What Submission is Not

What Submission is not: The Doormat, The Boss, and The Manipulator

A Wives Only Wednesday post

 

In my Wives Only Wednesday post last week, Wives: Strong and Submissive, I explained how strength goes hand in hand with biblical submission. True biblical submission has nothing to do with weakness or subjugation, as it is so often wrongly characterized. In fact, submission actually requires strength.

Submission Misconstrued

Unfortunately, there is a pretty strong cultural push back against God’s design for marriage, and I find it is mainly due to a lack of understanding of what God’s heart really is on this subject.

What does it mean for you to respect and support your husband’s Christlike “headship” with the gift of your submission? It means that your submission to your husband should be a direct corollary of your submission to Christ. Paul describes in Ephesians 5 how God designed marriage to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church, represented by the Bride-like characteristics in the chart below.

Weak & Unsubmissive

I don’t usually like describing something in the negative, but today I want to introduce you to the three wives represented by the other quadrants: labeled above as the Doormat, the Boss and the Grouch.

The Doormat

This is probably the wife I hear described most often when people protest the notion of submission. “I’m not going to be a doormat for anyone!” The good news is you aren’t supposed to be!

This wife makes the mistake of equating submission with weakness. She is often filled with self-doubt and insecurity. She thinks her opinions don’t matter and that her needs are unimportant, even as the resentment over her presumed “less than” status builds. She thinks she has no voice.

The Doormat can be withdrawn from the relationship with her husband, mistaking passivity for humility. She feels uncertain of her identity in Christ, as co-heir with her husband of the full inheritance that is hers by virtue of her faith in Jesus.

[There are also plenty of “dictator” husbands who treat their wives in this way.  It’s important to realize that Paul never instructs husbands to make their wives submit, but rather to love their wives in a Christlike manner.]

The Boss

This is the wife who feels she must lay submission aside in order to show herself strong and to prove herself capable.

This wife tends to be disrespectful to her husband, her words and tone letting him know of her frequent disapproval. She will put him down to friends and family and broadcast his mistakes in order to “keep him in his place.” She thinks that in order to avoid subjugation she must push for her own way. Her self-interest is front and center of most decisions, and she is easily offended.

The Boss frequently contends for power, thinking that to do otherwise shows her to be weak.

The Manipulator

This wife is neither submissive nor strong, sharing some of the characteristics of both the Boss and the Doormat.

The Manipulator comes across as uncaring toward her husband, from her expressions of disrespect to her self-protective withdrawal from him. She is fearful, distrustful and resentful of any expression of leadership on his part.

She lacks the emotional strength and the integrity to deal with her husband forthrightly. She plays games to get her way. She may try to hide her emotions, but they will eventually bubble up into an outburst of some kind.


To make the point clear, I’ve described the behaviors of these wives in pretty strong terms. Chances are, none of these describes you exactly, but beware of the characteristics they portray. Be vigilant against the mindset that equates submission with weakness. And be vigilant against the world’s prevailing sentiment against submission in any form.

Pursue strength and submission with equal vigor. Glean from your relationship with Jesus the kinds of attitudes and attributes that should attend biblical submission. If you are watchful, you will see lots of parallels between your spiritual walk and your marriage. They are everywhere.

Grace Abounds

To a greater or lesser degree, you are going to fail to be the wife you want to be.

There is good news for those who mess up in their quest to walk out a biblical marriage. It’s called grace!  God is for you and for your marriage. His desire is to see you and your marriage thrive. Pray for the wisdom to love and serve your husband well. Pray for your husband to walk in his full identity as leader and lover. Know that God’s love and approval of you don’t change, even when you slip into weak or unsubmissive actions or attitudes.

God’s grace and love abound, and nothing you do or fail to do can change that. 


A note to any husbands reading this post. The post is intended for your wife. While you can encourage your wife to be strong, it is not your responsibility to make her submit. Work on your end of the marriage partnership, to love and serve your wife as Christ loves the church, giving himself up for her.  Loving your wife well will draw out both her submission and her strength.

