What Headship and Submission Do Not Mean

The biblical doctrine of  “the husband is the head of the wife” is certainly related to the issue of abuse and domestic violence — especially by abusers hiding in the church. Wicked people take the good Word of God and twist and distort it to their own evil ends.

[Note from Barb: this page was condensed and updated in Feb 2020; new links were added — the posts by Wade Burleson.]

Whatever Scripture means by the husband being the head of the wife, and wives submitting to their husbands (Ephesians 5), we know that it is good, just as Christ being head of His bride, the church is good. The question of course is, just exactly what does Scripture mean by these doctrines? It surely does not mean what the abuser takes it to mean.

For many victims of domestic abuse, beliefs about submission and headship within marriage are one of the things that locks them into the abuse, and at some point they want to examine and perhaps re-evaluate these beliefs in order to get free.

But let us state what we embrace as our target mission. Here it is:

Our mission in writing A Cry for Justice, and in maintaining this blog site, is to expose to the church what is happening to victims of abuse who are sitting right here in our own pews, often side by side with their abuser who is parading as a fine Christian. Our purpose is to do all we can to show pastors and Christians what abuse really is, and point out how the church has been giving terrible counsel to abuse victims. All of this we intend to do to the glory of God, for the help and rescue of victims, and for the effecting of justice upon the abuser.

That is our target.

We can all be engaged on fighting against domestic abuse, no matter what position we occupy in the egalitarian / complementarian controversy, or even if we don’t have a conscious position. 

For us, the important thing is to keep the fight against abuse paramount, and to never let the “gender roles” issue take precedence over the fight against abuse.

  1. We are convinced that there is indeed a woman-unfriendly climate in many of our churches. That is to say, we agree that women are being viewed by church leaders in many cases as secondary to men. And this we believe is in direct violation of Galatians 3:28. This attitude certainly explains, at least in part, the shameful way abuse victims are so often treated by their pastors, Elders, and fellow Christians.
  1. We are willing to listen to fellow believers who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture (in other words, they don’t chalk the Apostle Paul’s words up to his being a woman-hater).

But we are going to stay on target. Our mission is to sound out loudly The Cry for Justice on behalf of abuse victims who have been further abused by the ignorance and arrogance in their fellow Christians, and by the wicked deceptions of abusers parading as Christians. To that end we work and call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to join in.

Reading matter for your consideration — not implying we agree or disagree with any of these, but they are more nuanced than many of the writings we have encountered that discuss domestic abuse in the context of the egal / comp¹ gender roles debate.

By Wade Burleson

Artemis and the End of Us: Evangelical Errors Regarding Women — A post on 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

‘The’ Woman of Error in 1 Timothy 2:12 Shouldn’t Teach — A post on 1 Timothy 2:12.

A Free Speech Ekklesia for All Brothers and Sisters — A post on 1 Corinthians 14:34-36.

By Carmen J Bryant

The Proverbs 31 Woman: Fact or Fiction?

Sabotaged Submission

By Steven Tracy

What Does “Submit in Everything” Really Mean? The Nature and Scope of Marital Submission

1 Corinthians 11:3: A Corrective to Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship — Scroll to page 17 to read Steven Tracy’s article.

Headship with Heart: How biblical patriarchy actually prevents abuse

“The Culture Wars Over “Family Values”: Are Evangelicals Fighting the Wrong Battles in the Wrong Way and Losing?”

By Nate Sparks

Love, Respect and Proof-Texts — This post discusses the errors of the church’s standard teaching on Headship and Submission. The post is part of a series in which he reviews the book “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs.

By Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse

The Gender Debate in Domestic Violence: The Role of Data — This page discusses the issues of gender and violence in relationship and the controversy between proponents of gender asymmetry (i.e. men are more likely to be violent and women more likely to be victims) and proponents of gender symmetry (i.e. men and women are equally violent and equally likely to be victims).


¹ Terminology:

Egalitarians (egals) believe in the equality of male-female roles, with role being determined by an individual’s gifts. See CBE International. [CBE International was originally called Christians For Biblical Equality. Click here [Internet Archive link] for more information. Editors.]

