For aiding in his work toward Christlikeness. I do not push or prod, but I share. I do the legwork so he doesn’t have to, just as I am the “go-fer” when he does household projects … I find the tools, he uses them. Those are acts of submission, and through them, I have a certain power. I honor him because I care to help him, and I want the best for him.

    I’m also submitting to God in this work, because I know our marriage is ordained by Him and will only thrive through His mercy and grace, and by following his perfect instructions. My husband never reads the directions … he’s known for it. So, my acts of submission involve learning and growing so he can also learn and grow.

    It’s tedious, this defining of language — the sects that conform to male “reasoning” on biblical commands which lead women into true, slave-like submission, cannot see the truth. They have trained themselves to act on human want and desire, and to twist the Word back on itself.

    If someone is suffering due to submission, it’s not biblical submission.
    Amy recently posted…How to Destroy Your Marriage the Easy WayMy Profile

  12. workinprogress says:

    I was really struggling with this post until I clicked over and read your “Revive Your Attitude” post. This post, along with that one gives the proper balance. What we can’t forget is that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things. Before I confront my husband on an issue, I always take it to God in prayer. Sometimes He clearly tells me to keep quiet about it. Sometimes He gives me the go-ahead and an opportunity to bring it before my husband. I can tell you this much… I have never ever made progress with an issue that God has told me to keep quiet about (and went ahead and confronted anyway). God knows your husbands heart and his readiness to face an issue. If he isn’t ready, you’re just going to make it worse by confronting (at least, that’s been my experience)
    We also have to remember that there is a difference between confronting a sin or habit, that he may not be ready to confront, and a heated discussion about where the kids will be going to school, or whether to spend money on a new car right now. All are valid conversations, but when he feels that his character is being put on the table (sin, habit, etc) most men are going to put a defense up and not be able to receive your admonition.

    • I’m lost… how does one confront a husband about sin that he’s not ready to confront but that is badly hurting you and your child?

      For us, it is constant angry outbursts that lead him to smash things up and over very little or absolutely nothing at all. I’m constantly walking on eggshells and have actual PTSD from it, and our daughter has started smashing things up including quite valuable items like my laptop etc.

      And he can’t even blame me for it (although he does) because he does it too when he’s losing a computer game and other things entirely unrelated to me (and our daughter is copying that too).

      He’s not ready to confront his angry outbursts and speaking badly to me and smashing things up but I can no longer cope with them. Literally cannot cope with them – I’ve had to start taking antidepressants to cope with the depression and anxiety from the PTSD but I can barely function any more. Even getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle, and whenever my daughter isn’t home, I go back to bed and cry.

      I know he’s not ready to confront his abusive behaviour – he denies it is abusive and thinks there is nothing wrong with it. I mean, if it was a sin that wasn’t damaging me and our daughter so directly, I could leave it alone until he was ready to confront it but it’s too damaging to ignore anymore.

      Is there any way I can get him to confront it before it breaks me?

      • Is there any way I can get him to confront it before it breaks me?

        Yep, move out. Tell him you are not going to file for divorce, but you will not live in a violent and abusive household, nor will you raise your child in one. If you don’t have a place to go, then make him move out.

        He has refused to change up to this point because there are no significant consequences for his refusal to change. Up the ante, force the issue, make him reevaluate his decisions and behavior. Prove to him by your actions that you are serious. As a condition for moving back in together, insist that he attend counseling sessions with you on a regular basis.

        Need some assurance? Go watch a week’s worth of Mark Gungor’s TV show. He strongly recommends using separation to correct major dysfunctions in a marriage. One of his favorite lines is “women live in lousy marriages because they allow their husbands to do whatever they want.”

        In other words, wifely submission does not mean being a doormat for bad behavior. Stand up for yourself and for your child. Be a “Godly butt-kicking woman”, to borrow another one of his phrases.

        • I agree, Mark, and I’ve suggested this to other women before, especially over financial/porn issues. If he is doing something which is endangering the family by not stepping up to his responsibilities, then this is a good step.

          BUT–and I mean definitely BUT here–this should not be taken without first going to at least one mentor couple, and likely a pastor or elder, and talking things over. And I’d recommend trying to get your husband to go too so that they can hear both sides of the story. Quite often there is another side, and I think before we take a drastic step we really need to involve the counsel of others.

          • My only quibble would be in cases of violent behavior, I believe moving out should be the first step, then go to the pastor or a mentor couple. Personal safety first, then start addressing the behavior with others. In other cases, such as porn, finances, addictions, then sure, go to the pastor first and use the separation as the hail Mary play of the day if all else fails.

      • workinprogress says:

        Jay- I am not at all suggesting to ignore violent, abusive behavior. Not. at. all. I agree with Mark that you have the option of moving out and letting him know that you will not live with him until he addresses his anger issues. This isn’t trying to control and demanding that he change. You’re giving him the option of either seeking help for himself or losing his family. You have to decide if this is behavior that you are willing to accept. If not, then you have the power to give him the choice to either change or lose you. Is this something that you are able to hear from God about? Has he specifically told you to stay or leave? Only you know what God has specifically spoken to you about this situation.

        I was referring to habits and behaviors that *I* do not feel it necessary to end my marriage over. And I didn’t say to remain silent, I said to ask God what to do. When we gather all of our facts and present our case to our husbands without God’s leading, we are working in our own strength rather than letting God lead us in dealing with the situation.

  13. It seems like there are two extremes among the Christian women bloggers…either you submit without confronting sin or ever speaking up or you don’t believe in wives submitting at all; the balance here is great. I believe that if a wife is a husband’s helpmeet, and if she is put in his life to help him become more godly (as he is put in her life to do, ideally), then it isn’t being a helpmeet to NOT speak up about sin. You’d be simply allowing him to continue in a downward spiral away from Christlikeness.

