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The Doormat can be withdrawn from the relationship with her husband, mistaking passivity for humility.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

 

What Headship is Not

What Headship is not:  Nice Guy, Dictator, and Manipulator

A Men Only Monday post

 

As I explained last week, the biblical model for marriage Paul gives us in Ephesians 5 is that, as a husband, you have the role of head, “as Christ is head of the church.” Being head is not a role you earn. Regardless of whether you embrace it or not, it is your God-given responsibility. I don’t know why, but that’s how God set it up.

Remember, the clear implication of Ephesians 5 passage on headship is that being “head” means being like Jesus.  It does not mean being boss. Jesus’ kind of headship means displaying Christlike strength and goodness. Your headship as a husband is founded in being both a good leader and a generous lover.

I don’t normally like writing posts about what you should NOT do. But when either strength or goodness are missing from the way you walk out headship, it can do damage to your marriage.  This can be clearly seen in the top search terms that bring wives to my blog.  The first is something like “my husband refuses to lead.” The second, following closely behind in the number of hits, is “my husband acts like a dictator” or similar terms.

I shared a chart last week to illustrate what Christlike headship should look like. Below, I’ve updated the chart to label the three ways in which your headship can fall short.

weak and bad chart

The Nice Guy

There are many wives longing for their husbands to stand up and take their leadership role seriously. Like I said, wives come here for that reason more than any other.

I’m not making excuses, but the widespread pushback against biblical headship, even within the church, has many men reluctant to lead their marriages. Some of these genuinely kind men are afraid of being labeled misogynists or worse. Some have bought into the lie that there should be no distinction in the roles of men and women in marriage. Some have wives who contend for authority, even wives who claim to want their husbands to step up and lead! These men who are hesitant to take their leadership role seriously are what I call “Nice Guys.” They are good but weak.

Society and the church have given rise to the Nice Guy syndrome. These men are pleasers who tend to avoid conflict. These are the men who leave most or all the decisions to their wives, either because they are totally disengaged or because their wives argue and put them down for every idea and hold past decisions over them indefinitely. Nice Guys often just give up, rather than rocking the boat by trying to lead.

Whatever the reason for their refusal to lead, these men often don’t realize that their weakness makes them unattractive to their wives over time. Worse, their resulting disengagement leaves their wives feeling unloved and alone. It’s not a formula for a passionate, intimate or lasting marriage. Many Nice Guys also end up feeling unfullfilled, because I believe there is a God-given desire in most men to prove themselves strong and capable of leading their wives and families.

It’s Nice Guy husbands that pose the biggest threat to biblical marriage today because their error is much more subtle and socially acceptable than the next group.

The Dictator

In days gone by, maybe 50 years ago, this was the number one problem with husbands in marriage. This kind of brutish, self-serving husband led to feminism and the desire for egalitarian marriage. Dictators are the reason the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction, giving rise to so many Nice Guys.

Unloving husbands who use their authority to control or coerce their wives are very bad news. These are the men who are abusive and flaunt scriptures at their wives about being submissive, all the while ignoring the scriptural mandate for them to love their wives unconditionally and sacrificially.

Selfish, controlling husbands give biblical headship a bad rap.

The Manipulator

The husband who is both weak and unloving is double trouble.

This husband is self-centered but lacks the guts to act on it openly. He doesn’t care about what his wife needs or wants from him. He is only concerned for himself.  He will manipulate and deceive in order to get his way but is not willing to confront issues head on.

The manipulator refuses to take responsibility for his actions and shifts blame onto his wife. He plays games to get his way. He is often controlled by fear, and his buried frustrations may bubble up to the surface as angry outbursts.

The manipulator doesn’t refuse to lead because he is incapable, he refuses to lead because he doesn’t care.

Grace Abounds

I have described the Nice Guy, Dictator, and Manipulator in pretty strong terms. There are, of course, many less severe ways to screw up headship.  I know because I’ve done them all from time to time.

There is good news for us who mess up in our quest for biblical headship. 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 skill to lead well and for a revelation of Jesus’s love and strength. Pray for your understanding of the love of Jesus to grow deeper, so you can love your wife in the same way. Note the prayer Paul prayed for the church in Ephesians 3, leading up to the chapter on marriage.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

 Ephesians 3:17-18

This is a prayer God is eager to answer! 