Read my corresponding posts for husbands

 

Wives: Strong and Submissive

Submission and strength go hand in hand.

A Wives Only Wednesday Post

 

On Monday I wrote a post for husbands on the way the Bible describes their role in marriage.   In “Strong and Good” I explained how the model for biblical headship is Jesus. Today, I’m addressing wives on their role.

I’ll give you the same two cautions I gave husbands in their post. When it comes to Paul’s instructions on marriage in Ephesians 5:

  1. You should only read the instructions that pertain to your role.
  2. The only valid model for interpreting these instructions is Christ, our Bridegroom, and the church, His bride.

The S Word

Most of you have probably at least heard that there is something about wives and submission in the Bible. Some of you may even know the verses by heart.

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

Ephesians 5:22-24 (NIV)

Some may choose to ignore these verses or pass them off as out of date for our modern world.  But my belief is that if it’s in the Bible, especially if it’s in the New Testament, it’s probably something God cares about and something we should try to understand and apply.

Seeking Understanding

Most of those who have a problem with biblical submission have wrong ideas of what it actually is. What is needed is a clear understanding of the Bible’s perspective. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of explanation in the scriptures about submission, so people seek out understanding from a lot of different sources. For example:

  • Feminism – says women don’t need men in the first place and calling a wife to submission is like calling her to a life of slavery.
  • The culture at large – says 50/50 is the best way to run a marriage. Equality is the goal. Submission is unfair.
  • Wrong paradigms – use models like captain/first mate, pilot/co-pilot, CEO/VP, etc.

None of these perspectives provide useful insight into God’s design for marriage.

What we should focus on instead is the only clear model of marriage found in the Bible: Christ and the church. Specifically, submission is best understood through the lens of your relationship to Jesus. No, I’m absolutely not saying that husbands are gods or equal to Christ. I’m simply saying that the Bible clearly intends that you should glean lessons for your marriage from the way in which you submit to Christ.

Submission and Strength

Many mistakenly think that, as a wife, you cannot be both strong and submissive. But submission and strength are both essential to your role as a wife; they are not mutually exclusive.

Here is how I frame it up:

Strong & Submissive Bridelike

 

The upper right quadrant, the one labeled “Bride-like,” is what I think the Bible calls you to as a wife: to be both strong and submissive.

Forget the notion that submission means you are to be a slave or a doormat or a so-called “Stepford wife.” No, the bride-like imperative means you are to be empowered by your husband, secure and confident in his love, with a sure sense of God-given identity and purpose. This is how we relate to Jesus. This is how you should relate to your husband.

Don’t confuse submission with silence. You are to have a voice, a strong, clear voice in your marriage. But your strength does not conflict at all with the call for you to honor your husband with your respect, to follow and support him in humility, or to be selfless in giving your husband your love and devotion.

The fact is that true biblical submission requires real strength.

  • It requires you to have the mental strength to do battle with the lies you hear all around you about worldly marriage paradigms that say you must to look out for yourself and stand up for your rights. It can be a real challenge to keep your mind in agreement with the way God wants you to live your marriage.
  • It requires the emotional strength to face your doubts and fears and to trust in your husband’s love. It requires that you work on your self and on becoming the wife God wants you to be rather than trying to change your husband.
  • And it requires the strength of will to let go of your need to control, to follow God’s design for your marriage and to follow your husband’s lead, to partner with him and to lovingly support him, even when he missteps.

Yes, you can and should be both strong and submissive in your marriage. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. Your submission actually makes you powerful. True submission is a gift you give to your husband. The choice is wholly yours, because submission that is demanded or coerced isn’t biblical submission at all.

In your marriage, do you struggle with submission or with being strong? Share your story, leave a comment.

Be sure to come back next week when I explain “What Submission is Not.”


