Submit or Separate? (What to do when my husband is not leading and loving?)
This entry is to address concerns raised by some women when I wrote about why I thought submitting to our husbands is the best thing to do in our marriage. Although I wrote that to speak to wives who find it difficult to surrender our power to make decisions, order, direct, lead, in light of our marriage despite our imperfect, nevertheless god-fearing and loving husbands, some of them took it that I hold the same view for wives who exist in desperate marital situations. They thought I was asking them to submit even though their husbands lacked leadership, and committed physical and verbal abuse. I never said that. And so allow me to use today for airing that which I truly think about these things, to clear the cobwebs for those concerned, once and for all.
A Tall Order
Wives always talk about how hard it is to submit to our husbands but we must also see how tall an order it is to be a husband for these men, too.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:25-31)
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:19)
Now the Ephesians quote comes right after the verses which tell us to submit to our husbands in everything, and Colossians after telling us wives to submit to our husbands as fitting to the Lord. If God has ordered us to do an almost impossible thing, then let’s try to look at these verses to see if God meant it to be an easy life for our husbands.
Basically a husband is asked to: give himself up for his wife, make sure he does a great job of watching over the wife, to love her as his own body, to give up his closest relations and all the comforts of life in order to make her his one and only. Now that doesn’t sound easy to me at all.
Above all, many times it repeats, even in verses before the above-mentioned, “as Christ does.” That the husband must lead and love her as Christ does the church. By that the Bible really means He died for her. So that’s what headship in the Bible looks like. It’s a whole lot of serving, working, dying.
Ask for Help
I started with that because it is only when we study what the Bible asks from the men, will we have any basis for the ideas I will share next.
Wives, if you feel like your husbands are not leading and not loving, then there’s a problem. Whether he is like an aggressive tyrant or more of a passive man in your home, the point is that he still isn’t leading. If he treats you harshly and loves you less than he loves himself, then that’s not loving. All the more if he abuses your mind, heart, body and soul. Even when he’s been aggravated, a man is never to be harsh to a woman, the Bible says. So if this is you, then clearly, something has to change. But by change I don’t mean separation or withholding submission right away.
I’ve recently read Love & Respect and I can say that the book is very good at highlighting the different needs of men and women which are not right away obvious to us all. Also very helpful are some of the testimonies in that book show me that some marital problems are solved simply by applying small changes in our day-to-day relations with the spouse.
Who knows but maybe this is all it takes to put your relationship in order? It can be a simple change in your tone or language to encourage your husband to be the man God is calling him to be in your marriage.
But of course I agree that some problems are beyond what a simple book reading and minor behavioral changes can handle. And honestly, even when you’ve got a helpful book in hand, I’d still share this advice with you: talk to someone. Nothing beats a real, live, person speaking face to face with you.
Especially in dire situations, do everything so you could talk to the wisest, godliest, person you could run to for sound advice. When your life and marriage are threatened, run to the best person you could run to and save what needs to be saved. Know that articles like mine cannot help in situations like this because your situation is far too specific. The best thing someone like me can tell you is to go and look for support.
In my immediate community, I have heard elders advise (although rarely) separation to wives who have husbands who won’t stop cheating. On the other hand, I personally handled the case of a young wife who experienced physical abuse (only once) from her husband. My husband and I counseled them through it and with a few meetings and a lot of accountability, they were able to get past it. The husband never laid a hand on his wife again after that, thanks to the grace of God that we were able to get to the root of the problem altogether. These two different scenarios were mentioned to show that cases as such don’t automatically mean separate or submit no matter what. Every one of these is unique. For your case, it could mean either of the two, but I really think you’ll only find out by getting out of your house, being on your feet, looking for the best help possible.
Praying for all my married readers to find God’s ever present help and grace in your life today!