Get married and be submissive

This is a guest post by Lucinda Hancock.

Several years ago, Constanza Miriano wrote a book with the title “Get Married and be Submissive.” I was intrigued by the headline, and I watched a news interview of her. The first thing that struck me was how beautiful and fashionable she was. The second thing that struck me was, “Well, maybe it works for her, because she’s a kind of woman super-hero, but I can’t see it working for me.”

“Submit to him (as long as you think he’s right)”

Like many people, I grew up in a home lacking in important aspects of marital harmony, mostly because of bad decisions made by my father. When I was young, my mother talked to me about how a wife is under obligation to submit to her husband insofar as her husband is righteous in his commands. This made sense to me, and I wondered why anyone would think a woman had an obligation to submit to requests she found unrighteous. I mean, that just sounded dumb.

So when I myself married, my understanding of my covenant obligation was that my husband and I would be a team, and we would counsel together in everything. It should surprise no one that we had many arguments over the years about who was right. Indeed, when your submission is tagged to your understanding of rightness, how can you not fight tooth and nail over every little decision about who has “rightness” on their side. After several years, I came to the unhappy realization that my husband, for all intents and purposes, was endeavoring to submit to me. He had wearied of argument, and felt I wasn’t to be reckoned with.

I was upset at his betrayal of our “team” understanding of marriage, but I could understand since he was not raised to debate, and I had been trained in logical argument by my education in mathematics. So at that time, I decided to just “sleep in the bed I’d made” and try not to insist on our genuinely agreeing about decisions. Counseling with each other had been tried and found wanting, and it was fine for me to just be in charge.

But it wasn’t fine. It was extremely taxing on me to feel the full responsibility for every family decision. And to avoid tensions, I mostly found ways around having to confront the disunity in our marriage. For example, I went ahead with ‘family’ scripture reading when my husband was at work because it was too stressful to involve him, and it made me feel so naggy, and besides, while we shared broad goals about scripture-study, I had my own ideas about HOW to go about it. I read the entire Old and New Testaments with my older children. Now I could check that off my list of righteous deeds. But as the teachings of the Bible sunk in, I was forced to realize there was something really off in my approach to my marriage.

One of the problems was that I had conflated respect for my husband with submission. My husband and I had a perpetual disagreement about whether I respected him. He wanted me to be more respectful, but I felt that, even though I didn’t do things the way he wanted, he should believe and trust in my love for him anyway. One day we’d been arguing about my respectfulness around my brother, who managed to offend us both by pointing out that my husband was wrong to demand respect instead of endeavoring to be respectable, but then went on to say he should expect submission from me. Submission is action-oriented, whereas respect is opinion-oriented, and he pointed out that submission was an easier task, since it only requires action, but it doesn’t actually require you to change your mind. I found this an intriguing idea, and thought it might be a good idea to be more submissive.

Only I still carried this idea of submission that was entirely provisional, that it was no transgression of my marital covenant to expect to be convinced in advance that my husband’s decision was based on a righteous foundation. And this concept really dogged my initial attempts at submissiveness. At around this time, I began to write an essay called “Paradoxical Patriarchy” defending the paradigm by which fathers rule, not only in the home, but in society. Now I was in for it. Not only was my personal happiness contingent on me being better at my marriage, but also my credibility as a thinker!

Provisional submission is not meaningful submission.

I like things to make sense, and as I pondered on the idea of submission, I began to realize that as long as I carried on with the idea that I was only obligated to submit when I felt my husband was right, that it was indistinguishable from just doing what I felt like all the time, with occasional ideas provided by my husband. I don’t have a definite idea in my mind about when I came to see my idea of submission on my terms as problematic, but at some point I began understanding my husband’s requests of me as binding before God, even if I didn’t understand his reasoning. There was no point where the day before I was self-willed, and the next, willingly obedient. I can’t even be sure that I am objectively more likely to do what my husband asks, mostly because before my husband took for granted my self-willed actions, and now he is more willing to state his preference. But I do seek to repent specifically of wifely disobedience, and I do pray at moments here and there that I will have the will-power to follow his lead.

