Does the Church approve of "domestic discipline" between spouses?

I am a newly engaged woman who has been in a committed relationship with my future husband since I was 16 years old. One thing that I value about our relationship is the complete trust that we mutually have for one another and our ability to talk about anything.

Last night on the phone the subject came up about how I would feel if he ever punished me with a spanking or something. I was a litle stunned having never been spanked in my life and told him that I would probably be embarrassed or ashamed more than anything. We looked it up online and found it to be quite a common occurrence in marriages and considered to be a positive thing. I do believe in the traditional form of marriage such as the husband being the head of the house and I know that I would always do my best to respect my husband as he would me. We are both sinners and far from perfect but I do believe that we have the ability to bring out the best in one another. When my fiance sins against me it is normally a direct issue where he does something, I say I don’t like it, he apologizes and we go on with life. Wheras I tend to get defensive and stubborn and incapable of reasonably listening to him correct me. My pride gets in the way. That is why he posed the posibility of spankings, not so much for pain but for the fact that they would help teach me humility and make it easier for him to resolve issues with me.

I trust him completely and know that he would never humiliate me by spanking me in front of others or where it could be heard. And I also know that he would never actually cause harm to me. I told him that I would respect him as head of the house and if he felt I was in need of a spanking I would succumb to it because I do think that in our situation in could be positive. I came across a site promoting Chrisian domestic discipline that used Bible passages to state that it is justified for a husband to discipline his wife out of love. I know that Catholics and Christians sometimes differ on issues so I was wondering what fellow Catholics would think about this. Thanks for your help.

I’m afraid that you and your fiance have been doing too much reading about marriage from a Fundamentalist Protestant perspective rather than a Catholic perspective.

Catholics believe that husband and wife mutually submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For a husband to assert that he has the right to “spank” his wife because she is too “defensive” or “stubborn” and for her to be willing to “succumb” to him because he is “head of the house” is an extremely non-Catholic understanding of marriage. And, from a purely practical point of view, it is also extremely dangerous. A husband who feels he has the right to curb his wife’s “stubborness” may progress to making her completely dependent upon him – especially since such “domestic discipline” is not reciprocal (i.e., the husband is never the one who must be “spanked” for his bad tendencies).

To be perfectly frank with you, if your fiance has been telling you that he thinks it a good idea for him to “spank” you to keep you in line during your marriage, then that is a huge red flag that this is someone you should NOT be marrying. I can only recommend that you seriously reconsider your plans to marry this man. However difficult it may be right now to end your relationship with him, it will be nothing in comparison to having to flee a physical abuser later, perhaps with terrorized children in tow.

Recommended reading:

Are “traditional” marriages okay in the Church?

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