Complementarians (comps) believe that male-female role distinctions in the church and the home are ordained by God. See The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

53 thoughts on “What Headship and Submission Do Not Mean”

  1. I agree that we do need to know what the issues are, and I have been doing a lot of reading recently about complementarianism and egalitarianism. Barbara’s information is excellent. What concerns me is the infighting among conservative evangelicals that detracts from spreading the Gospel. It reminds me of a quote from one of the demons in Frank Peretti’s novel Piercing the Darkness.

    “These humans are only of flesh, of mud, and I suggest there is one force stronger than their zeal for God: their own self-righteousness! We will make them proud, pure in their own eyes, vindictive, unjust judges over each other, and stir up such a noise among them that the simplest prayer will not be uttered!”

    Yes, please stay focused on the mission. I will keep praying for you, and join in as God leads. Now that I have been set free I am focusing on helping others get free as well.

  2. Okay, here is my reply to this. I am speaking here, about a marriage where there is no abuse, but I pray it will help those who are in abusive marriages, to see why they are free not to submit to their abusive husbands.

    I believe the Bible specifies specific roles in life and in the Church, for men and women. I have studied this for years and years. They are not oppressive and never abusive, when performed as Christ intended. As far as the role of headship and submission, this is what I believe about that. A wife is NEVER commanded to submit to sin, period. She is to stand her ground in the Lord and refuse, respectfully, to submit to her husband’s sin. Unfortunately, many of us are afraid of our abusive husbands, so we comply, rather than stand. But, the Bible never commands us to give in to their sin, abuser or non abuser. I believe also, that submission to our husbands, is to be “in the Lord” which also means that a wife submits to her husband in his leading, to build the Kingdom. It was meant for instances like this: A husband says, “Hey honey, let’s go down to so and so and minister to the people there”. She is to submit to his request to build the Kingdom of God and either go with him or stay and take care of the home (and/or children) for him while he goes. It means that she is not to hinder his leading to build Christ’s Kingdom, by saying, “Aww, shucks, I thought I would rather stay home and read funny books”. I mean, who can even imagine; a godly husband who wants to build the Kingdom of God, loving his wife and laying down his life for his precious bride (wife), her saying, “no”. That boggles my mind a little, but I guess it happens and that is why Paul had to say, “submit” to him in this way. Whatever. It can be as simplistic as him going to his job everyday. But even then, his thoughts should be, about building Christ’s Kingdom, and she helps him in it, by caring for the other details of his life and home.

    Submission is not just for his own personal whims in life. It is not about a woman bending and slaving and being a “yes” woman. She is to be his helpmeet, to help him build God’s Kingdom, taking dominion in the earth, for the Lord, and for Him alone. This submission role is not intended for a man who has no godly vision or no desire to even serve God, but rather thinks he owns his wife and commands her like the dog. He has lost any authority he had in his role as the “head”, because he is abusing his power and God strips him of his power, when he abuses it. (I learned this from Pastor Crippen) The wife is free to share her heart with her loving and godly husband, and encourage him and even correct him, when she has good advice for him, or thinks he is in error. sigh He actually listens to her too. Her command from God is to “see that she respects her husband” and so she must come to him in this way. However, if he is a loving husband and not a power monger, he will be pleased to have his God given helpmeet come to him with her ideas and suggestions, because he will know that she is doing what God created her to do. Even if her tone is not what it should be, he will lovingly remind her and embrace the fact that he is responsible for bringing her to Christ and he will lovingly teach her and guide her, without belittling or undermining her. He remembers that she is his greatest blessing and she remembers he is likewise. Do they ever argue? Yes. Do they ever get on each other’s nerves? Yes. They are human, but he loves her like Christ loves the Church and she respects him because of it, just like she respects and honors Christ, who is his head, because Christ laid down His life for her too. He is to be Christ to her, here on earth, and she is to be like the Church should be to Christ, in the way she treats him.

