ANOTHER question about submission


While I have a fairly good understanding of this concept when replying to others’ thread about wifely submission, I am having a little trouble objectively applying it to myself and my own marriage.

I know that as long as the husband is acting out of Christ like love that wives are called to sumit to his authority because he has their best interests at heart.

But when and where do you draw the line? How do you keep it from becoming an issue of power?

For example, my husband is under the impression that he should have the final say in all disagreements (major/minor and spritual/secular). As long as he is not advocating something immoral then I should always submit to his ideas and opinions.

I have a problem with this. Now I need honest feedback from all of you (bracing myself…) because I really want to know if I am letting my pride get in the way. I just think that if things are always going to be done his way then why should I have an opinion or idea of my own? I am starting to feel a little oppressed and I don’t like it one bit. I find myself not bringing up things that are really bothering me or ideas if I feel they will lead to a “discussion”. It always seems to lead to a not so charitable talk.

So I feel like I have to stuff down my views and just go with his to keep the peace. Mainly I do it for the sake of my darling little girl because marital tension is never good for kids.

I would love to hear you opinions and advice (just please try to be nice). I want to be the best example of a faithful Catholic wife to my daughter but am confused if that means that I should just let my hubby always have his way or stand up for myself:confused: .



Maybe you already did this search, but just in case… here are some links to the CAF apologists’ takes on this issue:

Head of the household?

How should wives submit to their husbands?

What does husband headship mean, practically speaking?

Jimmy Akin on headship:

It also may be useful for your husband to reflect on the fact that no successful leader–inside of the family or out of it–continually insists on his prerogatives as a leader. Successful leaders follow the servant-leader model provided by Jesus (Mark 10:42-45), and appeal to their authority as infrequently as possible. Unfortunately, too many Christian husbands try to use the verses above as tools to get their way on trivial matters, and in so doing they undercut their ability to serve their family and provide it authentic leadership that is pleasing to Christ.


And this is my favorite part from “The Authority of Women” by Monica Miller, from the Catholic Education Resource Center:

If these Pauline passages are historically conditioned, they are so only in that their author bluntly states the duty of the wife. According to that culture, female submission was nothing new. What is new (and entirely changes the meaning of feminine submission) is Paul’s instruction to husbands.

John Paul called the teaching of Ephesians the “Gospel Innovation” because for the first time the truth about men and women is revealed. A mutual submission exists between spouses. (20) The wife is not to submit to a spouse who lords his authority over her. Not at all! He is instructed to give himself up for her. In the Christian dispensation, husbands are expected to do something entirely new based on the example of Christ and the sacramental role of the husband in making Christ real in the world: fully to serve their wives — instead of wives simply serving and obeying them.

The most profound form of submission is to die for another. When a person dies for another, he has truly submitted himself to that other person. He has spent himself for the good of the other.

It is important to notice that the instruction to wives on being submissive to their husbands is not unqualified. They should be submissive to them “as if to the Lord.” Submission is based on the one-flesh nature of Christian marriage, in which it is presupposed that husbands will love their wives as Christ loves His Church. The wife also has authority. She is the body of her husband, as verses 28-29 state. As the body is in a one-flesh unity with the head, she can and must call her husband to do what the head is supposed to do in the fulfillment of this living sacrament of Christ and the Church.

Husbands and wives do not have authority for the sake of exercising power over each other. If this were the case their relation would be one of constant tension and disharmony. Authority and submission exist to create a one-flesh unity. Authority exists to serve the bond. It is exercised for the good of the bond, so that the marriage will be a good marriage, so that the spouses can do what is good for their marriage together. The person who exercises authority does not do so for the sake of being served. It is exercised so that his marriage may be served.


“This sometimes may mean that the husband may have to sacrifice his will in a particular matter when he realizes that what his wife proposes is the greater good. Likewise, a wife submits her will to her husband’s when he calls her to a greater good.”

But what if there is no “greater good”? What if the matter is important to both spouses but they have different opinions? Obviously if it is something trivial like loading the dishwasher then each should do it their own way and not hassle the other when they do it theirs…but what if the matter requires agreement?

