How A Husband Should Handle His Wife’s Submission

Submit is a verb. Submitting is a voluntary action. That means it is something we ourselves do. It’s not something we make someone else do. Just as we can’t force another person to love us, we can’t force someone to submit to us either. Of course we can make that person do what we want. But then that’s not true submission.

Submission is a choice we make. It’s something each one of us must decide to do. And this decision happens first in the heart. If we don’t decide in our hearts that we are going to willingly submit to whomever it is we need to be submitted to, then we are not truly submitting.

This may be shocking news to you, but an overwhelming majority of wives in my survey said they want to submit to their husbands. They want their husbands to be the head of the home, and they have no desire to usurp that God-given position of leadership. They know what the Bible says on the subject, and discerning wives want to do what God wants because they understand that God’s ways work best.

However, problems often arise in this area because a wife is afraid to submit to her husband for two reasons:

Reason #1: Her husband thinks submission is only a noun, and he uses it as a weapon.
Reason #2:
Her husband has himself not made the choice in his heart to be fully submitted to God.

Okay, okay! I know that God did not say a wife needs to submit to her husband only if he proves to be worthy. Submission is a matter of trusting in God more than trusting in man. But a wife will more easily make the choice to submit to her husband if she knows that he has made the choice to submit to the Lord. It will be a sign to her that it is safe to submit to him. And the goal here is to help her, not force her, into proper alignment.

Many a wife has a hard time trusting that her husband is hearing from God if he doesn’t appear to be submitted to God in the way he treats her. Wives know that after the verse “Wives, submit to your own husbands” (Ephesians 5:22), the Bible says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (verse 25). Christ doesn’t neglect, ignore, demean or abuse the church. He doesn’t treat her rudely or disrespectfully. He never acts arrogantly or insensitively toward her. Nor does He criticize her and make her feel she is not valuable. Rather He loves her, protects her, provides for her, and cares for her. So while God gives the husband a position of leadership in relationship to his wife, He also requires the price of self-sacrifice from him.

When Wives Hold Back
The big question in many women’s minds is, “If I submit myself to my husband, will I become a doormat for him to walk on?” The answer to that question depends entirely upon whether her husband believes he should love his wife like Christ loves the church and willingly sacrifices himself for her —or thinks that submission is a noun and that it is something owed him. In other words, does he only consider his desires and opinions, to the exclusion of hers?

A wife has a hard time giving her husband the reins to her life if she doesn’t believe she can trust him to have her best interests at heart as he steers the course of their lives together. She has trouble going along with his decisions when he refuses to consider her thoughts, feelings, and insights on the subject. And if she has submitted to a male in the past and her trust was violated in some way, it is even more difficult for her to trust now.

On the other hand, a woman will do anything for a man who loves her like Christ loves the church. Submission is easy under these conditions. I know a number of women who are married to unbelieving husbands and who have no problem submitting to their husbands, because in each case the husband loves his wife like Christ loves the church, even though he doesn’t know Christ.

Too often people confuse “submit” with “obey.” But they are not the same thing. The Bible gives commands about obeying other people only in regard to children and slaves, and in the context of the local church. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). “Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh” (Ephesians 6:5). “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account” (Hebrews 13:17). Since a wife is neither her husband’s child nor his servant, and the local church isn’t part of a marriage, the word “obey” has no application to the relationship between a husband and a wife.

Submission means “to submit yourself.” In light of that, when a husband demands submission from his wife, it is no longer true submission. And his demands can become intimidating and oppressive, which breeds resentment. When a husband is more interested in his wife’s submission to him than he is in his own submission to God, then submission becomes a tool to hurt and destroy.

I have seen too many marriages between strong Christian people —high-profile Christian leaders, in fact —end in divorce because the husband demanded submission and resorted to verbal or physical abuse in order to get it. My husband has even counseled men like that, men who refused to hear that losing their family was a horrible price to pay for being “right.” How much better it would have been for the husband to submit himself to God’s hand and then pray for his wife to be able to come into proper order. This kind of situation occurs far too often.

When we submit to God, He doesn’t suppress who we are. He frees us to become who we’re made to be, within the boundaries of His protection. When a wife submits to her husband, she comes under his covering and protection, and this frees her to become all God created her to be. Trust me, you want that for your wife. Her greatest gifts will prove to be your greatest blessing.

If you feel that your wife is not submissive, pray for her to have a submissive heart, first toward God and then toward you. Then ask God to help you love her the way He does. I guarantee that you will see her submission level rise in direct proportion to the unselfish love you exhibit for her. And let her see that you are seeking God for guidance. If she knows that you are asking God to show you the way, she will follow you anywhere.

Please pray for your wife that:

  1. She will understand what submission really is.
  2. She will be able to submit in the way God wants her to.
  3. You will be completely submitted to God.
  4. She will trust God as He works in you.
  5. You will take your position as spiritual leader.
  6. She will trust you to be the head of the family.
  7. Submission will not be a point of contention in your marriage.

PRAYER POWER: Lord, I submit myself to You this day. Lead me as I lead my family. Help me to make all decisions based on Your revelation and guidance. As I submit my leadership to You, enable (wife’s name) to fully trust that You are leading me. Help her to understand the kind of submission You want from her. Help me to understand the kind of submission You want from me. Enable me to be the leader You want me to be.

