Submission in a Catholic Marriage

wedding rings

In the first part of this series we learned what the Church teaches about marriage, then we talked about some things that make a good marriage, and then we shared some ways to love your spouse. In this final installment I want to talk a little about submission in marriage.

Submission nowadays seems to be a touchy subject, especially in our ultra-feminist, proud society. What submission means, particularly in marriage, is sorely misunderstood. When many people think of submission they often think of being some sort of doormat or subservient to their husband. But that’s NOT what submission is about.

This doormat mentality of submission partially comes from a misinterpretation of Ephesians 5:21-30, particularly verse 24: “Just as the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.” That one line is encased within a whole lot of other verses that get ignored.

Look at verse 21, for example: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her…” How did Christ love the church? Completely. By suffering and dying a horrible death. (And by rising by His own power, too.) Our husbands are also called to love us like their own bodes, as it says in verse 28-30: “So husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church,” That’s how our husbands are to love us, and that’s a tall order our men have to fulfill!

Yes, our husbands are called to be the heads of our households, as it says in verse 23, but that doesn’t make them “lords’ or bosses” or make men better than women. Our roles in the home and church are different, but equally important. Both roles are essential for the building up and success of our households.

On a different, yet practical note, to keep order and harmony amongst a group of people someone has to “be in charge” or be the final decision maker. Think about it, there is a hierarchy in just about every setting. At work there is a chain of command, there is a hierarchy within the Church (even Protestant churches), there is even a hierarchy within the animal kingdom.

So, too, in the family there needs to someone who makes a final decision, especially when there is disagreement and a consensus can’t be reached. That doesn’t mean input is given and opinions aren’t expressed. Of course, they should be taken into account. That doesn’t mean that the husband has a right to be some sort of dictator. Absolutely not. And that doesn’t mean that as wives we have no authority. Of course we do.

Remember verse 21 above? We are called to be submissive to each other. Our men aren’t perfect anymore than we are. They have their strengths and we have ours. We use our strengths and weaknesses to complement one another. Where our husbands have their strengths we submit to them and where we have our strengths they can submit to us. How that plays out will be different in each family.

I can write more about this, but for the sake of brevity, I better stop. 🙂 Let me just say that, ultimately, submission is about love, mutual respect, and order. It’s about give and take, communication and helping one another to grow in their relationship with each other and more importantly, with the Lord – NOT about being some k ind of domestic slave or menial laborer.

What’s your take on the whole “submission issue”? I’d love for you to share your thoughts, comments and experience about submission.

(Linked to Saints and Scripture Sunday)