Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls:
Scroll down to read it as a blog post!
***As always, being submissive to an abusive husband is never okay. Seek help. I’m not talking about putting up with bad behavior from an addict or a husband that makes you feel unsafe in any way.
As I have mentioned before, one of the things that brought me to Christianity was seeing a strong, healthy marriage. In this marriage, I saw what it looked like for a husband to be strong and a wife to be submissive to him and how that actually played out on a day-to-day basis. It certainly wasn’t at all what my liberal, college-brand of feminism had given me to believe. It was soft and sweet… and it seemed effective.
I won’t dive too much into their marriage but instead, I’ll use my own as an example of how being a submissive wife can play out in the 21st century.
We talk about stuff all. the. time. Seriously.
Coming from divorced families, we had no idea what we were doing so we had to try things out, talk about it, and adjust if necessary. Many times in our marriage, we have redrawn the lines for what we are each in charge of depending on the season of life we are in. I have always been in charge of budgeting and paying the bills. My husband has always been in charge of phone calls that might involve conflict (i.e. switching phone providers or challenging a bill that is wrong.)
We have switched off who is in charge of meals, laundry, landscaping, etc. My husband has usually been the one who puts the kids down to bed at night and I am usually the one who takes care of the dog and any mess she makes.
When we enter into a season when our lifestyle is different, we quickly go over the main responsibilities to see if we should shuffle them around. Lots of talking!
We discern big decisions together, then separately, then together again.
When it comes time to make a big decision like moving out of state, or buying a house, or quitting a job, we talk about it together first. Then we each take it to prayer and usually to Adoration. Then we come back and go through a pro/con list and then discuss any Holy Spirit moments we might have had in our discernment process.
If we’re confused, we seek out advice.
If one of us feels that the other person is wrong or isn’t listening or perhaps just not understanding what the other person is trying to say, we bring in outside counsel. This could be a friend, a priest, a spiritual advisor, a therapist or even a book. We try to find someone who is not emotionally attached to help us see things more clearly.
This can be a tricky step. You certainly can’t say, “You’re wrong, I know it, go talk to a priest!” That probably won’t go over well. I generally affirm my husband’s differing opinion, “I see where you’re coming from.” Then I say, “I’m not sure which is the best decision for us, maybe we should ask someone else.”
We trust each other. Marriage is like a mirror.
When you are married, your spouse will eventually see all of you. I mean that physically, emotionally, and to a large extent mentally. They will see your addictions, your excuses, your weaknesses, all most of the ugly stuff you hide from friends and family. This is actually a beautiful part of marriage. When we let down our guard and show them the real us, their job is to love us through that and stick around. That is one of the reasons the marriage relationship is so deep and personal.
You can abuse this by throwing all that stuff back in your spouse’s face, or you can use it to help build each other up. You say I love you even though you struggle with X. How can I help you overcome that?
My husband was great when I had postpartum depression after our second was born. He saw very clearly that I wasn’t myself. I had lot of excuses… who wouldn’t be stressed if they were sleep deprived and struggling with breastfeeding. But he pushed harder and said, “No, something is wrong. You need to go see someone.” I was so thankful that he did that, as uncomfortable as it made me feel, because I really did need some help.
Part of our trust though, is knowing when to challenge each other’s behavior. This year my husband is running our family business, basically single-parenting our kids, and trying to take care of his pregnant wife on bed rest. I’ve noticed that he’s been drinking more alcohol than he normally does. This has never been a problem and I wouldn’t even consider it a problem now, I’ve just noticed it’s increased. But when I step back and think about what he’s going through, it makes perfect sense to me that at the end of the day, he just wants to sit down and have beer. Sure, I could get on him about that right now but it’s not excessive and I’m pretty confident, when life gets back to normal, that will go away again. You have to pick your moments and you both have to trust each other that when you do finally say something, it’s because you think it’s really important.
When we’ve been through all that… if we still don’t agree, I side with him.
This has only happened one time in our eight years of marriage. Only one time did we talk about it, pray about it, seek counsel, and then STILL not agree. And ladies, it was hard on me! It was really hard because I felt like I was right and he was just plain wrong. It was the first time I had to really challenge myself on this whole submissive wife thing in a really big way.
[I break down the specifics of this in the corresponding Coffee & Pearls episode]
Time will tell whether that was a big mistake or not but I have to trust my husband and trust God that the marriage unit works better this way. I can’t imagine that if I really didn’t listen to my husband and undermined him in this situation, how that would hurt our trust going forward. I’m Catholic because I believe it’s the truth. I’m submissive to my husband because I believe that’s what we are called to in Catholic marriage.
I’d love to hear from those of you who have had to be submissive to your husband in a situation you didn’t understand at first, but got clarity on year later! I think that would be helpful for young wives to hear!