    Okay, so maybe I am dreaming here, but this is what I believe the verses in the Bible mean, when they speak of role distinctions and headship and submission.

    Abuse, is a whole other story. There can be no loving submission. You cannot submit to his sin, but you find yourself submitting, all the time. Only, it really isn’t submission, it is fear. Just remember, you are not in sin, because you are not required to submit to his sin, ever, at anytime. God help us.

    1. My abuser is very spiritual. He had to go on missions trips because God told him. He saw the world while I stayed home, worked hard to support him, and cared for the children. Prayer time was his excuse to leave me with the children and generally lasted 2-3 hours. God would tell him we needed to go various places to build the Kingdom of God and it didn’t matter if I was tired or sick or the children needed something. God even commanded us (thru him [husband]) to travel when I was 8 months pregnant. He was upset that I didn’t travel well because God should have given me the strength, clearly I was being selfish. Please give consideration to how abusers use “the Kingdom of God”.

  3. I think that one of the big problems in this for abused spouses is that the sins that the abuser demands of the victim are often hard to identify as ‘SIN’. There is a video of John Piper talking about how Submission doesn’t mean a woman has to comply with sin, and Piper gives the example of a husband who wants his wife to take part in a three-some.
    Well clearly, that is Sin, big time. But most abused spouses aren’t under pressure to take part in three-somes (some are, I know, but it’s not all that common).

    Most abuse victims face much more subtle things: Should I overlook my husband’s disrespect when he swears around the house, when he calls me names, when he makes a snide remark about my family or my clothes or my housework? Should I turn a blind eye when he is a bit domineering to the kids? Should I tell a white lie to his boss, so he can have a day off work? Should I promise the creditors “We will pay you next week” when we might be able to pay them – but we probably won’t. It’s these kinds of moral dilemmas, each of them small in themselves, but laid on top of the other every day, every week, every year, that the abused spouse faces … and doesn’t know how best to respond to. Should I submit to my husband by telling this white lie? Should I let him mistreat the children because that’s the best way to show him respect and raise the children to respect and honor their father?

    Need I go on? John Piper and his crowd appear to have no appreciation about this stuff. Yet it’s the very meat and potatoes of abuse. It’s the perennial wear-you-down-to-a zero moral dilemmas that leave the victim exhausted and bewildered and wondering “Have I done the right thing, or the wrong thing?” And when her spouse or her pastor declaim “You should submit more to your husband!” she has no answers except exhaustion and despair, so she climbs back onto the mouse wheel and runs (or limps) as fast as she can, getting nowhere.

      1. Exactly, Barbara. Or when submission is interpreted as a wife obeying her husband’s conscience even if it is in violation of her own. Thus he is allowed to have a conscience (in fact, his becomes family law) but she isn’t. Thus she is literally trained to avoid exercising wisdom and discernment. And then, after being conditioned to unquestioningly obey her husband and fulfill his vision for the family, she is expected to stand up to him courageously when he asks her to do something that is clearly sin.

    1. Wow. You really get it. I am so happy I have stumbled upon this blog. This is an issue that I have struggled with for years. It is a generational problem in my family and I have been praying for some direction and discernment about how to stop it from passing to yet another generation. I had no where to go. The church is exactly as described here and I have felt so very alone. Thank you, thank you, thank you for standing up for the voiceless.

    2. Yes, it is the “little things” that add up! my husband PRIDES himself on NOT doing the “big” sins, but has instead, dealt with me and our children treacherously! Yelling at us for little stuff, then carting us all off the church where we “look good, smell good, sing good” then its back to reality with him yelling and humiliating us all in public because he didn’t like the waitress “having attitude” with him. One pastor I was trying to get him to understand and he just said, “you are badmouthing your husband.” I said,”I understand what you are saying and am sensitive to that, but how will you know what is really going on if I can’t tell you any of the bad? Do you think I am making it up? Do you think no abuse is going on?” and I kid you not, he said, “its not that I don’t think abuse is going on , its more the way you are coming across about it.” I was dumbfounded! So the ABUSE and the ABUSER are not the issue here, but HOW I TELL YOU about it that is the real problem?! Unbelievable. I was a lot weaker then. I would handle it a lot different now but the audacity of it. Did he even HEAR how ridiculous that statement was?