Be diligent. Vigorously pursue the kind of headship Jesus displays to us, his bride. When you slip into actions or words that are weak or unloving, admit your blunder and ask your wife to forgive you. She will admire you for it.

My point in stating what headship isn’t, is to get you to be watchful over your role as husband and to strive diligently to be both strong and good. Your wife deserves that from you, and God is calling you to it. Christ lives in you; you just need to learn to let him out!

 


A cautionary note to wives reading this post: it is not your job to browbeat, manipulate or judge your husband if he happens to fall into one of the non-Christlike quadrants, even occasionally. It is not your job to correct or coerce him. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Don’t even think of forwarding this to your husband, and do not even think of using my labels for name-calling! Your job is to concentrate on your role in your marriage.

Husbands: Strong and Good

Strength and goodness are both essential parts of a husband’s biblical leadership.

A Men Only Monday Post

Strong and Good

In the early days of my former blog, I wrote extensively about biblical instructions for husbands and wives. In the process of moving posts here to my new home, I came across a few I thought worth updating and re-posting for my newer readers. This week and next I’ll be updating and reposting four related posts on the important topic of biblical roles.

As many of you know, the clearest biblical instructions for husbands and wives are found in Ephesians 5:21-33. Today we are looking at instructions for you as a husband, so I’ll  quote the relevant verses from the Amplified Bible.

{21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).  22 Wives, be subject (be submissive and adapt yourselves) to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.  23 For the husband is head of the wife as Christ is the Head of the church, Himself the Savior of [His] body.}*

 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

26 So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word, 27 That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless]. 28 Even so, husbands should love their wives as [being in a sense] their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and carefully protects and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 Because we are members (parts) of His body.

*{ } bracketed verses added for context. This is not specifically part of the husband’s instructions.

What is Real Headship?

In teaching husbands about these verses, I always emphasize two important points:

  1. You should only read the instructions that pertain to you.
  2. Your only reference model should be Christ and the church.

I’m not going to spend any time in this post revisiting the arguments over the Greek lexicon or whether kephale actually means head. I’ve read and researched this extensively and can only interpret Ephesians 5 to mean the husband is intended by God to have a kind of authority in marriage.  The reason I don’t want to trifle over the exact translation (authority, leadership, headship) because whatever term you choose, the context makes it clear that Jesus should be your only definition of headship.

Charting Biblical Headship

What does Jesus’s headship look like? In looking at how Jesus uses his authority, I choose the key attributes of strength and goodness in framing a husband’s role.

It’s important to understand that these two attributes are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you must realize that BOTH are necessary if you are to walk out your headship in a biblical, Christlike manner. To illustrate, I created the chart at the top of this post.  It clearly depicts that there is only one quadrant that fits the biblical description of your God-given authority: both strength and goodness.

A Strong Husband

The strength axis is a measure of your degree of leadership and engagement in your marriage (and family). Rather than being measured by how many decisions you make or rules you set forth,  as it is popularly explained, it’s measured by your degree of emotional and physical presence. Yes, decisiveness is necessary and often helpful, but it’s not the primary measure of godly leadership.

Demonstrate your leadership strength through your engagement with and involvement in the day to day life of your home and family. Be vigilantly aware of what’s going on and how what’s going on affects your wife (and family). Be a proactive leader by stepping in and taking action when things start to go off track before crisis sets in. Be a rock of stability for your wife.

Remember, you are not the captain of the ship to your first mate wife or the pilot to your copilot wife. You are to be as Jesus is to his bride. It’s the only biblical model. Therefore, Christlike leadership also looks like:

  • reliable provision 
  • consistent protection
  • clear direction
  • unwavering trustworthiness

A Good Husband

Goodness in a husband, to me, relates most directly to how he loves, nurtures and selflessly serves his wife.

The tricky part of goodness is that “goodness” looks different for different women. Do you know what words and actions best say “I love you” to your wife? Do you do them on a consistent (daily) basis?

For many wives, love needs to be expressed in the form of feeling emotionally connected and knowing that her needs are important . She wants to feel fully known and understood by you and to be valued and cherished for who she is. It requires a significant degree of communication through conversation with your wife, not something all men are skilled at or comfortable with. Then it requires that you act in a manner consistent with your understanding of who she is and what she needs.