** Should the wife submit to keep family peace? That is what I have been doing but it rubs me the wrong way and I feel like I am becoming something other than myself. Do i need to aquire more humilty and just let it go, or am I becoming weak?**



I don’t think the burden of avoiding marital tension should entirely rest on you. The Bible talks about submission, but it also talks about the man and the woman becoming one flesh together rather than the woman getting assimilated into the man’s, right? St. Raphael told young Tobias and his wife to pray together before making important decisions. I don’t think that was meant in any way to imply that it’s only the man whose opinion counts.

Can we imagine St. Joseph bossing Mary around? Well, I can’t. I can indeed imagine him as the head of the family, but not as a “boss”. Same goes for the Old Testament patriarchs.

I think we also remember what Jesus did on Good Thursday, during the Last Supper. And what He told the Apostles about that.

What else could one say? Maybe that the same Epistle to the Ephesians which contains the most noted verses about submission also says something about loving the wife the wife Christ loves the Church. Christ was crucified. About His authority, He said they did right in calling Him the Lord for He was that, but He came to serve, not to be served. None of His authority exists for His own enjoyment. He never seemed to take pleasure in His authority or station, it was always a matter of how things were ordered, and a mission. In fact, He said He did not take glory from men (aka the charges supposed to submit). It is correct that His decisions were always final, but that was not by coercion of any kind, and He was always one with the Father (the Father is the one who knows what we need, who will not give us a snake if we ask for a fish or a stone if we ask for bread). I don’t think it’s one with Jesus to push people around. Christ insisted on being known by His acts. Being one with Christ means emulating His acts. And there was no bossing around by Him, ever…

Okay, it’s past 4 am and my logic seems to be starting to loop up, so let me just conclude that not-so-very-Christ-like demands should not benefit from oh-so-very-like-unto-Christ obedience, and that the authority which is modelled after Christ’s is to be used the way He used His, as well. Now, before I start repeating myself… :wink:

Ah, one more thing: I have some issues with the passage quoted from “The Authority of Women”. Basically, submission of dying for someone is not submission of following someone’s commands. Christ was crucified for us, indeed gave Himself up, He spent Himself for us totally, but He has never at any point taken a command from us (that He paid taxes is a different matter). Therefore while yes, He served us, He wasn’t our subordinate in a decision-making chain. The headship of the husband according to St. Paul includes the decision-making, it seems. Therefore, the metaphorical submission of Christ dying for His Church, for humans, is not the same as the more litteral submission Paul means to direct from the wife to the husband.


I use to submit to keep family peace and I grew more resentful. I thank God that my husband is not one that has to win an arguement, but he was when we were first married. I submited in keeping quiet about the way he treated me when he was angry. It wasn’t on decisions for we usually agreed on things. I will say that I exploded and the wrong way and got fed up. I kept dying to myself and my needs and it was not healthy. I know what you mean though. I have two sisters who are not Catholic but both take the verses in the bible wrong and allow all decisions to be made by the husband. One sister has no say so at all in any decisions or finances. This is a very controlling husband, but she is fine with it. The other sister does discuss things with her husband but said that when they disagree because he is the head of the household, he makes the decision. I don’t think that is right or fair to the wife, but many people abuse this verse to their own benefit. I am not saying that your husband is, but maybe you do need to have a heart to heart with him and tell him how you feel before you explode. It is not a pretty sight.:rolleyes: Well, it wasn’t for me. My husband actually was scared of me and my BP went up so high that I could feel it, but I was just fed up. It is not healthy to hold all this in. Talk to him. Some men forget the part that a husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and that was a sacrificial love. I will keep you in prayers.


I don’t think so. I mean, in a dynamic like that (in which the wife always submits in cases of disagreement), the husband runs the temptation of lording things over his wife, or of not properly/honestly exploring the merits of her stance. I wish I had something concrete to back up this hunch of mine, but I haven’t found any sources which explicitly cover this subject.

The catechism states that marriage is a relationship of self-giving. I do not think that a husband is being “self-giving”, in most instances, if he says, “Well, you might believe x, but I believe y, and we’re going to do it my way because I’m the man.” You might use “self-giving” as a litmus test for deciding whether his insistence on doing things his way is legitimate or not. I frankly can’t think of any situation in which it would be acceptable or Christian to unilaterally trump the opinion of one’s wife, provided she is sound of mind.