    On the other hand, though, I see a lot of wives (younger wives, mainly) who are not doing a great job differentiating between what needs to be confronted and what needs to be let go of. Everything is a battle. I’ve listened to wives turn him not doing the dishes into a sin, or leaving socks on the bedroom floor as a sin (laziness, being inconsiderate) and spend a ridiculous amount of time fighting over it. You pointed it out, but I think we really need to carefully evaluate what areas of our husband’s life we should be confronting.

    Within my church (and probably others) there seems to be this crazy number of wives leaving their husbands lately, and while I can’t put my finger on why this is happening so much lately, I’ll bet that a lot of it is not handling conflict in a godly way, either by ignoring sins until there is a crisis point or confronting too many perceived sins (that may not really be sins at all).
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    • Yep, part of the problem is that we’ve turned the command for husbands to love their wives into a command for women to “feel” loved. Is it awesome to feel loved? Yeah. Do my hormonal, fickle feelings define whether or not my husband actually loves me? Nope. And when we focus on “feeling” loved guys get told to give lots of backrubs and not press for sex and to pick up their socks and have long, deep conversations with their wives where they “really” listen. In other words, they start acting a lot more like a girl friend with facial hair. This isn’t actually attractive to women. What is attractive (generally) is a healthy dose of desire directed at her daily in a non-needy “my super attractive wife whom I can’t keep my hands off” sort of way combined with the emotional fortitude not to melt every time the wife has an emotional day. He’s a very sexy rock she can tie her life to and feel secure. The backrubs and long talks are certainly part of that, but they aren’t necessarily foundational.

      Also, the general trend today is “grrrrl power” and “entitlement” and “don’t settle for less than the best,” and you end up with women who really think they deserve the world simply because they were born with lady parts instead of gent parts. That sort of “cater to my whims and then maybe I’ll reward you with sex” attitude is part of the air we breathe now. It’s highly distressing, although not terribly surprising, that this attitude crops up in the church.
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  14. Good post, Sheila. I tend to see the other extreme more, where the women wear the pants in the family, which isn’t biblical either. There is a balance and my husband and I strive for that balance. My hubby always says that we’re a team. Yes, he’s the leader, but we work together. I’m not a wife that keeps silent but I need to work on how I speak up. It tends to go in the unhealthy direction and I’ve been working on that. I need to remember that the goal should be intimacy, peace, and further oneness and not about being right or showing him how much he screwed up. I’m looking forward to the next two posts. :)
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  15. I have not read all the comments or replies, so please forgive me if this has been clarified, but never in this article does it say, “yes submit, that doesn’t mean you won’t have conflict though and talk it out.” The most that is said is “let it go”. So as a husband do I get to only “lay down my life for my bride as Christ did the church” until I don’t think it’s comfortable or until the most recent study/research says that is not in my best interest?

    To be clear, if my wife is hurting or struggling with something I am doing I want her to talk to me. But not all struggle comes from sin, or me being selfish. Part of that is just life, or tough decisions a husband as the head of the household has to make. I think you gone past the line of don’t be a doormat and are walking into the the feminist thinking of today. Again, never does Sheila say submit, not once! Sorry if I’m misunderstanding.

    • I agree with you. Sheila said “Submission means that you think of your husband’s needs above your own; that you study him and love him and seek to build him up; that you honour him as the servant leader.” That’s all well and good but isn’t something missing? Doesn’t “submission” mean “submitting” to your husband, aka obeying him, submitting to his authority, treating him like the leader/decision maker? Most of the things Sheila said were very good advice, but if you leave out the little detail of actually submitting to your husband’s authority, you’re not following the biblical model. Yes, a wife is supposed to be a helper to her husband, but that doesn’t nullify her responsibility to also obey him.

      • I am very curious, and have been, about what kind of a situation you are picturing here. Could you give me some specific examples of what you have in mind when you picture Biblical submission? Thanks for any clarification you can offer.

        • Please let me be clear that I am not at all baiting you — simply wondering what the situation you are picturing here looks like practically.
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        • Example #1: Husband plays video games for hours every night. He’s not neglecting any responsibilities, he gets everything done that he needs to do, he spends time with his wife and kids, but he also likes to spend a lot of time playing video games. Wife doesn’t like what he’s doing, thinks it’s childish and a waste of time and asks him to stop playing games or at least play them less. Husband considers what his wife has to say but decides there is no reason for him to stop playing games and decides to continue. No matter how much the wife doesn’t like it, Husband has made his decision and she needs to submit and respect him.

          Example #2: I wasn’t feeling well this past weekend and my husband told me if I still felt bad the next day to go to the doctor. I am terrified of going to the doctor and really did not want to do it. But even when I told my husband I was scared to go to the doctor, he felt it was the best thing for me to do and gave me an “official husband command” to make an appointment if I still felt bad the next day. I was completely prepared to submit to him and do it even though I really didn’t want to, but lucky for me I did feel better the next day (maybe it was wishful thinking! lol) and he was fine with me forgoing the doctor appointment since I was better. Point being I would have done what he told me to do even though it was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.

          In both of these examples the husband isn’t actually sinning, just doing something his wife doesn’t like or telling her to do something she doesn’t want to do. If he were actually sinning (like if he completely neglected all responsibilities to play games instead), of course she should confront his sin and even involve other people if he refuses to repent. But if he’s just doing something she doesn’t like, she must submit.

          • Thanks so much for those practical answers. The “doctor” one really resonates with me, as I also hate going to the doctor (and get taken care of by my husband in this same way, thank goodness). I am still in thinking as to what Biblical submission means and implies about relationships, and I appreciate your straightforward examples. Thanks!

          • In your first example, if a husband is playing hours of video games every night, there’s really no way he’s really completing all of his responsibilities and spending actual quality time with the kids and his wife. After all, there are so many hours in a day and if a husband spends “hours every night” playing those games, that’s going to affect other things. Plus, if a wife truly doesn’t like that her husband spends so much time playing video games (and hours every night is a lot of time), that is not something that a wife should just “ignore” if she brought it up once or twice to him and the husband essentially decides that he can do it if he wants since he is “head of the household.” It’s a big deal to play video games for hours every night — it truly affects the family life at that time. That would be an issue that the couple needs to truly talk through and discuss — the wife doesn’t need to resign herself to a lifetime lost to video games at that point.

