If you could have coffee with your younger self, what would you tell him or her? I would probably plop down in front of twenty-two-year-old, in love, naïve Heather and say, “Listen up! You think you are going to be a wonderful wife. You assume submitting to this man is going to be a walk in the park. You think you have it all figured out. Because you are studying relationships in graduate school, you think you are a step ahead of other engaged couples. You have no idea what you are doing. Allow me to enlighten you!”
My younger self might find me to be a bit pushy… and I would not care. Harsh experience has a way of making us more willing to tackle the truth. ~smile~
Twenty-two-year-old Heather would probably need a few mental breaks, which I would allow; but, all-in-all our coffee date would last approximately seventy-two hours. I would need at least three days to relay all I have learned in this decade. One tidbit I would surely pass along is phrases to avoid – questions which start with, “Why did you…?” (Men hear a silent “you dummy” tacked onto the end of questions which begin like that), as well as the statement, “My friend’s husband does <insert something awesome here> for her!”
And, among the phrases to avoid… this would be at the top of my list: “Whatever you want to do is fine.”
Abdication Disguised as Submission
Well-meaning women often misunderstand submission. (This is not surprising.) To this day, I am still learning (and expect I will continue to learn for a lifetime) what it means to be a submissive wife. Many times, I have found myself at a crossroads wondering how to handle a situation. “If I act in this way, will I not be a subservient doormat? But, if I react in this other, more tempting, way, will I not be in rebellion?”
If you get married and soon find submission to be a bigger mystery than it was when you were single, do not despair. Thousands of Christian woman who have gone before you understand. ~smile~
When I was first married, I used submission to my advantage – at least my prior understanding of submission. I hated seeing women emasculate and disrespect men, so I had every intention of leaving that trash at the door. However, I swung too far into the other ditch. I abdicated. I skipped happily through life and left all of the big decisions to Eric.
“Whatever you want to do is fine, Honey.”
It was easy to think I was being a kind, submissive wife by staying out of his way while he made decisions, but I was not submitting. I was handing over all the stress and burden to Eric. I was taking on the role of a daughter and yet becoming enraged when he would treat me like a child.
I was hiding behind my misuse of submission and found that it is easy to ‘submit’ when it gets me out of an unpleasant task (such as figuring out complex problems); but, it is truly difficult to submit when it means not always getting my way.
The Heart of Her Husband Trusts in Her
“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” (Proverbs 31:11, ESV)
It took me a few years to learn this, but Eric needs my opinion. This is not a romantic, I cannot live without you, kind of need. This is an honest to goodness, I feel like I am drowning, I am desperate for your help kind of need. Being the follower that I am, I typically appreciate someone else making tough decisions. My nature is to follow a strong leader or to keep away from the pack completely and march to my own beat. One of the traits that attracted me to Eric early on was his strength and competence. The man is smart and no one who truly knows him can deny it. From the time we were friends up until marriage, I came to depend on his ability to figure out problems and make life work.
His intelligence far exceeded my own (at least in my estimation), so I did not inject my opinion very often. In fact, I feared my views would steer Eric wrong; so, I withheld my insight even when he requested it. It was not until he approached me, exasperated, and said, “Please, I need your opinion!” that I realized how much he desired my involvement in family matters. My blissful ignorance had left him feeling like he was making all of the large decisions in this marriage alone… because he was.
It was never my intention to place the entire weight of our family’s well-being on Eric’s shoulders, but my “submission” was causing him to feel alone. He did not take a wife so he could control her. He wanted a partner, which is what all sane men desire. He wanted someone with whom he could share thoughts and ideas. He knew he needed a wise woman who could think for herself and give Godly counsel. In essence, I was simply his cook and maid. He needed me to be his encourager, his sounding board, his advisor, and his prayer partner. He needed me to be… his wife.
There is More Than One Way to Say “Whatever You Want to Do is Fine.”
The temptation to throw out this convenient sentence is still alive and well in me – especially in those moments when the decision at hand is not important to me. I have handed over my responsibility to him numerous times when I was tired or did not want to be bothered. Sometimes when I am stressed and flustered, I plead with him to just figure it out.
Though I seldom say, “Whatever you want to do is fine” anymore, there are other sneaky ways to get the point across. Answering “sure” to a question without giving it much thought. Or flippantly suggesting that he do what he believes is best. Even saying “I do not know” without actually thinking about it and walking away is basically saying the same phrase and handing over the reins.
Eric is good at making decisions, very good. It comes naturally to him. In fact, I should be happy he asks for my opinion at all because he could make important (and unimportant) decisions without considering my feelings. Not all men are born decision-makers. Many desire advice and discussion before making a move. Regardless of whether you marry a field marshal like my husband or a laid back teddy bear like my dad, you ladies will need to be involved. Your thoughts and opinions matter and your husbands will be better off, as will your families, if you are kind, gentle, and consistent in sharing them.
So, twenty-two-year-old Heather and all the rest of you who are excitedly looking towards your wedding day, take this hard-learned lesson into your future marriages. Do not hide behind your wifely role as a way to avoid uncomfortable tasks or conversations – and stay away from phrases which dump all the responsibility on your husband’s shoulders.
“She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:12, ESV)
How else have you have seen women misuse submission?