And my experience attests to the viability of this principle, and how it has really made life as a wife easier and happier in unexpected ways that I would like to share.

There are two components of marital security, one is confidence in your spouse’s commitment and the other is confidence in your own commitment. And both of these points were improved when I began to take my husband’s expressed desires seriously.

Before, I was quite nervous that my husband would eventually tire of me and find someone more compatible. I always attributed this fear to the fact that my father’s adultery led to my parents divorce, and therefore I believed it would be a fear I would have to struggle with for the rest of my life. But now I don’t worry so much about it, and I might even say, I don’t really worry about it at all. I have two conjectures about why this is so: Maybe I feel more confident as a wife because I’ve personally repudiated habits that made life a little bit miserable for my husband; Or maybe, and I think this is more likely, after I gave up on my need to feel my husband was right before submitting, I was able to shrug off much of the feeling of doom associated with always being in charge and fearing making extreme miscalculations.

On the other side of things, before, I maintained a secret plan of divorcing my husband when the children weren’t so young anymore. I used it regularly as a coping mechanism for when I was really upset by serious arguments with my husband. I knew it was terrible, and I wanted to stop, yet I felt powerless. But now it doesn’t have any grip on me. I would like to say it was because of my self-discipline that these undesirable fantasies left, but actually, it’s like it just evaporated from my mind and heart. I have no conjecture about how this happened, since the feeling of destroying my marriage and my children’s family always defied rational analysis, and yet, I can not deny this profound shift.

A principle worth examining.

Wives, may I submit that when marital unhappiness looms, part of the problem might be our unwillingness to accept the call to submit to our husbands. Effectiveness in this relationship is of utmost importance because marital strength has the power to bless broadly in society, and deeply into personal lives. I realize that there are a good many husbands who have proven themselves untrustworthy, but I believe that there are also many who haven’t even been given a chance to prove their ability to lead in their families. Even more, I believe many wives are giving too much power to the worst elements in men’s nature by making their submission provisional from day to day because it creates a false sense of complacency and irresponsibility in men when they can reasonably believe particular decisions, and their results, were not their own. This tends to make masculinity into a drain on a marriage, rather than the essential contribution that it should be.

If you are looking for solutions in your marriage, like I was, maybe you can give it a try.

38 thoughts on “Get married and be submissive

  1. I would like to encourage commenters to read the entire post carefully before leaving a comment. If you are outraged by this post in any way, and feel a need to state your outrage in the comments, you probably should not do so because your comment is likely to be deleted. Outrage is not OK — polite disagreement may be OK.

    Here is a hint: try to understand clearly the writer’s definition of “submission” before commenting. It might be different than yours.

  2. This is great Lucinda. I love it when you write for us! 🙂 Lots to think about with this post.

  3. A few quick thoughts: “submission” is one of those trigger words that is certain to cause emotional reactions.

    Here is how I see it (and how I think the writer sees it): sometimes in a relationship that you want to make work you will have differences. If there is a strong disagreement, and you cannot arrive at a conclusion, sometimes it is simply better to let the other person be “right” so you can get along and move on with your relationship. Society very often these days has husbands “submitting” to wives if you study the dynamics of many relationships. One of the reasons for this is that men generally are not interested in having two hour long conversations about things, whereas many women are. (Notice the use of the word “generally.”) So, the husband will simply give up and retreat into a shell (saying things like, “just do whatever you want”), and this causes tremendous damage to a relationship. The wife has “won” the argument, but the point of life is not to win arguments it is to have happy relationships. If the husband is continually forced to have arguments, he will eventually simply give up and leave all of the big decisions to his wife. And for many people, this creates tension because making all the big decisions means you sometimes make bad decisions. And wives begin to feel resentful that they are doing too many things in a relationship.

    So, what I believe the writer is saying to wives is: sometimes you need to “lose” the argument for the sake of your marriage. Or perhaps you shouldn’t even have the argument at all. Perhaps there are many areas where you should simply just say to yourself: “let the man decide. Force him to make a decision.” And this will improve your relationship rather than degrade it.

