How Practical is it for Women to be Submissive to Their Husbands in Modern Society


Joking aside that’s how I understand it.

My mother, grandmothers and aunts never acted against their husband’s stated wishes and rarely contradicted them in public. But they did voice their opinions and arguments to their husbands in private.


You do realize that Roman pater familias traditionally had the power of life and death over family members?

“In theory at least, he held powers of life and death over every member of his extended familia through ancient right. In practice, the extreme form of this right was seldom exercised. It was eventually limited by law.”

Under the circumstances, the slave parallel is fairly apt, especially as the verses relating to husbands and slave masters occur very close together in at least a couple places in the New Testament.


I can see the natural relationship there.

A man wealthy enough to have slaves probably didn’t suffer for want of feminine attention.


Would it be fair to say then that the chief argument in the equality-in-leadership camp is one from supposed absence?


How is this relevant? I’m not attempting to enforce Roman law, and clearly neither was St Paul.

What I’m wondering is how you still have not been able to explain how Ephesians 5, and all the exhortations from Casti Connubii and Arcanum Divinae, et al apply to you and your marriage.

It seems to me that “willing obedience [to your husband]” means nothing to you unless you deem your husband’s request is worth to be obeyed.


This very website has an excellent summary of the issue.

Among selected passages…

Pope Leo XIII minced no words on the subject in his encyclical Christian Marriage: “The man is the ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in the obedience which she pays.”

Pope Pius XI gently reaffirmed what his predecessor had bluntly said: “There should flourish in [domestic society] that ‘order of love,’ as St. Augustine calls it. This order includes both the primacy of the husband with regard to the wife and children, the ready subjection of the wife and her willing obedience, which the Apostle commands” (Casti Connubii).

And as an olive branch of sorts to the liberated women on this forum;

“If the husband neglect his duty, it falls to the wife to take his place in directing the family” (CC). But the fact that some women are prevented from living their proper roles does not mean all married women are dispensed from obedience, as Pius XI makes clear in the next line of his encyclical: “But the structure of the family and its fundamental law, established and confirmed by God, must always and everywhere be maintained intact” (CC).

I think the article is an excellent, balanced treatment of the topic.


Just to toss in a monkey wrench…modern women are generally educated and often decide who to marry, even over objections from family so wouldn’t it follow we have more duty to obey than the wives of yesteryear rather than less?


Some women want an equality relationship and this is okay, do things the way it works for them.

Some men want a traditional relationship but this is apparently not okay, they need to change.

“Do what works for you… But only my way works.”


If a man wants a traditional relationship, he will need to be upfront about it as soon as he starts dating/courting with a woman. From some of the blogs out there (and that have been linked on the old CAF), there are quite a bit of Traditionalist Catholic young women who are seeking a devout Catholic man for marriage. I would bet this includes him being the “head” of the family. These young ladies that frequent that blog and respond positively about it on social media sites are the type of women one should be meeting and then dating if one is wanting a submissive wife.


I think she brought in the Romans because of my earlier question about St Paul’s writings on slaves/masters and it being a thing of the culture in which it was written and his writings on marital roles possibly being directed at the situation in that culture.


Somebody was asking about disagreements and I had some stuff I wanted to talk about. While I dimly remember us having a lot of arguments over the years, looking back, I think that a lot were over stuff that didn’t matter, or at least the heat generated was disproportionate to the importance of the issue. If nothing is on fire, there’s a lot to be said for backburnering a controversial issue. It is very likely that a compromise will materialize with time and thought. It might be possible to go 50/50, take turns, or one or both may decide they like the other person’s idea. It might turn out that you didn’t even actually understand what your spouse meant.

Here are some real life examples.

–When husband and I got married and started living together, we realized that I was the neat freak and he was the slob. I wanted everything perfect while he never thought it was time to clean. Since we’ve had kids, I’ve realized that neither of us had reasonable standards, but we were able to meet in the middle.

–In my experience, the major issue is not so much submitting to one’s spouse, but submitting to reality. Over the years, that’s been true of most financial issues and some other issues. Years ago, I had my heart set on a $10k a year preschool. We lived in an area where that was normal, but the reality was we couldn’t afford it. Husband said no and I found a city co-op that cost under $150 a month.

It took me nearly a decade into our marriage to learn about money management. I was the spender at our house, but my husband didn’t have any financial plan beyond “don’t spend money.” Fortunately, I learned about Dave Ramsey, insisted that we do a budget every month, and off we went! We have done a monthly budget for 10 years and have made a lot of progress. Interestingly, the cure for my spending issues turned out to be involving me more in the finances, not less. Again, it was not so much a question of submitting to my husband, but submitting to the reality that money is finite.