You might want to check out what some other wives have to say about what submission means to them:

You can also read my post “Respect, Submission and Trust” or Part 6 of What I Believe About Marriage, “Love, Respect, and Submission

A Great New Resource for Christian Wives

Four lady blogger friends are teaming up to create a powerful new sexual intimacy resource for wives.

Sex Chat for Christian Wives

When four marriage blogging powerhouses team up to talk about sex in marriage, it’s time to pay attention!

Bonny Burns (Bonny’s Oyster Bed7), Gaye Christmus (Calm, Healthy, Sexy), J. Parker (Hot, Holy & Humorous), and Chris Taylor (The Forgiven Wife) agreed to let me interview them about their brand new podcast project Sex Chat for Christian Wives.

So here is what they have to say about it:

You all have successful platforms of your own, so what is your motivation for doing this particular project?

Our initial responses to this question were “Because we’re crazy,’ “Because we don’t have enough to do,” and “Because 4 ¼ brains make up one complete brain!” Seriously, though, we’re doing this to reach more women with a positive message about sex and intimacy in marriage. Our current platforms (blogs and books) reach women who read. But many women don’t have much time for reading, or they prefer to take in information by listening. So in addition to our readers, who we hope will become listeners, we want to reach women who may not have time to sit down and read a blog post or book chapter, but do have time to listen to a podcast while driving or working out or just going about their day.

We also like the idea of working on a joint venture with friends, and of creating a model of women sitting around the table (in our case it’s a virtual table) talking about things that are important to their lives and marriages. We also want to show that it’s possible to have positive and productive discussions about topics that can be difficult or controversial, even if you have differences of opinion about them. Because, believe it or not, four Christian marriage bloggers can have quite different viewpoints on some topics related to sex and intimacy! So we want to model how people can discuss these kinds of somewhat difficult topics, and hope we will encourage women who may need to address difficult topics in their marriages. And, last but not least, we want to show that it’s okay to laugh and have fun when talking about sex and intimacy!

What kind of wife would most benefit from what you will be doing in the Sex Chat podcasts?

Christian wives will probably make up the core of our audience, and in some ways we’ll be speaking primarily to them. But we welcome other wives too. We hope that women of other religious backgrounds (or no religious background) who are interested in building great sexual intimacy in their marriages will listen to the podcast. And we hope that women who think that “sex positive Christian marriage” is an oxymoron will listen too! Because the church hasn’t done a very good job of presenting sex in marriage as a great thing, especially for wives, and we hope to play a small part in changing that.

How can wives expect to benefit from your podcasts? What impact would it have on their marriage?

We’re hoping to change the game by playing offense. Christians and the church have tended to play defense when it comes to sex – by focusing heavily on “don’t do this and don’t do that” – but we’re going to play offense. We’re going to encourage women to embrace their sexuality, learn to enjoy sex and build deep emotional intimacy in their marriages. And we’re going to make it clear that God’s design for marriage is that both the wife and husband enjoy a fabulous sex life!

We’re also going to share a lot of practical tips. All four of us have a practical focus in our blogs and books. We tend to say “Here are things that you, as a busy woman, can actually do to make a difference in your life and marriage.” And we’re bringing that focus to the podcast, by sharing a variety of practical tips and ideas. From those tips and ideas, we hope that every woman who listens will find some that work for her.

We also think that women will benefit from the collaborative nature of this venture. They’ll hear regularly from four women who have different ideas and perspectives, plus the guests who will join us from time to time.

How can women connect with you?

As you can see there are many different ways to get the podcast. Pick your favorite way and follow/friend/like them right now. They launch tomorrow!

I don’t have the scoop on what their first podcast will cover, but J. mentioned in a recent blog post that so far they have recorded episodes about: Getting in the Mood, Sexual Positions, 50 Shades of Here-We-Go-Again, Stress, Sex Scheduling, Female Arousal/Response, Exercise and Sex, and Mismatched Drives. Quite a starting list!

I’m not a wife, but I assure you I’ll be listening in to what these ladies have to say about sexual intimacy. It promises to be a frank and open discussion ranging over many different helpful and important topics. 

