"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Line in the Sand

God has given husbands the responsibility of leading their wives and children helping them grow closer to Him.  It’s a daunting task at best which is made even more challenging when a husband and wife don’t see eye to eye on the subject of headship and submission.

Last week I received a question from a husband who is struggling with leadership in his marriage.  It isn’t an issue in which he has difficulty following God’s leadership; rather, it’s a matter of convincing his wife and children to submit to his leadership. 

He writes:

My wife rebels against my authority all the time.  She’ll only submit to my leadership when she agrees with me.  When she doesn’t agree with me, or when it means work for her she refuses to submit.  I try to live with understanding but I tired of trying to get her to submit to me.  It’s affecting my relationship with our kids too.  They think I’m stupid and inferior to her because of the way she behaves. I just don’t know what to do.

Many husbands, myself included, face the same situation to a certain extent in our own marriages.  Husbands submit to the Lord and lead accordingly, only to have their wives stop short of submission.  I’ll follow him this far and no further.  At some point along the way they draw a line in the sand either when things start to become uncomfortable or when they disagree with the direction or decision their husbands are making. 

The fact is that we husbands are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the church, giving His life for her. (Ephesians 5:25)  This means that we must live our lives sacrificially for her benefit, giving up what we need in deference to her needs. It does not mean we should deny ourselves so that she can have every little thing she wants (that would definitely not be for her benefit), but for her good.

Wives are instructed in Ephesians to submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22).  Everything means not just the things with which they agree but everything. So, when a wife draws a line in the sand and will not submit to things that are outside her comfort zone or ideas with which she does not agree, she is in sin, plain and simple. 

But it isn’t that simple.  1 Peter 3:7 says Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  In this verse husbands are instructed to take great care of their wives and to show thoughtful consideration of them, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  This means that when they aren’t ready to submit to their husbands and to God, their husbands must be understanding and patient.  If not, the husbands’ prayers will be hindered.

What, then, should a husband do when he tries his best to assume the headship in his marriage and to take the marriage where the Lord leads, and, as this husband’s question states, his wife will not follow?  The path of least resistance is to take a back seat to his wife and and let her lead.  Go along to get along.

In Hebrews 12:14, Paul tells us to make every effort to live in peace with everyone.  He specifically says every effort.  I have personally taken this to mean that when my wife is upset with me to the point that it is causing distress (not just a small disagreement) I must make every effort to live in peace with her. When the line has been drawn in the sand, whether by word or by action, I must set aside my vision for our marriage, even important ones, to live in peace with my bride.

As a husband, am I happy about it?  No.  Does it damage our marriage and hinder our intimacy?  Yes, sometimes it does.  Is there anything I can do about it?  Pray, and be patient. 

Our wives are precious gifts from God.  We have to lead them, love them, guide them.  And when they rebel, we have to be gracious and forgive them. 


  1. So then a wife just needs to be in 'distress' to get her own way? The flesh is always in distress when it doesn't get it's own way.

    This wife is a 'problem child'. I was a problem child for my husband as well. Parents know that problem children always require more work than others. This husband will need to go the extra mile to help his wife grow up.

    I have a real life example and am sharing with permission from this person's email. A son is grounded from his bike by his dad; but mom disagrees. Dad put a lock on the kid's bike (slightly excessive, but whatever floats your boat). Mom and son cut the lock off so he can ride his bike.

    What should this husband do? Just give up to keep the peace? No. Kids ALWAYS play the weak parent against the strong one; classic divide and conquer. The husband should go buy a boat-load of locks. Lock it again and triple the grounding time. If it happens again, take the bike to work.

    The responsibility for leadership is set squarely on the husband's shoulders. He needs to step up to the challenge, no matter how inconvenient or hard.

    Keeping the peace, is solely a matter of the motive of the heart. How a wife responds to a husband's leadership/direction is the motive of her heart. God says as much as it depends on YOU ... not the other person. If your motive is to lead lovingly and not over-bear or flaunt authority, then you have acted as to keep the peace. Between you and God, her response is not your problem.

    1. Well stated! Yes, the responsibility to lead does fall squarely on the shoulders of the husband. Husband should lead consistently even when there is all-out rebellion.

  2. Thanks for linking up to Marriage Monday! I really enjoyed reading a man's perspective on what happens when a wife refuses to submit to his leadership. May I never be that wife!!

  3. I just found your blog. This is very interesting. Coming from a woman's perspective, it's important to understand that "she" needs to decide to be submissive in her heart. There are things a husband can do to encourage her to have a submissive heart. Husband should show love, kindness, patience, understanding and what ever it takes that talks to her heart. It takes an even bigger man to make the changes in his heart first.