Saturday, July 07, 2007

"The wife should respect her husband"

“Perplexed wife” wrote, “My cousin and his wife just had their first child and are now discovering new things about each other as they parent together. This spurred an debate in my home. In a nut shell, my aunt believes it's her daughter-in-law's moral responsibility to sumbit to the will of her son. If they cannot agree over something, his decision should prevail. He is the head of home. She went on to state that the reversal of the order of head of household has led, for a number of reasons I won't go into, to the basic decay of our value systems. I told her her ideas were archaic and no one believed that anymore. She informed me, however, that this is the current teaching of the church. I can't remember hearing any of that taught in recent years. I don't even think I've heard "obey" used in marriage ceremonies anymore. My aunt is a pretty devoted woman in her faith, so I would believe she is correct in her beliefs, but still.... does the church still teach that women should be submissive? I am aware of the passages referencing the subject, but they were written in a time when women weren't exactly first-class citizens. I'd like to think I am thought to be given more than only "influence" with my spouse, at least in the eyes of the church. My reality is what it is, but I'd like to know the teaching.”

One of the main passages comes from Ephesians 5: 21-33. Everyone seems to focus on St Paul’s line, “Wives be subordinate to your husbands”. In this passage, St. Paul compares the relationship between a husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and the Church. The beautiful and intense analogy is often ignored by many because of the word ‘subordinate’. What has always amazed me is that we never seem to hear about the end of the passage where St. Paul uses the word ‘respect’: “In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband” (v.33). The main point is that a husband should give his life to his wife as Christ gave his life to the Church; and, the wife should receive his love (as she does in the marital act) as the Church receives Christ’s love, and return it as fully as possible, as the Church does with Christ.

Here is a reply to the above comment from a married couple, “Kelly and Mike Huffman”:

To Perplexed Wife,

Hi, this is the first time my husband and I are commenting together. We were married in our early to mid twenties, we just hit our 20th anniversary. Christ commands husbands to love their wives as they love their own bodies. He also commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. Also God is a God of order. Husband and wife are called to love and serve the Lord above all people/things.On the practical side, if Mike is presenting a decision for our marriage/family, it is always after much prayer/receiving graces from the sacraments. If at first, I "balk," or disagree, I will start to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to continue to guide Mike and to impart knowledge understanding to me. Many times, the Holy Spirit will bring great peace to my soul. Other times the Holy Spirit will lead me to ask questions, initiate more conversation-discussions..........

Sometimes this will lead to a different direction altogether. So we view it as a supernatural, divine, grace filled process. We view marriage as our vocation and know that we can not live it without Christ and His sacraments.Of course we are sinners and we have had 20 years to learn many lessons from the Lord! Marriage is all about sacrificial love. Yet we have found that a Christ centered marriage is a glimpse of heaven on earth.

8 Comments:

At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Hi!

My husband and I also just celebrated our 20th anniversary a few weeks ago.

The husband as "head of the family" sounds terribly old-fashioned and hopelessly out-of-date, but that's how we did it, and it has worked well for us.

Right from the beginning the wise priest whom we asked to celebrate our nuptial Mass, and who acted as our premarital advisor, told me, "Marion, let Bill be the head of the family." I wasn't sure what that would look like. I couldn't see myself as an Army private and my husband as the sergeant, barking orders and sending me scurrying hither and yon. That didn't seem right.

Somehow the way we worked it out, the structure of authority in our family became close to something like that between a President of the United States and a United States Senator. A Senator has experience, position, and responsibility, and the President will appreciate and respect that. The Senator, too, respects the leadership, experience, and authority of the Presdient. Their relationship will be collegial, a partnership. In the end the Senator has the right to give advice and consent to the President's proposals, but the President will have the final say on certain key matters, such as matters of national security. At the same time, the President will not interfere in matters that belong to the U.S. Senator to deal with.

So it may be with a "husband as head-of-the-family" marriage in which the couples nevertheless run things as a team, with a very collegial-partnership relationship. Most things they discuss and decide together; some things he handles on his own; some things she handles on her own, and they trust and respect each other in those areas, without invading each other's space. On certain key issues, however, where they may see matters differently, the wife defers to her husband's authority.

(It was once held in some circles in the olden days that a wife should defer even to the abusive behavior of a cruel and vicious husband. I am glad that there is no longer support for that objectionable notion; and that if there is truly serious abuse perpetrated by either spouse, the other should by no means tolerate it for a moment.)

 
At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Marion-
I like your example of the presidency, but the president doesn't have ultimate authority. In fact, the supreme court took away line item veto as it offered power that constitution didn't provide for. I think the idea of giving authority or the last word is a fear for some women b/c it is possible that important issues may be red-lined.

I've seen many examples of that in others' relationships. I have one friend who often doesn't do one thing or another b/c her husband won't "let" her. She asks for permission rather than consults him. That is the kind of mentality with which I take issue. If one were happy in that role, that's cool, but often this friend isn't happy.

Were I to look at my on relationship honestly-
I'd have to admit that I do not allow my spouse to be the head of household. Just the idea of that fills me with anxiety. Although were another to look at my reasoning, I think that kind of concern would be reasonable. At the same time, I realize that when I assume the role of leader in all things, I can't really complain that he isn't one- can I?

Sometimes it's hard not to feel envious of others who have the kind of relationships both you and Kelly described. I'm happy to hear of those examples, for it gives me the opportunity to see that relationships can be like that. It would be great to feel like I didn't need to carry all the weight and worries sometimes.

 
At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

Anon 2:24 p.m. wrote regarding my: "example of the presidency, but the president doesn't have ultimate authority . . . supreme court took away line item veto as it offered power that constitution didn't provide for. I think the idea of giving authority or the last word is a fear for some women b/c it is possible that important issues may be red-lined."