    And I agree that for many couples (certainly not all couples) this is a wise choice.

  4. (Can we please make it clear from the start that the author is not saying wives should “submit” to abuse, either emotional or physical? Also, the author is not calling for silent, compliant Stepford wives who do everything their husbands ask like robots. Comments that imply this show that the commenter did not read the post and will be deleted).

  5. I love the story where a young married couple learned of an exercise where they would each tell the other all the things that bothered them, an exercise that was supposed to strengthen the relationship. In the anecdote, the wife enumerated the many things she felt the husband needed to improve. He duly noted these failings on his part, though as the list continued, his spirits seemed to flag.

    When the wife was done, she braced herself and asked her husband to begin on his list. The young man looked at his wife and said, “But honey, I wouldn’t change a thing about you.”

    Obviously not all marriages are like the one in the anecdote. I’ve been in a marriage where I was belittled, battered, and betrayed. It will be interesting to learn from God whether that marriage could have had a different outcome. In my current marriage, I am learning to sustain my husband better, though I doubtless have a long way to go. While I am not the woman in the anecdote, there was one instance where my husband bore his testimony in Church (when I wasn’t there) and said he’s not always sure what Jesus would do in any particular instance, but he does know what I would do. So his mantra at the time was “What would Meg do?”

    There are obviously times when a wife needs to step back and refuse to obey, as in the case of the wife a few decades ago who threw her children and herself from an upper-story window to “follow” her husband to “heaven.”

    Yet I agree that families can become stronger when parents are knit together in love and support, rather than each trying to be “right.”

  6. I think the principles of a husband cherishing his wife and a woman respecting and sustaining her husband are crucially important and part of our God’s plan for growth. See Ephesians 5:33. It seems to me that we over-emphasize the first (a husband cherishing his wife) and we have complete silence on the second (a wife respecting and sustaining her husband). I think it would be better if things were more in balance. Thanks, Lucinda.

  7. While I understand and essentially agree that there is a true and mostly forgotten principle here, I’m conscious that it’s not complete. I defended Sister Hancock’s previous post and the consequent thread there at another place from what I saw as a knee-jerk misrepresentation, and while I stand by what I said in that other place, I do think some of the accusations levelled there *could* apply to this piece. The key question is this: How does someone truthfully determine whether they themselves are in an abusive relationship and thus *morally should rebel*? I don’t think it’s enough to disclaim it as though the distinction is obvious to one in the middle of it.

    Feminism has an answer to this question that is simple, elegant, and wrong (because it essentially requires eternal distrust). But I’m not sure what the Gospel has.

  8. Feminism has an answer to this question that is . . . wrong (because it essentially requires eternal distrust).

    That’s the key, isn’t it?

  9. Interesting. If someone doesn’t repeat your sacred shibboleth, you assume they are not on your side.

    I once did an experiment online where I expressed my opinion on abortion, carefully avoiding all “shibboleths”. Both the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers thought I was on the other side.

  10. Having raised six daughters to adulthood and having been married twice (the 2nd time for 30 years now, quite happily), I have formed my own opinions on what makes for a successful marriage, two ideas which I think both touch on the core concept that the author above makes without involving the heavily-loaded word “submissive”.

    The first idea — which I have said for at least few decades and have been gratified to recently hear it crop up in General Conference and other Church venues — is that love is a daily choice. Sandra and I both went through divorces we didn’t expect or want; when we married each other, Sandra was a bit disturbed at how often I told her that I loved her (something she had rarely heard in her first marriage). She asked me why I loved her so much, and I enumerated what I saw as her many fine qualities and the joys of life with her. Her response: “But what if those change? Will you still love me?” And in the end I realized the only answer that actually comforted her was, “I love you because I choose to love you, and I promise I will always choose to love you.” Now, after 30 years and with both of us in our early 60s, I love her more than ever, and she is still comforted by that love.

