The phrase “submissive wife” brings to mind images of weakness and male dominance. Submission is definitely not something that most women get excited about or want to strive for. In our postmodern society, we are all about feminism and equal rights for women, breaking the mold of the 1950s housewife who had a hot meal on the table by 6 every night, with her spotless home, perfectly coiffed hair and heels on. But I’m going to suggest that maybe our thoughts on being submissive have little to do with being a “Stepford wife” and everything to do with a healthy, happy marriage. I’m even going to suggest that to be submissive is a sign of strength rather than weakness. Wait. Did you read that right? Hang on! Don’t write me off just yet. Hear me out!
Here are 4 ways that being submissive to your husband builds your character as a person and strengthens your confidence in both your sense of self and the strength of your marriage.
1 | Keeping your mouth shut takes discipline
I really don’t have much of a filter when it comes to my husband. When I’m angry, he knows it. When I’m annoyed, it’s obvious. When I disagree, oh I make it loud and clear. And do we ever disagree! With marriage comes all kinds of opportunities to disagree: setting a budget, deciding what to buy together, deciding how to spend our time together, deciding on endeavors to pursue or not to pursue, and eventually deciding when to start a family, what to name our children, how to decorate our home etc. And when they say opposites attract, they’re not lying! My husband and I have completely different opinions about nearly everything. I mean, at our cores, we have the same beliefs and value systems and thank goodness for that! But when it comes to all the little day to day details, we each have our own and very strongly opinionated ideas.
If you open up the book of Proverbs, there are countless examples of how opening your mouth makes you a fool. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a passage in proverbs and thought to myself, “I’m a fool!” This is not something that is exclusive to wives, it applies to everyone. But since I’m talking to fellow wives here, let me just say that keeping a tight rein on your tongue is the mark of a very wise woman. It may feel very empowering to let your voice be heard and to let your husband feel every stinging dagger and insult that you have to throw in that moment. This act of submission, keeping a rein on your tongue, is one that serves you both. Words are like toothpaste. You can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube. Words, once spoken, are here to stay. Even when apologies are made, the sting and regret of hurtful insults remains.
A strong woman has control over her words.
2| Speaking up with respect takes self-respect and self-assurance.
Just because opening your mouth too much can make you a fool, doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when you need to say something. It’s in the way that you speak, that reveals who you are. If you talk down to your husband and either call him an idiot, or do so with your eye rolls, snarky tone of voice and attitude – A. you’re not being heard and so not being effective. B. you’re revealing yourself to be someone who is insecure and afraid. Don’t believe me? Anytime I have spoken to my husband in those ways, it has been when I am afraid to look foolish. I want to prove how stupid he is being and thus validate the way I am feeling.
If we share our opinions in a respectful way rather than a “How could you be such an idiot?” kind of way, we will be acting with maturity. Plus we’re all more receptive to differing opinions when they are presented with respect. While being shown love is most important to a woman, being shown respect is even more important than love to a man (Check out the book Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs).
But you don’t know my husband. He doesn’t deserve my respect.
You’re right. I don’t know your husband. He could be a truly terrible person. But maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s just a terribly flawed person. Try showing him respect before he deserves it and watch how his attitude changes towards you. You may be the spiritually stronger partner in the relationship. Allow him room to grow stronger. Pray for him like your life depends on it. Because essentially, it does. I hope you will decide that a strong, happy marriage is worth swallowing your pride once in a while by being the first one to change.
A strong woman respects herself enough to show respect to others.
