Life doesn’t come with a manual, and neither does marriage. Whether we’re making difficult decisions, entering new seasons, or dealing with unexpected changes, most of us married folks are just figuring it out as we go.
The epidemic of women’s unpaid work is a serious problem and it’s one that should concern us as Christians. Whether by implication, necessity, or demand, women aren’t being credited or compensated for their work. They are often taken less seriously as professionals and expected to take sole responsibility for housework and other traditionally feminine kinds of work. Not all labor—such as household work—is the kind of work for which we give and receive a paycheck. But it remains that for much of history, patriarchy has ensured that all of women’s work—official and unofficial and paid and unpaid—is seen as less than, and that women’s labor can be taken for granted.
Churches can become a motivating force for healing and change. They have a responsibility to promote healthy marital relationships. Strong and healthy marriages are built on loving and equal relationships.
Whenever I hear the word “submission” I am immediately transported back to my childhood home. We were staunchly rooted in a conservative, Christian tradition, and my family prided itself on having a high view of Scripture. There were a number of beliefs affected by this high view of Scripture (which, for the record I still hold to!), but few made their way into the everyday vocabulary of my family more often than submission. We were instructed to see complementarian gender roles as one of the foundational building blocks of a godly family, and ensuring a healthy sense of submission was front and center when building that foundation.
There is no love in patriarchy. There is no respect. There is only perpetual immaturity, dependency, and frustration for the man who is subjected to the most sophisticated manipulation as his wife gives over control and authority to him.
There are several New Testament passages dealing with the proper relationship between husband and wife. The words of Jesus and the writings of Paul and Peter are quite explicit about the roles and responsibilities of husband and wife. But there are only a few stories in the New Testament that give us any information about married couples who were related to the mission of Christ and to the forming and expanding of the church in the first century.
I once heard a pastor compare women to teacups. He explained that husbands need to treat their wives like fine china, gingerly, with the tentative hesitation as one approaches a foreign thing, separate from themselves.