    The second idea, likewise developed over the past 30+ years, is my observation of what appears to be a fundamental asymmetry in what binds a man and a woman together. What I’ve seen is that in a truly happy marriage, the most powerful attribute on the husband’s part is a true gratitude for the blessing of being married to this woman, while on the wife’s part it is a rock-solid trust in the love and integrity (and fidelity) of this man.

    It may be that what Lucinda is describing (or approaching) by her use of ‘submissive’ is actually (a) the wife choosing daily to love her husband and (b) exercising trust and faith in him. Note that this does not release the husband from his requirement of (a) choosing daily to love his wife and (b) feeling grateful each day for being married to his wife. And for both parties, these need to active feelings, expressed through words and deeds, and not merely quiet assertions. ..bruce..

    P.S. At the same time I was beginning to promote the idea of “love is a daily choice”, I realized the very real parallel, “faith is a daily choice.” I can talk about all the reasons I believe the Church is true — my spiritual experiences, my service in the Church over nearly half a century now, the (literally) hundreds of books I’ve read — but in the end, I have faith because I choose daily to have faith.

  11. Another point is that after taking my husband’s expressed preferences seriously, I found my respect for him naturally increasing, maybe in large part because he began to confidently contribute again. It reminded me of the way we are told in the gospel of John, that if we do His will, we will know of the doctrine.

    As for the term “submit”, I wanted to quote from the link provided in the OP:
    “I don’t know the coloring the word has in English but I don’t use it in a negative way it’s a word taken from the Letter to the Ephesians. It doesn’t mean in any way being like a doormat for the husband. I use it in the etymological sense of being beneath or underneath providing the support like a column supports a roof because we as women we are stronger,” explained Miriano.

  12. As a marriage and family therapist, I agree whole heartedly with Lucinda’s experience and most of her ideas about why some of those are true. So many couples that I work with fall into this same trap with the same outcomes if they don’t do something about it. I haven’t read the comments before writing this but I am sure there will be people who disagree with Lucinda’s evaluation of the situation. There is plenty of research to support her anecdotal experience so please do more research before saying anything negative about her or her experience.

  13. Regarding abuse, I believe that a man who turns his naturally greater physical aggression inward toward his wife or children is undeserving of the honor of being a husband and father. It is a big problem because often victims feel too ashamed to tell those most capable of helping them escape a toxic relationship or they are so demoralized by the assault on their personal dignity that they feel unworthy of help.

    I will point out that gaining the help of a truly protective man or group of men is the best answer, which is why I object to the feminist rejection of chivalry. Men opening doors, etc., served as a signal to a woman that the chivalrous guy was ready and willing to defend her against abuse, despite having no personal relationship with her. Feminism has confused this signal by accusing such men of thinking women were incapable of opening their own doors and such, which has led a lot of would-be-chivalrous men away from watching out for the concerns of vulnerable women generally. Where social customs used to allow men ways of protecting more than just the women they were personally involved with, now most men only feel confidence in actively protecting a much smaller set of women, often not even including their own daughters because it is too “paternalistic”.

    It’s a real problem that feminism actually makes worse, meanwhile capitalizing on the expansion of harm to women.

    My opinion is that the gospel answer should be to form an imposing network of inter-male intimidation which is supposed to act in solidarity with vulnerable women and children. Women don’t often understand this because female society is more focused on mutual affirmation and support, indeed women are very critical of the kind of one-up-man-ship that happens naturally in male groups. But it’s an essential characteristic of functional male society that they compete and even lightly threaten each other to intimidate each other away from unacceptable behaviors.

    Unfortunately, this mechanism is often corrupted by unscrupulous men.

  14. bfwebster,

    Yes, I especially like your observations about the asymmetry between men and women. We seem to need quite a bit of help and/or time in learning how to effectively speak love to each other.

  15. An insightful post. One thing to remember about the wive’s submission to the man is that it is not a natural state of affairs. Women are the natural leaders of the home, and the man, who is not naturally inclined for this duty, is “officially” given the responsibility as a way to try to bring him more fully within the circle of family life.

