My wife Juliette and I have been happily married for over 20 years, and she is very strong, secure, brilliant, and blunt. Along the way, something happened—a shift that changed my whole mentality about marriage. I was in a group marriage counseling session once, and I remember saying, “I want my wife to need me, but I don’t feel like she needs me.”
The counselor was so brilliant with his response. He said, “What is more attractive to you? The fact that your wife wants to be with you, or that she needs to be with you? You’re married to a strong spouse. It’s not about the fact that she needs you or not. This is transcendent—she wants you.”
Juliette doesn’t need me for her life to function. She wants to spend her life with me. That’s sexy! In the same way, when you come into mutual submission in your marriage, the theme changes from, “You need to submit” to, “I have a desire to submit to you.”
It’s Time for New Thinking
You know that old saying, “the man is the head of the household” (usually said in a stern, overbearing tone)? Men sometimes use it to demand unquestioning submission from their wives. But more often than not, I hear confident, independent, bold women for Christ respond to that with, “Why should I? What are you doing?”
See, submission is supposed to be mutual. Some people who buy into that old school mentality get it from Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:22–33, but if you keep reading past his opening bars, he’s very clear, in the direction of the Holy Spirit, to talk about Christ being the head of the Church—the head of man. He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25, emphasis mine). This beautiful description of Christ’s love for the Church gives us a framework for how men should love their wives. That love and sacrifice is still submission. Paul is saying that there’s no escaping it—everybody should be under somebody.
In that light, a man really isn’t the head of a home; Christ is. If the man lovingly submits to Christ, it becomes much easier for a woman to lovingly submit to that man as his wife. Now you have two people serving each other in a submissive way that is extravagant and sacrificial, but also reverential and respectful.
There is no one mold—either spouse could have the stronger personality—but it’s not about strength, it’s about sacrificial love. Every husband and every wife should desire to submit to their spouse because every one of us has different needs. Doing so creates an atmosphere of peace in your marriage where you can come into agreement on everything you’re going to do in your life together. That mutual reverence and respect is a blessing that changes your marriage’s narrative from demanding to desiring and can magnify your attraction because that kind of submission is sexy.
One Shift Can Change Your Whole Life
Changing your thinking about submission can even change your job. The paradigm I’ve used as a senior pastor is the same as when I was a young adult pastor, and it’s one of the ways I practice loving submission with Juliette: I will not have better words for Christ’s bride than I have for my own. I will not prepare for the right sound bite or the right one-liner only to come home and talk to Juliette like she doesn’t matter or doesn’t have worth. I also will not give more time to Christ’s bride than I give to my own. God has given two billion people to be the body of Christ and serve each other. He’s only given one person to Juliette to serve her, and that’s me.
Practicing this biblical submission can even change the dynamic of your whole family, not just as husband and wife, but even in your children. Having a solid foundation of mutual submission allows you to raise your kids in a way that informs you of how you and your spouse can nurture each other in your marriage.
Your church, career, or kids might be the neediest on the planet, but your wife has fewer needs than any of those—even if that job is serving the body of Christ or serving your kids. You’re not alone in your career, but you alone are responsible for your spouse’s needs.