Today’s question comes from your comments last week about the issue of headship and submission. A reader said, “My husband won’t let me work even though it’s a job I would love. His reasons are lame but I have no choice, I have to submit.”
I won’t be able to cover everything around this important topic but I want to give you a few things to ponder so that you can make the best, biblically informed decisions you can in your particular situation.
But before I get into specifics, I want to frame this whole topic of headship and submission by saying that we don’t biblically unpack these important topics by finding one or two verses to see what God says about the subject. Rather, we must look at the entire Word of God in context so that we can begin to understand what God had in mind about marriage and his plans for human beings in general.
If we look at God’s idea of marriage, God created Adam and Eve to be mutual partners. They didn’t have a hierarchical relationship as far as we can see from the account in Genesis. For example, Genesis 1:26-28 tells us God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.
So God created human beings, in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
He didn’t give his command to only Adam, but also to Eve. Both were created in God’s image. Both were to reign over the animals. Both were to fill the earth and govern it. That means that Eve was free to make choices and decisions, as Adam was, even if she chose poorly as she did when she listened to the serpent and disobeyed God.
Sin messed everything up and did impact their marriage. God said to Eve, “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). This power struggle between husband and wife was not God’s original plan, but a result of the curse of sin.
In the New Testament, Paul tells us that if we are in Christ, Christ freed us from the curse of the law and the curse of sin (See Romans 5:12-21 and Galatians 3:13). The result of this freedom leads us to a renewed understanding of God’s intention for all human relationships.
One person is not superior, better, or over another because they are a certain race, social status, or gender. Paul concludes this section of his teaching when he declares a radical statement for a culture that practiced class, race, and gender divisions. He said, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
It is in this context that we must read Paul’s instructions in particular to husbands and wives in Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Corinthians. In each of these passages, Paul emphasizes the mutuality and reciprocity of marriage.
For example, in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about the sexual relationship in marriage. It was not a new idea that wives were responsible to fulfill their conjugal duties to their husbands. What was radical in Paul’s writing was the word likewise. God called husbands to the same duty and responsibility to their wives as their wives had toward them (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).
To clarify the issue even further, let’s look at Jesus’ definition of headship. Biblical headship is never described using an authoritarian model of power over someone. In fact, Jesus intentionally modeled headship when he washed his disciples dirty feet and told them he was leaving them an example to follow (John 13:14,15).
When James and John, two of his disciples, were vying for who was going to sit at Jesus’ right hand in Heaven, Jesus stopped them and once again explained his idea of biblical headship or leadership. He said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:42-44). Jesus expressly warned his leaders not to abuse their power just to get their own way or to boss people around (see Luke 22:25-26; Matthew 23:3-4).
Biblical headship therefore is defined by taking the lead in being a servant. It’s never defined as getting or demanding your own way. Paul supports this idea of servant leadership in his instructions to husbands when he says, “Love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her (See Ephesians 5:22-32).
When a husband uses the headship argument to justify making unilateral decisions for his wife he is misusing his position.
In the question we’re answering today, a husband told his wife she was not allowed to take a job she wanted to take and felt she could competently manage along with her household responsibilities.
But let’s carry this idea even further. If we see Biblical headship as a husband having authority to make all decisions on behalf of his wife and family, what if a husband decides his wife can’t visit her parents any longer? Or she can’t talk to her relatives over the phone or go out during the day without him? What if he decides she has to wear her hair short or long, give up her girlfriends, not go on the computer, eat fish instead of pizza?
What if he decides she’s not really sick so she’s not allowed to the doctor? Or, he doesn’t want her to volunteer at her kids school, or attend her best friends wedding? What if he wants her to wear mini skirts, or get breast implants? How much authority does a husband have to take over the decision-making choices of his wife who is an adult woman, created also in God’s image? 30%? 75%? 50%? 100%?
Jason Meyer, pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, (John Piper’s former church) recently said, “Hyper-headship is a satanic distortion of male leadership, but it can fly under the radar of discernment because it is disguised as strong male leadership.Make no mistake—it is harsh, oppressive, and controlling. In other words, hyper-headship becomes a breeding ground for domestic abuse”(tweet that).
Jesus didn’t just teach us about headship, he also modeled submission. But Biblical submission is not just for women or wives. All believers are called to submit to authority (1 Peter 2:13), to one another (Ephesians 5:21), and to God (James 4:7). I have often found the person who demands unchallenged authority and decision-making power over another person often refuses to submit his own self in each of these areas. He won’t submit to authority –he makes up his own rules. He refuses to submit himself to others, or even to God. These individuals are called dictators, biblical fools, not biblical leaders.
Please hear me. Submission is an important discipline for all believers. It challenges our self-centered orientation and teaches us we don’t have to have our way all the time. That is a good thing in marriage where you have two sinners arguing, or in a family where everybody has their own ideas or preferences, or even in a church where factions and disunity could rule if mutual submission was not practiced. However, Christ shows us that Biblical submission is always a voluntary position that is taken by the one who choses to submit (see Philippians 2:6-8). When a wife is not allowed to make choices, how can she voluntarily choose to submit?
Biblically a husband is told to take the lead in serving. Biblically a wife is told to take the lead in submitting. Does that mean a wife never serves? No. Does that mean a husband never submits? No. When the relationship is functioning as God intends, both serve and both submit and it’s a beautiful thing. The destructive elements become obvious when one person is told she must serve and submit and the other refuses to serve and submit.
So what do women do within such an unbalanced marriage? How does she honor God and respect and even choose to submit to her spouse without dishonoring herself by allowing herself to be abused, controlled, or turned into a child?
I’ve answered these questions in my books. The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope, The Emotionally Destructive Relationship: Seeing it! Stopping it! Surviving it! and How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong.
If you’d like to watch some videos on headship and submission and related topics click here to subscribe to our mailing list and get access to 12 great videos.
Lastly here’s an article you might find helpful: Who Gets the Final Say, click here to join our mailing list and get access to great material.
Friends: How have you navigated submission in your marriage when your husband is hyper controlling?
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Thank you very much for this article Leslie.
You’re welcome. I think it’s such an important area that people often misunderstand greatly.
Thank you for such a balanced view that looks at the symphony of Scripture as a whole and does not isolate one passage of the score of the kettle drum. I have just escaped both a marriage and a church that isolates Scripture against the survivor of verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, yet ignores what Scripture has plainly called them to do and to be. Thank you for a refreshing and honest look at Scripture.
How many of us were taught if you can’t agree on something the husband makes the final decision?!—Another lie. The patriarchy groups expose that lie.
*espouse not expose (that’s the last thing they would do).
Yes! I totally agree!
Yes, Joyce Meter teaches this lie and I fell for it – big time. I knew my pastor didn’t like her so I never consulted him about her teaching – big mistake!
Meyer – sorry.
I have heard J. Meyer and others say that, but I think they are speaking in relation to two healthy individuals. If we NEVER submit to their final decision, aren’t we flipping the table to be the dictators/controllers ourselves? It’s not an all or nothing game – each spouse is entitled to have the final say at different times about different things. That’s what a relationship is.
That is something I’ve had to be very careful with as I move forward with other relationships – in the workplace and church as well as the family. Each situation has to be evaluated in its own right as to what is truly right or important, and all the decisions weighed equally… mine can’t be given more “weight” so I can prove I don’t “have” to submit to another’s choice. God does tell us to submit to those in authority… but He doesn’t say 100% of the time.
Yes decisions need to be made and sometimes the final say is made by the one who has the most expertise, the most competence or the most skin in the game. For example a mom might make the final say in a discipline issue if her husband isn’t home or traveling, etc. But that’s functioning like two adults in a partnership which is exactly how God intended marriage to function.
And what is the husband to be doing?—Loving his wife as Christ loved the church; it is a sacrificial leadership. It is one that pleases God. Abusers do not do that and their ungodly demands are not to be obeyed. Would you kill an innocent person if your husband told you to? Would you walk away from a child lost if he told you to? Would you leave your elderly parent alone when in need if he said he didn’t want you to? I hope not, because you would violate the love of Christ for the weak and oppressed.
*should say—“Would you leave your elderly parent alone when in need if he wanted you to?
Here is an excellent article on Submission; I think it will be very freeing:
What Does “Submit In Everything” Really Mean? The Nature And Scope Of Marital Submission — By: Steven R. Tracy
Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008)
God’s perfect design is equality–ruling together. The husband has a leadership role in light of servanthood so no he doesn’t always get the say. At the same time a wife, out of love for her husband,will defer her choice to his. I think overall the goal is win/win.
[…] Does My Husband Always Have The Final Say? […]
I can relate to the job thing, I work from home and LOVE my job, when overtime is offered I like to take advantage of it to help pay off debt. I get grief constantly from my husband who wants to control how many hours I choose to work, or guilt me into saying I am worshiping the dollar or saying my priorities are wrong.
I so agree. Esp the part where you said that you start to feel like a child that has to do what he says or else there is a punishment of some sort. My soon to be ex( I hope) is very covert in the way he controls us, so other people think he is the greatest guy and it is sickening some times.
Thanks for all you do Leslie.
I agree, they treat you like a child in terms of what he is allowing you to do but when you look at the reality of what is going on, you are the responsible adult and he’s a spoiled brat and all the heavy for everything goes on you while he exploits everything he can for his own benefit only. And says it has to be that way because if your insufficiencies, we then start to feel like their mom instead of a mate.
I have a sister who is “stuck in the patriarchy movement and I feel for her – she us like a work horse and when there is extra money – if goes for her husband to buy more guns meanwhile she has never ever been taken on a nice vacation and has a really yucky kitchen with one small sink to cook for her 8 kids and husband. I pray for her too!
Same problem here – mine is covert.
Leslie, I must respectfully disagree with a portion of this post. I have debated within myself this morning whether to speak up or not, but I am compelled to say something. To quote the post:
“Sin messed everything up and did impact their marriage. God said to Eve, ‘And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you’ (Genesis 3:16). This power struggle between husband and wife was not God’s original plan, but a result of the curse of sin.”
My own husband has used this very verse to accuse me on many an occasion. He has repeatedly charged me with the desire to control him, even using this verse as justification for his offensives. I have in good conscience resisted the charge and explained to him that I do not and have not desired to control him. I have come to see that in our case, any disagreement with an opinion of his; a negative response – however slight – to an idea or project that affects me, not just him; disagreement over something that affects the children; or desire to make some of my own decisions about my life appears to be interpreted by him as a desire to control him. This is not an issue of controlling him. To want a voice in my own life and the lives of my children, especially in the context of living with someone who does not have my best interests at heart, is not the desire to control him.
I have, therefore, studied this verse before today. From what I can tell, the version used in the post is the New Living Translation. While this can be a useful translation, it is not the most accurate. Most other versions translate this differently. I will quote the ESV: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” I have heard for years from the pulpit and in marriage books this same interpretation. It is usually used as a way to highlight and emphasize the rebelliousness of women and almost to justify the dominating oppression of sinful men over them. It is not the only reasonable and valid exegesis of this verse/passage. I do not believe it the most accurate in light of the rest of the Scriptures. Rather, I believe, from study, that this verse is referencing the woman’s desire for him, as it simply states. Though, generally speaking, most men and women both pursue marriage, the wife desires relationship with her husband differently than most husbands. We are speaking in terms of the curse and the way the relationship tends without redemption. These are generalities, but she desires his love, his attention, intimacy with him, on a deeper level as a driving desire. She will be more likely to sinfully focus on her desire for him. She will be more likely to make her marriage an idol. In return, the other side of the relationship curse frustrates this desire of hers as he will now rule over her to dominate her. Indeed, though experience is not authoritative, my experience, both in my own life and in observing the relationships of others and the world at large, testify to this latter interpretation. Obviously, salvation transforms some marriages so that these things are tempered and/or redeemed.
