Most of us have heard this. Ephesians 5:22 (KJV) says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”
Now, understand that I’m neither questioning nor contradicting God’s intent or the Bible. Pastors clear it up biblically and theoretically, but it usually lacks satisfaction for women; it always seems to lopsidedly favor men. Also, submission seems symbolic, but men take it literally and many autocratically consider it absolute. Women can’t believe God intended them to be so literally unequal in marriage, but they have so little evidence to argue to the contrary. From what they hear in church, many women resent men, the marital wheels squeak louder, and wives seem helpless to find lubrication to stop the squeaking. Everyone seems to ignore the rest of the biblical story, which for men is easy and preferred.
Wives face an undeserved burden. Submission in the masculine spirit weakens their marital role, seems to allege a subservient condition, reduces self-confidence, encourages masculine dominance, and fosters dispute rather than negotiated settlement. They are victimized, because men interpret and impose the biblical spirit to their own advantage. (Personally, I believe men and even pastors use submission as the final bastion—e.g., ‘God says’— to confirm male dominance as a right and to validate their getting their way at the expense of wife.)
In fact, men need to be taught the following, although those who feel threatened may even reject the reasoning.
We need only two questions answered. Men have long ignored or forgotten the answers although they too come from the Bible.
- Do men have free will? The answer of course is yes.
- Do women have free will? The answer is yes, since all God’s children are equal in His eyes.
Men have the obligation to submit unto the Lord but, since they have free will, they can choose not to do so. With their free will, women can also choose not to submit unto the Lord. Ephesians 5:22 advises women to submit unto both husbands and the Lord. Since they can choose on the latter, they can choose on the former. Women are thus free to submit at their discretion, which makes questions about total submission illogical. Such wifely freedom taken literally and equally, however, doesn’t fit the marriage covenant, but it completes the religious logic of the subject.
Marriage is a formal contract founded on mutual agreement, which is based on the nature of one man and one woman merging their beliefs, emotions, values, standards, and expectations into combined effort for living together. As the direct consequence of their God-given equality and free will, compatibility arises from their mutual ability to match up and make the following natural motivations work successfully for them. And for the relationship expert to make it all fit together in a harmonious whole:
- He is motivated to compete and she is motivated to get around marital competition if she can, to avoid the potential for conflict.
- She is motivated to cooperate and he expects it as the normal benefit of yielding his independence at the altar.
- He is more a producer and she is more a processor. He looks for results. She looks to smooth out bumps in the marital road.
- He is strong on commanding and ordering. She prefers to be asked and expects to negotiate opposite expectations and to help settle disputes.
- He is strongly dominant, easily assumes responsibility, and expects those for whom he’s responsible to submit to his leadership. Without submission by followers, he’s handicapped to achieve his desired results—until spouse convinces him of a better way.
- Both are born hardheaded. The permanence of having a husband energizes her naturally submissive spirit that is available within her natural soft-heartedness. However, wise husbands invariably learn that she also has a hardheadedness that needs to be frequently accommodated or courted.
- For his intended accomplishments, at the surface her submission seems more important than her cooperation. OTOH, she is submissive and cooperative by nature as long as prospects for the future look at least favorable. So, her submission comes more easily when their future looks more promising. She shines when her submissiveness morphs into submission, but it happens more out of what she sees in him than his promises about a brighter future.
- He is primarily concerned with present-day matters. Her main concerns are for keeping their future good or making it better. She sees it in their interest to be submissive in the present if she can more directly shape their lives in the future. Without that tradeoff, however, she tends to resent, resist, and can easily encourage herself to retaliate.
Relationship experts, the wives, just naturally move to the front of trying to achieve harmony when sour notes invade their marriage. Neither spouse is obligated to submit to the other and whoever gets their way depends on their compatibility and desire to work things out to mutual advantage. Whatever their solution, it’s unique for every couple.
Consequently, there is no universal solution. Men continue to expect women to submit. Women can influence and persuade their man provided they can focus on their future rather than being honked off at the thought of submitting actually or even theoretically. For serendipitous effects, women should ignore the subject. Each has to find her own way to induce harmony within her nest, and that one potentially disruptive term should be left out.
When this series continues, a brighter future beckons. Women can benefit by ignoring the subject of submission. By refusing to think of, stir their anger, and follow it with guilt whenever the subject comes up directly or indirectly. Let husbands rant about submission with each other. Women are quite capable of breathing harmony into their home by fixing their thoughts on specific interactions. Some pointers, pearls of wisdom will follow.