When my friend visited us last month, we had a heart to heart conversation about marriage and parenting.
You see, the last time we were together, she had all but lost hope in her marriage. But she held it together and made some changes and now her family is thriving. I’m so proud of her.
She explained the turnaround to me.
She began demanding that her children respect their father.
Sounds simpler than it is?
My friend’s family dynamics and mine are rather similar. She calls herself the “alpha.” I giggle, but I think it’s totally true.
She makes all decisions in that household. I make pretty much all the decisions in our household, so we definitely are quite similar. Her primary motive was to save her children’s relationships with their father. She wanted to break the cycle of absent fathers that she and her husband had growing up. Her desire to do that saved their marriage and family.
Well, my husband’s father passed away two and a half months after we were married. I know that this has permanently damaged him and he has no one to ask for advice about marriage or parenting. I try to take that into consideration. I really do. But it’s often hard. I’m naturally a leader and I do things my way. I don’t ask for advice.
My friend described how during the last few years, she has consistently required her three children to respect their father. Even their dog had to be re-trained! She said it was slow going at first, but now they’re all happy and her husband feels important and needed. Affirmation. But my friend still is the “alpha” and makes all the decisions. Her husband just needed that affirmation. Love languages, people!
I mostly agree with her methods.
Encouragement, priorities, affirmation, relationships.
I know many Christian wives wholeheartedly throw themselves into the belief of the submissive help meet scenario of a wife to a husband. And that’s great for many wives. I’ve read all those books too. They really confused me. Some of those books were rather frightening. I think this is a greatly misunderstood area in Christian and secular circles. My mother and aunts and grandmothers and great aunts were all very dominant (domineering?) women. I come from a long line of strong matriarchs on both sides, so the whole meekness thing isn’t ingrained in me at all. Wives can be strong and make decisions with the blessings of their husbands.
When I’ve attempted to discuss these marriage roles with my husband, he was confused too. He doesn’t want me to be all super submissive to him and he doesn’t want to dominate. He’d rather I make all the household decisions. He knows I can handle it. Often, we make big decisions together, but it’s usually my knowledge and guidance that propel us in the right direction. It’s probably because I have more time to do research. He makes lots of decisions at work, so he’d rather know that home is running smoothly. Except when plumbing or electricity is involved. Then I need him to take over, ‘cuz I don’t do that or windows. Windows don’t fit in the dishwasher!
So, my conclusion to the whole help meet submission thing is that each wife should submit in the ways that please her husband. If your husband wants a modest, skirt-wearing, no makeup and acquiescent wife, then try to please him in those ways and there should be harmony in the house. (Most likely y’all were attracted because of those desires in each other in the first place, so don’t try to be all bold if that’s not your nature.) If your husband wants a modern, independent, and completely capable woman who can make all decisions, then try to be that girl. We’re all different and our relationships with our husbands are all different. We were all created to be individuals, under God, as helpers to our husbands.
I think people try to read too much into the issue. Why make it harder than it is?
I tend to be more of the latter type. I went through a skirt-wearing phase and my husband was quite horrified. He said he thought he’d entered an episode of Little House on the Prairie and he wanted to go home. NOW. So, I’m modern. I wear makeup and I like pretty clothes. We had attended a Fundamentalist Independent Baptist at that time and there were brochures in the lobby about proper Christian dress. Every family has to make their own decisions as to what works for them. I don’t feel that makeup and shorts make me or my daughters less Christian than the plain, skirt-wearing types. Honestly, I’ve seen plenty of modesty issues with too many girls from those fundamental Christian families. So, maybe there are other issues there. And modesty is more a behavior anyway. The Bible mentions it should be our constant “conversation.” We want to focus more on heart matters than appearances in our household.
So I am making more of an effort to encourage my kids to respect their father, Aaron. It’s tough, I’ll tell you! I know I don’t respect him much either. I mean, honestly, I know everything, right? I know I am condescending and contemptuous. And my eldest daughter is a great mimic, much to my chagrin. But he seriously can’t tell me to make the decisions and then not like those decisions. (And if I ask for advice, just tell me what I want to hear. It’s not like I really wanted an opinion anyway, ya know?)
Aaron struggles with being harsh to Elizabeth and having excessive expectations. He struggles with consistency in discipline. So, I think working on our relationships will improve everything. If the kids love and respect their father, they will desire to please him. Then he will see their efforts and not be so frustrated when they fall short. And I know that I struggle with lots of things too.
I could bemoan the loss of family devo time or I could suck it up that my husband leaves before anyone is up and comes home at dinnertime and is tired. I do devotional time and Bible teaching with my children as part of our homeschool. There’s always something to be discontent about, but is it worth it? Let’s just focus on the positives.
It’s so true that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
My attitude is the catalyst for everything that happens with this family.
I have seen great improvements in my kids’ behavior when I strive to be cheerful and optimistic and make sure the schedule runs smoothly, including feeding the little monsters a good, healthy breakfast. I’m so much more tired on those days though!
So, that fearful word “submission” looks different in my household than it may look in yours. But we’re happy and blessed now that we’re working it out in a way that fits for us. Different denominations preach different interpretations of this. But what’s it’s about is power. Wives have power over our husbands, whether we exert it or not. Like that quote in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”
We can offer advice. We can be persuasive. We can do this in a godly way that honors our husbands and the decisions he makes. Most husbands do what their wives desire. Make sure your heart is in the right place.
Just so you know, my friend is Jewish. Her ideals are often more Christian than most evangelical Christians I know. She keeps me honest. I can’t hide from her!