I find myself wondering just how many women have really desired to control their husbands. How many have been told that they do so they think they do? I did for a long time. It was kind of crazy-making as I accepted this unfounded charge and condemned myself for it. How many have had any desire to have some degree of self-direction in their lives or have been told they are controlling? How many women rather have intensely desired emotional and spiritual intimacy with a husband to an unhealthy degree?
You raise some good points here.
I don’t know what version of the verse this is, I was not able to find it: “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you”(Genesis 3:16)
I searched over 20 versions and they were all without the word “control” like this one:
“Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”
Let’s not forget the beginning of that verse, ” To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;”
It is inspite of the curse of pain in childbirth a woman will desire her husband–still wanting closeness and companionship, BUT he will want to dominate her.
Lisa, I used the NLT version of the scriptures. But in my other writings I have talked about a woman “desiring” her husband to the point of idolatry and needing to put her marriage in it’s proper place and not being a husband centered wife but a God centered person/wife.
Ok. Yes I do remember you stating it as idolatry with which I agree. Thank you.
I agree with you Paula.
Paula I also forgot to say you express your observations so well; I look forward to your future posts.
Thank you, Lisa. I appreciate your comments/posts as well.
I don’t disagree with you Paula and my blog was highlighting an entirely different area of misuse of scripture but as I’ve said before, sin messed everything up in relationships and whether a woman desires to control her husband or she desires to put him at the center of her world, either place is a problem for her, for them and for the marriage just as it is when a husband dominates his wife. .That was not God’s plan
Yes, indeed, Leslie. I understand.
I resonate with the questions at the end of your article. I found that when I set boundaries to protect myself from unrealistic expectations…like I just had a miscarriage today and I cannot help put up the storm windows (yes, true and sad)…I was accused of controlling him. This happened over and over. To say I had real limits and could not do this or that meant I was too often accused of controlling him. I had no desire to control him. I only wanted the freedom to be human and say I really can’t do that. It took me years to understand the twisted logic that left me feeling guilty for the few times I HAD to say no. It is crazy making.
Just freed, that is terrible, especially after a miscarriage. Crazy making, for sure.
I concur with the discussion of men who blame women that they are trying to control them when they are being anything less that compliant. Those of us in destructive relationships can not compare ourselves to women in healthy relationships who submit lovingly to leadership. We, on the other hand are often stripped of personhood. This has been describe in previous posts and I concur. My H has also said I “interrupt him”, “don’t let him finish his thought” and “tell him what he thinks”. I am perplexed by these responses as none of these claims are my intent. I think he has paused for dialogue (non monologue), was having a conversation with me. It seems rather, I am to listen to his perspective and affirm him. Comments can remind him that his wife/possession has the nerve to threaten his entitled self. It is just so offensive to him that one dares to contradict him. Just absurd that he fantasy wife should dare to speak or act differently than he wants them to.
Sorry my last post rambled. I am getting tired. I slept in the car last night. At least I had a pillow and blanket and no one yelled or cursed at me all night. It is starting to get colder here. I will try to go to the house while he is at work and get some clothes and blankets. At least I made it out of the garage this time. Last time he threw me against the car and kept opening my car doors so I couldn’t drive out of the garage.
He text and said he called trusted friends last night and I am the one making him unsafe. Full victims mode just like Lundy Bancroft teaches. I just flee for my life. I don’t know how that makes him unsafe.
Mary why haven’t you called the police and filed a protection from abuse order?
Leslie, I didn’t think I could call the police for screaming and swearing.
I knew what could be next, so I made an excuse and left. We have an apartment in the city and a house in the country. I am in the country house and he went to the city apartment. I think I am safe at the moment.
We have a Christian counselor appointment specializing in trauma appointment Tuesday. I have been ready to take a break from the 6 month or so counseling because the counselor keeps pressuring me to have more sex, talk about sex and show more affection. I repeated state that my husband is still being abusive. My H says that he is only reacting to something I do that is hurtful. The hurtful things in my opinion are when I express and idea, suggestion or opinion which he sees as “telling him what he thinks”.
Thanks for the support of the blog. I do not have any family, church or other group to support me. Of, course God is so very good and I am never alone.
Mary do you have cellphone with voice recording?
You need protection. Throwing you against the car is dangerous! Stay safe sister! And get aa new counselor!
I don’t know where you live Mary, but the police definitely take those calls seriously in my area. They also keep track of the frequency and any patterns that evolve. You definitely need help from an advocate to safely get a restraining order. Check with your local area YWCA – they have lots of resources and contacts.
Mary, that counselor does not understand the true nature of abuse.
I agree with you completely, Paula, about your interpretation of this verse. I am sad to see the word “control” in the translation, because it seems to have been placed there to interpret the verse in a particular way, when the original may well have meant something else. And “desiring” I see much more as “longing for” as you write. It certainly makes a woman vulnerable to being lorded over.
I also have the difficulty of trying to speak up when my opinion or preferences differ, and it being interpreted as trying to control H. It doesn’t help when this view is preached strongly from the pulpit.
That said, Leslie – I think this blog post is EXCELLENT. You explain so well and clearly how even in submission one may stand up or respectfully object or have a different opinion. I am going to print this out and rehearse speaking it, so that when I must address these issues, hopefully these good and clear words will come out.
I agree with your comments as well, Jilly. So much damage and distortion wrought in people’s lives all while purporting to be scriptural. It makes my heart ache.
Thank you for speaking up because I can’t remember seeing a version saying “your desire will be to control your husband….” only “your desire will be for your husband….”
I believe this balanced explanation of this particular scripture is much more accurate than to say all women, regardless of temperament/personality want/desire to control their husbands. It just is not universally true.
However it is much more universally true to the nature of most, if not all women, to say they have a strong desire to be in relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Think about how young we are when we begin dress up as brides and look forward to that special wedding day. Look at the money, time, and expense we as women put into preparing for relationships with the opposite sex, and “the one” who we desire to be our faithful, true love and soul mate. This is indeed an almost universally God given desire – placed within the heart of women. Contrast this with the way men approach this same relationship. It is worlds apart.
This strong desire can make a woman vulnerable to being exploited by the man in her life, especially the ones who view this desire as a weakness they can twist to gain an advantage over the female(s) in their lives.
I too was surprised that Leslie took the view that all women have a desire to control their mates. I believe the desire is to love and be loved by him, to be one with him, to be special and cherished by him.
If you doubt this, just consider the lengths women will go to to satisfy that desire. This can be the downfall of even the smartest, most intelligent, accomplished women.
Helen, I do not take that view that all women try to control their husband and I made a mistake using my NLT in quoting that verse. But I think the crux of my article showed my intent and what I believe the whole counsel of God says.
Thank you for your development of this concept, Helen. Well said.
Paula – I know what you mean with the control accusations – mine twisted it even further in that he perceived it as an insult to himself if I disagreed with anything. Most things, I let go – they weren’t life or death. The ones I stood firm on became the items that came back and bit me again and again as he insisted I insulted him and he never let them go. In that respect, Leslie’s blog is 100% spot on – they insist you do the thing they cannot do. We are dealing with unhealthy relationships, and most general marriage books/counseling approach it from the assumption of two healthy people that just need guidance in figuring out a God-pleasing way of dealing with things.
Leslie, I wanted to add that I didn’t mean for my previous comment to be quite so long, and that I very much appreciate your post, as it is full of truth that sets people free. So thank you very much.
I like what you say Paula and my husband too quotes Scripture to point out where I fail, saying that he as a Christian is supposed to correct, rebuke etc. If I disagree then I can’t accept truth, not his truth mind you, I am rejecting God’s word. I too am accused of being controlling, and demanding if I ask for help around the house.
It’s all how both sides address problems – are we admonishing each other in love? Or do we just want our way? Scripture should point us to Christ – not be used as a tool of domination. Emotional intellect is so important. A husband could say – I can see you are feeling very overwhelmed right now with all your responsibilities. Live with her in understanding. Encourage her. So many other ways he could ‘love’ her instead of just stating the fact she is being controlling.
The wife on the other hand needs a good girlfriend support group – she can’t expect her husband to ‘save’ her and rescue her. She needs to be aware of her own needs and take care of herself so she can run a household to the best of her ability.
Complex issues at times!
Should I feel judged, shamed, condemned if his truth teaching was done in love? I don’t think so. I feel like a child caught doing something wrong. Not another adult who is capable of making competent decisions, as if I need to be told what is right or wrong.
I just wonder if it is really necessary to admonish anyone. There are so many other aspects of the Christian life that challenge and fulfill. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we obeyed God and let him be the judge.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and’spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.
That’s a picture of a healthy situation :).
I am sorry I didn’t respond sooner, Jennifer. (I have health issues that get in the way of what I want to do a lot). It’s so sick when they equate disagreeing with them (or something of the sort) with disagreeing with God. When I have tried to have a discussion with him about what biblical headship means and what Christ taught us about it, he counters that the Church doesn’t have a right to tell Christ what His headship should look like. Does he not know what kind of a spirit that reveals? I am flabbergasted. He hid this mentality for a long time, though it came out in very subtle, poisonous ways – but I couldn’t define it. Now it is not hidden at all. I think he – and men like him – are trying to usurp God’s role. I think they want us to participate in idolatry, with themselves as the idol. I shudder when I think about his true spiritual condition. I am so sorry that you are dealing with these distortions of God’s ways in your home. May you find strength and freedom.
Yes, I too shudder when I consider the spiritual condition of my H. I have, over many years, endeavoured to encourage him toward a living faith, including attending Christian events (which he has on occasion attended but does not enjoy or participate in as one might expect for a professing Christian) rather he is like a devil, he takes a scripture and twists it for his own end. He has been known to print off swathes of dialogue about “How to be a Godly wife” or “What does a Christian marriage look like?” in order to convince me that what he believes is the real truth but without any submission or servant hood on his part. He thought I would just bow down while he did nothing at all.
I find it interesting that “these abusive men” all seem to have attended the same charm school in displaying the exact same tactics to abuse women. I think it shows whose voice they are listening to.
Mine would often say to me “I wish God would talk to me like he does to you” So I would offer for him to go read the Bible – but he thought he should hear audibly from God and for a long while this is what he expected, meanwhile he remains unrepentant for his behaviour – which he sees as perfectly justified because I do not bend or agree with him a lot of the time.
He is hard work !
Vivienne, it is interesting that abusers’ behavior is very similar. I think it this is so because of their belief system- they believe they are superior to their wives, have the right to control them, discipline them when their wives don’t comply with their wishes. They also believe they are above the rules that they make for othersetc
Because they are so alike, if we learn about their belief system and their behavior, to a certain extent we can predict how they will behave.
My devotion this morning was from Ephesians 5, and I find it very interesting that verses 21 (about all Christians submitting one to another) and 22 (about wives submitting to their husbands) are in the SAME sentence in the Greek and yet they are divided in English translations not just by verse but often times by the added heading “Instructions for Marriage” when really verse 22 isn’t complete without the call for ALL Christians to submit not just wives. I might just need to write a post to flesh out all my thoughts on this one 😉
I agree, K.M. It is sad that translations have split the verse, as if we are moving on to an entirely different subject. No wonder then, that people totally ignore v. 21. Let’s study marriage, they say, and begin with v.22 Wives submit. And then the entire discussion on how marriage works begins with putting a woman in her place.
“When a wife is not allowed to make choices, how can she voluntarily choose to submit?”
It’s apples and oranges.
An abuser husband is not on the same page as his wife. Submission by her is a tool for him to get his way. Their is no mutuality of goal, no consideration of the effects on the wife, children, no care for her needs, desires.
