Submitting to a Man in Marriage

Challenges christian women face
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Challenge facing women today and # 3 is…the whole issue of marital submission and head of the household.

Did you know that some Christian women have more power and influence at work (or in their workplaces) than they do in their own homes? Really.

It’s ironic because we live in one of the most liberating generations for women.

For instance, today’s woman has so many options. Our great-grandmothers would marvel at all we can do and become…unless you are super young and your great-grandma is still alive. Well, she may still marvel a little.

Anyway, women are educated, fiscally independent, and are taking their place in today’s world. It’s an exciting time to be alive in my opinion.

At the same time, some Christian women are socially and intellectually stuck when it comes to scripture, ministry, and how some choose to interpret it all.

The perspectives of man as head of the house and feminine submission hinge on scriptures found in Genesis 3:15-16 and Ephesians 5:22. Check them out below.

Genesis 3:15-16 New International Version (NIV)
15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[a] and hers;
he will crush[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

Ephesians 5:22 New International Version (NIV)
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.

Did God mean what He said? Is it supposed to be literal? Where does marital submission fit into all this?

An imaginary woman and marital submission

Allow me a little creative space as I contemplate this.

As an illustration, a contemporary woman might say something like:

My salary pays the majority of the mortgage, I run the home, an entire department in a corporation, and yet I am expected to submit to my husband?

Is it fair for such a woman to be expected to submit ‘head of household’ to her husband?

Further, what if she is more competent than he is with life issues? Does that invalidate marital submission? How does it work then?

You know some men cannot make a simple decision, much less a complex one.

How does today’s independent Christian woman adapt? Should she even have to in such a scenario?

Now …a real-life woman…and submission

“I just felt powerless.” Her eyes dropped downward.

As her friend, I almost felt guilty asking her to re-live the pain of her marriage just because I had been thinking about this topic.

She (like me) grew up in a denomination that socialized women to believe men should have unchallenged authority in the home – regardless of capacity. They drilled in our heads the woman’s role was to serve the male head. What crap.

I lived that reality too. In fact, it was the same denomination. It took me years to forgive those who taught me that mess.

Anyway, she continued to say something that shattered my heart. For one reason because I lover her, but also because it was part of my history too.

“The hardest thing is they justified my mistreatment with the Bible”. I could so relate. I wanted to cry but didn’t want her to cry too so I sucked it up.

This young woman is now divorced from that domineering husband and has since remarried another man. I have too.

Some Christian women like the idea of submission

Ok. Heavy stuff aside.

Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum.

On the opposite side of the conversation, you have Christian wives support the concept of male superiority in marriage.

One friend of mine said she feels liberated in their [male-led] marriage.

She said her role is to submit to him and help him. “Submission for me is not oppressive; I don’t feel oppression is God’s plan for marriage”. She said with the sass and attitude of the singer Lizzo. I think she snapped her neck a little.

Girl, she wasn’t playing around. I was a little scared to push, so I didn’t.

Partnership is the word she used to describe her marriage.

According to her, she and her husband collaborate on household and life issues. Be that as it may, should she and her husband ever disagree, he has what she terms the “winning vote”.

Surprise, Girl!

I actually agree with her. To be clear, I do NOT support a belief men are superior to women. NOPE!

My husband and I have roles and those roles work for us. I manage the home and he happily relents. I also work and earn my own money. He’s fine with that and never questions my use of it.

He propels our home forward financially, but never lords that over me or tries to control me with it.

As for decisions, if I feel strongly about something, he hears me out and often sides with me unless it is something he’s passionate about. It’s rare we disagree and you can likely tell I’m not a punk. I have STRONG opinions and, maybe because of my previous experience (with an oppressive male), I will not be railroaded.

I trust him, though to submit. It’s a weird freedom for me.

Oddly, we agree most of the time. So, it all works out.

He’s strong, I’m strong, but we are quite similar when it comes to core values.

Labeling our relationship doesn’t work for me, but if I had to, I’d say I do ascribe to Biblical submission. It has a lot to do with me 1) picking the right guy and 2) trusting his heart toward God and me.

To be clear, I do not believe in marital oppression. I’ve lived that way once and that was NOT God’s will…for any woman.

It’s our “Business”

Just as a company organizational chart has roles and a chain of command, my marriage does too. My husband does a good job listening to me and consulting me. However, if we ever find ourselves stuck in a decision, I’ll gladly let him make the final judgment.

Personally, I do not feel any less empowered by this stance. It just works for me. I always jokingly refer to myself the “CEO” of the family and he’s the “Chairman”. Do know: I influence that Chairman.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. So, I’m glad God set things up this way.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong in your opinion?

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1 thought on “Submitting to a Man in Marriage”

  1. What a great post. I struggle with this issue as well. I was taught that the man is always the head of household. My parents divorced when I was young and I lived with my mother, who was single for many years. So while I had the base for the idea, my reality was that women needed to be strong and self sufficient. I’m married now, and I’ve discovered that when I step back and allow my husband to be the head of household, to have the final say – that we suffer later down the line. So at this point I’m torn. I want him to be the head of house, but what if he doesn’t do a very good job?

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