      1. Debby that kind of response is so so common. Now you are awake to it you will probalby notice it all over the place. In the media — eg. a whistleblower goes public with some organizational misfeance, and the whistleblower’s manner of delivery is criticised.

        It is a diversion tactic that abusers and power-mongers use often. And it’s so common that they think it’s quite normal and okay for them to behave that way. Sigh.

      2. and I kid you not, he said, “its not that I don’t think abuse is going on its more the way you are coming across about it.”

        And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of Men, who above all else desire power (Lord of the Rings)

    3. I remember using the “hamster wheel” at a counseling session (with my spouse bc i didn’t know any better and clearly neither did the counselor!) saying “I just can’t get back on the wheel!” but I did…many times…bc I didn’t know there were any other options. I kept waiting for spouse to CARE.

    1. My family of origin was a mess and the mess included DV. I had to deal with the emotional aftermath of those experiences in some very unfun ways when I was in my 20s. I also have a lot of experience on the edges of the patriarichal segment of the homeschooling movement. Thankfully, I’m married to a wonderful man who is fully my partner in life – we get to encourage each other in the Lord and enjoy a relationship characterized by mutual respect, love and service.

  4. I am walking through the nightmare so many others have already. The church believes my husband and an elder and lay counselor from the church are testifying on his behalf. It is crazy! I remember getting to the point i hated hearing the word submit. Wanted to share some quotes I have heard……Love does not exist where there is no free will.
    The wife’s submission is to a “lover” not a “boss.”
    A husband’s leadership is about serving not to lord over his wife.

    1. Hi J. Can you go to another Church and try to get help and support from them and explain your situation? Could you just leave? Are you a member there and if so, have they threatened to bring charges against you? Lots of questions, but to get the best answers, it may help to know those things.

      You are right, a husband is called to lay down his own life, for his wife and he is not to lord it over her. He is to be a loving example, like Christ Himself is to His Bride, the Church and in turn, just as the Church submits to Christ, the wife submits to her “loving” God-fearing husband. If he is abusing, then he is not loving you and has in fact, broken his end of the marriage covenant. Please tell me you are not doing couple’s counseling with the elder(s).

    2. Ugh J. That is horrible, the same thing happen to me, my MIW spawned out to a smaller church we had begun to attend, secretly attended the mens groups, infiltrated to the degree they were willing to show up at a contested restraining order hearing to support him!!! They never talked to me once, but judged me by everything he had cried about to them…it was a horrible experience, of course I showed up on my own with no support which just emolded him. Fortunately that day, they all got spanked by the judge, the Deacon actually went up on the stand to testify to what he had “”heard” to testify as to what he had “seen” which amounted to he had seen “”nothing” in regards to us being together, and somehow this so called Christian man felt justified to be there and testify with knowledge of anything against an innocent woman and her children who were trying desperately to protect themselves…….this guy looked like a fool, the MIW blew up when he realized they were being laughed at, then got escorted out of the court room….no doubt these idiots STILL align with him and any reasoning he gives them. Ugh!! The whole thing is just awful to think about, no wonder then I had lost 1/3rd of my bodyweight, the stress was beyond what I could expect my body to take on. I really like “”Love does not exist where there is no free will” Its hard to believe these people can do what they do to innocent victems, and still think they are Christians? Seriously the word Submit is so thrown around to beat down the oppressed, if we were married to true godly spouses, then you wouldnt need somebody else cramming there own crap down your throat all the time…..if we were married to true Christians we wouldnt need to hear or talk about submission, it would just be. For me it was a constant thorn to hear, and I woud sit with no words, just looking out the window, picturing myself tied to a tree, and reapedtly bieng whipped by these people until I lost all consciousness….it was that kinda misery, fear and doubt that made me realize God did not truly exist in that place, or in my spouse.