Thank you. I am going to print off your article and read through it again and again. I am not married now but if I should marry I would want my future husband to read it with me.
I wanted to be submissive to my husband and trust the Lord so I myself played into the problem. I like how Leslie points out that the balance of scripture is necessary.
My husband would use the ‘submission card’ against me too. The Lord finally did provide an opportunity where he was confronted with being dominating and he backed off…but weeds are tricky, they are hard to get rid of though it did break through the worst.
I pondered, and pondered, that I Peter 3 section about wives as I sought to redefine submission. I realized I was to submit to authority (but scripture explains there are limits even with that, obeying God rather than men at times) but not submit to sin.
I like Leslie’s emphasis on ’empathy without enabling’; I think honor must also be without enabling. There has to be a balance and a limit in order to truly help the other person. I am still learning what that better balance is but I am in a much better position than I was.
I noticed that the I Peter section says “likewise wives” and refers back to Jesus. Well, Jesus was not a doormat. I loovveed seeing the fact that Jesus was submissive for a purpose; for a redemptive purpose. I could see that submission was a tool of redemption. If there is no redemptive purpose and in fact if what I am accepting is enabling sin, then…I have a distorted view and handling of submission.
In fact, submission is not passive. Mine was.
I could get caught on the phrase that says wives might win their husband without the word and be too quiet too!
It highlights to me how we must live in Spirit and in truth; God’s word without God’s Spirit, without His heart to guide us, is lacking. As Leslie says, we do need the whole of God’s heart to guide us into truth.
A book called, “Why not Women” was recommended to me recently. I do not know that I agree with all of the scriptural discussion but I was impressed with several points. One thing the author points out in the beginning section is ‘the pride of men’ can trip them up. If we interact according to twisted thinking and let that push us around and box us in, we can reinforce and become part of the problem instead of simply stating the real, root issues of what is happening. The Lord give us wisdom.
Boundaries help me to stand clearly and separately but supportively so that I carry my responsibility and he feels the weight of his; they help define what is in my boundary and what I can do and say to appropriately challenge and live in truth.
Alene, I put a response to the 1 Peter 3 question in response to Lonely Wife’s comments but it may be helpful to you as well.
Again, I absolutely love this post, Leslie.
Here’s something more to ponder, and perhaps you all can comment:
“Biblically a women is to take the lead in submitting…”
I might disagree. A husband is to love his wife, as Christ loved the church, and died for her. Christ died for us, even while we were yet sinners.
Christ obviously took the lead here in choosing to suffer and die for the church. So to say that the woman is to take the lead in submitting does not necessarily follow the example of Christ and the church.
I might add that I don’t mean to place total responsibility on the man to get this started, either. It is the responsibility of BOTH to submit, as all Christians submit to each other out of reverence for Christ. ALL believers are called to be Christ-like.
Christ modeled servanthood and submission perfectly so we would have a model of what it looked like. When I said husband’s take the lead in servanthood and wives take the lead in submitting it comes from the picture used of Christ and the church. But both husband and wife do both serving and submitting in a healthy marriage.
Thank you for this post…it is needed because so many of us have been taught that our husbands have final authority in our homes, and we need to submit, no matter what, and when I would question things my husband said or did, I would feel guilty, even though I knew what he was doing was wrong.
I do have a question though…how do we respond to family, friends, Pastors and in my case, my counselor, who reminded me of 1Peter 3:1-6 and tells me that my actions can bring my H to Christ?
My H professes to being a Christian, goes to church every Sunday, etc…but I don’t see any evidence of Christ living within…so when my counselor quoted 1Peter 3 to me, reminding me that MY behavior could win over my husband, I’ll admit, I didn’t like it….I felt she was placing the burden on me for his salvation, when in fact he’s in church every Sunday, on church committees, was a deacon, was in counseling with three different Christian counselors in the last 4 yrs, but stopped going because he feels he doesn’t need counseling…
I feel that by my counselor quoting this scripture to me, she’s thinking I can make a difference in my husbands life…and I say I can’t, other then letting him see that his abusive behavior isn’t making me become angry and bitter, like in the past.
My H is passive aggressive…and will take all the kindness and love I’ve shown him and act like it’s his right to have it and he’ll use me to meet his needs, all the while giving nothing in return!
Do I think my H is going to change, because of how I treat him….No, and also, I don’t want to waste the next 20 yrs of my life, hoping to see a change in him, and being continually disappointed when it doesn’t happen….been there, done that!
Right now my husband is upset with me because of the boundaries I’ve put in place, he says I’m distant and not affectionate, and he’s right, I am.
I don’t want to be this way, but he’s left me no choice…I have to distance myself from him because it’s obvious he doesn’t have MY best interest at heart.
If anyone else has any insight on 1st Peter 3…please let me hear it!
I’m seeing my counselor tomorrow and I want to talk to her about what she said…I’m not sure she truly gets how living in an abusive marriage is so destructive!
Lonely wife, I hear you. Below is a blog I wrote a few years ago on this question. Hope it helps. Perhaps you want to give it to your counselor.
Here’s her question: I appreciate this perspective on Sarah and Abraham. In my years as a married woman, I have always heard Sarah extolled for her submission as well as set forth as an example of how we should submit even if our husband was in the wrong. I love how you brought all of Scripture to bear in this topic.
My question is, what submission is Sarah being praised for in I Peter 3? A counselor has told me that I Peter 3 is referring to the times Sarah went along with Abraham in saying she was his sister. The counselor asked me what other instances this could have been referring to? I don’t know how to answer that. Why is Sarah given to us as an example of submission when she submitted to Abraham’s request that could have led her to commit adultery?
Answer: Peter wasn’t specific as to what exactly he was referring to with his example of Sarah’s submission, but Matthew Henry’s commentary says of this verse, “Sara, who obeyed her husband, and followed him when he went from Ur of the Chaldeans, not knowing wither he went, and called him lord, thereby showing him reverence …”
We know that God was displeased with Abraham’s decision to lie and put Sara at risk, when he instructed her to tell the authorities she was his sister, so I trust that the Holy Spirit would not have instructed Peter to praise her for submitting to Abraham’s sin. I think we can do more justice to the entirety of Scripture and Peter’s thoughts in this passage to broaden the question to Does the Bible teach that a spouse is to unconditionally submit without question and suffer harsh and abusive treatment within his or her marriage without protest or consequences?
The entire book of 1 Peter has to do with suffering, especially targeting believers who face mistreatment for their faith. But let’s look at what Peter teaches us about how we suffer in a godly way as well and when we should patiently endure suffering.
First, let’s look at how Peter tells us to handle ourselves in the presence of abusive people. Peter is clear that believers should be respectful of others regardless of how we are treated. In other words, when someone sins against you or treats you harshly, their behavior does not justify or excuse your sinful response.
Often in destructive marriages a spouse who is verbally battered or emotionally neglected or abused starts to lob some verbal bombs of her own. Instead of responding to mistreatment in a way that honors God, she dishonors herself, her husband, and God by her building resentment as well as her explosive or sinful reactions to his abuse.
Peter encourages us to choose a different path. He tells us not to pay back evil for evil by reminding us of Jesus, who, when he was reviled, did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:22,23).
Second, Peter explains when we should endure abusive treatment. He writes, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.”
The good Peter is talking about here is a moral good, a doing the right thing kind of good. Although in this passage Peter specifically advises us to submit to authority, Peter himself was flogged after he refused to stop preaching about Christ even though he’d been ordered by those in authority to stop. Peter refused to submit because in doing so, he would have to stop doing good (Acts 4:19; 5:17-42).
In the same way when a wife refuses to submit to her husband’s sinful behavior, or stands up for her children who are being mistreated, or refuses to sign a dishonest income tax report, or calls 911 when her husband is threatening to harm her or himself, she is doing good even if it doesn’t feel good to her spouse.
Her behavior honors God, protects her children as well as acts in the best interest of her spouse. (It is never in someone’s best interests to enable sin to flourish.).
When a woman takes these brave steps she will suffer. She may suffer financially as her husband sits in jail because she called the police when he hit her. She may suffer the censure from her church when she separates from him because of his unrepentant use of pornography and verbal abuse. She may suffer with loneliness, retaliation from her spouse, disapproval from her friends and family for the stance she’s taken. That’s exactly the kind of suffering Peter is talking about. He’s speaking about suffering for doing good instead of being passive or fearful or doing the wrong thing or nothing at all. Peter is saying that when we do what is right and we get mistreated for it, God sees it and commends us.
Biblically, sometimes it may be the right thing to stay silent and forbear under mistreatment, but other times it may be the wrong thing to do. There is no single right answer in each and every situation. The Bible tells us that we are to forbear with one another and it also says to confront and speak the truth to one another. Which one is the right approach in any given situation takes wisdom. Even the apostle Paul protested his harsh treatment and appealed to the higher authorities in Rome when he was being flogged.
When we tell a wife that her only godly response to an abusive and/or destructive spouse is to submit and continue to provide all the benefits of a good marriage regardless of how her husband treats her, provides for her, or violates their marital vows we’re asking her to lie and pretend. This is not godly, wise, or good for her or her marriage.
This counsel also reinforces the abusive person’s delusions that he can do as he please with no consequences. It would enable him to stay blind to his sin and colludes with his destructive ways, which is not good for him, for her, or for their family. That kind of passivity does not honor God.
Peter concludes his teaching with these words. “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19 ESV). He also tells wives that we are Sara’s children if we do good and not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:6).
When we encourage a woman to suffer for Jesus, let’s make sure we’re encouraging her suffer for doing good rather than suffer for staying passive or pretending.
Thank you for responding Leslie…this explains it perfectly!
I forgot to add….my Pastor, whom I dearly love, but also accept that he doesn’t have a clue about abuse in Christian marriages, also told me “Sometimes Christ calls us to suffer in marriage” UGH!!! I almost cried when he said those words!
I wanted to scream “NOOOO, not you too!”
I want to buy your book and give it to him, but I’ll be honest, he doesn’t know the full extent of how destructive my marriage is, and I don’t think I want him to know, because I don’t feel I’d have his support….makes me sad just writing that. ~sigh~
Awesome post, Leslie. May we all fall on the side of doing good, even when others do not see it. At the end of the day, we are to please God. A unrepentant, disregarding, selfish person is their own god. They are too self-deceived to judge their, or your, actions.
Leslie, I agree with what you’ve written. But how would you answer someone who brings up Rahab who was commended although she lied (related to the Sarah-Abraham passage)?
Love this blog-post Leslie! Thanks for inserting it here also!
—Excellent, this is well thought out and presented. —Very good clarity. It doesn’t get lost in a sea of words and texts but stays with core Biblical principles that honor Christ and others!**
“Friends: How have you navigated submission in your marriage when your husband is hyper controlling?”. . . . . That has never been an issue in my marriage, praise God! It’s not often I get to say I don’t have the stated problem. —Thank you so much Lord. —Hurrah!!!
“Who Gets the Final Say” —I love that article!!! It was wonderful to read it again. It shows what should happen when things are functioning properly.
Thank you Leslie for giving so much of yourself, consistently. I am sure it is not easy dealing with all of us. I drive myself crazy. —Obviously, you are drawing from the well that will never run dry (John Four, et.al.)
**Technically, the answer depends on 1) the New Testament scholar; the extant*** New Testament manuscript used –manuscripts frequently disagree (—Remember, these are very, very ancient and fragmented documents, so we have to give scholars a break!) —AND— 2) The answer also depends on which period of Christianity you are referring to. —In the first 400 years of Christianity, domestic violence was redemptive suffering and marital submission, was complete submission with no qualifications (—seriously research it yourself (—for yourself, now!) and you will easily see that). But then, Christians started to think about it more, thank God!!! If women are equal to men but are to be in subjection to them, well that is a logical contradiction and is a basically meaningless phrase.