    Family is the natural, genetically defined domain of the woman. She has an instinctual passion for it, which far exceeds the passion of the man for family. The woman is instinctually conscientious, nurturing, sacrificial, and enterprising all matters regarding the home. If any person should be elected the head of the household, it should be the woman. The man is a pathetic second class candidate for such a job.

    God sets us at war with our natures. “The natural man is an enemy to God.” For the man, He gives domestic responsibility: to be the head of the house, a duty for which he is not naturally inclined or gifted. But if he submits to this responsibility, he will find himself tamed and civilised. In religion, he is given the priesthood. Priesthood however, is not given to him because of his natural instinct to rule. Rather, priesthood is about unselfish service, conscientiousness, and responsibility, not dominion and power, so it is still out of his comfort zone. Rather his true nature is to exercise unrighteous dominion, as Joseph Smith declared. “We have seen that it is the nature of almost all men to immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

    The woman would be far superior in exercising this priesthood, but it is given to the man to subdue and bridle him. Instead, God removes the woman from her natural place as the gifted and conscientious head of the home, and puts her under the Man, thereby humbling her in her superior gifts, and giving her an opportunity to challenge and refine both the Man and herself in a lifelong battle of the sexes.

    Gender roles are all about giving men and women something to submit to. For a man, it is a greater sacrifice to submit to God, thus he is specifically put under God’s thumb. For the woman, it is not as great of a sacrifice to submit to God, as many of His commandments are already focused upon things domestic and conscientious. But to submit to a man? That is a great sacrifice for the woman. In the end, both genders have to submit to an equal trial of submission, although that submission is placed in different things.

  16. Thinking about all these comments, I’ve been thinking.

    So here’s a specific example: I drive the family van. When my husband is in the van with me and notices I’m almost out of gas, he usually asks me to get gas because he doesn’t want me to end up stranded. I have this one time standing out in my mind when I got angry at him for insisting, and I said, “I’m the one who’s driving. I’ve never run out of gas before. Don’t tell me what to do.” I was being a jerk. It’s not hard to stop and get some gas, and the only reason I didn’t was to push back at him so he would know ‘he’s not in charge of me’ and ‘I’m not his doormat’. Bfwebster’s comments highlight this idea, that when I did that, it was an easy opportunity to express my love and trust in my husband’s character, but instead I used it as a chance to diminish him.

    Now I’ve been really fortunate. For instance, my husband has been very careful to avoid traps regarding my body image. I’ve seen cases where men have been really inexcusable about their wife’s feelings and insecurities about her body, but I’ve also seen cases where men just got caught in a trap. “Does this dress make me look fat?” Many men know the ‘right’ answer is: “You look good in everything you wear.” But there are men of good character who aren’t going to navigate female insecurities very adeptly, and I believe a workable marriage paradigm should make it easier to have successful relationships, especially for the good, but somewhat clueless people.

    Someone brought up balance. I’ve come to really dislike the fact that at church, we are very comfortable with telling husbands how to communicate love and respect to their wives (which is very important), but almost no one teaches wives how to communicate love and trust to husbands. This doesn’t help women, who really do need some instruction in communicating these things.

    I like your insight about sacrifice. I would highlight the idea that the initial disorientation gives way to a habitual lifestyle that brings men and women together in appreciation.

  17. I see the issue as not about submitting to abuse and sin as trusting a husband in daily decisions. I heard a story about President McKay and his wife. She asked him to remove a mattress from the second story of their house. He threw it out the window. Her initial response was to feel upset, then she shrugged and said to herself ‘well, he did get it down’. So much of the contention in families is over essentially unimportant issues. Pride demands a ‘win’. ‘You’re not the boss of me’ is a common statement of defiance. Abuse (not mere argument or disagreement but active insult and/or physical assault), addiction (not merely occasional self indulgence) and adultery are reasons to break the contract, but too many couples let trivial issues wreck their unity.

  18. A relationship of constant judgmentalism is an unhealthy relationship. A relationship where a wife constantly judges her husband’s righteousness so she can decide whether she should support him in a matter is an unhealthy relationship.