          • You say that if a husband is spending hours playing video games every night there’s no way he’s not neglecting his responsibilities. But you can’t make blanket statements like that because you don’t know every marriage. My husband turns on his computer games as soon as he comes home from work and plays them until he goes to bed. He stops to eat dinner and watch a TV show with me, he stops to finish up some work before bed if he needs to, he stops to have … ahem…. “intimacy” with me, and he would stop if I really wanted to do something with him, like watch a movie or whatever. When we have kids he has assured me that he will spend time with them every evening and not neglect them for the computer games. Most of the night I’m sitting next to him on my computer playing either the same game with him or another game. We chit chat with each other and often have very long, deep conversations while we’re playing. If he’s playing with his friends, he mutes his microphone and stops to attend to me whenever I indicate I need to talk to him. So you can’t say that all husbands who play hours of video games every night are neglecting their families, because it’s simply not true in every case.

            You said that if a wife truly doesn’t like her husband playing video games she shouldn’t have to just ignore it and resign herself to her fate. So, what would you suggest she do? If she discusses it with her husband many times, tells him how she feels, asks him to stop, etc… but he still continues to play, what should she do? Does she not have to submit because her husband is being mean or unreasonable? Where does the bible say “Wives, submit to your husbands… unless he’s just totally being a jerk, then do what you want.” Like I said, if it’s a sin issue, follow the instructions in Matthew 18. If it’s a preference issue, do you suggest she simply ignore the biblical command to submit?

          • I did not intend to make a blanket statement, and I apologize for the misunderstanding. What I meant was that in many situations, especially if the wife doesn’t like the video game playing (which, in your marriage, it seems that you like it, which is absolutely fine), it’s going to lead to problems, especially with the wife feeling neglected. There are men out there who *do* neglect their families and responsibilities due to video game playing, and that’s not right.

            If the woman truly doesn’t like video game playing and she has tried discussing it with her husband, but her husband still ignores her, I would honestly suggest getting some help from a Christian counselor for both individuals. A woman should not have to put up with essentially feeling neglected just so she can say she “submits” to her husband. No, I don’t have scripture to quote me on this, but in this case, if that were to happen, a wife would start to resent her husband for playing the video games. Then, my guess is that would lead to more problems in the marriage, just because the wife is “obeying” her husband’s decision that he gets to play video games all night.

            Over all, I believe that when it comes to lifestyle issues (as playing video games for hours on end all day can be a lifestyle issue), the couple needs to discuss and come to a mutually acceptable agreement. In all reality, in order for a marriage to work, both the husband and wife need to work together and communicate with each other about issues and pretty much everything. Marriage, to me, is a partnership.

  16. Good stuff!
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  17. I would like to point out that there is only one biblically approved example of “confront” for a wife in this article – sin.

    Paul and Peter – two men.
    Paul and Barnabas – two men.
    Gift at the altar – your brother (spouse) has something AGAINST YOU, not you against your brother.
    Hurt feelings do not equal sin.
    Different opinions do not equal sin.
    Not understanding your “heart” does not equal sin.
    Being disturbed by something does not equal sin.
    “Issues” do not equal sin.
    A wife’s feelings are not the holy spirit.

    “Many women felt that submission meant that you didn’t question him.”
    Not that you don’t question, but that you question with an attitude that is ready to submit if he doesn’t agree with you or do what you want. Not backing down over something that isn’t a sin IS rebellion.

    • Thank you for saying this! I thought the exact same thing but didn’t know how to express it in a comment. My concern with a lot of these posts about submission is that there’s this idea that if you confront your husband he will love you like Christ loves the church and do what you want and then you’ll live happily ever after. But you can’t control your husband. Even if he doesn’t love you like he’s supposed to, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to hold up your end of the bargain (submitting). Also, your husband may act in love but you may not see it as love if you don’t get what you want. You are still commanded to submit. Women seem to think that there should never be any situation in your life where you can’t get what you want or you have to be unhappy. I sometimes get the impression that women want to believe in submission, but it’s just so distasteful sometimes that they have to create loopholes so that they can still get their way. Sheila says “God is more interested in your holiness than your happiness”, but then in another post she said that God never asks you to do anything that is physically or emotionally damaging. Hmm… tell that to Paul, Peter, John, Stephen and a host of others who were called to suffer great physical and emotional damage for the sake of Christ.

    • I’m sorry, but if your husband doesn’t agree that your feelings are hurt after you confront him one time about those hurt feelings a wife is supposed to just “submit” and say that she needs to obey her husband and believe her feelings aren’t hurt?!? That’s absolutely ridiculous to say, as a husband has no way of saying if his wife’s feelings should be hurt or not. A husband NEEDS to know if he hurts his wife’s feelings, and the husband learns about this through open and honest communication. Instead of focusing so much on the wife submitting and obeying the husband, the church should focus more on both the husband and wife communicating well with one another, which builds a good marriage.

      • Whoever said a wife can only tell her husband her feelings are hurt once? No one is saying she can’t confront her husband and try to get him to understand her point of view. What I’m saying is that after she has done that, if he still continues doing whatever he’s doing, she needs to submit to his decision. Basically once he’s made it clear that he has heard her opinion, considered it and made his decision, then she needs to stop bringing it up. If she keeps going on and on about it after he’s made his decision clear, she is no longer “discussing” but is now “nagging”.

        • This is a perfect example where I think couples fail to communicate effectively, so let’s continue this train of thought for a moment.

          We are all talking about the issue as if it were video games.

          It’s not.

          The issue is that she feels neglected, and she fears that it may continue into the future.

