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06 December 2010


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Dang, it was easier when I was just thinking of Eph. 5 in the big decision making sense. I've got a lot of work to do on this still. But what you have written here really clicks for me.

Donna Jannuzzi

I love all of this. :)

And regards women who gripe about their husbands in public - oh how I truly hate that behavior. Even before my husband and I were married I made a promise to myself that I would never do that. I think that if you are trying to get advice from a trusted friend about a problem you're having that's one thing, and yes I agree that it can be a fine line. But I think once you start *complaining*, you've crossed it. I just think how hurt I'd be to know to that my husband spoke of me in such a way to... anyone. It's just so disrespectful.


I love your systematic approach to things, Erin!

I, like so many other women, am itchy about the term "submission" - and even more so about the term "head of the household" which I instinctively connect with a particular kind of cultish evangelicalism - but I can see that over 8.3 years of marriage I have actually come to... well, to trust and submit to my husband in many ways I wasn't willing to do at the beginning. I think you hit the nail on the head with "ask for what you need" because I think that has been the biggest way in which I've been able to relinquish control (and bless my marriage): by sharing with my husband a need that the children or I have, and then stepping back and letting him (and oh yes, it is "letting" - sometimes with great effort) solve it in his own way. I submit to him by trusting him, and it is good and very important.

In one of these posts someone mentioned the possibility that Paul told men to love and women to submit precisely because those are the roles with which each sex struggles (i.e. women love more easily, men submit more easily). I once heard this exact opinion expressed in a homily by a very smart priest (Antonin Scalia's son, actually) and I really like it. I think that in the realm of the home and family it is easy for women to love devotedly, but not so easy for us to relinquish control. Which is why so many households fall into that "my husband is my extra child" trap. But I think your suggestions for fighting it are right on!

Hooray for this post. I am getting so much out of this discussion.


"Thinking that it's about assigning the woman the stay-at-home job (an error peculiar to our age)"

I love this concise demolition of the usual bugbear of this verse.

Husband-griping is a dangerous and insidious sport, in which I refuse to participate. It's the kind of destructive behavior that can create problems where there were none, simply by naming them.

Great, thorough post, as always!

Dorian Speed

Yes, good thoughts. Really, for reasons not to be revealed in public forums (fora? fauna?), this is a super-difficult thing for me right now due to Special Circumstances. Because I'm sooo special, or something.

It's been my experience that most groups that exist for the sole purpose of being "mom groups" degenerate into husband-bashing and other-woman-bashing. (Not like, bashing the husband's other woman. That, I could understand.)


Arwen: "...Paul told men to love and women to submit precisely because those are the roles with which each sex struggles (i.e. women love more easily, men submit more easily). "

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. There's huge variation in both genders, but love and control are intertwined in a classically, stereotypically feminine way.

Obviously people can and do err in the other direction --men do cruelly dominate their female partners in a sort of awful overcompensation. That's a truly terrible situation that society shrinks away from -- even though it's maybe a lot less common than (far less physically dangerous, but also insidious and marriage-undermining) husband-bashing. Oh, and of course spousal violence does go the other way: women injure their male partners, probably far more frequently than it is ever reported.

As I look over my enumerated list of "Don'ts" this morning, it strikes me that so many of them are (a) simple common sense (b) ordinary charity (c) probably good advice for how a husband should treat his wife too. I mean, for example, Dad shouldn't undermine Mom's parental authority either.

So here's another thing that is a little tricky: "love your wives" and "submit to your husbands," put into enumerated lists of "do's" and "don'ts," might look pretty similar. Is the difference between them wholly or largely interior, "spiritual" in the sense that women live with a submissive spirit, and men with a sacrificial spirit?

And suddenly using the term "sacrificial" there (for that is the kind of love that I am sure Paul means) -- doesn't that clarify it a bit? Doesn't that really make it ring true that women SACRIFICE more easily and men RECEIVE (take) more easily? isn't the submissiveness that Paul recommends essentially receptive in nature?

Is he possibly ordering men to give and women to receive?

And maybe the obedience part of submission is sort of a necessary step to receiving in fullness? To receive as much as possible, you have to open up as much as possible, and lay down as much of your defenses as possible, and sweep away your own plans in order to make room for the self-gift of another person?


I cut the tendon on my pinkie last week (and an artery and nerve to boot) and got a crash course in being cared for (loved, in a very real way) by dh while also submitting many decisions/actions to him. The end of pregnancy/babymoon can be a bootcamp in this too. It might be interesting to go back and read E. Foss's thoughts on being a "good wife" when bedrest kept her from the "doing" side of things, and see how it ties in here.

I like your thoughts on some specific ways E5 plays out. I think the trust issue is crucial--trust your husband to be the good man you married, and pray for him and trust God to lead him and take care of you both.... This would probably be more effective in our house than my "suggestions" and interference in child-rearing stuff..... Off to try it today :)

Erin, you ask, "Is he possibly ordering men to give and women to receive? " I think the answer JPII's wed audiences, now collated as ToB, would give is "YES!!" And yet, to receive is a very active role too--which I think your OP and the comments illustrate.


Well, another thing that occurred to me this morning is that all Christians are called to have a spirit of sacrifice in our daily lives, and certain spirit of submission to God in our daily lives too -- men and women are equally called to live out sacrifice and submission in MOST of the the things we do.

Most, but not all: in the husband-wife relationship, specifically within the domestic sphere, all the sacrifice is characteristic of "husband-ness" and all the submission is characteristic of "wife-ness." Complementarity, not equality, within that sphere of the home. Equality outside it, and in eternity.

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