Goodness means expressing your leadership with the heart of a servant. Self-serving leadership is what gives biblical marriage a bad rap, and it will cause your wife to resist your leadership and withhold her submission. Selfless leadership is what Jesus models for us. Learn from His example.

What do you think of the way I’ve charted biblical headship? Did I miss anything significant in the chart above? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Be sure to stop back by for next week’s Men only Monday post: What Headship is Not

35 Years and The Best is Yet to Come

Whether your marriage is doing great or struggling greatly, your best years are still ahead of you.

The best is yet to comeRegardless of the current state of your marriage, there is always more. More passion. More intimacy. More pleasure. More freedom. More trust. More of everything you are longing for in your relationship.

How do I know this? Because I know that marriage is supposed to model our relationship with Jesus, and that’s how it is with him. There is always more. In fact, I’ve found in my spiritual walk, the more I know, the closer I get to Him, the more I realize how much more there is to know and experience in God. There is no limit. It’s the same for your marriage.

35 Years and counting

Jenni and I celebrated 35 years of marriage this week, and we both still marvel at how it just keeps getting better. Of course, it doesn’t happen by default. We are intentional about our marriage and about loving each other well. The biggest part of keeping your marriage on The Path of Intimacy is being watchful – keeping yourself and your marriage off of autopilot.

Five years ago I was writing for YourTango in the now defunct Traditional Love section. I wrote a piece called “Why After 30 Years of Marriage The Best Is Yet to Come.” In it I said:

Are less sex, more fights, poorer communication and drifting apart really the inevitable? With a nod to the movie Date Night, is it really just a matter of time before couples settle for becoming just “excellent roommates?”

I say no!

Whether you have been together six months or six decades, it is possible to see your future as one filled with excitement, passion and great potential.

In the article, I go on to share five keys to keeping the best times in front of you. You can read them here.

It’s been five years since I wrote that article. It’s still true today, at the 35-year mark. And it will be true on our 40th and 50th anniversary because we plan on keeping it that way.

What’s Better?

You may be asking, “What could possibly be better after 35 years of marriage?” Well, let me tell you:

  • Sex – yes I’ll put this one right out there. Although we are in our 50’s and there are a few physical challenges, our sexual relationship exceeds anything we had in those early years of our marriage. Don’t buy the lie of inevitable sexual decline. We have learned how to please each other, and we have learned what it means to be unselfish lovers. We see our sexual relationship for the privilege it is and relish in surrendering our bodies wholly to one another.
  • Intimacy – I define intimacy as being fully known and yet completely loved. After 35 years we know each other inside and out, and still, we are purposeful about pursuing intimacy on a continual basis. And we have learned that grace is an invitation to intimacy with each other, whereas judgment creates separation.
  • Selflessness – we know better now than ever that, because we are one, when either of us serves and blesses the other, we both win. We’ve pretty much banished score keeping from our marriage and have learned to delight in delighting each other as best we know how.
  • Taking a long view – we have been through many seasons over our 35 years. We have weathered some tough times, and we’ve had plenty of joy and bliss along the way. I feel like we understand better now than ever that life will throw some garbage at you, but it will pass. And we know that any trial is best endured together. The closer we remain, the better we can weather the storms of life.

Above all else, it is the revelation of The Bridal Paradigm that keeps us moving forward in our marriage. The understanding of our marriage is continually being shaped by our understanding that our love is a direct reflection of our love relationship with Jesus. As we continually grow in the knowledge and love of the Lord, we continue to grow in the knowledge of and love for each other. It is a truly endless journey.

PS  That’s me and Jenni in the photo above. Check out my about page if you ‘d like to read more about Our Love Story.

15 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Add Fun to Your Marriage

When was the last time you and your spouse had fun together? Plan in some fun today!Fun!

Has your marriage ever hit the doldrums? It happens to almost every marriage at some point. You fall into comfortable routines. You get distracted with the busyness of life. Stress steals your energy and focus. But hey, you figure you can work on your marriage later, when things aren’t so crazy or difficult.

Let me encourage you not to buy the lie of “later.” Because when later never comes along, you can wake up one day and find that you and your spouse are little more than excellent roommates.

Choose Your Path Daily

The truth is that your marriage is on one of two paths: the Path of Intimacy or the Path of Separation. You and your spouse are either growing together or growing apart. There is no middle ground.