          So the issue to discuss is not whether or not he plays video games too much; the issue to discuss is what can they do as a couple so that she doesn’t feel so neglected. Can they make an agreement to go for a walk after supper every night? Can they agree that Thursday is date night and they’re going to do something special? Can they agree to watch a movie together on Wednesday nights? Can they agree to go to bed at the same time, so that they can have some conversation/cuddle time? Maybe he could text her from work a few times a day to say what he’s thinking about her.

          If she just “submits” and stops talking about it, they haven’t dealt with the issue. And my problem is that most people do not know how to identify the real issue. Instead, they say, if you disagree on something, you should submit.

          If she feels neglected, they can talk about ways to help her not to feel neglected, even if he were to continue to play video games. They could find the “win-win”. That’s called a healthy marriage, and it isn’t about her not nagging or not addressing his video game use. It’s about identifying the real issue and talking about constructive ways to deal with it.

          • Anonymous says:

            Sheila,
            Can I ask then, and I beg you please answer this….over and over again in your reply you constantly refer to “her needs, frustrations, hurt feelings, etc.” Do you understand his need to be respected? To be the leader, the final say, to have his wive submit to him? You keep coming at this from one side…

            I totally agree in communication, but are you ever going to say a wive needs to submit? If not please tell me so because my wife will gladly submit to me and stop reading your blog then, as I then think you are not teaching biblical principals but what you think is best. I’m sorry, it is really frustrating. There will be times in life where there is not a win-win, where you don’t agree, that he believes he is doing the right thing, the thing Christ wants him to do, but you totally disagree- do YOU submit?

            As a husband who daily strives to love his wife as Christ loves the church it is absolutely agonizing to hear loopholes #1-31b on how to get what you want, need, feel is correct and not submit. I’m sorry if I’m coming off offensive or mean, to say I’m troubled by this post is an understatement and I would really like to know what you believe as we put alot of weight on your thoughts. That said, I think this is a huge window into exactly that, your thoughts and how they are formed.

  18. Here’s my issue, and I won’t address it to anyone in particular because a lot of people have said this, so I’ll just try to wrap up.

    The reason I never said submit is because we don’t agree on what that word means. I very did clearly say that there are times you have to let it go, which seems to be what people are also saying submit means. So that’s fine.

    What I don’t understand is why so many people are so quick to say, “submit, submit, submit!!!!”, as if this is a triumphant thing.

    You know what a wonderful thing is? Learning how to talk through problems and address them. Let’s say she feels neglected because he’s on video games. Or he feels badly because she talks to her mom too much. Or she feels that he doesn’t parent well. Or he feels that she doesn’t care about his preferences about how the house is kept.

    None of these are issues of sin, but these are the sorts of things that draw us apart. These are the sorts of things that start causing bad feelings in the marriage; that build those walls between us.

    And I think rather than talk so much about how she must eventually submit, we in the church should spend FAR MORE time talking about how to work through these things. That’s far more constructive. She has real concerns. He has real concerns. Having one of them put those concerns on hold for the sake of the relationship may not actually save the relationship in the long run.

    On the other hand, learning proper communication techniques, learning each other’s love languages, learning how to figure out what the real issue is, instead of going around and around–these are the sorts of things that really build relationships. These are the sorts of things that create rock solid marriages. And these are skills that very few couples have, because we aren’t taught them.

    So my concern is that we in the church are so busy teaching submission that we’re not actually teaching the practical aspects of building a solid marriage. And to me, communication techniques are far more important that anything else.

    My husband and I have been married for 21 years. We have faced the death of a child, extremely stressful student days, lots of problems, and more. And I don’t remember ever, even once, saying, “I’ll do it his way because I need to submit.”

    We always felt that if one of us had to give in we had somehow failed. The goal was oneness; that’s what we were aiming for. And so we pushed through. We found that common ground. Quite often the solution we came up with was not something that either of us saw beforehand. But as we talked, and prayed, and cried, and looked at the issue, God brought things into focus.

    I know not every couple can do this all the time, but I think most of us could learn how to do this far more frequently than we do. It usually involves learning how to listen, how to identify the real issue, and how to find the win-win.

    Why don’t we spend MORE time talking about creating that win-win and creating oneness than we do talking about how “she should submit”? It just seems backwards to me. I’d rather build a marriage where both people agree, and I think that is possible in most cases, especially when people are Christian and are seeking after God.

    • THANK YOU!!!!! This is truly, truly an extremely great comment and view! Communication is extremely important in marriage and knowing how to communicate well builds a strong marriage! Wonderfully said!!

    • Thank you so much for clarifying this! I am also confused about why submission is touted as a “first line” kind of defense. And about why people wouldn’t try to work out solutions that work for everyone. Submission to one person’s idea does seem like it should come at the end — a useful directive if you can’t work things out in another way. I definitely don’t see why a couple should view marriage essentially as a power struggle rather than a cooperative endeavor, and I find the way in which submission is discussed implies the former.

    • Perfect response.
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    • I think you have clarified this beautifully. I agree with your original post completely but this clarification really gets to the core issue which is oneness. I find it amazing that we can believe in, worship and preach a God that is all powerful and then in real life not believe that he has the power to bring two people together into his will. My husband and I have been married for almost 16 years and we also have never felt the need for either one of us to force a decision on the other. We have sought God and He has always directed and guided. If we feel differently about a decision or a situation we both take that as a sign that God does not want a decision to be made yet. We both seek God and his will and in his time he always reveals his best for us. Not only does that waiting bring us closer to God but also closer to one another. We’ve been on other sides of the ocean so to speak on an issue and God has always brought us to the same place through seeking Him. He is that powerful even in our closest relationships.

    • What about this verse, Sheila..”.The older women…teach the young women…to be obedient to their own husbands that the word of God be not blasphemed.” God’s command is mighty clear here. Also look up strife, arguing, quarreling, etc. in the Word. It is condemned by God. We are to pursue peace with all men.
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      • Also, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church…as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands i everything.” How do you deal with those verses? They seem very clear to me.
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      • I agree we are to pursue peace, but I address this tomorrow as to what this means. I believe that talking through our disagreements are absolutely essential if we are to pursue peace.

