After I wrote “My Incredibly Strong, Submissive Momma“, a friend of mine stated that it was missing something. I should have talked more about what submitting to my own husband is actually like. The Bible gives us guidelines for our lives, but isn’t always specific about how to live them out. If you haven’t yet read the blog post mentioned above, please do that first. Then please read on, knowing that my heart’s intent is to share with you, in the hopes that it will help you understand a little better the beauty that lies in a wife’s submission in marriage.
So what does submission to my own husband look like? It’s an all-around attitude of the heart, expressed through my outward actions, showing the respect I have for him and his leadership in our family. It is an attitude that I have to regularly pray for. It does not always come easy (though he is a pretty cool guy). It shows up in how I communicate with my husband, how I talk about him to others, and how I support him. I am not perfect, nor do I always 100% follow everything I’m about to discuss. I do pray and ask God for wisdom. I pray for him to change heart attitudes- both mine and my spouse’s.
Communication– In the past, when I was hurt or slighted, I used to respond with anger, sarcasm, and mean little jabs to “get back” at my husband. I would complain about things he was not doing rather than ask for his help. A huge part of being a submissive wife is wrapped up in how I speak to my husband, especially in moments of stress. Speaking respectfully to him involves carefully guarding my heart against the desire to lash out. Instead, I speak honestly and gently. I share my feelings in love and overlook minor offenses. I try to be better at listening and less concerned with what I am about to say next. When I ask for help, I try to do so humbly. I have to admit, though, that this is a HARD area for me. Reacting without putting my guard up opens me up to being hurt, which I have never liked. I have to pray (sometimes during arguments) that I will display a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4). Many times, when we have disagreements that lead me to be angry towards him, I often have to take a time out to cool off and pray some more so that I can return and continue to treat him with the respect that God would have me display.
Right- “Hey, I think we need to fix that window today. I’d like to go buy some paint for it. What do you think? You want to tackle that with me?”
Wrong- “That window has needed fixing and painting since we moved in. Why don’t you ever do anything about it? You’re always so lazy!”
Right- “I feel hurt that you said you’d rather go with Bob to the game instead of me. I thought we talked about going, just the two of us,”.
Wrong- “Thanks a lot for inviting Bob to go to that game. I guess I don’t mean anything to you at all. I’ll just sit at home and clean all day. Like usual,”.
Talking About Him To Others– There are times when we need to vent. We are not perfect people, and neither are our husbands. Sometimes we also need advice on how to handle situations with our spouses. Vent to God first. Talk with him about problem areas before you talk to anyone else. Second, talk to your husband. When we speak to others about our husbands, even when discussing problems, it should be in as respectful a manner as possible. Do not discuss things with others that would demean him in their eyes. Remember- when the argument is over and you are no longer angry, his reputation will remain sullied in their minds. Especially around close friends of his and family, guard your talk about your spouse. When speaking to your children, be very, very careful to never talk in such a way to cause them to think badly of their father. Instead, we should encourage right attitudes about our husband to others, even during times of stress. You are your husband’s closest family and his helpmate. Don’t betray him to others in moments of conflict. Seeking counseling and talking out problems in healthy ways is good. Just be sure your intentions are to fix things, not “get back” at him when he is not there to defend himself. Proverbs 31:11-12 says: “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” If you struggle in this, ask your husband for forgiveness. Seek to restore his trust in you by guarding your future talk about him. Seek to repair relationships between your husband and others by asking for their forgiveness as well.
Right- “Your daddy is sleeping on the couch because he worked so hard all week long. He’s very tired. Let’s be quiet around him,”.
Wrong- “There’s your daddy again. I guess I have to do all the work around here by myself. Don’t wake him up, kids. You know how fussy he gets,”.
Right- “Jennifer, I think we’re going to have to start going to counseling soon. Bob is so stressed out at work that he’s bringing it home and getting angry at me and the kids. I think he needs someone to talk to to help him work through how to process all that anger, but it isn’t me. He’s shutting down whenever I try to talk to him,”.
Wrong- “Jennifer, Bob is so mean lately. All he does is yell and stomp around like a big baby. You should’ve seen him the other night. He was a bear! I wish I could just shake him and knock some sense in his head. Someone needs to,”.
Sex- This is a subject of great contention in many marriages. Men typically desire to have sex more often than their wives. It’s just how they’re wired. Being a submissive wife means being concerned that this need of his is met. When he expresses a desire to be intimate, unless you are physically unable to, don’t turn him away! This wounds a man more than any negative words you could say. Saying “no” cuts to his heart. It’s as if you are saying you do not love him. After a few rejections, some men will stop asking to have intimate time, relying on searching their wives out for “cues” that it would be okay to pursue them. It leaves men sad and sometimes bitter, and is a surefire way of driving a wedge between what could have been a happy marriage. Mrs. Duggar (19 Kids and Counting) said that anyone can fold your husband’s socks. Only a wife can meet this need. It is so true. Being available to our husbands and saying “yes”, even when you don’t feel like it, is a huge way of showing love to them. Wives should also pursue their husbands sometimes, not place all of the burden of when to have sex on their husbands. If this is an area that you struggle in, you are definitely not alone. Pray and ask God to give you a desire for your husband. Seek counseling if you have been abused in the past, if this is now causing you to struggle in this area.
Disagreements- No husband and wife agrees on things all the time. When there is a disagreement, a submissive wife should still respond with respect and gentleness. I state my opinion and try to remain open to the idea that my way is not always right or the only way. I listen to him. We discuss. When it comes to actually making a decision, my husband is the head of our home. He is responsible to God for the decisions he makes. I trust that God will take care of us, whether or not my spouse is in the right.
These are just a few areas in my own marriage that I wrestle with and strive to be a submissive wife. Why care so much about this? Mainly, because God does. He’s very clear in telling us His perfect plan for us to live in harmony in marriage. Because He loves us, He designed that we work together, with the husband leading and the wife following and helping. It brings peace, love, and contentment. A home that is a refuge for us all. A happy family. A house full of laughter and imperfect people, all trying our best to just live life together. An example to our children for their future marriages. And to the world, a loving marriage models how Jesus loves his church. See below for more on that amazing connection by John Piper.
****If you are currently struggling in your own marriage, know that you’re not alone! There was a time when my spouse and I had a complete shutdown of healthy communication. We had constant arguments, injured hearts and spirits, and angry words we can never take back. We didn’t like each other at all. By God’s grace, our marriage was saved when I thought it was broken beyond repair. If you are in that boat right now, PRAY. Pray for wisdom and softened hearts for you both. God can and does change hearts. Pray that you can talk about it with one another. Seek Godly counseling, if need be, especially if there is sinful behavior needing to be addressed. And seek to be a submissive wife as God would have you to be, whether or not your husband is responding in the way he should.