Most recently, both my husband and I have been dealing with the fact that now that our youngest child is at the big kids’ school three days a week, our tuition costs are truly nightmarish. Our emergency fund is dwindling and we have been eating into it at a rate of $300-500 a month. We both agree that we need to suck it up and keep the kids in school (that wasn’t even on the table), but we are in the process of cutting expenses and trying to boost income in order to cover tuition and we finally managed to create a December budget that has us in the black after several months in the red. This is not a pleasant process but–again–it’s us submitting to reality.

As Sheila Wray Gregoire points out, when the wife has to submit to the husband, it’s because the wife doesn’t agree with her husband. That’s a cop-out. If you put in the time and the work, it should be possible to wind up on the same page. What is the point of having her do what he says if she doesn’t see reality the way he does? It’s a HUGE problem if your spouse isn’t living in the real world–a much bigger problem than just disagreeing about particular decisions.


It’s not just “supposed” absence in the vows. It’s not there.

If it’s not in the text of the vows, that’s not what we’re vowing.


In my experience the man is the head of the family. His opinion and his wife’s opinion doesn’t change that. If he doesn’t step up to that role, no one can replace him and the whole family suffers.

I think we do a disservice to everyone by ignoring that.


Would you mind sharing a real life experience? In my own marriage of 25+ years, a final decision is done by the person with the most expertise in that area…and if it’s not the right one, the spouse who made that decision owns up to the responsibility. Just like in the workplace, the volunteer opportunities, life in general. Perhaps you’re speaking of the man being the spiritual head of the home, in which the family does suffer if he doesn’t step up to that role. Study after study have shown the father’s religious beliefs have a greater influence on his children’s church attendance once they’re adults over the mother’s attendence/activities.


The problem is that she may not at all realize what she is signing up for by saying she wants to be a submissive wife, and it may not even be possible for her to live out wifely submission to her husband’s satisfaction–it is not unheard of for traditional-minded husbands to expect things of their wives that are physically and logically impossible. For example, a traditional husband might expect a large family, homeschooling, a spotless home, a homecooked dinner every night, and a sweet, slender, sexually voracious wife–without realizing that that’s not a description of reality. Just about nobody can check all of those boxes–at least not without a lot of outside help.

Hard core wifely submission can sound romantic to the young, inexperienced and very much in love, but living it out can be rather different than the advertisement.


Believe it or not, I’m really nice to my husband.

I suspect that at least 85% of what St. Paul wants from wives is covered by just being nice.


I’m afraid you misunderstood, or you likely wouldn’t have doubled-down here as you did.

I added “supposed” into the term “Argument from Absence”, in order to accommodate the errant notion that the Church has been silent on the issue.

Arguments from absence are junk rhetoric, since “from absence” virtually any text can be used to argue virtually any one thing. Again, this is because the topics that any given text or line doesn’t cover is nigh limitless. Ergo these kinds of arguments are useless.

At any rate, this link from this site pretty firmly ends any notion that the Church has been silent on the issue.

Demurral beyond this is just a case of the proverbial horse refusing to drink the water it’s been led to.


I think there’s a strange and profound truth in this.

It reminds me of a saying I’ve heard about marriage:

A woman marries a man expecting him to change, and he doesn’t.
A man marries a woman expecting her to not change, and she does.

Throughout this thread we have discussed Catholic marriages where both parties were well aware of “traditional” roles, including paternal headship, before marriage, and agreed on them. This is complex enough, without getting into the countless other possibilities.

As several posters have emphasised, there is an inarguable foundation for this in scripture and Church teaching. Whatever the exceptions, this foundation is more than a theological argument the husband can use, they are a command to the husband, the wife, the whole family, from God.

Does she still expect him to provide for them? Is he still doing so? In 99.9% of cases this will be happening. During courtship she will have paid close attention to his earning capacity, and will expect him to use it for the family (and for her). She won’t have given the option of changing to a lower pay job, or none at all, on his own whim.

When life get’s tough, and things don’t turn out as you expect (as is inevitable), it behooves the wife to recall that she chose this man, and the headship which they accepted. If it’s not turning out well for her, then the future is in God’s hand, not hers.

That’s my take on @KathleenT’s few words. Obviously, they are my thoughts, not necessarily hers.


The husband does care about his wife, and wants to please her. She can talk him out of bad decisions, and she can use her various wiles to get good things out of him. :grinning:


Do what works for you, but stop telling me my way is unholy.

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