    • Great clarification…I’m looking forward to the rest of your posts on this topic.

      Most of the time, my husband and I are able to discuss and work though big decisions (mostly without arguing because we are good communicators) and come to general agreement. We hardly ever actually argue about big decisions because I think we pretty much trust each other. I think the only thing I struggle with is that sometimes there really is a stalemate about a big issue and someone really might have to give in. I’m not sure that means anyone has “failed”. For instance, for almost a year, my husband and I have disagreed about whether or not to have a 4th child. I wanted one, he is D.O.N.E. Done. My options there are 1) submit and trust that God is working through his decision making for the good of our family or 2) secretly go off birth control and get pregnant anyway or 3) continue to fight about it until he caves and “lets me” have another baby. To me, I’d rather submit even though it’s really REALLY hard. We’ll probably never agree on that one. So even though I’m upset about it (getting over it though as the 3rd kid gets older and “easier” to take care of), because I trust my husband, I really am submitting my will to him. Having a 4th child is not worth sacrificing my marriage relationship over even though there may always be a tiny pang of regret about going along with his decision. Does that make sense?
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    • I am not sure what church you go to Sheila but every conservative church that I have belonged to for the last 32 years of married life has not taught Biblical submission and spent many a sermon and Sunday School class on Communications Skills. We counsel pre-married and married couples and it is almost humorous, if not so sad, to watch them go through 8 weeks of marriage communication and conflict resolution classes teaching them how to fight and argue properly in a marriage, and not a one of the classes ever says to the wife, “and if you reach an impasse in your fight, the wife should defer to her husband’s leadership and give in.”

      No, the opposite is taught. “Men are to understand that women have a sensitive side that needs nurturing, and their feelings taken into consideration. Men, after you have an unresolved fight, go to your wife and apologize to her and make things right. For this is what a loving Christian husband should be doing. ”

      Now look at the results, and be honest … is this not exactly what takes place one Christian marriage after another? Something happens, disagreement starts, and now we are in our “fighting mode” which is completely authorized by my church, but completely forbidden by the admonition of God’s Word. We go at it, usually the man feels a complete lack of respect, the woman a lack of understanding of her feelings, and the man hurts her feelings more by saying something to strong or forceful.

      Christian husband is in the doghouse, silence takes over, and 9 times out of 10 the Christian man remembers his church teachings and goes to his wife and apologizes getting the relationship back on track. Can you tell me this does not happen in your marriage and marriage after marriage UNTIL the couple is taught what submission is and what it looks like?

      Overall I understand your concern for submission not turning a beautiful specimen of intelligence and wisdom into a doormat. Confronting a husband does not mean that a wife is not being submissive. But conflict and fighting are not permitted by the scriptures, so somewhere in between being a doormat and fighting true Biblical submission and husband leadership has the answers.

      It is not an easy answer as to how to deal with any particular circumstance when a husband is disobedient to the word, or simply inconsiderate of his wife. But I can tell you that instructing wives that submission allows for fighting and for conflict is not the answer. Just because psychology discovers that putting three different sets of couples into an experiment and giving each group a different set of worldly tools to use for communications, that fighting and arguing is best, does not mean a thing to the believer. Not that we do not learn from science, but that the experiment is flawed.

      Best of what? I want to create the fourth control group and give me the worst of the worst couples, and I will almost guarantee that no matter how difficult the man, if the wife practices godly submission correctly, which does mean giving your husband the final say, that group will far outshine the fighting groups.

      As some of your comments above say, true Biblical submission cannot be learned from just 8-10 verses that tell a woman to submit, but rather from the whole of scripture and what it says. Yet, the greatest model for submission is one of the Lord Jesus who became a man and submitted to His Father’s will to the point of death on an agonizing cross. He is the one who says that we are to suffer for His name sake. Is not fighting and arguing most of the time at its root a desire to get my way?

      That being said, I cannot feel more badly for wives who chose poorly and ow have husbands who cannot show as much of a speck of how Christ loves the church to their wives. But arguing and fighting will not change such a man, yet countless numbers of such men are changed by the joyful surrender of their wives giving the necessary change over to the Spirit, and not trying to do it on their own. Say it once and drop it is an excellent model for communications, whether it is with your spouse or your boss. That does not mean that a wife cannot bring it up again, nor does it mean she cannot playfully use all of her womanly ways to gently move her husband to where he needs to go to be a great leader of the family.

      God’s tools for submission are almost exactly the same as they are for leadership… “the servant of all.” The only real difference between husband and wife towards each other should be that the husband has the final say, and is honored as the leader of his wife and the family. He is placed by God as the boss.

      So I suggest that one looks back over all the advice given to wives with difficult husbands and view the response a wife can give to him with three things in mind.

      1. If I was at work and I had to keep my job, how would I deal with my boss? Would I argue or fight when I was sure I was right or my feelings got hurt? Probably not, as such behavior would not get the next raise, nor might the next promotion, and it get me kick out the door. Is the husband indeed the leader of my home? If so, I must respect him as such and not be the source of arguing and quarreling.

      2) I can, and should tell my husband anything and everything that is on my heart, yet be sensitive to quiet down and maybe even apologize the moment I sense he is getting upset of significantly disagrees. If I continue to feel strongly about an issue I have every right and obligation to bring it up again and maybe again, but I must pick my places and whatever I do, I must much up my communications with Biblical ideals and admonitions. I will get far more from doing things God’s ways, than by sticking up for myself.