Husbands are called to be like Christ, who handed over His life to the will of ignorant people, who crucified Him. They’re not called to be like a dictator. The Bible states again and again that Christian leadership means a life of servanthood, not a life of being the boss. (to clarify, that doesn’t mean following demands and unreasonable requests, but it certainly does mean that a husband shouldn’t require anything of his wife in a less than Christ-like spirit)



I think your post is beautiful. Not sure where you got the idea that Miller was saying that the husband must follow his wife’s commands? Let me know if I missed something, but it seems to me that we’re in agreement.


There are a lot of things in life that are not “either/or” and can be “both/and.” You are certainly entitled to do things your own way without requiring your husband’s approval. Remind him that Jesus did not micromanage the disciples who were sent out to preach. He left the apostles in charge saying that the Spirit would remind them of the things he had told them. Jesus trusted the disciples to use good judgement, and to be attentive to the Spirit. Husbands who are Christ-like have the save confidence and trust in their wives. Read Proverbs 31 which is the teaching of a wise Jewish mother (Yiddishe Mama). It says the heart of her husband trusts in her.
Marriage is about honor and trust and caring for and about the other. It’s not about power and subjugation. It’s not about one person making all the decisions.

Matthew (Husband of 35 years)


**Depending on the situation is when i sometimes just agree to keep peace…With my husband having a masters in Theology unfortunetly even mundane arguements can turn into theological treatise of some minor letter written by someone in the middle ages:)

My husband also has the problem of being a very black and white person. He sees no grey (middle ground) and i’ve had to learn to adjust to it and pick my battles.

Is your husband ever able to see where you are coming from when you explain it to him? **


As the other half of the equation, I have very much to say on this matter. In fact I was planning to start a thread on this very subject but my wife beat me to it. I don’t know if I’ll have the time to explore this as much as I would like to right now, but hopefully I’ll be able to fairly soon. Until then I’ll continue reading some of the responses.


I’ve been married for 21 years and we have four children. We used to fight a LOT until I decided that it wasn’t worth it. I guess I got to the point to where I feel like, “Oh well, who cares,” and to be honest I’ve never been happier.
HOWEVER, if I don’t want to do something or talk about something, I simply don’t and DH can’t make me. I just quietly do what I feel best while being respectful of his opinions and feelings. Believe me, it took a LONG time for me to get to this point because I’m very forthright and humility does not come easily to me. But DH is happy because he thinks he’s in charge…while I know I really am! :smiley:


As a husband with 22 years experience, the thought of being the boss never crossed my mind. I turn over all my earnings to the wife and she makes all the decisions to run the household, budgeting of all expenses and the education of the kids, including how much food and gasoline allowance I and the rest of kids spend. When she needs my advise when she has problems with internal and external issues like schools, banks, kids, etc, I am there to help her out with my advise and sometimes to take over the whole enterprise to keep her focused on some particular priorities at that particular time. For example, when my daughter had a problem with her boyfriend, I took over the logistics of relocation and finding another school, etc but always ensuring the wife agrees with the decisions in every step. When the project is an investment issue, the wife relied on my judgment but has to approve the money to be released. When I recommended to work with a particular bank manager, my wife uses her “sixth sense” to have her 'feel" the sincerity of the manager in question.

All of the above I did not have the time to determine who is the boss, even in the area of marital relations. When I noticed that my wife cannot have marital relations with me as often as I wanted to, I sought my confessor’s advise and accepted the fact that life reaches certain stages when hormonal limitations will change the frequency of marital embrace.

On the other hand, when I have emotional problems at work, my wife intuitively senses them and knows it from my demeanor. Then she counsels me and inspires me to regain my balance and keep me emotionally strong to face the “slings and arrows” of office politics.
We also have our marital arguments when the kids and finances are going south but the matter of who is the boss was never an issue because we had no time to see it from that vantage point.