***extant just means still in existence; surviving. The original manuscripts of ALL the books of the Bible are no longer extant. Scholars (—the people who actually tell pastors what these documents say and meant in their context) deal with copies of copies of copies of copies, etc. made centuries later. See the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF); Institute for Textual Scholarship and Electronic Editing, et. al.
Anyway. . . . I just love empowered people! Why wouldn’t men want their wives to help them with accountability in every area possible? —How wonderful is that? Especially while problems are still in early stages before it is too late. Husbands should want their wives fully empowered. . . . Jesus put our needs ahead of His own. Jesus considered you and me more valuable than Himself, so should we. . . . . It is heartbreaking that so many husbands don’t understand what marvelous responders women really are. A woman gets an environment of sincere, ongoing affection, caring, protection, nurture, thoughtfulness and she just blossoms.
Thanks Leslie for this refresher post about Sarah in 1 Peter.
Honoring God and doing what is right restores our dignity – that is so often lost when “submitting” to an abusive husband.
It is important not to become abusive in retaliation and also to recognize evil and boldly stand against it.
New to the conversation, and maybe I shouldn’t chime in as I’m neither married nor a lady, but I’ll give my perspective, for what it’s worth. I agree with much of this, but am not sure about the following statement: “If women are equal to men but are to be in subjection to them, well that is a logical contradiction…” You see I believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal. And yet what do we see in Scripture? Jesus came to do the will of the Father. Even though He is of the same essence as the Father, yet He submitted and said,”Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt” when He was faced with the prospect of crucifixion. A wise man once told me that where husbands and wives get into trouble is when we start “reading each other’s mail” as it were. The Bible does instruct the wife to submit; but that’s written to the wife, not the husband. Nowhere does it say, “Husbands, make sure your wives submit to you.” It is not his place to make her submit. The instruction to the husband is simply to love his wife, as Christ loved the church. (Which is a tall order, really. Only by God’s grace in our lives can we men have any chance of living this out.) This instruction is written to the husband, it is not the wife’s place to enforce it. But I believe when the husband practices showing love to his wife, and the wife treats him with respect, they each make it easier for the other to relate in a God honoring and mutually beneficial way.
Josh you say: “But I believe when the husband practices showing love to his wife, and the wife treats him with respect, they each make it easier for the other to relate in a God honoring and mutually beneficial way.”
. . . .Exactly and wonderfully said (-the love/ respect cycle, et. al. is truly beautiful!) Josh, you are a 21st century Christian and you are talking to me like a 21st century Christian but as a Christian who loves Jesus Christ, I can not deny the bizarre and highly unsuccessful attempts to deny, disguise, and rationalize blatant chauvinism and sexism in the Bible. The Bible has “man-suppressing-woman” statements and is sexist by 21st century standards. The Bible is, like the majority of other ancient texts, extraordinarily sexist by modern standards and full of blatantly anti-woman statements and a plethora of power-based male stereotypes. This is a fact that many would like to ignore, and that many others seek to explain through various methods but we see it none the less. Everyone who has read the Bible many times knows them all. First Corinthians. . . “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church,” and all the rest. For every woman that is socially expected to submit, there is a man that is socially expected to rule over her because of his gender. “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner,” et.al. . . . .Power-based stereotypes are stereotypes nonetheless. Because woman’s subordination is deemed intrinsic to God’s original creation design, and is necessary, permanent, and grounded in woman’s unalterable ontology, it cannot be merely a “role” that has no bearing on “being.” On the contrary, if female subordination is, in fact, divinely mandated and justified for all women for all time, then it logically entails women’s fundamental inferiority in being and not merely in function. Thus woman’s subordination is contradicted by woman’s equality. It is not logically possible for woman to be essentially equal to man, yet universally subordinate to man on the basis of an essential attribute (i.e., femaleness). -And it won’t do to insist that even if it’s not logical it must be true. . . . .
. . .Anyway, I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and I would love to do it -in the original languages- but the Holy Spirit is telling me not to and since I am trying to cultivate more sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, I need to stop. . . In the 21st century, we have some wise strategies for healthy Christianity (i.e. people are more important than the Bible “teaching” slavery or the Bible “teaching” you can never get a divorce except for this one narrow exception, or the Bible “teaching” you can’t get remarried, et.al.), lets develop even more of them and . . .
. . . .Josh, all that said, never, ever lose your zeal for God and pursue Him above all else but consider the lessons that others have paid dearly to bring us. One of them is this: there’s not one thing in life worth having outside Jesus Christ. If you can really say, “Christ is all I want,” you’ve got it made! Anyone that loves Jesus Christ and wants to seriously live for Him is a precious, special treasure that is so, so valuable. I know most men don’t see it that way, and even many women don’t either but God does. -And, as you probably know, it isn’t just about avoiding hell, it is about having real life and real love. -Really, actually, living life. You never plug into real love or real life without Christ. Being a Christian is such a majestic thing! Christ comes and lives inside us!!! To know Christ and to have any part (no matter how small) in His kingdom is just overwhelming. For me, it’s not a matter of submission -I’ll go ANYwhere I’m led. . . . but in this great future, we also can’t forget our real past. I’m praying for you, pray for us too.
Ummm…husbands are called to submit also.
Aleea, Did you receive a suggest to please be more concise in your postings? I just want to say that I have started skipping over your posts because they are so incredibly difficult to digest. I guess we all have different styles, but might this be something to work on? How does this attention to detail affect your relationships with others in the real world?
Thank you and that is something very important for me to work on. I choose to do better. I’m just so weak. I really purpose to do better. . . . This is no excuse but you would not, you absolutely would NOT, even believe how fast that stuff just explodes out of my head, gushing forth unrestrained, even when I limit the response to 5 min.
I am so impressed that anyone here even tries to read what I write. I thank you all. In fact, it is amazing. . . . .I was having coffee with my friend Christine (Ph.D. archeologist, Old Testament scholar, and specialist in Christian origins) earlier last week, and she told me not one person, even family members have any interest in what she writes. She told me that if she wrote a book only six people in the world would read it; -Seven, I would read it.
“How does this attention to detail affect your relationships with others in the real world?”. . . . . . That is an excellent question and I need to ask more people around me. What is it like to have a relationship with me? -And then seriously listen. -I can’t ask Christine, she would say I don’t pay enough attention to detail.
Thank for your perspective Josh. I appreciate a male point of view.
It was pointed out to me recently that compromise is part of marriage. I don’t feel that compromise has been a part of my marriage. It has been he wins or I win and someone always loses. I can understand that a husband, who has his wife and family’s best interest at heart, can make a final decision for his family. The scary part is trusting that the husband is doing the right thing. The gut wrenching part is deciding that your husband is making a choice that is immoral, illegal and or dangerous and now I, the wife,must go against his wishes. Or challenge his thinking at least. I have come to understand that thisis the point where I have replaced God on the throne with my husband. If I know my husband is doing wrong and I say nothing, I fear my husband more than I trust God. Leslie speaks to having a husband centered life or a God centered life. I figured out that for me, trusting God took a back seat to keeping the peace with my husband. I am tired of walking on eggshells and jumping through hoops to avoid my husband’s sighs and silent treatments. It’s not easy trusting God, but it is a muscle I have started to exercise. God has a plan for my life that is better than what I have been living. He designed me and gave me talents and desires that would bring glory and honor to Him. I have been a sad little shadow of what I could be for Him. That makes me have more courage to stand up for right living.
Sunshine you say: “. . . I have replaced God on the throne with my husband.”
. . . Don’t look back or horizontally, look up. We all, many times, put things on the thrones of our lives other than the Lord God. We all are living in idolatry at times by inwardly submitting to the strongholds of you-name-it. We are bowing down to our (Αβρασαξ), our gods above our Lord God. We just have to continue to clean the temple of our hearts and get rid of our gods above our Lord God. Every one of us is, even from our childhoods, a master craftswoman of idols. That is why heart cleaning exercises are so important. Every time we smash another idol it is obliterated from the landscape of our hearts.. . . . . I will be praying for you and I just want everyone to know that the pages of these blog posts are for me a vast list of serious prayer concerns, including myself —obviously. . . . I pray for everyone and your needs and I have lots of travel time coast-to-coast and to Europe to do that praying. . . . I really believe that God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers live before God, and God’s heart is set on them. Prayers even outlive the lives of those who uttered them; they may even outlive an age, outlive the world. God makes astounding promises to faith and prayer but our whole selves must be given to God in praying. The largest results in praying come when I give all of himself to God (—that is, God doesn’t answer prayers; He answers our desperate prayers.) I’m not always successful but I believe the secret is to have as full consecration as possible, as best we know how. That is a condition of successful praying, the sort of praying which brings the greatest results. Increasing prayer! = Increasing faith! = Increasing attitude of dependency upon God = Increasing Christ in our hearts!
I don’t think you have put your husband on a throne. I think you are just trying to survive. Aleea says to look up which can be done with the heart, because you need your eyes and wits about you to protect yourself from the evil one you are married to. A man who is letting demons run rampant in his brain. Have you read “People of the Lie?”
Let me clarify, evil seeks to discourage others to think for themselves (it fosters dependency). That is why we have to help people understand NOT what to think BUT how to think. How do you critically evaluate what you see without letting your emotions hijack your intellect? Think about this crazy song we sing sometimes at my church:
“Reason is the enemy of faith, my friend
A head that’s filled with knowledge
soon is too bloated with its own weight
to fit through heaven’s gate
So think with your heart”
. . . . Think with your heart? That’s how a lot of these precious souls wound-up where they are, at least it sure looks that way to me. God gave us strong, RATIONAL critical reasoning abilities. He gave those to us so that we would thrive. . . . If we focus on teaching people how to think critically (and you can make it really fun) with NO logical fallacies and NO MAGICAL thinking, that fosters independence. . . . .To oppose evil we must have an ongoing dedication to reality at all costs. Truth is what is left when everyone stops pretending abuse isn’t widespread. Truth is not a safe discipline and can not be practiced without challenge to theological convictions or without risk to faith commitments or “truth” assertions. -Unless I’m not thinking clearly.
Wow Sunshine. I can relate so much to what you shared. Wow.
Great post Leslie! This is an issue that is so often misused by abusive Christian men. My ex certainly used it to his advantage. And often church leaders don’t preach the proper understanding of these verses, which only makes the issue more difficult for the Christian wife. I will be sharing this with my followers. Blessings! Caroline
I see I failed pretty much on all points. Raising my voice because he always talked over me. Found myself bitter and resentful. Made my husband my idol and remained passive, silent and afraid of him for years where nobody knew about what was going on, and most still don’t.
Didn’t realize. Didn’t know. Just kept trying to defend myself against his words. Said sorry so many times, for things I never did, just so the silent treatments would end.
Etc, etc. etc….
We’ve all been there Elle….but today is a new day!
Ask God to help you to be stronger, to no longer enable your husband to continue in his sin, make changes in your own life, read Leslie’s CORE guidelines and then get to work on them!
I know you can do this, because I did! It’s taken me this last year but I’m finally at a place where I’m no longer angry, bitter and resentful. After my Hs affair 4 1/2 yrs ago, I was so angry! I became verbally abusive to match his emotional abuse…but I’m no longer that woman!
God opened my eyes, through Leslie’s books and blog, and I am now free!
Has my husband changed? No. Have his eyes been opened to his abuse? No. In fact, he’s become even more passive aggresive then before…but I travel this road KNOWING that God is by my side…and that’s all I need!