  19. ‘Submissive’ and ‘submission’ are loaded words. I prefer the word ‘yield.’ In my marriage, we each have areas of responsibility in which one yields to the other. In the kitchen and laundry, I always do as my wife asks me to do. No questions or comments. I just do it. I have province over the yard and vehicle management. If I tell her it’s time to change the oil in her car, she takes the car to get the oil changed. No questions. She just does it. There are other areas where we have a discussion. In money matters, we discuss, but she generally yields to me. In travel matters, we discuss, but I generally yield to her.

    We never sat down and divided up the responsibilities. It just developed that way over the years. Please forgive a quick jump to doctrine, but I’ve heard it stated that Eve had stewardship in relation to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam yielded to Eve’s judgment and followed her lead (hence, Eve is the mother of all living). Adam has stewardship in relation the Tree of Life and Eve follows his lead is such matters (hence, men hold the Priesthood, whereby God’s children are ushered into eternal life) It may be simplistic, but it helps me to understand that men and women have different provinces in which one yields to the other.

  20. Perhaps the most famous admitted submissive wife is beach goddess Gabby Reece… many might scoff and say “easy for tall, athletic, rich her married to surf god Laird Hamilton”, but the advantages of focusing your efforts where they will get more results than the constant struggle most wives settle for seems to show here in her parenting wisdom:

  21. It’s a sign of our times that priesthood is spoken of as “given to men” as if it were as easy to assign otherwise — imagine if one were to say in a similar way that gender or motherhood were assigned, rather than intrinsic as they are.

    I would say that women are fairly included in “almost all men” when it comes to the hazard of unrighteous dominion, so it’s important to practice (as a wife) the kindly applications which make the unsurpassed title of Mother well deserved.

    A great check is to ask “Am I being the kind of wife I would wish on my son?” just as dads motivated by the unforeseen love for their daughters can ask themselves the parallel “Am I being the kind of husband I would wish on my daughter?”.

    There’s a song on the radio by Taylor Swift where she has a spoken moment of how the “never, never getting back together” relationship is “exhausting” — that’s what couples settle for when everything becomes a power struggle rather than the mutual respect of cherish/honor.

    It’s kinda like the decision to leave earlier than the good luck minimum required to get somewhere… one doesn’t feel as stressed by slow-downs, or pushed to snatch every advantage to avoid arriving late.

  22. I love Lucinda’s writing. She thinks long and deep about these things and exhibits tremendous courage to push against the tide that would define womanhood in worldly terms rather than spiritual.

    I love the comments but must push back a little, not on Lucinda’s post but part of a comment above by Nate:

    “Rather, priesthood is about unselfish service, conscientiousness, and responsibility, not dominion and power, so it is still out of his comfort zone. ”

    Given the recent push to distinguish the dissemination of priesthood authority and power I wonder if you would like to rethink this statement. Priesthood power is what it is about. Touting authority is easy. Exercising power that is tied to the powers of heaven only on principles of righteousness is hard. Dominion is the same. We are to exercise dominion, and that only righteously as well. We have allowed the world to load these terms with bad meaning because of a focus on bad behavior, and I don’t object to finding new terms but they are in the scriptures and cannot be expunged. We must fight to retain the intended meanings and uses of these valuable and instructive words. “Submission” is scriptural as well. Keep up the fight to make it a beautiful thing Lucinda. I am with you and it sounds like many others are as well.

  23. I agree Joel.

    I think the current understanding of “sacrifice” has also become corrupted. Etymologically it means to “make holy or godly”, but we tend to think of it as a complete and final surrender. I think it’s better to try to view it as taking something lesser, or ungodly, and making it greater, or godly.

    Even if your thinking of Heavenly Father’s sacrifice of His begotten Son, you have a situation where He did not actually lose His Son, since temporal death is not a loss for God, but He did receive His Son more glorified and powerful.

    Anyway, I think it’s often hard to wrap our minds around the seeming paradoxes God invites us to consider. Like this one: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

    The savior is not saying we shouldn’t care about being saved, He’s saying we tend to go about it all wrong. He’s saying caring so much about our mortal life gets in the way of considering the more important issues that threaten the life of our soul.