3 | Praying for your husband strengthens your faith
It will also strengthen your marriage. The hardest part of this thing called “submission” is when our own will has to submit to the will of someone else. It’s the part that brings the most controversy and disagreement. You see, the way submission is supposed to work is through a mutual trust and respect. The Bible calls us to submit to our husbands. It then calls husbands to love their wives, as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her. (Eph. 5:22-28) If you have chosen your spouse wisely, you can trust that he is in constant communication with God to make the right decisions for your family (even if that family is just the two of you). When there is an issue that you simply cannot agree on, submitting to his leadership means his decision is ultimate. Is that always easy? Nope. Does that mean he is always right? Nope. What a greater responsibility and standard our husbands are held to because of that! So what can we do? Is it just our lot in life as wives to have opinions that don’t matter or wants that are ignored? I don’t think so. Our greatest calling is to pray for our husbands. Pray for their wisdom. Pray for them to be in close communication with God and accountable to other Godly men.
There have been several times, over the course of our seven year marriage, when my husband has made decisions that I did not agree with – that I even came to resent for a period of time! It frustrated me that his opinion ultimately seemed to be the only one that mattered in the end. In those moments, I felt justified in my frustration and in my resistance to what I perceived as his “control.”
One day, this past summer, I participated in an outdoor worship night with my church. I don’t know if it’s simply because I am such a music lover that God chooses to speak to me during worship or because that is also a time when I shut everything out but him. Regardless, it is through worship that I sense his presence most. And in this particular moment, God spoke to me a word that was totally unrelated to anything I was singing or anything I had heard leading up to that night. He simply told me that I was not allowing my husband to be the spiritual leader of our home. He told me that I needed to submit (ugh) to his spiritual leadership. Now when I say that God spoke to me, I mean that he impressed these thoughts upon my heart and mind. How do I know they came from him? Because they line up with God’s word and they are NOT thoughts I would’ve had on my own. Trust me! And when I heard these things, rather than shake them off or rebel in my heart at the idea of submitting to my husband, the Lord found me in a very receptive place. My eyes were opened to the disservice I had done to my husband and to myself.
When you show disrespect to your husband by doubting or mocking his decisions, you emasculate him. An emasculated man cannot be a leader. A small word of confidence and support from you goes a long way towards building up your husband. We underestimate the power our words have over our husbands. When he knows you are in his corner, especially when you disagree, he has the ability to lead your family with wisdom and clarity. He may make some mistakes along the way, but together you will make it right and God can reward your obedience by redeeming those mistakes. All things work together for good for them that love God and are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
A strong woman incites change through her powerful prayers.
4 | Being a full partner with your husband, in support and unity, makes your marriage strong and successful
Why are there so many unsuccessful marriages today? I believe that even more than a lack of commitment, there is a lack of understanding. Just like so many areas of God’s word, this topic of submission in marriage has been perverted and distorted to the point that it has become something disdainful. As a society, we lack the understanding of submission as something that is designed for a purpose. It exists to protect and empower both the man and the woman in a marriage.
Someone has to lead. Without a leader, nothing gets accomplished. Why does he get to be the one who leads? Because he does. That’s who God appointed to lead. Who am I to argue with the creator of the universe? Any leader of anything will tell you what a burden the responsibility of leadership can be. Those of you who are single mothers or sole bread winners for your family are familiar with the weight that rests so heavily on your shoulders. We are not meant to carry that weight alone. When you are constantly at odds with your husband, you tear apart the support system of your family unit. When you work together, hand in hand, you submitting and him honoring you, God’s purpose in marriage is fulfilled.
A strong woman makes her husband stronger.
I hope you now have a greater understanding and appreciation for this beautiful but often misunderstood design in marriage. The next time someone say to you, “Woman, submit!” Or “Submission is a sign of weakness.” Please, remember these words: Submission in marriage is God’s beautiful design of partnership. Just because the masses believe something different, doesn’t make it true.
Remember the greatest act of submission, when Jesus went to the cross in our place. Because it was God’s will and not his own. He prayed to change it, but God’s will remained. (Luke 22:42) Wherever you find yourself in your marriage today, look to the example of Jesus. Think of what Jesus sacrificed for us. Understand that the relationship between Christ and the church is meant to be mirrored by husband and wife. If Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything for his church, that’s the kind of dedication and commitment He demands from your husband for you.
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