A favorite quote from an amazing young man…
“I don’t know what my future holds, But I do know who holds my future” Tim Tebow 😀
I won’t have that chance to change while being with my husband. We are separated and in the middle of a divorce. I don’t feel as if I am bitter anymore or even very angry. We don’t speak. All I feel these days are defeated and very damaged.
I’m sorry you feel that way, but is it wrong for me to say I’m happy you’re away from him?
If these men won’t change, if you feel damaged and defeated, then getting away from them is for the best!
I pray you feel better soon….I know it takes time, but God will heal you…blessings to you Elle!
Leslie has a great article on having mercy on ourselves when we fall (my words). We women who have been abused tend to make huge excuses when the abuser misbehaves and come down heavily on ourselves when we do wrong. We also seem to blame ourselves for things that are not our fault. Abusers are very good at provoking victims (repeatedly) so that they can focus on the reaction instead of the issue at hand.
I pray for the time to come quickly, Islandgirl, when you will no longer have those days.
I love Leslie’s teaching and think that she is amazing. It is wonderful how she has brought so much truth to light and am grateful for the way she has taught and still teaches me.
In regard to the debate over Genesis 3:16, may I humbly submit that the NLT is a “summary translation” that leaves room for shades of meaning which aren’t taken directly from the original text. Please be careful with that kind of Bible and do not teach doctrine or concepts out of the shades of meaning added by translators in their “summary translation”.
If you look at the “word for word translations” (NASB, ESV, and KJV) of Genesis 3:16, they all say something similar to “her desire shall be for her husband…”
KJV – “thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.”
NASB – “Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”
ESV – ” Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.”
The word desire in the original Hebrew (8669) tshuwqah means – stretching out after; a longing: — desire
In the word for word translations it mentions nothing of the woman’s desire being to control. It appears looking at the original text that she is desiring and stretching out for him as he dominates her.
It does show a lack of mutuality in the relationship: her desperation for him and him wielding power over her instead of a side by side relationship. I see that over and over in the women that I work with. The imbalance of power and willingness for women to give over themselves and accept abusive behavior just to have a relationship with a man.
I agree also that there are women who can be overbearing and domineering as well ( I work to help them as well). In other places in the Bible they are shown and talked about. Instructions are given to help them stop that behavior.
Both women desire relationship with their husband. The domineering woman overwhelms and wants to control as a way to keep “the relationship” alive when really there is no relationship because her hen-pecked husband is not being real with her. The doormat woman gives in to every whim of her husband hoping also to keep the relationship alive when really there is no relationship because she is not being real with her husband she (as Leslie says) is a fantasy wife.
But by adding the assumption to Genesis 3:16 that she desires “to control.” sets up a huge misconception that every woman is out to dominate men (though not all of the women shown as examples in scripture struggled with domineering attitudes and actions). Sadly people study “summary translations” and preach from them with out going back to the original Hebrew/Greek. This enables people to twist scripture and give false definitions of submission and roles of men and women in marriage because they can then say “See, because of sin, the curse says that every woman will desire to dominate her husband.”
The reality is after the fall we all struggle with sin and if we are honest with ourselves we as individuals see patterns and tendencies toward certain ones. When we shove people into boxes (Leslie is not doing this.) and say all women struggle with this sin and all men struggle with this, we give a false since of security to people who may be tempted to say, I am okay, I’ve got my female sin problems under control. God wants to speak to all of us through the whole counsel of the Bible.
I think that the heart of the issue is being honest with ourselves. Having a finger on our pulse to see what our struggle really is, where our hearts desires are, and study the Bible in context to look for answers for our personal sin problems.
Please read this as written with great respect for everyone a part of this blog. I do not mean to offend. Thank you for all you are teaching.
Mea culpa I should not have used the NLT of that verse in my blog. My main thrust of the article was on misuse of submission passages to control women and keep them in a child or slave position in marriage which is unbiblical. Thanks for all of your comments. I love that you are strong enough and brave enough to challenge and correct me. You have a voice and it has been heard.
For those who think Leslie was really off-base with this verse translation, I want to add to this:
H8669 matches the Hebrew תְּשׁוּקָה (tĕshuwqah), is only used 3 times in the OT. Gen 3:16, Gen 4:7, and Song of Solomon 7:10. In looking at these references you can tell the word can be used also of the sense of own, have, dominate or control from how it is used of sin in Gen 4:7 when “its desire is to *have* you”. Whereas the same word in SoS 7:10 might give the idea of desire in relationship. It could be either and I think it is applicable for either.
However, along with Leslie’s main point here, I also I want to add it should be noted through other verses in the Bible we know we can be *controlled* by sin or *slaves* to sin (for example, Romans 6 (particularly verse 14, 2 Peter 2:19, Galatians 3:22)- so it is not a far reach to say that the same word in used of sin in Gen 4:7 can bring that same idea in 3:16 of women. Definitely, it can be a possibility for a woman who feels feels afraid of unjust/sinful treatment and needs control/dominance (usually by sinning with her mouth) to feel secure. (This is where 1 Peter 2:13 – 1 Peter 3 becomes clear, I think. Even men can feel this as noted in the slave/master or we might say, employer/employee relationship.) We ALL need to be people entrusted to God rather than sinning to try to handle the unjust situation. (By that I do *not* mean a passive victim but rather – *not* returning sin for sin but instead doing what would truly be best for the other person).
This is the ultimate point I think Leslie is trying to bring out through her blog. We can be strong and do what is best for all involved – by depending on godly and healthy wisdom to strengthen our CORE and respond (sometimes vocally) *without sin* as well as let God work on our spouse/relative through us. This is different than an attempt to control them to do what they ought or we want – in either a man or woman. Thank you, Leslie, for your many efforts in this!!
I just want to say that I appreciate the detail you went into to cover this topic here, Shelley. Thank you.
I find it interesting that our husband ruling over us and our desire for him is part of a curse put on mankind as a result if the fall. It is especially a curse if our husbands don’t love God with their actions and don’t have their wives and families best interests at heart.
I like Lundy Bancroft’s quote from his blog about control:
“It’s control when you are trying to take someone’s rights away, and it’s self-defense when you are trying to keep someone else from taking your rights away. (The reason this gets tricky is because the controlling man will often say that you are trying to take his rights away, because he thinks he has the right to abuse you.)
The abusive man will call you “controlling” for resisting his control. Noticing when this is happening will be a huge help to you.”
When I realized the truth of what was happening to me then I realized I could not submit to my husband because it would only hurt me and my kids – it is like he has invalidated his headship or leadership by his abuse and all suddenly the issue became safety and sanity and how to get my life back from the control of a destructive person. I remember listening to a Warren Wiersbe podcast and he said something about having a newborn baby and desiring the best of everything for that child and then going home and placing that child in the arms of an angry, cursing, lying, cheating, drinking or drunk man – which no woman would ever want to do with her newborn – and I realized that was me – I had done that because that is who my husband was. I was certainly jolted awake by the truth!
Leonie, you just put into words my recognition of the same problem. I came to the same conclusions as you; I’m just so mad it took me so long; but better late than never.
It was a curse – but if both parties are born again and live for Christ – the curse is no more. Fellow heirs. And if you are being treated less than a fellow heir in the Kingdom – there needs to be a change!
God’s curse on sin applies to all humans. The solution is found in a new life in Christ. If we mature in Christ’s commands marriage functions well – no dominating or manipulation – instead husband and wife serving each other. The glory of God – to reflect the love of Christ for His Church (Bride). Drop the unrealistic expectations of having men fill our emotional, spiritual and physical needs – only God can do that!
It seems the words of scripture are one thing but the understanding and life application are quite another. In marriage the two become one might be understood to be two joined as one flesh. Where as the life application displayed in destructive marriages joined into one flesh; the woman dissolves into the one flesh (that being the male headship). This implies his needs become hers’ and theirs’ together. The woman as the weaker vessel is over powered by the stronger, naturally. This is why Jesus Christ is our example of headship. The disciples had to be instructed how to lead and submit. We have to want instruction from God, but be willing in heart to act accordingly.
There has been a lot of talk about submission recently as the public is formulating an opinion about what Anna Duggar should do in her present position. What do you ladies think about her situation and what would we say to her if we could?
Unless she can separate herself from the patriarchy environment she grew up in and is surrounded by with the Duggars I don’t know that she could ‘hear’ anything. She’s never been allowed to have her own thoughts. She would need to be provided a place and the time to decompress so the fog can lift and she can have the freedom to be angry and process everything with the Holy Spirit guiding her and not the rules of Bill Gothard.
My Mom has said, “Why do Christians devalue common sense; it too is from God.
Your Mom is correct –AND- she summed the whole thing up in just one sentence! Ha, ha, ha. . . I can’t do anything without being verbose [smiling] 🙂
Thanks for that quote from your mom. That is one smart momma! I have been struggling for weeks with the idea that I should love my husband and honor our marriage vows but in order to do that I feel I have to turn off my common sense. I KNOW that a good predictor of future behavior is a person’s past behavior especially when no real change has occurred. When I stand in worship on Sundaymorning to sing and Praise God, I can feel His presence despite my husband (and his negative ball of energy)who sits during song time and waits for church to start. I am thankful for being able to know God and have a personal relationship with the One who saved me no matter the circumstances of this earthly life.
Here is an excellent article on Submission; I think it will be very freeing:
What Does “Submit In Everything” Really Mean? The Nature And Scope Of Marital Submission — By: Steven R. Tracy
Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008)
Wow Sunshine. I can relate so much to what you shared. Wow.
Great response Aleea.
I do think we are all guilty of reading scriptures and interpreting without the whole counsel of God and without background information concerning the time and place to provide context.
If men has also been known to disrupt church meetings I am sure Paul would have addressed the issue toward them. Basically women were asked not to disrupt church service by asking questions during the meeting, but should be quiet and wait until they were home to enquire of their husbands (bearing in mind many of the men would have been taught scripture while women were not – being busy with children and household chores).
We have certainly misunderstood what it means to be submissive (in the context of a destructive relationship) and we still misunderstand what was happening at Corinth (and in other churches).
If women were to remain silent – the church would lose so many witnesses so that the church would barely be audible. No, I am sure Paul’s statement was to maintain order in the church gathering and not to deny women a voice.
Vivienne you say: “No, I am sure Paul’s statement was to maintain order in the church gathering and not to deny women a voice.** —&— If women were to remain silent –the church would lose so many witnesses so that the church would barely be audible.”***
—Absolutely. We need all our precious voices and witnesses that love Christ, both female and male. —Anyway, lots and lots of changes in the early manuscripts occur to win theological disputes****. . . .BUT NONE (absolutely none) of those changes impact the fact that Christ came. Christ died for our sins and Christ rose from the dead. Christ offers to live in our hearts, if we repent and believe. The other issues are cultural fights that the church loses one by one as time rolls on and more is discovered (see notes). . . . . You know what? When I think about how very little I know, it totally, completely humbles me. I mean completely. Libraries and archeological sites are still filled with manuscripts that have not even been translated yet!!! Who knows what those will change. . . .But it will not change my desire to go deeper with Christ and love people more. Christ has set us free, let’s be free. . . .Women can teach, women can be text scholars, women can get a divorce, women can remarry, women can file lawsuits. . . . . But what we should all want most of all is to have the biggest possible faith that produces the greatest possible abandonment to God and love for others. I want to be more and more grateful each day and have a seriously committed and thankful heart to the Lord. —Otherwise, who cares what any of it says. Vivienne, may Christ bless you exceeding abundantly above all that you could ask or think!