      1. …oh and I also went through a time where I thought only “IF” they new or understood…then it would be different, naturally they would drop him and align with my kids and I, and rally in support of us. Unfortunately in most cases they do know, and they do understand. And then the most important thing becomes, how to cover these things up, A lot of times because they also, do not want to be exposed for what they are.

  5. Like everything I read on here just brings me to tears.. because it’s so relieving to hear someone who “gets it.” I get a lot of support from going to support groups… and it’s so helpful, but it touches my heart on another level to hear these things from a sister in Christ. God is really working through you.. it’s like hearing Him say “Child, I know the pain you’re going through, I love you..and I don’t expect you to stay in this abuse.” Thank you for being a vessel God can speak through.

  6. Since me and my two girls left our abusive husband/father, we have been staying with my mom and feel obligated to attend her traditional type church. My oldest told me the other day that in Sunday school, the teacher told her class that they should “stand by their men, even if they treat them bad, so that the love of God will show in them, etc.” I’m paraphrasing here, of course. Mind you, these kids are only like 11 or 12 years old. why are they starting so early to preach these kinds of messages? Obviously, it didn’t sit well with my child because she watched her dad abuse me so long and even my mom (who is a member of the church) tells me I do not deserve the abuse and no one should be in an abusive relationship. When we move, I’m going to find us another church or maybe none at all if I cannot find one that preaches the truth about the whole submission thing.

  7. Anna, your experience is very very common, sad to say. So much of the church is blind to domestic abuse and so isn’t concerned about the fact that careless teaching about headship and submission is playing into the hands of abusers. Abusers know this, and they definitely gravitate to churches where headship and submission is emphasised woodenly, and also to churches where abusers are not disciplined because of the yes-men boys-club mentality.

    And IMO, many egalitarians have not grasped the covertly evil tactics of domestic abuse well enough either. And prioritising the push for gender equality in church leadership has meant that domestic abuse is rarely prioritized: she’s the Cinderella in the comp-egal debate (except when either side want to play the righteous indignation card to score points).
    Sitting in the ashes, with few fairy godmothers to rescue her.

  8. When I saw the word “Reformed” in reference to a faith, I have to admit, it invokes fear for me. My ex husband and I had joined a very small Reformed type church, that was very legalistic. Just a few of the issues I had were, We were required to home school or children, disciplining children included beating them into submission, and of course my role was to always submit to my husbands will, regardless of my own conscience. I recognize homeschooling for many can be a great experience for them and their family. For me, it was absolute torture. The way to discipline our children was also very destructive in our circumstances, and took part of my soul every time I did it. Any time I cried about these issues, or any issue that caused me to pause, I was always met with the same resolve, ” why are you denying and against Gods will”, which of course broke me even more. I can’t even begin to try and explain what hearing that constantly while feeling in your heart something is wrong, did to me. It actually took me years after leaving my husband to even start to grapple with these issues. You start to feel worthless, never good enough, and feeling like you are not worthy..of anything. I reached such a low point, that when I decided to leave my husband I made some horrible choices. Felt an affair was the easiest and quickest way to get out…I knew he wouldn’t want me after that. I even ended up giving him complete control in our parenting plan with our children in fear that my ex would feel so threatened, that I may never see them again. I’m thankful for hearing some of the things you’ve said Barbara, I’m glad that I didn’t let my fear over a silly word (reformed) scare me away from digging deeper into this site. And I thank you for giving a clearer picture of what abuse can mean. I was never beaten physically, hence why I personally struggled with what happened to me. But where I was able to start, was that faith/religion/scripture isn’t suppose to make you feel like trash and worthless. I pray that those who are struggling the way I did and still am, find their way here.

    1. Jennifer, what a testimony! You were spiritually and emotionally and psychologically abused in great measure, and then (like so many of our readers) you still ‘struggle’ with what happened to you because you were ‘never physically beaten’. Your ex did not physically beat you — he was beating you down in so many other ways, he didn’t need to beat you physically to maintain control. And that church was his ally. I’m so glad you found us.