      3) I have a promise from God that even of my man is “disobedient to the word” I can win him with my godly behavior. I will cling to God’s promise and realize that whatever submission looks like it never goes outside the clear teaching of scripture, not to argue and fight, not to be confrontational, but I do have room to confront in a loving way, I do have room to ask my husband if he would like me to hold him accountable for overcrowding his bad habits, I can ask for compromise. When no immediate results are seen, I will run to the stories of the great saints and realize that God’s promises are slow in coming, but I can never get to them if I do as Abraham did and take matters into my own hands. Instead I walk by faith, showing proudly my badge of submission, not because my husband deserves it, but because God gave me a promise and God ALWAYS keeps His promises, even if many are slow in coming.

      I know you feel that submission is over pressed by “the church” and many of us know this to be just the opposite. There are so few truly submissive wives out there in the world, and fewer yet who will train up other wives to see what true submission looks like… not a doormat, not putting up with abuse, but in however I allow my husband to lead, I will always do things God’s way and not man’s ways or my selfish ways.

      I admire you tackling the subject, and I know it is not an easy one, but someone should talk about what submission truly looks like, and not just what it is not. And then let’s all realize that submission is so foreign to today’s world and psychology, yet when practiced fully and properly, it gains the promise and marriages are radically changed for the better. There cannot be two bosses or confusion reigns at work and in a marriage.

      Sorry… I did not intend for this to be so long :).

      • And the truth is that women don’t want men who take their emotions too seriously. Honestly. I want a husband who hears me and honors me and respects my feelings, but I never want him to bend over backwards for them. For instance, I come in and tell my husband I’ve felt neglected for some reason. If he has a melt down and apologizes profusely and tells me how much he never wants to hurt me and how he’ll make sure it will never happen again then he’s effectively said “your emotions are the foundation of this marriage, and I will respond to them that way.” Ummm, my emotions are unstable? I’d like a stable basis for our marriage please! A much better response would be “Thank you for telling me this, and I’m sorry you’ve felt that way. Was there something in particular you’d like us to do tonight because if not I vote we go play pinball.” I brought an issue to the leader, and he thanked me for the alert, validated my feelings, and came up with a plan in a way that anchors me and affirms that he has things under control.
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        • Natalie,
          Then you realize that, but I’m afraid most women on here have not. Read the really listening blog post one down….
          Do I care about my wife’s feelings, yes more than my own, but does that mean I cater to her every whim or desire or feel she is always right….NO!

    • Sheila, the goal of your posts on submission seem to be about oneness in marriage, which is wonderful. I agree with you that healthy marriages seek to be of the same mind and to have peace. You talk about doing this by coming to mutual agreements whenever there is a conflict. This is good advice and I think in most marriages the husband and wife can usually come to a “win-win” agreement and all is well.

      But I think you’re leaving people hanging by not telling them what to do if a couple can’t come to a mutually acceptable agreement, whether because one spouse is being unreasonable or they simply see things differently. Let’s face it, there are times when a husband and wife are simply not going to agree. This is where submission comes in. And the best part is that the couple can still have oneness and peace even if the wife has to submit to something she doesn’t agree with! The way this oneness is achieved is by the wife aligning herself with her husband, fully supporting his decision and seeking to bring her emotions into subjection so that she is fully on board with her husband’s decision. Instead of the two of them being on opposite sides of the issue and the wife just “living with it”, the wife decides to support her husband’s decision and “be one” with him in the direction he is leading them. This is so beautiful because it’s exactly how Christ prayed to the Father “not my will but your will be done” and then submitted his will to the Father’s and set his face toward the cross, never looking back.

  19. Anonymous says:

    A husband is called to love his wife as Christ loved the church, so sure we need to nurture, listen, take care of, hurt for our bride. No one is saying differently. But there are times where God doesn’t say let’s find a win-win situation, he says it’s my way. And no one is saying to not communicate and try to understand. But again, you go for some lukewarm win-win situation. LIfe is hard, there are times where you won’t understand, agree, or like what your husband does, asks, etc but you still need to submit. As women, does that suck (or is it hard)? Yes! But so is loving for our wife as Christ loved the church!

  20. Biblical submission is not one-sided. A married couple is to submit to each other in love and as to Christ (love-oriented). A wife is to submit to her husband as he submits to Christ (leadership-oriented).

    A husband has the greater responsibility here, to offer himself as a Christlike example as head of the household. This requires a husband to think in a Christ-like way as his family’s example in faith. The wife takes her cues from him — submitting to honorable, just authority, and as his partner (help-meet). Both will fail in many ways, and this is where their marriage relationship enters — discussion and action together.

    So if we’re looking at the leader of our home as submitting to Christ, we need to do some discussing and some assessment. Someone frittering away time on electronics or even a hobby, or putting money on unnecessary purchases, or keeping his skills/talents under wraps isn’t being a good steward — that’s not submitting to Christ, be it husband or wife.

    Someone making a decision based on his desires or wants, hearing out his wife’s plea, and then moving forward on the decision anyway, isn’t Christ-like, he is self-centered.

    I hope I’m clear here … if the man to whom I should submit doesn’t pass the “What Would Jesus Do?” test, I will agree to disagree only after having a very focused discussion on why I cannot submit. As the help-meet, I believe my perspective helps, as long as I keep selfishness out of it. I know God wants us all to think for ourselves and to discern the reason for action in all things, not to just accept whatever comes unquestioningly or follow just because you feel you should submit. You can submit to his choice and go with it knowing you won’t die from the agony or suffer consequences of sin.

    We disagreed on how to give gifts at Christmas. We usually place the kids’ gifts out, unwrapped. My preference. This year, after 15 years of not wrapping, he wanted to wrap! I submitted to his wishes — it hurt my traditionalist heart, but it didn’t kill me or do wrong of any kind. Earlier in our life, he was addicted to gaming. He wanted us to hold meals until he finished a level/game. I shared my views on WHY we were waiting, and respectfully declined, starting the meal for the kids (at a preset time, not on a whim) and he joined us whenever he finished. BUT, if he worked late, we waited for him, because his reason served all of us and stood for responsibility. He stopped the gaming, and along the way realized the significance of waiting or not waiting for him.