What does it take to keep on the Path of Intimacy? Well, it actually takes less than you might think. Mostly, it just requires paying attention and staying off of auto-pilot. You can keep growing closer with the smallest of intentional actions, done on a daily basis.

One of those intentional actions is to add a regular dose of fun to your marriage.

Finding Fun

Adding fun to your marriage doesn’t have to be a huge burden. Fun does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. Below is a list of easy ways to interject additional fun into your everyday routine:

Laugh Together – rent a funny movie, listen to some (clean) comedy, or search YouTube for funny clips together. We like the YouTube comedy channel called “Kid Snippets” from the folks at Bored Shorts. A few fun marriage-related skits are Marriage Counseling , Marriage Problems, and Wedding Jitters.

Food Fun – Try out some new or exotic foods, cook a special meal together, or have a bed picnic. If you are both foodies, watch a show on the Food Network.

Fun & Games – Jenni and I really enjoy playing games together. Try out different games until you find a few that you both consider fun. Two of our favorites are Carcassonne  and Can’t Stop , because they both work great with two players and we are empty-nesters.

Fun Tunes – Buy a few songs or an entire CD of an artist you both really like. Queue the tunes up on a decent sound system, grab glass of wine (or other favorite beverage) and sit together to listen through the songs. Talk about which tracks you like best and why.

Bedroom Fun – There are dozens of ways to add fun into your sex life. For example, try out a new position, a new location or something else you’ve never done before. If something doesn’t work out quite as you planned, laugh it off and scratch it off the list. If you both enjoy it, add it to your sexual menu. Need some new ideas? Try “101 Nights of Great Sex“, full of sealed secret seduction scenarios, 50 for him to do for her and 50 for her to do for him.

Spiritual Fun – Yes, there is such a thing a spiritual fun! We love going to worship concerts. Sign up for the mailing list of your favorite worship groups to find out when they are coming to town. While many of the Christian movie productions are too poorly produced or too trite and cheesy for my taste, there are a few that are very worthwhile. (Sorry, I don’t make movie recommendations, because tastes vary too greatly!). Talk about the movie afterward.

Date Night Fun – Take turns planning date night surprises for each other. Or plan something together using this list or pick something from your “fun box” (see below).

Sleeping Fun – Try sleeping in a different room of the house. Switch sides (or ends) of the bed for a night. Have a backyard camp out.

Kissing Fun – See my last post  for a dozen great kissing ideas. Take the 10 minute make-out session challenge in that post. I dare you!

Gaze at Beauty – Beauty feeds the soul. We love the mountains, though we don’t get there often enough. Maybe you have a local park or botanical garden that will do the trick. Go for a hike if you have a nice place to trek close by. If you find city-scapes beautiful, seek out special locations from which to view your city.

Surprises – Surprises are great fun for most people. Bring home a favorite dessert for you to share. Buy your spouse a new scent. Write a love note and stash it where your partner will find it later. It takes more planning, but kidnapping your spouse for an overnight getaway creates a lasting fun memory.

Get Physical – Have a pillow fight or wrestle together on the bed. Go for a long walk. Rent a tandem bike or kayak. Doing something that requires physical exertion has double benefit of being good for your body as well as good for your relationship.

Family Fun – If you have kids, let them in on the fun too, though it is good for the two of you to have fun alone together as well.

Fun Friends – Are there another couples that you always laugh with when you get together? Plan a double date with them or invite them to dinner.

Be Sporty – If there is a sports team that you both follow, watch a game together, or even better, if time and money allow, go to a game together. Even better than watching a sport is to do one together. Golf, tennis and biking are great couple sports.

Making it Happen

So there you have a bunch of fun ideas – no more excuses! The possibilities are endless! But how do you make it actually happen?

First of all you have to agree together to make fun a priority. Next, you need to get specific about it. Put a plan in place. Maybe you can have a designated night of the week that is “fun night.” You could take turns planning fun activities or plan them together. If weekly is too much, put a few days a month on the calendar, and decide what you are going to do.

Another idea is to create a giant fun list then put each fun activity on a separate slip of paper and put them all in a jar or box – a fun box, if you will. When fun night comes around, pick one of the slips at random and do what it says.

However you decide to do it, do it! Be intentional about adding fun to your marriage.

Add your own fun ideas to my list. Leave a comment.

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