      1. Barbara,

        Your ex did not physically beat you — he was beating you down in so many other ways, he didn’t need to beat you physically to maintain control.

        YES! THIS ^!!! This sums up my first marriage in a nutshell! Thank you!

      2. Hi Nutshell#2 welcome to the blog 🙂 I changed your screen name for your safety. We always like to point new commenters to our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. If you don’t like the screen name I picked for you, you can email TWBTC and she will change it to a name you prefer. Her address is twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

        Again, welcome! And I’m glad you are finding the blog helpful. 🙂

  9. My neighbor’s husband called on a Sunday morning as we were getting ready for church. His wife had severe allergy attacks and she was experiencing one that morning. He asked if I would come and watch their girls ( one was a 3 month old baby) while he took her to the hospital. I told my husband what was going on and he didn’t want me to do it. I thought it was a horrible witness to tell them no. I asked the husband if it might be better to call an ambulance. He said his wife wouldn’t go in the ambulance, it made it her anxious and he begged me to come. I thought about the pharisees making a big deal about the disciples picking heads of wheat and rubbing them in their hands to eat the grains because it was the Sabbath. Luke 6:1-5. I had my answer and went over to take the care of the girls. My husband was angry and said I belonged with him and our children at church. To me, this was church.

  10. I really like looking through a post that will make people think.
    Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!

  11. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. I am very much in the beginning stages of healing and have found this to be the most helpful information I’ve seen to date.

  12. 1 Peter 3 states that Wives must be submissive to their husbands, so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behaviour of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

    This passage makes it very hard for me because one cannot throw it away. My husband claims to be a Christian and that God is his life, by words, but no fruits in his life is shown, meaning it’s not his heart’s desire to please God at all, it’s all about him, he manipulates me with maney, by restricting it to the point that I have to make a list of every Item of shopping or petrol and im always short cause there is always something I forgot to put on the list and he only gives the exact amount. Sex is his heaven and most important thing to him, if he doesnt get it about every 3 days he becomes a distant and selfcentered man, sex is also done as lust.

    We got married in a Christian church with Christian vows, I meant it all and sticked to it up to this point where I got stuck trying to find the right way, why does it feel so wrong to have sex with him, it was killing me inside. Praying to God to make it possible for me to give him what he wants, he never answered this prayers, wondering why it just became so unbearable to the point that I tried to take my life, cause I’ m not capable of being this Christian wife, I can’t submit to something that feels so strongly in me that it is wrong.

    My husband deceived me an God from the start of the marriage, how can 1 Peter:3 still be valid in this quest to find what God wants for a marriage like mine?

    Why does God send these info to me this whole week and gives me a sense of peace in the midst of it all?

    My husband is a deceiving Christian, one that says all the right words and agree to Christian standards, but no actions from the heart.

    I believe that on the day we got married he did the same and deceived me and held God’s name in vain.

    so again where does 1 Peter 3 comes into this

    what to do?

    1. Would someone please reply to this, because this is very much like the situation that i am in. I would like to know what the right thing to do is. I want to honor God and my husband but do not know what that looks like?

    2. Dear Gogga and HMNICOTOTK,
      I recently published two posts on 1 Peter 3. I’ve linked them below. If they do not sufficiently answer your questions, please add a comment or comments somewhere on those posts (or on this thread here) and I will try to answer/explain more. Bless you both.

      1 Peter 3:6 — Sarah’s children do what is right and do not give way to fear

      Should wives submit to harsh husbands just like slaves submitting to harsh masters? (1 Peter 2 & 3)

    3. Also Gogga, I believe you are accurate in calling your husband “a deceiving christian, one that says all the right words and agree to christian standards, but no actions from the heart.”

      And you are right not to capitalise the ‘c’ there. We have coined an expression on this blog — ‘c’hristian. We often use it to refer to people who profess to be followers of Christ but who show no evidence or fruit of being believers, but rather, who breathe out lies with stony hearts bent on evil and deception.

      You might like to explore the posts on this blog tagged false Christians. We have over a hundred posts with that tag.