That's a good point, Anon. The example is definitely flawed . . . In many domestic matters, the Presdident is not "over" any given U.S. Senator; each Senator is responsible for his or her own area. But in certain key national areas such as matters of foreign policy, national security, and the conduct of war, the Senator will have tremendous input, but it is ultimately the President who is the one who makes the call and signs the Executive Order.

I just want to emphasize that even in a marriage in which the husband is the head of the household, both spouses can and should behave and treat each other as responsible adults at all times and respect each other's space and privacy. It should be understood by both that there are areas in which she may do as she likes without the need to get his approval (consulting him is always friendly), and vice versa. A certain sum of everyday or weekly spending, some of her free time, daily household affairs and expenditures, the children's day to day management, etc. should be left entirely up to her, if he trusts her.

See, if he doesn't trust her, then it's a disaster for everybody! And vice versa.

There was an old song that went: Hold on loosely but don't let go,
If you cling to tightly, you're gonna lose control.


For this to work, the husband has to be a really admirable individual - a man with the instincts of a gentleman: decent and honorable, who at his very core would detest the idea of ever tyrranizing over anyone. But he has to be responsible and a leader, too, in those areas where he is to exercise leadership and, yes, headship.

The cool thing is, if the wife wants to, she can help to bring this about. In fact, if the wife has "good material" to work with, and knows how to be patient, she can make it so.

 
At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"treat each other as responsible adults at all times and respect each other's space and privacy."

That says so much! This is a debate I had just the other day- that one, even after marriage, is still entitled to privacy. When you trust and respect another, privacy should be a given.

And-
"Hold on loosely but don't let go,
If you cling to tightly, you're gonna lose control"

I would swear you were speaking about my life!

 
At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

"I have one friend who often doesn't do one thing or another b/c her husband won't "let" her. She asks for permission rather than consults him."

Anon,
I have many divorced, single and married friends who have made the above comment or similar comments to me. When I would like to do something such as go out to dinner with friends or go away for a weekend ot whatever it might be, I will always talk to Mike about it first. My reason is because I love him and care about his needs. I would like to know if he has had a horrible day at work or if he is exhausted. I would like to know if he has been looking forward to sitting with me and sharing a glass of wine all day. So I will call him and find out if he needs me before confirming outside plans. Most of the time (even when he is tired), he will respond...that all is well and that it would be great for me to get out. There have been days when he will express a great need to be with me.....share a meal and have a soft place to land. Because I love him and he is my priority, I will sacrifice my agenda and be there for him.

Hopefully this exemplifies that it is not about asking permission but taking consideration of my husband's needs.

In turn, he will check with me if he would like to do one thing or another(golf, ride his Harley) because he is concerned that I may need him.

This is where it comes down to sacrificial love. Of course there are times when we are disappointed/not happy when we choose not to do what we want, when we want. Yet we know that we will put each others' needs first.


"At the same time, I realize that when I assume the role of leader in all things, I can't really complain that he isn't one- can I? "

Great insight on your part. It may take much faith, courage, and surrender on your part to actually let your husband take leadership.

 
At 11:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Kelly,
I guess was making a distinction between checking if it’s okay with a spouse (which is something even I do) and asking permission. One implies respect, consideration and equality and the other suggests a deference of station that offends me. I think the second notion is what concerns some women- being thought of or treated as if they are “less than.” Obviously from your comments, that is not what you experience with your husband, and I reiterate, it is good to hear that message from others. Whenever I hear someone speak to others as you have, I watch the reaction from those to whom they are speaking. Inevitably, there are women who react as if that speaker has lost her wits. What I was talking about isn’t in the judgment that my friend is “whipped” by the love she has for her husband (that I’d think would be cool), but acting from a sense that he is her superior in the relationship. That goes against what I believe about relationships among all people, both within and outside of marriage.

Sometimes it seems I know few happy couples. When things are bad, and you are surrounded by people for whom similar things are bad, it’s way too easy to commiserate. It has taken a good amount of self control to refrain from being that disrespectful. It really is nice to hear positive and personal words regarding marriage- thanks!

 
At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God commands wives to honor their husbands (Eph. 4:31)

This bothered me for some time, for I thought it meant that wives should have respect for their husbands. I don’t really think that’s what God actually commands, nor do I think He commands husbands to respect their wives. Respect must be earned. In some marriages, it isn’t possible for the wife to respect her husband. Staggering percentages of spouses commit adultery and/or engage in other behavior that is so offensive to their mate that whatever respected existed at one point has been destroyed. An important distinction I have made for myself is that, instead of commanding respect, God commands treating with respect. To honor means to treat with respect. If I want to obey God and show Him that I love Him, I will treat my husband with respect- even if I’m unable to respect him as a person or respect his judgment. This distinction has helped me move past anger and betrayal toward civility.

Furthermore-
God commands men to love their wives in a way that does not seek its own benefit—it’s not selfish. The love he expects us to give is directed toward the good of others. So, for a husband to love his wife in the way God's commands, he must unselfishly do what is best for her.

 
At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cool thing is, if the wife wants to, she can help to bring this about. In fact, if the wife has "good material" to work with, and knows how to be patient, she can make it so.


All right, Marion! From Sirach 27:13-16
A gracious wife delights her husband,
her thoughtfulness puts flesh on his bones;
A gift from the Lord is her governed speech,
and her firm virute is of surpassing worth.
Choicest of blessings is a modest wife, priceless her chaste person.
Like the sun rising in the Lord's heavens,
the beauty of a virtuous wife is the radiance of her home.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home