Question:  “I have a difficult time with the word submission. Can you explain just how submissive a wife should be towards a husband without losing her identity and respect? I am not sure where the boundaries are even. It seems like every time I open my mouth I get into trouble because he feels am dividing the family in some way and making him have no authority.

Today the kids were eating a hamburger in the car, and they were looking for a drink. My husband says to the kids, “Grab your bottle of water” (they keep a bottle in the car at all times). Well, I remembered I had a can of soda in my purse, so I gave it to them, and he says I undermined his authority! I didnt think it was a big deal, but he did.

Our lines of communication keep getting crossed and its a problem and is causing major conflict. How do you communicate with your spouse? Plus this submission thing. Can you explain just briefly (yeah, right) a little on these matters? I need help!”

Answer: Dear Friend, It sounds like you and your husband need to go back to the basics of improving your communication and coming to terms with how you discipline and work together as a team with the children.
The passages on submission and headship in the Bible (Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3) emphasize the importance of love, consideration and respect between spouses. In this context, it is always important to note that power and control should not characterize the marriage relationship. Colossians 3:18-19 reads, “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Ephesians 5:22-29 (excerpts) says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…(25), Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her… husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies…” (I encourage you to read the whole passage).

Pastor Ray Pritchard’s sermon: Men and Women in Biblical Perspective deals with this issue quite well. This sermon would be good for both of you to read, think about and discuss.

Pastor Ray writes: “Headship” means that God has called the man to lead his home—and will therefore hold him personally responsible for what goes on in his home. The emphasis is on responsibility and accountability, not on authority and power.”

There are times when a wife cannot submit when it means relinquishing God’s standards or means giving up her safety in the case of domestic violence. Sarah told Abraham to get rid of Hagar (his other wife/concubine) and God backed her up saying to Abraham “do what she told you.” Abigail told David about the evil schemes of her husband, Nabal – turning him in – so to speak. Nabal died and David took Abigail for his wife. Yes, there are instances where wives stood up for what is right and did not submit. Yet, in 1 Peter 3 it says that Sarah obeyed Abraham in everything.

In your situation, you and your husband need to come to mutually agreeable terms about how to raise and discipline your children together.

Submission is a word which can be described and defined as “willing conciliation.” That means that the wife should be “willing,” not coerced. Wives are to respect their husbands. Husbands are to be considerate of and respect their wives. Both partners should be willing to “put the other’s interests above his/her own” as Philippians 2 describes. The woman should be willing to submit to her husband not be unwilling or forced. The man should be a loving, servant leader – accountable and responsible to God and his family. A loving leader leads –doesn’t manipulate or pressure. A submitter doesn’t “take over.”

Aquila and Priscilla are wonderful role-model of how a couple can work together harmoniously as a team. In Acts they taught Apollos and led him to Christ – offering hospitality to believers and were co-workers with Paul.

Marriage should be mutual servanthood and treated as a ministry. I encourage you to ask your husband to go to counseling with you or to talk with your Pastor. It sounds like there are power and control issues between you. These issues are very destructive.

Read a good marriage book together or attend a marriage conference such as: Christian Prep or a Family Life seminar/conference.

In his sermon: Men and Women in Biblical Perspective Pastor Ray Pritchard writes: “To be “head” means that the man bears personal responsibility and accountability for what happens in his family. It is not a statement about “who makes all the decisions” or “who keeps the checkbook” or “who works outside the home and who doesn’t.” Those issues are best settled on the basis of giftedness. Whoever is better with details should keep the checkbook. End of discussion. “Headship” means that God has called the man to lead his home—and will therefore hold him personally responsible for what goes on in his home.The emphasis is on responsibility and accountability, not on authority and power.”

These books will help you understand each other and learn some better communication skills:
A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage, by Scott Stanley, Howard Markman, Susan Blumberg, Dean Edell.
The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate, by Gary Chapman
His Needs, Her Needs, by Willard F. Harley.

I hope you find this helpful. It’s important that your husband and you work together about parenting issues. Talk over some of these issues and come to a mutually agreeable decision. If your husband is always making the decisions without your input and considering your opinion –then, you are headed for trouble. In Colossians 3 Paul tells the husband to be considerate of and respect his wife.

May you work this out in a loving way. God bless you!

~ Lynette J. Hoy, is a marriage and family counselor, speaker, writer. Her book, What’s Good About Anger? can be ordered online.