Gender roles in marriage


Protestant churches heavily emphasize gender roles for husbands and wives. Husbands are to be the leaders of their families and wives are called to submission. The exact expectations vary between denominations, but it is very clear that husbands are to be the ones making the decisions and the wives should not be too bold or challenge the leader’s authority.

Does the CCC mention anything about distinct roles for husbands or wives? Are there expectations in catholic culture?


I am also very interested in what the Church may have to say on this. I feel strongly about gender roles and that they are usually, but not always, a good thing to reinforce. I have read several Protestant resources on the subject, and I have really only been able to read some of the works of Dr Alice Von Hildebrandt from a Catholic perspective. If there are more Catholic sources for being a wife and “hubby helper” out there, I would love to add them to my wish list!


The catechisms say nothing regarding “distinct roles for husbands or wives”. Regarding “submission” the catechism says both are equal in personal dignity. While it is normally easiest and most effective for the husband to be the primary/sole breadwinner and the wife to be secondary/housewife there aren’t any teachings saying it should/must be this way, it’s simply economic reasons.


I’m going to have to ask Mother Abbess about how I should respond to this thread :smiley:

When I became an oblate I thought that meant I could be the “abbot” of our “community” (i.e. our family).

Mother Abbess soon set me straight :blush:

All joking aside in our marriage there are some issues on which my wife takes the lead, and others where I take the lead. For my wife it’s more things like daily running of the household, kids’ education, the kitchen, balancing the cheque book. For me, it’s things like deciding when and how things like the roof gets repaired/replaced (just did it last summer), keeping the cars safe and roadworthy, major repairs, and grilling the kill on the barbecue :smiley:

When we travel, we split the tasks, she takes care of accommodation, I take care of transport (booking tickets, car rental), and when overseas if we rent a car I do all the driving, as she’s not comfortable driving in foreign countries; this past May we visited the UK and I did all the driving, on the opposite side of the road. Great fun! :smiley:

In more intimate matters… well that topic’s off limits on a public forum :blush:


If you want a more conservative Catholic approach to this, suffice it to say that while the husband may be the “head”, the wife is the “heart” and one cannot function fully without the other. That doesn’t mean the husband gets to boss his wife around and micromanage what she does (that would abuse of his role as husband). What that means is when an important decision must be made and the couple cannot come to an agreement, traditionally, the husband has the final say, although he may choose to go with his wife’s decision, be it to use to St Paul’s admonition to submit to each other, or because he wants to maintain harmony in the home. Or he may go with his own decision, knowing that he is the one responsible for the outcome of the decision- be it a good one or a bad one. With functional marriages, the spouse that is better-equipped (knowledge or skill-wise) regarding a task or decision, will be the one handling it- regardless if the marriage is seen as the husband as the head, wife as the heart, or they are viewing it as an equal partnership.

You will also see that many couples simply grow in their faith and marriage and become “one”, so that there is no need for “hard and fast” rules regarding roles in a marriage. They tend to view things as a partnership and get along harmoniously. If you are single, keep in mind that you need to be VERY selective in choosing a future spouse. You want to make sure you will be comfortable with him making the final decision on big issues should they arise in your marriage and an agreement cannot be reached on that issue…if you are planning to have a more “traditional” view of marriage.


You’ll end up with 3 different opinions for this-

  1. Catholics who agree with the above.
  2. Catholics who say no one is the “boss”, labels such as “head” and “heart” are means by which to oppress women, both partners have to have an equal say in everything
  3. Catholics who say both are equal but that equality doesn’t mean “the same”, the man is the “boss” for some things, the woman is the “boss” for some things, both have to listen/get advice from the other/place the other’s needs above their own.

Very simplistic explanations, but you can review other threads or wait for replies to my comment for a more indepth presentation of each. For myself, the only one that makes sense from a Catholic prespective is 3 [man- “head”, woman- “heart”, both equal/subordinate to each other at the same time, who’s in charge depends on issue being dealt with]. I also believe 3 to be the closest to what the Church teaches. The best place to get an actual answer would be to ask a pro.


Ha ha. Thanks for the laugh.


I think you’ll find in general that traditionalists are more likely to lean on the earlier teachings of the Popes, and like evangelicals, see more distinct, traditional roles for men and women within a marriage.

This has been a source of constant and contentious debate in the Catholic Living forum.

When I was considering Catholicism, I asked a similar question expecting to find an answer similar to what I was taught in the Evangelical church and was shocked to find that there did not appear to be any idea of the husband as the head of house.

Then I found the few traditionalists that are on this site and I went, “Ah. Here we go.”

So in short, you will find different answers.



I remember when I got married - and we all can tell from my ticker how that turned out - :rolleyes:

Well, anyway. The deacon gave a very nice homily. He basically said that if both try to do the will of the other and are basically submitting to each other as we are called to do in marriage then the marriage will be a good one. I think this is the Biblical model. Granted we are human and flawed and it breaks down and I personally IMO think at these junctures this is where the male is the Head of the Household as the groom in marriage represents Christ and the bride represents the Church.

My reason here is this. It is not that men are better than or more equipped. I have certainly had my share of leadership positions in life and found some men far less intelligent. :eek: However, it is that we are gifted differently. I believe that as a woman I am a more emotional creature. God has gifted me that way in order to give life and raise children. Men - well. You know. Mars and Venus.

Now my caveat to all this is that it only works if there is love in the marriage. For the man must love the woman as Christ loves the Church and the woman must love the man as the Church loves Christ.

Wow Scripture is beautiful. Don’t we humans do a fine job of mucking it up…


In my opinion:

The woman is or should be the " New Eve of her Man ", I mean:

The Female, the Fiancée, the Bride, the Sweetheart, the Love, the Mistress, the Lover, the Beloved, the Muse, the Friend, the Best-friend, the Girlfriend, the Helper, the Soul-Mate, the Companion, the Partner, the Associate, the Wife and the Potential Mother, the Educator, the Teacher, the Professor, the Thinker, the Philosopher, the Schoolgirl, the Pupil, the Student, the Follower, the Female Opposite Number, the Alterity, the Complementarity, the Person who reveals in him, his part of feminity and helps his masculinity, the Doctress, the Nurse, the Guide of her Husband.

The man is or should be to be the " New Adam of his wife" , I mean:

The Male, the Fiancé, the Bridegroom, the Sweetheart, the Love, the Lover, the Beloved, the Companion, the Friend, the Best friend, the Boy-friend, the Helper, the Soul-Mate, the Companion, the Partner, the Associate, the Husband and the potential Father, the Educator, the Teacher, the Professor, the Master, the Mentor, the Follower, the Teacher, the Professor, the Thinker, the Philosopher, the Schoolboy, the Pupil, the Student, the Male Opposite Number, the Alterity, the Complementarity, The Person who reveals in her, her part of masculinity and helps her feminity, the Doctor, the Nurse, the Guide of his Wife.


Nicely put - Survey says…(Joan waits for rabid feminist to enter board and tell us that we are all woman haters)


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