    He wants us to take something lesser and make it something greater. And I think that’s the same thing going on with submission (of a wife to her husband and of a husband to God.) In our short-sightedness, we often do just the wrong thing which ends up frustrating our our good desires for true power and strength, in emulation of God himself. For a wife, power (or ’empowerment’, if you like) and strength come through submission to her husband.


    I definitely have been influenced in my thinking by wondering what kind of woman I would like to see my sons marry, but in the end, I think my concern for my daughters prospects have been more urgent. I think a lot about what kinds of principles will give my daughters the best chance of happiness in motherhood and marriage. Many mothers, and even fathers, think they are doing their daughters a favor by encouraging them to eternally distrust men because women really are taking on a very large burden when it comes to reproduction. But I think it’s very self-defeating, and their daughters pay a price in damaged relationships with children and husbands, and I really hope I can help my daughters avoid that.

    So even if a woman is looking at it from an us-versus-them mentality, trying to be a submissive wife is a win for the wife, though it’s also a win for so many others.

  24. Lucinda,

    I love the specific examples you gave (e.g., the gas in the car). They helped me understand more of where you are coming from.

    I think the issue you are getting at is pride, and ultimately only each individual can discern when that is happening. Pride and unrighteous dominion can definitely flow both ways, and I think that is the heart of what you are saying.

    But I think the notion of always submitting is simply too simplistic. True partnership really can’t happen with just a wife submitting any more than a ward council could truly function by everyone always just doing what the bishop wants to see done. *Sustaining* a bishop does not mean always agreeing. In fact, I would argue that you can’t really sustain a bishop without being willing to engage in the council system and that is messy and not simple. A bishop can’t really unlock the powers of heaven unless he is willing to engage the council system. That is different than people arguing just to argue and being self-willed. There is a difference! And there isn’t a formula. It’s kind of like you know what it feels like when it works. You know when the dews distill.

    I’ll use a specific example. When my husband and I were house-hunting, his first choice and my first choice did not match up. I couldn’t pretend that I felt right about his choice, and he couldn’t pretend to like mine just to keep the peace. Had I ‘submitted’ I think we would have ended up in the wrong house. Had he capitulated, the same thing would have happened.

    We kept at it until we found something we *both* felt good about. I am convinced that we found the right house, and had either of us capitulated to the other to ‘keep the peace’ in the moment, God could have compensated, but our lives would have been drastically different. This is something we go back to often when we want to remember what partnership and councils feel like. There is power in that process. We weren’t deliberately trying to be good partners. We were just being honest about how we felt, and God worked through that honesty to help us find our house — and to give us something to work toward in terms of working together.

    We had another simple but powerful experience tonite. I’d been worried about something and wrestling with God about what to do. I decided to let it go until God showed me what to do. Not an hour later, hubby brought up the topic (which felt like God moving in response to my pleas). We counseled together, and then God opened up the chance to deal with what we were worried about. Things came together as we each tried to trust our instincts and open up to each other. Had he acted unilaterally, and had I not pushed back on him as we counseled, and had we not worked together to help facilitate the solution, things could have ended up being worse. I believe God used the channel of my husband to answer my prayer, to help us solve our problem. But it wasn’t a simple submission on my part, nor was it just him presiding. I was wrestling on my own for days/weeks. He was wrestling on his own for some time, too. Things unfolded through both of us wrestling and through the coming together of our marital council. It was messy and we wrestled together and in the end *God* was the one who presented the solution (through what then ended up being a partial family council — which involved letting a child push back and be honest as well).

    To me, it’s a dance that is hard to pin down, but I know it when I see it. I absolutely see how I can get pride-y and ego can get in the way. So I hear you there. But I think that sometimes women really do get inspiration in the process and pushing back on a husband can be absolutely the right thing to do in situations where a council really is needed. I love the doctrine of councils. I think it’s where the transcendent power of the priesthood is most readily felt and accessed, and I think it’s something that is far underutilized (and not understood) in both Church and home settings.