** & *** & **** Notes
. . . . So, when I read later documents associated with Paul’s churches, after his death, I can see that disputes arose about the roles women should play; eventually there came an effort to suppress the role of women in the churches altogether. This becomes very, very evident in a letter that was written in Paul’s name. Most scholars today are by and large absolutely convinced that 1st Timothy was not written by Paul but by one of his later, second-generation followers. There we are told that women must not be allowed to teach men because they were created inferior, as indicated by God himself in the Law; God created Eve second, for the sake of man; and a woman (related to Eve) must not therefore lord it over a man (related to Adam) through her teaching. Furthermore, according to this author, everyone knows what happens when a woman does assume the role of teacher: she is easily duped (by the devil) and leads the man astray. So, women are to stay at home and maintain the virtues appropriate to women, bearing children for their husbands and preserving their modesty [For fuller discussion and documentation, see Ross Kraemer and Mary Rose D’Angelo, Women and Christian Origins (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2011). See also R. Kraemer, Her Share of the Blessings:Women’s Religions Among Jews, Pagans, and Christians in the Graeco Roman World (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), and Karen J. Torjesen, When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2003)]. . . . . . . The scribes who were copying the texts that later became scripture were obviously involved in these debates. Those debates made an impact on the text being copied, as passages were changed to reflect the views of the scribes who were reproducing them. In almost every instance in which a change of this sort occurs, the text is changed in order to limit the role of women and to minimize their importance. I see verses shuffled around in some of our most important textual witnesses. In Greek manuscripts and Latin witnesses, they are found not in the text BUT many verses originate as margin notes (-marginal notes added by a scribe), these get copied into the text in later manuscripts [For a recent discussion, see Adam Nicolson, God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (New York: HarperCollins,2003)] . . . . .Romans 16, Junia was a common name for a woman, there is no evidence in the ancient world for “Junias” as a man’s name. Paul is referring to a woman named Junia, even though in some modern English Bibles (you may want to check your own!) translators continue to refer to this female apostle as if she were a man named Junias. [The fullest recent discussion is by Eldon Jay Epp, “Textcritical, Exegetical, and Sociocultural Factors Affecting the Junia/Junias Variation in Rom 16:7,” in A. Denaux, New Testament Textual Criticism and Exegesis (Leuven: Univ. Press, 2002)] . . . . . A similar change was made by some scribes who copied the book of Acts. In chapter 17, we learn that Paul and his missionary companion Silas spent time in Thessalonica preaching the gospel of Christ to the Jews of the local synagogue. We are told in verse 4 that the pair made some important converts: “And some of them were persuaded and joined with Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the pious Greeks, along with a large number of prominent women.” The idea of women being prominent -let alone prominent converts- was too much for scribes, and so the text came to be changed in manuscripts, so that now we are told: “And some of them were persuaded and joined with Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the pious Greeks, along with a large number of wives of prominent men.” Now it is the men who are prominent, not the wives who converted!!!! (—could be expanded for 1,000s of pages)
My husband is a narcissist and very verbally and emotionally abusive if he doesn’t get total compliance with his opinions and wishes. He has pushed and shoved a few times and 13 years ago when he was still drinking physically assaulted me almost causing me to lose our child then. Nothing like that and doesn’t drink anymore but resorts to the emotional and verbal abuse with threats to leave and divorce a lot. I am a Christian. But honestly, narcissists are troubled and abusive and most don’t change. It’s not fun to live.
Have you read Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why does he Do That?” You will see things very differently. Patricia, decide today to value yourself and live well within your situation or change it. Good to hear from you. How much of your life has been lost to appeasing the narcissist? What do you do for your own pleasure?
Yes Janet. I have read much of Lundys material as well as many orhers. I think I have researched and informed myself from just about everyone’s material that is out over the years. Currently I am living within my situation as best a possible while I recover from
Neck surgery. Soon I hope I will be able to be more agile and. active to again get out to activities church etc like I did prior to eliminate having only him and his influence and influence. They love the isolation but I am truly aware of what he is and his spiritual condition. I will continue to ask Gods guidance after I get out more on what is next whether I’m
Staying or leaving. Thank you for your support and advice.
How do you handle the threats to divorce and leave? I have had the same thing happen, and now my husband describes our marriage as “on paper only”. I have taken responsibility to my failings as a wife and work very hard at trying to repair my shortcomings – yet he still stonewalls me and treats me like a roommate. I think he delights in punishing me. He would never admit that he is punishing me. He calls it ” the consequences of my behavior.” Some day’s I would rather be pushed because then the abuse would seem real..
How do you live in a marriage like this?
Hopeful, Les Carter has a book, “Enough about you let’s talk about me” that explains narcissistic behavior and how to respond to them. When dealing with a narcissist it’s important to have zero expectations. Also, trying to please them or fullfil their demands is like filling a bottomless pit, it’s never ending. They will deplete you of your energy. Therefore, it’s very important that you make pleasing God your priority instead of pleasing him. Meeting his demands is enabling him, but when you don’t he will take it personally and wage war on you. Leslie has written articles on staying well and leaving well.
Narcissists are usually a very different kind of person to the outside world. In fact people would be shocked and would have a very hard time believing how they behave at home. Narcisists typically do not change. If you are hoping that he will change by you changing your behavior, you will be very disappointed.
Patricia, what do you think is the benefit to your husband to have a marriage “on paper only”?
Please read Lundy Bancroft’s book “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” It will rock your world and answer sooooo many questions! A portion of the book is available online for free. Stop everything you are doing right now and get that book!
Janet. Thank you. I’ve read it. And yes it is a great read and opens your mind to it all and truth be told. I am just waiting to fully recover here from surgery and get some counseling and spiritual guidance. These narcissists are not fun to leave and pull lots of stunts in the process. I have to use caution and prayer and take it step by step. Thank you
He does delight in punishing you. He treats you as his enemy. As soon as you see the truth the sooner you will stop expecting anything else from him.
I was devastated over and over again until I realized that he was not ever going to be nice to me. He was threatened by everything about who I was and he only wanted power over me. He was not interested in meeting my needs or telling the truth … It is almost like they feed of your reactions. They try to devastate you so you will cry and that satisfies them. I pulled back and stopped being the peace maker and reaching out and pretending there was a relationship there because there really isn’t. If you let it fall it will fall because he isn’t going to pick it up. I read some material by a guy named Joe Zychik. It was about sex addicts and their need to live honestly and that they can’t get healthy until they are willing to tell the truth, but his advice to women was to pull back and see if he ever reaches for you or apologizes or behaves as though he loves you. He says if he doesn’t there is nothing up work with – I tried it and it just felt like I was living in truth whenI stopped bring the peacemaker every time my husband was angry for nothing. I am able to function again and feeling doing stuff again and no one in my own home is attacking me anymore! I am free and safe all the nonsense and turmoil is gone. Things come up through the lawyer but it is at a distance now, there’s no anger I my bed anymore!!
It’s been a nightmare honestly. We are like roommates as well. No sex separate bedrooms but lays with me for TV at my request. 13 years. I now have depression and anxiety. He is 62 and retired for 10 years early. I am 56 and we have an 11 year old. I just had a neck fusion 3 months ago and it’s really been hell. He acts like he had it and is inconvenienced that I am limited still and can’t do all I did while he slept and ignored us. This is wrong. I also have tried working on my shortcomings. It’s never enough with a narcissist abuser. Everyone else thinks he’s the cats meow. It’s crazy making. So the answer is I am surviving is all and want out. Afraid and trying to get strong and recover and asking Gods guidance. What will you do and how long have you been with your husband. Any kids? I’m sorry we both are in this situation.
Hope and Patricia
I too have lived for many years with a covert Narcissit I am 57, he is 71 and has been mostly at home since he was 55, slowly driving me crazy, almost over the edge but I am now recovering.
How did I manage when he was at his worst? I prayed a LOT, I leant on Christ, a LOT, I went driving in my car and I screamed a LOT, cried a LOT, but also confided with an on-line friend (who I have never met in person and who lives on the other side of the Atlantic to me) with whom I have communicated on a daily basis for three years now -she is in a similar predicament. Without God I doubt I would have made it this far, where I am now evaluating what I do next.
Yes, I was isolated, taken away from family and friends but all he achieved by doing that was to make me stronger than before – not weaker. I am a Christian, Jesus spirit lives in me, and I am being set free, little by little, being brought out of darkness, freed from bondage, one step at a time, as fast as I allow this work to be done in me.
I too worked hard on myself, faced my demons, fought the good fight of faith while my H denied, and continues to deny, his shortcomings and is still clinging to his fig-leaf.
I too faced threats of divorce whenever I disagreed with his plans, or his opinion (which he said was criticism?). In the end, after many years of craziness, I learned to ignore his threats when I realised he actually needed me more than I needed him. I still did not realise, until perhaps the last few months, that I was being abused, It felt like it of course but I was often confused with his good cop bad cop routine. Narcissists are not easy to live with at all bit be encouraged ladies, you can get through this.
Amazing story Viviene. I can only pray a lot too. How do I really know that my husband is a narcissist? He as some of the qualities but not all. I just said in therapy today that I never noticed how emotionally abusive he was for years because it flt like normal to me. What isn’t normal is the groveling and sheer panic I would feel when and is mad at me. I love my husband and do not want to break up my marriage, however the way he has treated me and criticised me has blown the light out within my soul. I will continue to go on for my boys and to live my life pleasing to God
Betsy, keep close to the Lord and wait on him to make a way for through for you and find strength in Him to do what you need to do.
Isaiah 40:30-31 New International Version (NIV)
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Your time to rise up and shine will come. xx
Does you counselor agree that appeasement is the best course of action for you? The abuse will not stop unless you put some consequences in place. What consequences might cause your husband to reflect upon his actions and realize that his abusive ways will not be working on you any more?
My counselor encourages me to set limits, consequences, and to stand up for myself. She is helping me with regaining my value as I have lost it.
I tried a couple of consequences in my marriage. They eventually get used against me. One in particular is our sexual relationship. Sunday I asked for a physical need to be met.hugs, an affirming touch, nothing sexual….my husband has gone out of his way to avoid me. He needs help. I am so tired of his treatment towards me. This consumes me. Even when I hand our marriage over to God several times aday, I am in a constant state of distress
I am not sure what the consequence was. Did I miss something?
Why do you want to live “getting through this?” Sounds awful.
I was thinking the same thing Lisa. I’ve been miserable for the 13 years. Getting thru it doesn’t work anymore. The older my narc husband gets and retired with no extra money or savings, it has gotten unbearable. Money is many narcs idol or God. At least around here.
Lisa & Patricia, I had to get through it because I couldn’t leave. Now I can leave and am hoping to do that well but I have a number of things I want to confront my H with first.
I have just spent a very disappointing 30 minutes on the telephone with an English lawyer; it would seem my H has, in all respects (bar Gods will) won this battle. If we divorce and it is carried out in France I would likely fare worse than he (but I have to check this out). If we divorce from the UK, the assets would likely be split 50 / 50 but I would have to return to the UK to get a UK divorce which means I have to leave my boys behind and I would have to work until my retirement in 10 years time when I could collect a pension. However, what sort of pension I could achieve I don’t know since he got me to opt out of the state earning related side of the pension many years ago. I am sure Satan himself couldn’t have done a better job of stitching me up. I would not qualify for maintenance, despite my 34 years in the relationship as my H only receives his state pension and what we get in child benefits. As I have said elsewhere. He needed me (and the children) more than we needed him!!! However, all complicated because I am an ex-pat in France. I was hoping I could at least get some redress for his behaviour but no, it’s all no-fault divorce today. No accountability even from the law – unless you can afford to waste lots of money it seems. One comfort is my H is not off God’s hook, he still has to answer to our heavenly Father one day.
I understand as my situation mirrors yours almost exactly only US style.