 

He Actually Wants to Make You Happy [WoW]

Your husband really does want to make you happy, but he needs your help!

A Wives Only Wednesday post.

Dare to Believe

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Wives Only Wednesday post. As the name implies these are the posts written exclusively for wives. I also have a Men Only Monday series for Husbands.

I love my wife dearly, but I’m probably not the first husband in history to think his wife can be a bit, well, complicated.

I am willing to bet that your husband genuinely wants to make you happy and love you well. I dare you to believe the best and that he is for you. The thing is, your husband may not always know exactly what loving you well looks like, and here is where you can help him out.

Spell It Out

Even though you feel like he should know or care enough to find out what you need, your husband doesn’t get it. Trust me. If you want it, tell him. Then thank him.

I think God had a sense of humor when he created males and females so differently. I know that isn’t a popular notion today, but the fact is that statistically speaking, men and women are just different.

One way in which they are different is found in their key needs. While it isn’t true in all cases, chances are that your husband puts things like respect, being trusted and sexual intimacy high on his list of needs. You, on the other hand, most likely have a strong need for things like emotional intimacy, meaningful communication and feeling cared for.

Your husband will have a tendency to express love in ways he wants it expressed to him, as do you, which means your are going to need to communicate your needs to him. For most men, however, just expressing your general needs is not enough. He also needs help knowing what that would look like coming from him. Plainly spelling out what love looks like to you in no way invalidates his desire to make you happy. It simply increases the likelihood of him being able to do it.

Even if you have to tell him, it still counts!!

An Unsolvable Mystery

Many husbands look at their wives as an unsolvable mystery. By comparison men are much simpler creatures. If bringing you flowers made you happy last week, then he’ll assume bringing you flowers this week (or every week) will have the same result. It might. Or it might not. In fact there is a small chance that the same gesture, when repeated, will actually annoy you.

Now I’m not trying to accuse you with my observation that women can be complex and hard to figure out. But in my experience, how you receive a love gesture from your husband can depend on many factors: how your day went, your hormone cycle, whether he called you during the day, or any number of other complicating factors.

My point in saying this is that you do him (and yourself) a big favor if you keep on communicating your needs. He wants to meet them, but he may not be able to always sort out what they are in the moment. So help him out by saying, “It would be so wonderful if we could spend a few minutes together after dinner.” Or “I’m so tired, you would be my total hero if you would help get the kids in bed.” Maybe your husband is super aware and sensitive, but it will help him to know where you are and exactly what you need, since it’s likely a moving target.

Help Him Help You

Most guys want to be helpful, and we tend to like to fix stuff, even if we aren’t that great at it.

So let your husband help you out, even if it’s with something you know he will do differently than you (or perhaps not even as well as you). Ask him to carry something heavy, to reach for something you can’t or to help you solve a problem you are wrestling with. He wants to be useful, and he wants your trust.

He wants and needs to be your hero.

Affirmation Works

As your husband makes an effort to love you well and to help you out in practical ways, be sure to show appreciation. He won’t always get it just right, but criticism will cause him to withdraw and give up. He may stop making an effort altogether if he feels he will just fail in your eyes. If he doesn’t feel trusted, respected and appreciated, he will tend to withdraw.

I’m not suggesting you be insincere, but I do suggest that you be a gracious receiver. Give him the benefit of the doubt and affirm him in his efforts.
I know that there are exceptions, but I honestly believe that a vast majority of husbands are good-hearted when it comes to wanting to make their wives happy. Choose to believe in his love for you and his good intentions. And help him to know how to love you well.

 

How to Support Your Husband’s Spiritual Leadership

Simple ways to support and encourage your husband’s spiritual leadership without being controlling or demanding.

Support His Leadership

Welcome to another Wives Only Wednesday. It’s been a while since my last WoW post, so as a reminder, these are posts I do specifically for wives. Husbands can check out the related Men Only Monday post: 3 Simple Ways to Lead Your Wife Spiritually.

