Five Ways I Seek To Be A Submissive Wife
For some of us, submission may be unfamiliar — not because the term is foreign, but because the concept is unclear. In many marriages, it’s not common for the husband to ask his wife to “obey” him in anything particular. So, it can be hard for the wife to objectively gauge whether or not she is really being submissive as the Bible says wives should be.
“Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18 KJV; see also Ephesians 5:22; 1 Peter 3:1).
Since biblical head covering represents the woman’s acceptance of the man’s headship (leadership), it helps to have a clear idea of how to apply that concept practically.
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God… For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Corinthians 11:3, 7-9 KJV).
Though there are wives who have husbands with demanding personalities, there are others who have husbands with very laid-back, relaxed attitudes. This article is meant for those wives, as advice in how to honor their easy-going husbands. That’s exactly the type of man my husband is.
“Am I A Submissive Wife?”
The other day, I asked my husband (only a little apprehensively), “Am I a submissive wife?” His response was right to the point… and I’ll tell you what it was in a moment. But first, I’d like to share with you what the word submission implies, to him.
In his mind, this word carries with it some negative connotations: slaves submit to their masters, and animals submit to their owners. The image of a groveling, spiritless creature always pops up in his imagination, largely as a result of his cultural upbringing. However, my husband has never expected me to act like his slave nor does he ever want us to interact in that way. He wants me to be his wife.
He described it to me this way: “In order to have a good marriage, we need to have good communication. We need to have conversations where we — the both of us — share our opinions respectfully. Even though the Bible says that I’m the leader, I value your input in making decisions for our family.” It’s true: he does like to hear what I think and will sometimes even change his mind about something based on an insight I’ve shared. He respects me. But what about me? Do I respect him?
When I asked him if I was a submissive wife, do you know what his answer was?
“In the stereotypical sense, no. But in the biblical sense, yes.” Though I don’t grovel at his feet, I do try to honor him. While not perfect, my efforts are fortunately substantial enough to be appreciated by him.
Biblical submission doesn’t mean surrendering your personality or hiding your intelligence. Biblical submission means following the example of Christ.
Jesus’ human inclinations were always in submission to the Father’s will, even when He was under intense pressure. He always did those things that pleased the Father. Jesus — the most powerful and influential person in the world — was obedient (Philippians 2:8). Amazingly, He obeyed His Father without being any less Himself. Though He temporarily surrendered some of His privileges as King of the universe, He didn’t surrender His individuality. This is a perfect picture of true submission.
Throughout the New Testament, believers are urged to follow Christ’s model of behavior, and specific instructions are given to help us know how to interact with other people in a healthy, loving way. The Bible uses the word submission in the sense of following a superior’s orders, such as in the military. Thankfully, when the Bible says that women are supposed to obey their husbands, it gives a well-defined picture of what a life of submission should look like. No guesswork is involved — not even for the woman whose husband rarely asks her to do anything.
Based primarily on these biblical guidelines for relationships ¹, I would now like to offer five tests that will help us find out if we’re following the patterns of a “submissive wife.”
Test #1: Do you listen more than you talk, or at least as much as you talk?
I have a tendency to speak my mind — a lot. My husband, on the other hand, can go for long periods of time without saying anything. He once explained to me that (metaphorically) his brain is full of little boxes, each for a different topic; he even has an empty one. This, he told me, is for when he doesn’t feel like thinking about anything at all. But, he said, women don’t have an “empty box” – they have a jumble of little cables that connect one thought to the next in a very long, intricate, pathway. I laughed when he said that because it seemed to me he was right.
As funny as that illustration was, it did highlight for me the uncomfortable possibility that if I talk as much as I think, my husband won’t ever get a chance to share what he is thinking with me. While I’m going on and on, he could just resort to his “empty box.” I need to remember to be “swift to hear, slow to speak” (James 1:19).
By letting our husbands speak their minds without interrupting them or habitually dominating the conversation, we are submitting our speech. We wives can trust that God is capable and willing to influence our husbands for good; we don’t always have to try and convince them with our words but can pray and leave the matter in God’s hands (1 Peter 3:1).
Test #2: Do you respect your husband’s opinion enough to let him have his way?
My husband never demands that I obey him. Selfishly, I could take advantage of that fact and only do what I wanted. He wouldn’t try to force me to fit his vision of the ideal wife; he would just be unhappy. But it wouldn’t be loving of me to act that way. Though he doesn’t make demands, he certainly does have hopeful expectations. He may not always ask me to do something outright, but I can anticipate his wants.
Part of being a submissive wife involves not only listening to our husbands but also letting them have their way by submitting our preferences to their wishes (Romans 14:19; 15:2-3).
Test #3: Do you love your husband in ways that are most meaningful to him?
I love getting compliments from my husband. However, he sometimes prefers to express his feelings differently — by cooking for me. His savory creations communicate his care just as much as any three words could. So it makes complete sense that when I take the time to cook an especially nice meal for him, that’s the same to him as getting a compliment would be to me.
Being delighted with our husbands’ efforts to please us (and serving our husbands in ways that are meaningful to them) shows that we submit our expectations. Instead of expecting our husbands to be happy with the same things that make us happy, we can choose to “go the extra mile” in an effort to make them feel special (Philippians 2:3-4).
Test #4: Do you make time for your husband?
As wives, we don’t have to look for a busy life — it finds us! Child-related activities can easily fill up our whole day, and chores like dishes and laundry are always demanding our attention as well. We’re doing the best we can to take care of our home and family, and that’s good. But, after we’ve checked off all the items on our to-do list (or at least most of them — who ever manages to get them all done?), have we neglected to make time for our dearest and closest human friend?
Our husbands deserve that we spend time with them, intentionally. This could be something as sophisticated as a special evening planned for two, or something as simple as an afternoon chat over coffee. In order to make this happen, we might need to rearrange our schedule. Though submitting our time may seem inconvenient at first, giving up what’s good for what’s best will always be worth it, in the end (Titus 2:4-5).
Test #5: Do you show your husband that you appreciate the ways he serves you?
I’ve found myself doing it more times than I’d like to admit: I whine that my husband doesn’t do whatever-it-might-be as often as he used to. That attitude is very me-focused. When I notice those selfish thoughts starting to take over, I remind myself of all the ways my husband serves me and our family. For example, he works very hard to provide for us, he takes walks with me even when he’s tired, and he holds the baby while I make dinner. There are so many good things he does that the things he doesn’t do seem minuscule by comparison!
By submitting our attitude, we choose to focus on the positive instead of the negative. We opt for thankfulness instead of discontentment. Instead of thinking of all the ways we “deserve” to be appreciated, we look for ways to appreciate our husbands (1 Peter 4:8-10).
Far from being the demeaning, personality-crushing version of submission that we tend to picture, true biblical submission involves doing what is best for the other person and for the marriage in a lifestyle of Christ-like love. It is the act of willingly and cheerfully submitting our speech, preferences, expectations, time, and attitude in order to show honor to our husbands. So yes, we can have a personality, we can have opinions, and we can use our God-given gifts and still be considered “submissive” wives.
How do you show true, biblical submission to your husband? We would love to hear practical ideas for honoring our spouses in the comments section below!
¹ The headship hierarchy in 1 Corinthians 11:3 teaches that wives are to submit to their husbands — and they should be able to look to their husbands as good examples of what submission is like, as they see their husbands submitting to Jesus. Similarly, husbands are to submit to Jesus — and husbands can look to Jesus for a perfect example of submission, as He submitted to the Father.