  25. WRT sacrifice, I always think of it as doing the most sacred thing (sacer facere) at that moment. Sometimes the most sacred thing you can do in a moment is taking a nap.

    For those of us who are wives, are we the wind beneath our husband’s wings? That is what I think of now when I read submit (from Latin, sub mettere, to put under).

  26. Michelle,

    There is asymmetry between man and woman. I think it’s worth exploring the reasoning behind various revealed asymmetries, given that we are in a world quickly moving away from any rational understanding of the differences between men and women.

    I would say one of the differences is that women are more fine with group agreement and decision-making, whereas men really are more comfortable shrugging off responsibility when there is group decision-making. But we need men to act responsibly, we need them to have to confront the results of their decisions, for good or ill. Leadership is learned. Some learn faster than others, but if you cut off the natural feedback that forces a man to accept the responsibility, you make it harder to learn.

    I think it completely in-bounds for the leader to gather information. But the final decision should be the husband’s. If the Bishop shrugged off his responsibility to make the final decision, and did everything by vote, he’d be seriously failing in his stewardship.

  27. In our culture we elevate democracy but democracy sometimes amounts to mob rule. In the family it is very easy for the mother to get the children on her side because she normally has more contact with them. Family decisions that are ‘democratic’ can be wasteful and often silly. I’ve seen the same kind of thing happen with daddies who cajole their children into standing against the mother who has more realistic and righteous aims. Sometimes it seems we fear unrighteous dominion to the point of rejecting the learning curve that is necessary for a father to take on his responsibilities and honor his stewardship. Trust, love, and prayer are important in navigating the shoals of immaturity with its various manifestations such as pride and heedlessness.

  28. Family scholar Maggie Gallagher puts it this way: “… to understand the collapse of marriage in middle America we also have to face, explore and understand the new most pressing question: how do we motivate boys and young men to want to become the kind of hardworking, appreciative, and responsible husbands and fathers women want to marry—and how do we do so in a way that women love rather than resent as patriarchal and oppressive?”

    I would like to point out that the relatively recent experiment of gender interchangeability is a shipwreck, just looking at numbers. The story of broken hearts from failed marriage hopes is part of the story. But we are a nation of fatherless-ness, despite tremendous prosperity and very low death rates.

    I’m sincerely glad that the pressures against marriage have not destroyed every marriage. But it is really aggravating that people whose marriages have survived don’t fight back against the forces that are destroying large numbers of less robust families. It’s disheartening, to say the least.

  29. I’m not married so much of this is academic to me but I’ve enjoyed following this discussion and reading Lucinda’s thoughts.

  30. I am reminded of a time when I had a chance to see gold being purified by a jeweler.

    At first the heated gold glowed red. The jeweler would add a pinch of some white substance (my mother tells me it must have been borax). When the white purification agent was added, the molten gold would blaze, then subside to the glowing red again. Each time the jeweler would pull off a bit of blackened char that had appeared after the blazing of the borax.

    After several instances of this, I was excited to see a gleam of molten gold, unobstructed by the angry red which I now realized was impurity. With each repetition of adding the borax and removing the dross, the gold became more and more prominent, until the gold was unmarred by red.

    Even so, the jeweler continued to add pinches of borax, until it became clear that it was only the burnt borax that was being drawn out with each repetition.

    Marriage is like that unpurified, molten gold. We burn so hot, and we are so full of impurity. Yet when a husband and wife together practice appropriate righteous submission and righteous dominion regarding their respective roles, over time the heat of passion is transformed into the warmth of pure love. As the years pass and we allow the dross to be taken from us, we become so thoroughly knit together that we can weather any storm, secure in the warmth of the love between us and God and (when so blessed) our children.

    That said, there are still times when I flash red. But now I am conscious of the golden and sublime peace that awaits if I am willing to give up my irritation and arrogance. And I am constantly blessed by the sweet and peaceful love of my husband, who truly does husband my welfare and support me in my God-given responsibilities.

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