Most Christian wives I know are longing to have their husbands take up their God-given role as the spiritual head of the household. So how do you encourage your husband to lead? Many wives either have tried and failed or aren’t sure what to do.

(Note: these suggestion are for Christian couples and do not address the situation of an unbelieving husband. Also note that the “What Won’t Work” section is especially true for a non-believing spouse.)

What Won’t Work

There is a principle that says you can’t push on a rope. When you try pushing, all you get is a tangled mess. This rope principle applies to roles in marriage. Below are some examples of pushing.

Criticism – Many husbands won’t step up and lead spiritually because they fear they will fall short or embarrass themselves. Criticizing your husband’s spiritual life will only exacerbate his fear of failure and judgment from you. The higher the expectations you heap upon him, the less likely he is to step up. Communicating dissatisfaction will likely have the very opposite effect you hope for and cause him to pull back from expressing his spirituality to you. Be aware that he can easily view even well-intentioned questions as accusation (“Did you pray about that?”).

Nagging – Demanding your husband be a stronger spiritual leader won’t work. That is actually you usurping his leadership and will cause him to shrink back further. Nagging him about his spiritual habits will have the same negative effect. Such question as “When was the last time you had a quiet time?” or “Have you read your Bible today?” are actually just veiled attempts to control his spiritual life. It doesn’t work.

Comparison – This is probably an obvious one, but pointing out what other husbands are doing to lead their families spiritually will only make him feel like a failure and inadequate in your eyes. Just don’t do it.

What You Can Do

All of the approaches listed above amount to trying to control your husband. You and I both know that the only person you can control is yourself. Controlling amounts to pushing on the rope of your husband’s spiritual leadership, and it will probably backfire.  So, what can you do to help create an internal “pull” in your husband’s heart to want to grow in his headship role?  Here are a few ideas that are based on love and serving rather than on control:

Show Honor – Let go of your spiritual checklists and expectations. Your husband’s spiritual life is most likely going to express itself differently from yours, and that’s okay. My wife’s quiet times and mine are as different from each other as they can be. Mine are less frequent, less scheduled and tend to be shorter than hers. It took me a while to realize that we are just different in this regard. Honor and respect his way of seeking God.

Value His Insights – Even if (and maybe especially if) you feel you are spiritually stronger and more knowledgeable than your husband, ask for his opinion on spiritual matters. Invite him into your spiritual struggles and questions. Ask him to pray for you about specific situations and thank him when he does. Acknowledge his answered prayers. This has two outcomes. First, it builds spiritual intimacy as you learn to share your hearts in a vulnerable fashion, and second it helps him build spiritual muscle.

Express Appreciation – Acknowledge every step your husband takes in spiritual growth and in leading your family. Affirm him by saying, “I’m so thankful to have you as the spiritual head of our home.” Thank him when he opens up to you about spiritual matters or offers his perspective. Appreciation will demonstrate your desire for his spiritual leadership without you actually having to say it.

Seek Intimacy – Spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy are all connected. If you desire deeper spiritual intimacy, pay attention to your sex life and to how you act with him emotionally. There is not a formula, but fruit in one dimension tends to spill over into the others.

 


As I said, these actions are about showing love to your husband in language he can appreciate, and when you do these you invite his leadership by offering him your submission. The Greek word for submission used in the famous Ephesians 5 passage on marriage (hupotasso)  means to arrange yourself under. When you willingly show your husband honor and respect with your actions, you are arranging yourself under his loving spiritual leadership.

Of course you should pray for your husband, for spiritual intimacy between you, and for his headship in the spiritual domain of your marriage, but you don’t have to just pray and wait. While prayer is vital and your number one strategy, there are also practical steps you can take that create an environment where his leadership can thrive.

These are my ideas for what will and won’t work in your journey toward a rightly ordered spiritual dimension of your marriage.  I’d love to hear any ideas you have! Leave a comment.

 


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