    I know not every husband would be so accepting. He was not always accepting, but I couldn’t serve an example of “because he said so” rather than a submissive-to-God first approach based on good stewardship in all things.

    Make sense? There’s more to it than “just submit.” There’s more to it than discussion. There’s everything to do with godly means of getting to the right place.
    Amy recently posted…How to Destroy Your Marriage the Easy WayMy Profile

    • Amy, I think you’ve presented that very well. Thank you.

    • That’s what I wanted to say. Well put. I just want to add that because the Husband is the head he is the one that answers to God for his household. Wives really need to keep that in mind.

  21. YES! and THANK YOU!!
    Paul H. Byerly recently posted…Long term goals winMy Profile

  22. Amy,

    What I hear you saying sounds about right, but it is not Biblical to allow yourself the final say as to when you will submit or not submit, UNLESS your submission will lead you sin.

    You seem to believe it is your job to train your husband and lead him in all areas that you think he needs leading. You may be 100% right on some issues, but carry your logic out to the end and you are most likely becoming judge and jury on many other issues and areas of disagreement.

    Do you really want to change your husband? Then count of the Holy Spirit to do the changing and not you. Be patient and show your husband what godly submission looks like in everything, and give God room to work.

    I am not saying don’t speak up… and if that is all you are doing… you have every obligation to be a great help meet to your man, and expose to him areas he should change, but once exposed, it is not a Biblical solution to say, “Now I will not submit and why I will not submit.” By doing so you are modeling for him exactly the opposite of what you want to model, Christ.

    It is a dangerous thing to go off and decide that you are submitting to God by starting your meal earlier, or whatever you are deciding, if sin is not an issue. What you a have really done is told your husband that I will submit whenever you are right, but when I feel you are wrong, God trumps you.

    Does this work in a marriage? YES! You probably have a fabulous marriage that works so much better than others. Your husband is probably rowing fast under your instructions and leadership :), BUT, you will never reach the level of what God wants for your marriage until you go to your man and say to him,

    “Honey, you have been a great husband and reached out to my needs and desires many times, especially when you were dead wrong about something, which I completely appreciate, BUT I want you to become all that God wants you to be as my leader, so don’t be surprised if I do not give in a lot more, with smile, and let you have your way. God says you need to step up to the plate, and I am getting in your way by always knowing a little better what is best for us and the family. It is time I give that important job over to the Spirit who is inside of you. I have trained you as much as I can :).”

    I hope you get the point and are not offended by my words, but true submission is very scary, but if your man is a good man,. and a believer, then turn him loose to really lead you. If not, husbands like him and like me will just wait until God doers the work in our wives lives to allow them to allow us to be wrong, and yet trust us enough to then make it right and learn and grow. God’s ways are scary and tough to completely follow, but worth it in the end. Using communications to train your husband as to one’s needs and desires is fine, so long as you allow him the final say as an act of submission.

  23. Thanks for taking on a difficult and touchy subject, Sheila.
    Gaye @CalmHealthySexy recently posted…Strategy #12 – Build Sexual Confidence – Action – CalmHealthySexy 2013My Profile

  24. Sheila you were right on Twitter (about waking up every day and successfully figuring out how to put bull’s eye right btw your eyes!) I love the discussions! You are bold, tackling these subjects.

    When I was single, God helped me understand that it’s all right to have a strong will. That He gave it to me! He would later help me see that true submission does not mean the absence of a will (or backbone) but the yielding of one.

    Am still learning the balance to be honest, cos my natural tendency is to swing to extremes – either back off completely or drive him up the wall. And either way, it’s not pretty!

    I love what you say about the FIRST and LAST resort – we can’t force our husbands to change. But at the same time, we need to live up to our name – Helper. Not enabler :)

    By the way there are things in my own marriage that I have back off about (as am sure he has ). But months down the line, I feel stirred to bring up the issue and surprise surprise, we are able to make more progress.

    Awesome awesome post and discussions!
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…If You Want your Husband to Lead..then Get Out of his WayMy Profile

  25. I hope that those who are so insistent on the most literal understanding of submission are also busy submitting to their church elders and those in the church who are older, which the Bible also requires.

  26. Excellent post, Sheila – I have been frustrated so many times at Godly women taking this to such an extreme and doing just what you mention — avoiding conflict. Avoiding conflict isn’t biblical at all. There are right and wrong ways to work things out – but avoidance is not the answer. Thanks for posting – judging from the comments, many people needed to read this!

  27. Thanks so much for addressing this, Sheila! As a ministry wife, I’ve seen “submission” misused by a handful of folks – fortunately it’s a small minority. Submission does NOT mean doormat. It’s completely okay to have differing opinions, to voice them respectfully (both spouses) and to argue. It’s healthy. It is absolutely possible to argue without being disrespectful. In the end, my husband is the head of our home and I will submit to his leadership. When this happens, I usually find he was right & if he wasn’t, he’s quick to admit it. Those who see submission as the wife never being able to voice her opinion or disagree tend to be unhappy, sometimes bitter. In my opinion, that take on it is unhealthy.

  28. I was raised by my mother in the Christian Science church. My father was an agnostic. There was little talk of “preparing for marriage”. When I was 18 or so, I asked a church-going friend of mine of another denomination, “what if you never find the ‘right’ person? Wouldn’t it be better to not marry at all than to marry the wrong man?” I don’t remember her exact words, but the gist of it was that God has a plan for our lives and for our happiness. If we don’t find a spouse here, there is always Heaven. I found that encouraging as there was NO ONE on the horizon.

    Although I joined a different church at the age of 27, I don’t thing I was truly converted yet. I fell away and stayed away for about 8 years … until we started having children. This was big….huge, and I needed God in the worst way.

    In that 8 year span, I met my husband. He says he believes in a higher power,…he is not sure what that is. We disagree a lot, we argue occasionally. He has only raised his voice to me in anger on one occasion in 17-18 years that I can remember. But it was an issue that I would handle the same way today that I did then.