I thought you were wanting to see your marriage through to the end come hell or high water after what you’ve been describing of him sounds awful. Of course it’s your choice alone and sometimes especially the financial part can leave one feeling stuck. Mine has accumulated so much debt that I’m half responsible for. I was talking in between sobs with a friend and she said, “just give him to God & declare bankruptcy.” She said another friend had to do it and within 3 years her credit was restored and she bought a home.
Another dear friend said the same thing. Your husband made all the debt and is purposely not paying it down, declare bankruptcy. So something I never thought or wanted to do, I’m putting my pride aside and I will do it.
At my age even getting a job will not amount to pay that will allow savings.
Sometimes I wish I kept my mouth shut, but everytime I think of moving any where with him (he is NEVER satisfied with his jobs and we move A LOT) I get sick to my stomach. It is so depressing I just couldn’t see myself staying married to him. He has double standards along with abuse; I have ZERO trust in him & I just won’t put up with it any longer. So divorce, poverty here I come! One of my children said, “Mom, it won’t be an easy life for you after the divorce, BUT it will be your life where you get to choose and aren’t at the mercy of him or his choices anymore.”
Aleea, I have witnessed male pastors apologise for the fact scriptures were changed to suppress the roles of women, along with biased seminary teaching.
I am annoyed by it but I just LOVE the fact that Jesus, after he was resurrected, revealed himself first to a woman (Mary), and she ran to tell others the good news. Women are very important to Jesus, his love, care and gentle attention toward them is obvious in scripture – why men (in the church) find it so hard to emulate him in this respect is beyond me but we do know there are tares sown among the wheat that must grow together until harvest time.
I am soooo grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, how He convicts me, teaches me, guides me and the various ways he does this which lines up with scripture, helping me to recognise his voice. In my early years as a follower I was so close to Him but the last nine years I have been in a desert place when it has been hard to hear but I have learned different skills, endurance, patience, wisdom, how to dig for water. I am hoping to leave the desert soon – I am in God’s hands.
Bless you Aleea xx.
PS: I adore your passion 🙂
Thanks to you and Paula for being a good encourager of Aleea’s style. I have not been very encouraging, so it is good to realize someone engages with it.
I just wanted to set the record straight. I also struggle with Aleea’s style. I don’t know if one of my comments was placed where it appeared that I encouraged her style, but if so, that was unintended. Often I skip over her comments. They remind me of a friend of mine who struggles to bring cohesion to her spiritual thoughts. I intend no offense to anyone here.
“. . . I have been in a desert place and it has been hard to hear but I have learned different skills, endurance, patience, wisdom, how to dig for water. I am hoping to leave the desert soon – I am in God’s hands.”
That is so wonderful how you are staying engaged with Christ and using that difficult time. God makes all His best people in loneliness. That is so demonstrable (—and I would demonstrate that with all the Bible verses but I’m going to do better re: less detail.) But if you study the great souls in the Bible, —and I am sure you have, those great souls, they walked alone—alone with God. That loneliness is hard to endure, and impossible to enjoy unless God is really within you. —But that’s how you can tell He is really living in your heart. You will enjoy it!
In any event, it is clear that even after his death, Jesus’s message continued to be attractive to women (Vivienne, as you say: “. . . .revealed himself first to a woman (Mary).” —To the marginalized, —to the objectified. —And I will make this very short: Some of Christianity’s early opponents among the pagans, including, for example, Celsus, claimed Christianity was made up largely of children and women (i.e., those of no social standing in society at large). Women played a major role in the earliest of Christian churches. Then men started abusing power. Women, in short, played a very, very significant role in the churches of Paul’s day, —unusual in the Greco-Roman world. —And I think it was rooted in Jesus’s proclamation that there would be equality of men and women. You know all the passages: If you are baptized into Christ you put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free; there is not male and female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ. This got lost, writ large in the late first century when we see massive power grabs.
—Anyway, I tremble at the awesomeness of God’s Word. Sometimes I hear guest preachers we have at my church reading the Bible as if it were a weather report. . . . I’m determined this year more than ever to know Jesus Christ in a new way that I have not known Him before. I know Jesus didn’t come into the world to make bad women good; He came to make dead, marginalized and objectified women really live (—real life)! —Obviously applies to men too but when power is balanced you get less abuse, period.
Absolutely no offense is taken. I appreciate the honesty, very helpful! You are doing it with kindness and love -at least it feels that way to me.
I am not sure what the value is to be married on paper only… I am guessing that he says this to hurt me. He feels that I acted like our marriage was on paper only. I was very distant for years because I had no idea how to handle my marriage, handle his rages, handle two young children, I shut down. And now he is making me pay.
Hopeful, narcissists are very cruel and find great delight in putting people down, probably to control them. It has been my experience that they love it when we are affected by their put downs. It is so frustrating to them when you don’t have a reaction to their put downs. They are big bullies- when bullies get a reaction, they love it and continue.
Thank you Thank you
Betsy and hopeful are the same person????
Good too see you, I was wondering!
Wow..bullies is a good word. I have always felt bullied by him
He puts the charm on in public especially around women. And then there is me.
I am done reacting to him.
My husband used to say he was in tune with women and sensitive to meeting their needs of women. I used to think – yes, every woman except your wife.
Yes my narc husband is a bully to me mainly and very cruel at times. He delights in it indeed. I too, have continued for our 11 year old but she sees too. Not a very good example to what marriage is supposed to be about in Gods eyes. I currently playing the game and non confrontational until such time I am fully recovered from this neck surgery fusion 3 months ago. I will continue to ask God what to do. I worn out. He is so pious. But he also is a lost soul with the Lord. God help him and our family.
I will pray for you that God heals and restores your health and heart so that u can be restored and refreshed.
I am worn out too. Tonight I feel incredibly alone.this has been such a lonely summer. All the things we did for years as a family and as a couple stopped…no camping, no dinners out, no prayers, no church…pure loneliness.
Hopeful, Why did things stop this summer?
I went back to work full time. I tried to sell our camper, which I bought with an inheritance, because he was done in the marriage and my boys complain about camping. My husband will not engage in any planning or discussion of finances. He has left this part of our marriage. If I want to do anything it is up to me to plan and pay for. Sadly I am in major debt now.
Just last night I mentioned that I would love to do something this coming Labor Day weekend and that we needed to respond to a family wedding coming up. He ignored me. I waited about 15 minutes, then said to him ” I feel like you are ignoring bathe two questions I asked”. He immediately jumped all over me saying that I am trying to o ” start a fight where there isn’t one”. I can’t win with him.
My impression is that your husband has you in the role of a mother rather than a wife. What his relationship like with his real mother? It may give you some insight on how to proceed. I think you need to make decisions without him. Go to the wedding and have fun. Divest from him financially as best you can. I hope you have a separate checking account and are not paying for things he wants and you can’t afford….like maybe a huge cable TV bill.
God bless you. Your perseverence in this storm is admirable.
I myself know that my narc husband also needs me more yet they attempt make us co-dependent and control abuse and bully so they won’t get left first. It’s been very miserable and I can’t remember the last time I was truly happy. When I met him of course. But the mask came off. But a child came to us from the Lord and I am still here. Honestly when I get stronger and heal from surgery, I may be exiting this marriage. Being abused no matter how much I fight it and ignore him still is wrong and affected me and our child. Terrible example for our child. I don’t want her to marry a personality disordered person and be abused. The lack of intimacy has been excruciating as God tells us not to deprive one another this area in Hos Word.
I am thinking about the posts from women who are concerned about their future financial state. Isn’t your life worth more than money? We have so many scriptures that remind us of our value and also of God’s provision. Step out in faith and trust. God will make a way!!
I was also thinking about the Vivienne mentioning the 50/50 no fault divorce split. 50/50 also refers to his debt. If I understand correctly, your H took an inheritance from you, has incurred more debt and gambles. Certainly your prudent financial style will more than adequately supplies your needs when you are no longer unevenly yoked to a spendthrift. Have faith. God will provide!
Patricia. I understand so well the excruciating loneliness you may feel. I am feeling this now. And I put my husband through this as well as I was in a sink hole for years in our marriage. Now he takes delight pushing me away. He is pompous and arrogant.I pray daily for relief and restoration. God please show up.
Yes Hopeful. I too, feel your pain and loneliness as well. It’s a constant head game and soul wrenching. Gas lighting and power trips repeatedly. I pray for us both and all who feel this and live this for Gods grace and restoration.
Ladies, I don’t mean to be difficult. But I am not remotely lonely. I get energized by being by myself. It is the only time I am truly free of my abusive H. I gobble up free time with exercise, projects, art, music, movies, books and gardening. I have never been lonely a day in my life. I have no idea what that feels like. Maybe that is a symptom of trauma too. Ha.
Yes, Aleea, absolutely with kindness and love. I don’t always express with the optimal mix of conciseness and thoroughness I would desire. I figure we are all doing the best we can.
I too, can be abrupt. I have learned that abruptness can be a result of living in trauma. It is a survivor’s behavior. When we are in destructive marriages our voice is often silenced and ignored, so we adapt. Has anyone else heard of this?
I know I don’t intend to be rude, yet some have told me I am too blunt, so I must be at times.
To me it is economy of words. I get to use so few of them in a destructive relationship, that I try to have the maximum impact before I am cut off or put down. Economy of words, I call it, a highly selective process of communicating between lectures and outburst from the significant other.
I truly understand your financial situation. That’s why I’ve stayed so long. I’m not working and recent surgery so it’s worse. I’m know what you face and what you could lose and up against. You’re doing your best I’m sure in trying to figure it all out if you leave. Prayers and continued divine guidance for you.
Thank you Patricia – xx
We sure can feel stuck when we don’t have enough money or the hope of employment to move out of our difficulty situations. There is a women’s group at our local church that puts adult women together as roommates. They have a message board and find safe places for single parents, widows, the ill, elderly and handicapped.
I would say you are living with a terrible room mate now. Might you consider living with some other women in exchange for company and light house work. There are so many lonely elderly people with big houses they can’t manage. What do you think?
Thankfully, we can to leave room for God’s provision. Maybe your husbands have thought of every way to take advantage & triumphed over you and has the last word but although it doesn’t look good humanly speaking. We can trust our Heavenly Father who knows and sees all things, the ways we’ve been tormented and taken advantage of and he knows the end of the story!
I am 49 and have a 5 year old and the future looks scary to me. My husband always told me he would never pay support. Lawyers cost so much, if my case doesn’t go to court soon my savings will be depleted and I will need to go on government assistance to use legal aid to wrap up my case and live while getting onto my own two feet! My husband thinks he will take 1/2 of the house although he never put any equity into it and he always made sure the house paid for the house and nothing ever came from his own pocket. I know he will stay in the country long enough to get what he thinks he can from the home but after that he says he will to go back to his African country with the money in his pocket. As I read my bible I read how much God detests evil people who harm their families and those who harm and take advantage of those who are weaker than them, I have to trust that the same God who got me out of this horrible marriage to this scary man will also make a way to walk & live daily now that I am out! Sometimes going back to work looks so daunting, any amount I can make is almost eaten up by childcare & not worth my time but I have learned from Leslie that I shouldn’t decide I know the future and give up but rather try with everything I have, persevere and entrust myself to the one who purchased my salvation – I read in Ezekiel 7:19 “their silver and their gold will not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. We must entrust ourselves to the Lord God who loves us and cares – he will make a way!
Stay strong, Leonie. You seem to be on the right path. I have know women who just got too tired to fight about money. They didn’t get what they deserved, yet the peace that came from closure was priceless. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, yet we have so many wonderful promises from God. We can take his word to the bank.