Where there are issues over which we disagree, help us to settle them in proper order. I pray that I will allow You, Lord, to be so in control of my life that my wife will be able to freely trust Your Holy Spirit working in me. Help me to love her the way You love me, so that I will gain her complete respect and love. Give her a submissive heart and the faith she needs to trust me to be the spiritual leader in our home. At the same time, help us to submit “to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). I know that only You, Lord, can make that perfect balance happen in our lives.

The above article comes from the book, The Power of a Praying® Husband, written by Stormie Omartian, published by Harvest House. This book has 20 short, easy-to-read chapters which share how you can intercede for your wife in areas where she longs for your prayers. There is also advice, personal stories from well-known Christian men, and words from Scripture that will also help you in praying for your wife.

— ALSO —

To learn more on this subject, please click onto the Crossway.com web site link below to read a related article written by Dr Norm Wright:

THE HEADSHIP GOD SUPPORTS

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Comments

73 responses to “How A Husband Should Handle His Wife’s Submission

  1. My husband will randomly make comments like, “Get out of MY house”… Or sometimes I’ll seclude myself in a room to fold clothes/clean so I won’t disturb him and he’ll randomly walk in and want that room to himself and will tell me, “turn that off… This is MY HOUSE and I can do WHAT I want WHEN I want!” Basically he makes me feel as though we aren’t even married and I don’t even live there. I mean, even if the house is in his name … He should still make me feel as though it’s our home, right, because we’re married? I clean “his” house everyday, help with finances (he does work full time while I am part time though… But I take care of my 5 yr old too, bring her to and from school and activities etc).

    I do love my husband… he doesn’t make those comments every single day or anything… But often enough.
    I have submitted and let him be the head of the household… And he is submitted to the Lord … But I just want advice on how to handle this issue because he shouldn’t make hurtful comments like that.

    Anyways… He breaks my heart every time he makes comments like that. …Makes me feel like nothing and that being married doesn’t matter… But maybe I’m wrong to feel that way?

    1. Angela, It’s difficult to say this, but he is not “submitted to the Lord” if he could do these things to you. That is taking advantage of being a “leader” in any way. He is acting clueless as to the covenant partnership he entered into when he married you. Cleaving together as the Bible says does not give a spouse the right to say “get out of MY house” –it is both of yours. You both work together in different ways to make it your home… or at least both of you should see it that way. To be as unloving as to say and do the things you relate to us shows he is not living with you, his wife, in an “understanding way” as he is told to do in the Bible. If he were to read Ephesians 5 & 1 Peter 3 — concentrating on his role as a husband, he would see this.

      You ask if you are “wrong” to have the feelings of a broken heart and spirit. My answer is no. You are not wrong at all. He is not acting in a loving, partnering way. That would hurt any wife, to be treated that way. But then you have to ask yourself, “what can I do about this?” Honestly, I’m not sure. But I know that God can show you, as you look to Him and learn of Him and His ways, to work through these types of situations. Your husband needs prayer and he needs a wake-up call that this is not the way to treat his wife. You need wisdom as to what you can do so you are not treated as a door mat. Please talk to the Lord (continually)… know that your “cause” of working on these types of relationship issues are important and yet delicate. I pray the Lord gives you insight and wisdom, a backbone, yet gives you a spirit of not allowing pride and a victim mentality to overtake your thoughts and actions. Be wise. Seek wisdom, and then do what the Lord shows you. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. I’m just trying to get an answer, my question is: If my husband asks me not to go to Church, should I not go? Or should I obey him and stay home?

    1. Darlene, This sure is a tough question. I guess this is probably something you’ll want to ask a pastor –maybe not your pastor, because he may be a bit partial one way or another, I’m not sure. But it’s good to get good, godly counsel on something as important as this. I’m not a counselor, nor a theologian but I can tell you prayerfully that as I read your question, I was reminded me of the situation with Rahab the prostitute hiding the men of God (as told in Joshua chapters 2-6). She went against the law, and yet God’s will prevailed. Also, Abigail in 1 Samuel 25 had a husband who went against God’s ways of doing things and God worked through her, even though she approached matters differently than her husband wanted. Queen Esther was another example of those who went a contrary way and yet God worked through them.

      Also, I’m reminded of the midwives that didn’t kill the Israelites babies (in Moses’ time), as they were told to do and then Jochebed, the mother of Moses went against the law and hid Moses, putting him in a reed basket to try to save him. We all know how God eventually used that to help his people. And then I’m reminded of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and King David feeding his men on the Sabbath –how God used those situations to do what HE wanted, rather than man’s. But it sure doesn’t make sense to us as human beings. We would write the Bible differently if we were going by the letter of the law.

      I’m writing all of this to tell you that this is a matter of prayer –something you need to talk to God about and decide what wisdom He is giving you in particular, as it pertains to your husband telling you to do something you aren’t sure you should. I’ve known of some wives who don’t go because of the request of their husbands. Sometimes they can do okay with this and others don’t… they find themselves having a tougher time spiritually. I guess that would be a big issue… could you do okay if you didn’t go to church?