Malia, I am submissive by nature and in my marriage it had been that way that my husband always had his way, always had the final word. Marriages aren’t going to work though when one person always gets their way and the other is never having their say, never getting what they want, or never having their needs met. If your husband truly wants to be the leader, then he is going to need to make the decision to be very fair about giving you your way from time to time and always making sure that he is listening to you and being considerate. I think someone who really is a leader of the family has got to consider it their job to make sure that it’s not all about them. My thoughts are that in a good marriage, both spouses not only need to communicate, but also trust each other enough to go along with doing things the way the other spouse wants it done. You both have to be willing to do this, and if your husband is willing to do this, then it should work for him to have the say as to when it is his turn to defer to your wishes or your turn to defer to his.

Of course, my views are coming as someone whose marriage failed, so I am trying to relate it from the view of lessons I learned the hard way. So, you should probably take that into consideration.


I’m doing a great study right now that speaks about this it’s Woman of Grace by Michaelann Martin (also see Family Matters by Michaelann and Kurtis Martin - the couple biblestudy). It’s ben eye opening (at least for me :smiley: ).


She said that both the wife and the husband were meant to submit to each other and cited Christ’s death on the cross as an example of submission, saying it was an ultimate one. Giving up his life as Christ did was the top of the husband’s requirements, containing everything else. She equated that with the wife’s submission without any differentiation. So she effectively ended up turning St. Paul’s letter upside down. Remember that St. Paul meant the wife’s submission as in submission to authority, so indeed in some warranted situations, taking commands. Other things St. Paul wrote also reinforce this. Hence, I believe she’s colouring it up on at least one side and drawing an equation which doesn’t really hold.

So all is fine as indeed there’s even that line, “submit to one another,” probably teaching us not to act on pride and to be humble and indeed do as we’re told sometimes if it doesn’t do harm, instead of starting a conflict (naturally, this would be a mutual reaction, meaning it would go both ways or all ways), and dying for someone is indeed the most you can do in terms of service, as also Christ served us instead of us serving Him. Authority was service. But in the quote from that book, it looks a bit like the author’s blurring it up a bit and making it look like the wife’s the husband’s head too, or something close. Submission of the kind of putting someone’s needs above ours, above even our own life, is not the same as being obedient. In that way, Christ did submit - but to the Father. The wife is not quite the Father.

Whatever I said I stand by, and I certainly wouldn’t mind following the direction of someone who’s better in a given field than I am (e.g. as a criminal lawyer I end up with a corporate or tax lawyer… guess who’s better at finances and tax forms? ;)) and I don’t really mind age or gender that much. Certainly I want a partner, not an underling. Still, I can’t agree with all that the book says, not because it’s discomforting to me personally, but because she seems to be going a bit too far and her speculations aren’t really all that warranted. Unless I’m getting something wrong, but I don’t think so.


I think it works both ways.

Jesus often asked His disciples for their opinions on what to do even when He already knew the answer. Decisions should always be made together when possible. It’s only when two people both dig their heels in so much that they can’t progress in their relationship that one partner (the wife) has to break the dead-lock by submitting. Note that it is actually the wife, by submitting, who is able to bring about this positive change, not the husband by demanding submission.

At the same time, I think that there is only so much we can do to change another person. You can (and should) talk to that person, and you can (and must) pray. Christian life is about living right whether those around you are living right or not. It’s easy to submit to a priest who says what you want to hear, or a government you voted for, or a husband who always asks your opinion. Sometimes we have to be like the syrophonecian woman who submitted to Jesus even when He called her a dog. We are called to do good even to our enemies, and surely your husband hasn’t reached the stage when you consider him your enemy, at least I hope not.

I wish you all the best. I will pray for you.


Neither is growing up watching your mom not stand up for herself.

I think marital tension is OK if the kids see the tension and the solution. If they see you angry (not abusive) and see you work it out, that’s a good example. —KCT


What about a particular situation such as mine? I’m Catholic. My wife is Lutheran. I want our son raised Catholic. She wants him raised Lutheran. He is baptized Lutheran. He’s almost 15 months old.


**First of all, why did you allow the Lutheran baptism? You made vows at your wedding (I am assuming you had a Catholic wedding?) that made the promise to raise any future children in the Catholic faith. **

**You are going to need to speak with a very knowledgable priest who’s advice you can trust because your marriage and your child are on the line. **


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