On a practical note, they are so many creative ways to stretch a dollar once you are divorced and on your own. Check out some of the budgeting tips on Focus on the Family. They have great resources for all stages of family life and every imaginable circumstance.
Thank you, Mary I will look for that.
I have found a really fun place to shop. Our local Goodwill has clothing by the pound. The price is $1.49 per pound of fabric. There are large vats of clothing to dig through, but if you can handle the effort, the rewards are wonderful. I have sheets, towels, curtains, holiday table clothes, coats etc.. all from Goodwill. I found a great cotton dress from Talbots to wear to a wedding last month. I went to the dry cleaners on a discount day and the total purchase for my dress was $8 with dry cleaning. I added a pair to $2 pumps and a 50 cent clutch and no one was the wiser. 🙂
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your response to Vivienne. It was informative, in everyday English, and with heart. Thank you.
Let the righteous correct me, it shall be kindness: And let her reprove me, it shall be as oil for my head; Let not my head refuse it. Reprove me for all my faults, and let me not go on in unconsciousness of them. Psalms Scroll of Qumran Dead Sea Cave 11 🙂
Islandgirl, I hope you don’t mind me replying. What that counselor said to you is SO wrong. Just take it and chuck it out the window of your mind!!! And take that book and put in the garbage or burn it!!’
“She told me that I would need to make a choice if I was committed to changing the marriage,”—
You cannot change the marriage. You can only let God change you. And contrary to what we usually think needs changing (I need to be more this, do more of that) it’s that we need to stop putting up with abuse and start setting boundaries which may eventually go as far as leaving the marriage altogether!
“that God had made me for my husband”— really how does she know that. Maybe marry him was one big mistake and you were really meant for someone else.
“and that ultimately his healing would come through me” — LIE, it will only come through Christ.
And you don’t need to be physically abused to have been abused.
“my life in a tense, prison like environment where my husband has used tactics of intimidation, manipulation, anger and silence to exert control over me. I have never felt peace or a freedom to be myself. I have not been shown kindness, gentleness or understanding but rather harshness, criticism and blame.” — You’re a prisoner of war via mind torture and I’d bet you’re suffering physically for it—anxiety?, panic attacks?, get sick easily and or often?, no energy? muscle and/or joint pain?
“How can I make my heart feel something it doesn’t anymore.” — He stomped all over it; he needs to repent, make restitution to you in whatever way you need, and make himself accountable to someone who will hold his feet to the fire for the rest of his life.
“How can I possibly experience closeness, intimacy?” — It is normal to feel no closeness or intimacy considering how he treats you. He’s a prison guard, not a husband.
“I can only pretend but for how long and at what cost?” — Now is the day of salvation—no more pretending; the cost will be too high and you’ve already paid in way too much.
I think you are just now at the beginning of finding freedom from the mess. And you WILL get FREE!
Island, must you remain in this church? Unfortunately your church is ill prepared to deal with your husband’s abusive behavior. What other resources are available in your community.
I understand life in a home prison. If it was not so easy for your husband to control you, he would move onto violence. He uses the sneaky tactics he does because it works! He controls you. What can you do to turn the tables? You need to fight for you. Not fight for your marriage, As hard as it is to hear, you are not in a marriage, you are in a union so perverse that only Satan is smiling. You, my dear, as being kept like a slave.
What a mess of poor grammar in my last post. Sorry.
Islandgirl, it angers me when I hear how some churches respond to women who go to them for help. Why don’t they follow Matthew 18:15-17 “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained a brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others….. And if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
I think one reason they give terrible advice is because they don’t have to bear any of the consequences. If they were held accountable, they would do better and at least think carefully before saying anything. For example, if a woman and her children were encouraged to stay in a physically abusive situation, and someone got hurt, they should be held accountable. I don’t think people who are giving such advice would put up with such bad treatment from someone else. My pastor gave me some bad counsel and it did not make sense to me so I didn’t take it. I am so glad I didn’t listen to him,
Something to consider is the church’s insurance. Yes, read that again, their insurance. I was told by my popular mega church that they could not help me with my marital problem of domestic violence because their insurance didn’t cover it. They said that my abusive H could endanger their staff and therefore they could not offer me counsel, due to the risk of having my H on church property.
I might also add that H and I went to church every services “on their property” and they had no problem cashing our checks!!
They need to know that abusers usually only abuse behind closed doors, he will try to look good I front of everyone else to maintain his image and only abuse when no one else is around.
With a narcissist husband it gets so bad that I cringe at when anyone comes over as its all a lie. One of my brothers was over here today and I was letting down my guard to him and bringing up my issues. I stated that his brother in law, my husband, is cruel and criticizing to me frequently. My husband quickly interrupted and loudly as he always does and told his version in a civil way that was believable and of course my brother was gracious to me but said that he didn’t believe my husband does that. They all love him and what he presents to them is the good guy whom I am just being crazy.
Of course my brother means well but then asked me why I won’t go and get some professional help to talk about my problems. Shake my head. It’s awful.
Patricia, here’s a link to an article that talks about abusers and their allies.
However polite your brother in law was, if he believes your brother, he thinks you are lying.
Thanks Maria. I appreciate it.
It was my brother who was here today talking about things and can’t believe my husband does this. You said brother in law so just clarifying. He of course is my husbands brother in law. But regardless, I know what you are saying about the situation and they I am not believed. It’s been like this with my brothers however nice they are all
my life. But it is dysfunctional and long story like many of us probably. Thank you
Hi Lisa, and all of you who are suffering similar circumstances.
I stupidly believed that abuse was punishable – but it only seems to be that way if you have sufficient money to pursue redress through the court system. H wins again!
H also wins because to achieve a good settlement I would have to return to England before I want to i.e before my youngest son leaves school, and while my son is at school my H will get money from the UK government as he is on a low income. My H doesn’t really care about my children, only the money that accompanies them. I hate how my H is able to make everything work in his favour.
I still have to confront him on some issues – just hope I can hold my emotions in check while I do that because I do not want to give him any satisfaction knowing how hurt I am.
Vivienne, can you run what you want to confront by a good friend and think of the different ways your husband may respond? That way you can try to be prepared and keep your emotions in check.
This is great advise Maria. I am wondering what must be confronted. It is important to be very wise. Are the issues logistical or emotional? The emotional discussions can wait. In my opinion, the logistical issues are more important. Any hope we have of getting a sensible reply is probably unrealistic. Be prepared for that.
Narcissist husband once again just tells me that I
am always complaining in pain and sick of it. I had neck double fusion surgery 3 months ago. He expects me well by now and tired of me not well and having to deal with me. Aren’t they just wonderful?
Have you heard the phrase, In one ear and out the other? Let his comments blow right past you. Replace each one with positive self talk. “My neck does hurt now, but it won’t always hurt.” “I am strong and am looking forward to how much more of life I can enjoy when my neck is fully healed.” Eat right, rest, push fluids, do your physical therapy and take your vitamins. You will be on your feet in no time. 🙂
Thanks Mary. You are right and appreciate your words of encouragement.
Yep. We’re their work horses.
I know Lisa. I can’t anymore and did for 13 years. Through my surgery God has His ways of stopping things that I kept doing and resentment building.
Same here. I have some serious health issues and it has curtailed getting things done. Does he pick up the slack? Nope. But he does make plenty of messes. He’s a forever toddler.
Patricia, here are a few suggestions that may help:
1. Do you talk to your husband about how you are feeling-pain, being tired etc? If you are, are you hoping for him to empathize with you or is it to let him know you’re not able to do stuff around the house? Narcissists typically are unable to show empathy. If he is pressuring you to do something, can you say “I’m unable to do this, perhaps you can help out”. Talking to a narcissist about your physical ailments is opening the door for him to abuse you
2. We need to be very careful with whom we allow to speak into our lives. If someone were to tell you “grass is purple”, you have a choice to believe that or believe what you know is true. When your husband says things that are not true, choose to believe the truth, not his lies.
3. Make pleasing God your priority and show mercy to yourself when you fail. It’s really important to do things that will please God. If you are looking to please your husband, it’s like trying to fill a bottomless pit.
4. Staying well in a situation like this is very difficult. If it is not possible to be healthy, you may have to look at other options.
I am far from righteous! I guess we are all affected by our destructive relationships in different ways. Some economize their thoughts and others can’t contain them. Interesting….
I know the constant state of distress trust me with them. I also pray too all the time. Nothing changes.
I have a very high stressed job and have worked very hard for the family for the past 2 decades. I am the main breadwinner in my family. I am grateful that God has given me skills in the food department and I would like to start a small business in a food related area. I am very excited and I trust that God will lead me and bless in this new endeavour.
Th problem is that my husband is discouraging me from embarking in this new area as he feels I can earn more income if I continue in what I was already trained for.
I want a change as I am close to 50 years and I want to do something I enjoy. Does my husband have the right to decide what job I do or what business I should start.
Gina, I don’t think your husband has the right to decide, but put yourself in his shoes. If he wanted to quit a well paying job to start a new business would you want to have input? Would you want this to be a joint decision? I think you would. If your marriage is important, you both need to talk about the pros and cons of this decision and together come up with the best decision for you, and for your family’s needs.
I appreciated so very much what you wrote in your posting, Leslie. I struggled so much in my marriage, wanting to obey God in submitting, but also thinking if this really meant I had to do whatever my husband “commanded”, no matter what, I would never have gotten married in the first place, and furthermore I would advise my daughter to never marry — because if that is what the Bible means, it actually encourages men to be dictators.
The two paragraphs when you wrote: “….what if a husband decides his wife can’t visit her parents any longer? ….What if he decides she has to eat fish instead of pizza? …What if he wants her to wear mini skirts, or get breast implants?…” etc. were excellent, they echoed similar statements I had written out in my journal… I could have added to your examples: “what if he wants her to empty out her IRA savings saved prior to marriage (when he has saved nothing) — so he can buy toys for himself? What if he wants her to have weight loss surgery even when she is not close to being obese? ”
In my case, I agonized very long over this matter, but ended up being able to have some peace when a pastor clarified to me: * this bible verse, telling wives to submit — is written to WIVES, not husbands. Husbands have no authority to try to command or claim that verse for themselves. * Genesis states that women were made to be a “helper” (/ helpmate) for man. But this by no means means women were intended as a slave running around at her master’s beck and call. In fact, totally the opposite: the Hebrew word used for “helper” in this passage is exactly the same Hebrew word that God uses in describing Himself as the “Helper” to Israel.
Anyhow — when I read your book earlier this summer I wish I could have read it years ago (but it hadn’t yet been published at that time!) — as it would have greatly helped me in understanding what my responsibilities are before God in marriage. But I’m so glad I have read it now.
So, Ladies… would it be safe to reword that verse “Your desire will be toward your husband (to an extreme, as to an idol), and he will (have an unhealthy desire to) rule over you.” ? (Genesis 3:16)
And I would like to know how to find an online source showing me that Ephesians 5:21 and 22 are in fact one sentence in the Greek.
Aleea: I agree that the Bible appears to go against women in several verses. I think God’s words have been twisted to mean something different (translated by men) than what it actually says. I like the Complete Jewish Bible version because those comments have been corrected by a Jewish person who understands Jewish culture and the Greek language. There are also several verses that negatively portray the Jewish people. This Bible is in English with a few words transliterated from the Hebrew. It can be understood by anyone.
[…] 12. See https://leslievernick.com/does-my-husband-always-have-the-final-say/ […]
I appreciate your inclusion of God’s command to husbands to love their wives. The one huge hole in this article is the lack of its companion command, “Wives respect your husbands.” While I agree with much that is here, the fact that this command is missing leaves the article as unbalanced biblically as a husband who focuses on headship while ignoring the command to love his wife. IMHO