      I’ve known of some wives that secretly go to church, and don’t tell their husbands and God seems to close their husband’s eyes to this. I’ve known of others who instead go to other types of spiritual gatherings… sometimes even watching it on TV or listening on radio, and/or meeting with a few spiritual friends to grow that way. But what it all comes down to is, just like in the examples in the Bible, God can lead differently sometimes. You have to know how God is leading YOU in this type of situation. Jesus told the pharisees who were telling Him that He was breaking the law by doing some things on the Sabbath that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” You have to know what GOD is telling you to do here.

      In the matter of submitting to your husband, you have to consider whether Jesus would see it as more important to follow your unbelieving husband on this particular issue, or not. Does God have a bigger plan for you if you stayed home or if you went, or went quietly another way? Ask God, which would YOU have me do? I can’t answer this for you. But if your not going to church in any way, shape, or form would cause you to drift from God… I’m thinking He wouldn’t have you stay away completely. I recommend you read through the “Spiritual Matters” topic on this web site because we have quite a few articles that address the “unbelieving spouse” issue that you may find helpful. I pray wisdom for you and strength to do what God directs you to do.

  3. Hi! I’ve just had an argument with my husband. He always says that I am not submitting to him. This is just an example, but we have arguments like this all the time. This time we got into an argument about Santa Claus, I said that it was lying; he says that you can’t lie to a kid. He wants me to agree with him, but I can’t! I told him when the kids come I would respect him but I really don’t agree with him, because for me it’s lying. And he told me to pray about all the traumas I’ve been carrying from my childhood, and to start being humble :( I can’t stop crying and I don’t know if I just have to keep my mouth shut when I have a different opinion or what should I do? My husband is very loving and if he is wrong I would want us to work it out. Please help, this is destroying me! And sorry, english is not my language.

  4. Well written! I’ve tried to express this to my husband but never had the right words. Thank you so much and I look forward to sharing this with him.

  5. Despite my wife and I both being Christian, there used to be much conflict in our marriage. At my suggestion, we went to counseling, or rather, we went to the first session and after that she did not bother going back. After a few sessions, the counselor, a woman, then suggested I was being abused emotionally. Her idea was very much like those on this board: pray and accept that you can’t make a wife submit.

    I’m a man. I’m not geared to viewing myself as a victim, nor towards accepting a broken situation. I’m built with an urge to fix things, and when nothing else works, to read the manual. All the counseling books, both Christian and none, stress the importance of communication. That didn’t work. So I went to the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, and THE book in it that was devoted solely to marriage: the Canticle (Song of Solomon).

    There I found an opposite answer to all the counseling I had read elsewhere, and one extremely well suited to my masculine psyche: Song of Solomon chapter 5. Here we have a wife who does not give her husband what he is owed, what he needs, what is rightfully his. What does he do? Communicate with her? Pray, hope or go to counseling? NO. HE LEAVES.

    So I told my wife that until she learned to be submissive, to follow where I was reasonably, lovingly and within the correct boundaries of God leading that I was no longer going to be her husband.

    1- I cut my work hours drastically back until we were near financial ruin: that stopped the overspending.
    2- I stopped communicating with her whenever she became verbally abusive and simply left: that got me respect.
    3- When gathered with her friends, with my children there, and the husbands were dutifully LYING about how much they loved their wives and were so happy to be married I said, very calmly, that I regretted ever marrying her because of her overspending, lack of respect and disobedience.

    Oh, I caught flak from everybody and their mother. Funny enough, 20 years later, we’re happily married while one other couple is divorced and the third lives in a miserable state.

    I’m now 35 years married. I’m glad that when things got bad I listened to the Bible and not counselors. I acted as a MAN, and not the emasculated therapy-based caricature that is promoted by feminazis both in and out of Christian circles. No, I never hit my wife, nor did it involve screaming, belittling or humiliation. It simply involved my willingness to live on a metaphorical roof, away from her, until she learned to appreciate my love for her. Yes, it does mean that when she behaves respectfully, I treat her like a queen, work my 10 hour days, and thank her profoundly with all the romance I can muster. It means that I try to be the kind of husband she does not want to lose; and the kind of husband she will temporarily lose if she does not respect me.

    God does NOT love unconditionally. If He did, there would be no Hell. Unconditional Love is not only a myth, it is profoundly anti-Biblical. Christ Loves me forever, no matter what I do, but because He will not ALLOW me to step too far out of line. It is called discipline, it is called True Love, it is Christ being “husbanding” me as a shepherd husbands the sheep. Look up THAT meaning of husbanding, understand that a husband is to be as Christ is to us, and tell me Christ is the doormat so much of modern Christianity counsels men to be.

    A husband CAN make his wife submit, and for her own good he OUGHT make her submit: but he must be willing to risk losing her altogether. There is Hell for those who will not obey Christ. Hell is separation from God. Better separation than a disrespectful marriage. Without respect, there will be lawlessness; and where there is lawlessness, love will grow cold. Choose hot or cold, but choose decisively. Or, in other words, be a MAN.