    I read somewhere (years ago) that marriage was not necessarily to make us happy, we marry to increase in holiness. Because sometimes it is trying. But it is worth it.
    LuAnn Braley recently posted…A Wife’s Work v2.0My Profile

  29. I can’t wait for the rest of this series. This is something I’ve been struggling with – b/c I don’t feel very submissive and am trying ti figure out what that looks like, sounds like, etc. How do you hash through issues without being a “nag” I don’t want to be a nagging wife!! But I know that is how my husband feels many times. The other thing we struggle with is for certain decisions….I don’t think we’ll ever “agree” but there has to be a decision made and stuck to by both parties. But he wants complete and total agreement. I don’t feel like I have to agree in order to be okay with a decision (and therefore be submitting to his authority).
    Thanks for all the great work you do! I don’t comment often but you always make me think!

  30. Thank you for this series! It seems it is a delicate balance to know when to be quiet and when to deal with areas of conflict head on. You’d think after many years of marriage it would be easier to discern, yet I still struggle with knowing when to allow the Lord to deal with me and what may be “my issue” and when to bring it up with my husband. And, of course, timing, facial expression, tone of voice, attitude all play a part in the equation. I look forward to the coming days of reading your posts.

  31. Great post, Sheila! It is heartbreaking to see how much this submission verse has been so misunderstood hurt so many women in the process, leading them to think they are to submit without question. I’d like to add just one more point: The verse in Ephesians 5:21 is often left out in the conversation about “submission.” God instructed us to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” It’s not just women who submit, it’s also men who submit. Both women and men are equally responsible for building a marriage, resolving conflict, and living to serve one another! Thank you for being brave and speaking your mind! :)

    Blessings,

    Rubi
    Rubi recently posted…Untold Stories Being ToldMy Profile

  32. I have to agree with you in so many ways. I strongly believe in my husband being the head of our household. He does a remarkable job, but we definitely have our far share of fights.I don’t roll over and play dead and just let him make all the decisions on his own. We are a team..a partnership if you will. In every team or partnership, there has to be a leader and he is that in our home. God does give him guidance and he speaks to me as well.
    Through every conflict my husband and I have ever had, I have walked away from it feeling closer to my husband than I did before it started. We know each other well, and through the years we’ve been able to have less fights because we know what the other likes and doesn’t like.
    Crystal Green recently posted…Bedroom Advice Your Grandmother Never KnewMy Profile

  33. It worries me when Christians and churches begin to put “rules” and structures before people and relationships. Christ always focused on people before “rules.” This doesn’t mean that we don’t need structures and order, but some corners of Christianity seem to focus on those things to the exclusion of other, more important, things. That leads to legalism and a lot of pain, and sometimes to people turning away from Christ because of the actions of people in the church.

  34. I totally agree and love this post. Thank you so much for posting!!
    Kathryn recently posted…Dear Valuable Girl: A Message About FriendshipMy Profile

  35. AMEN SISTER!!!! Cant’ wait to see the rest of the series …

    “We are acting as a rag, helpful for polishing a sword to make it look great, but not helpful for actually making that sword effective” …. <3 <3 <3!!! I know way to many women who do this!! … yes hubby and I have our issues, and I was not taught how to fight "well" but he knows exactly where I stand! LOL …. he told me before when I was apologizing for some things "I didn't want to marry a weak woman"!
    Holly recently posted…No Fear ….My Profile

  36. “No, the happiest couples are those who FIGHT. Those who wrestle through issues, and don’t back down until you rebuild intimacy and trust and closeness, end up closest, and have far lower divorce rates.”

    I agree. My husband and I have the deepest intimacy when we’re able to work through our issues. When we don’t talk about the things that bother us and we only talk about surface issues, we become lazy and settle for status quo and this leads to problems festering and lack of intimacy. The other night we finally hashed out an issue I had with my husband, and while it wasn’t pleasant (as we had to face harsh truths), we were able to avoid name-calling, and disrespectful accusations. No couple is perfect, and we certainly aren’t, but we’re slowly learning over time how to fight fairly, how to respectfully disagree with one another, and how to bring up painful, uncomfortable, or awkward conversation topics. The hardest thing for me is not wanting to argue or hurt my husband’s feelings or to appear disrespectful, but to be willing to voice my concerns, things I disagree with, struggles I need help with, and hurts I’m holding that my husband may or may not have caused. But I’ve learned that holding back isn’t respecting my husband because I don’t allow him in, and I selfishly try to “fix” problems on my own, or foolishly ignore warning signs in our marriage. Working through problems (mine, his, or ours) strengthens our marriage and our intimacy.
    Hannah recently posted…Desperate to be Led, Friday’s FeedbackMy Profile

  37. Thank you thank you thank you for this post! My husband and I were raised in very different households, in mine my parents faced issues head on together and argued but worked things out. In his family, his father’s opinion is the end all of everything, and his mother is the “rag”. My husband, understandably, expected a “rag” of a wife, and I end up hurt and feeling disregarded when there is an issue. I thought I was wrong for feeling this way. That I wasn’t being respectful of my husband to disagree with him. Thank you for the encouragement. Looking forward to the other posts!

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Trackbacks

  1. […] what it looks like to truly build oneness and resolve conflict in marriage. Yesterday I said that submission doesn’t mean that we avoid conflict. Today I want to talk about […]

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

  3. […] respects the men that are part of our Christian family.” 2)  Sheila Wray Gregoire’s “Submission Doesn’t Mean You Never Have Conflict” is the first in a 3-part series on the difference between “submission” and turning a blind […]

  4. […] Submission Doesn’t Mean You Never Have Conflict by Sheila Gregoire on To Love, Honor, and […]

  5. […] in marriage is not fun. Either we never mention what’s bugging us, or we have the same fight, over and over, and rarely resolve […]

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