According to The Happy Wives Club, all we wives need to do in order to preserve marital bliss is make sure we kiss our husbands for at least six seconds a day and think up ingenious ways to shower them with praise.
Some 700,000+ members worldwide suggests there are plenty of women out there that agree. But does all this talk of saccharine compliments simply tarnish the already-unfashionable image of Godly submission in marriage?
Now, ask my husband if I am the ‘submissive type’ and he’d most likely laugh in your face. And yet when we tied the knot 11 years ago, it was me that insisted we have the ‘traditional’ version of the wedding vows. The one in which I promised to love, honour and yes – *whisper it* obey him.
As friends have tied the knot, I have learnt that most of them would rather chew their own arm off than promise to obey their husbands. Naively, I was surprised. Until we got married, I didn’t even realise you could choose not to ‘obey’.
So does it matter that obeying our spouses now seems to be deeply unfashionable? And does saying that word somehow negate us ever having an opinion, or being valued as an equal? Well, the problem is that throwing the baby out with the bathwater means that we lose the benefits of the teaching that God gives us on what good marriages – and good relationships in general – look like.
Rewind a bit in Ephesians 5 and you’ll find Paul telling all of us to: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In other words – because you love Jesus, put the needs of others above your own. If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is – it’s the same command that Jesus gave us in Matthew when he told us to love our neighbours as ourselves.
And that is the heart of the matter. Promising to obey isn’t a one-sided coin. It doesn’t mean we put up with abusive behaviour, become doormats or never say what we think. It’s meant to paint the picture of mutual respect and support, in which both parties put the other first. And in that context, I think I get the better end of the deal. Yes, I promise to obey, but he promises to love me like Christ loved the Church. That’s right – so much that he’d even give up his own life to save mine. Show me a husband who loves like that, and I’ll show you a wife who doesn’t have a problem with submission.
So no, I won’t be anchoring my hopes for a happy marriage on a few half-hearted compliments and a smooch in the kitchen between school runs and bedtime chaos. And I don’t see the success – or failure – of my marriage as solely my responsibility. And that’s where I part company with The Happy Wives Club. But I do think we need to remember what the Bible has to say about how all relationships are meant to work – no matter how unfashionable that might appear to be.