  13. Pastor Jeff, do most pastors in the PCA / Reformed faith believe the these quotes about women?
    Misogynist Quotes from Church Fathers and Reformers [Internet Archive link]

    Matthew Henry in his commentary said “If Eve had not eaten forbidden fruit herself, and tempted her husband to eat it, she would never have complained of her subjection; therefore it ought never to be complained of, though harsh” (proof)

    Does that not give men the idea that they can be harsh with women in general?

    1. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      Hi PEARL,
      I changed the link you had given for the misogynist quotes. And I added a link for the Matthew Henry quote.
      The link you had given for the misogynist quotes is one we prefer not to use because in the preamble to the quotes the author of the article makes some statements that are too liberal for us to endorse.

      I don’t think Jeff or I could say for sure whether most pastors in PCA / Reformed denominations believe those misogynist statements, but we hear from many readers at this blog who say that in their churches they have experienced misogyny from the leadership. Of course, we have a biased sample on this blog: the blog is aimed at the conservative evangelical community, so many of our readers come from churches that ostensibly adhere to what is know as the Reformed faith. But we’ve also observed misogyny in non-Reformed Baptist circles, Pentecostal circles, and the general community.

      The thing with misogyny is that quite a lot of it is sub-conscious. Many people who have misogynist beliefs actually think that they treat women fairly and respectfully. But they are not aware of how underlying double standards are operating in their minds and behavior. Like a fish doesn’t know it breathes water.

      Of course, abusive men know that they think of themselves as superior to women. They know what they think, and they think they are right. And they don’t care that their mindset hurts women.

      But non-abusive men (and many many women) are subtly ‘infected’ with various misogynist or double-standard beliefs, without being aware of how much it taints their thinking. Men tend to be more unaware than women, because men do not typically have to suffer the subtle or not so subtle double standards that women routinely suffer.

      For example:
      Women, every single day, have to be on guard against being sexually assaulted. Ask women what they do to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted and they will give you a long list of things: I don’t walk through a park at night. When I park my car in a multi-storey carpark, I look carefully into my car before getting back into it, in case a rapist has broken in and is hiding in the back seat. I don’t look a man in the eye if I pass him on the street. I carry pepper spray. I don’t confront a man who is doing something wrong, in case he takes vengeance on me later. I wear x kind of clothing. I have x kind of hairdo (rapists like women with pony-tails: they are easy to grab). I stiffen my spine and am hyper-vigilant out in public. I don’t go out in public if I’m feeling vulnerable. I only go out with friends, never on my own. I make sure that I’m sitting on a seat near the aisle, so can get out quickly if need be. etc etc.

      Ask men what they do to prevent themselves being sexually assaulted, and they will look at you blankly.

      Side note: I heard of a pastor who referred to chapter 5 of Song of Songs as the lame excuses women make for not wanting sex. AARGH!

      1. Thanks for everything Barb, your reply, the editing etc… Your remarks on sexual assault are so true.

  14. Is a wife to submit to her husband in all things if he is not abusive or what he is asking is not sinful? In cases of abuse, discretion is required but what if the disagreement is about trivial matters, like how often to visit in laws, how much money to spend on the house or where to go for holidays. Is the wife to hand over the final decision to the husband in everything? My husband is strong willed. If he has decided to buy a car for example, he will go ahead and buy it, irrespective of whether I agree. If he wants to visit his family, I will have to visit too, although I may prefer to stay home or watch a movie. I have very often given in to him on such matters in the past to avoid arguments, but I am getting resentful.

    My family gave me a cash gift recently after they sold a property. I am keeping this cash with me. He seems to think that this money belongs to both of us and he can decide what to do with it. He has told me what he wants us to do with the money. It is beneficial to the family of course, but I have other plans.

    I am afraid to let him have control of this money. When I shared about this with a friend, she said I was controlling and that I needed to let go and submit. She explained that if my husband had received some cash, I would have shared in the money and likewise I must also share with him. Deep down something does not feel right.


    1. Hi Anon, what a good question! I shall answer it in another comment, but don’t have time to compose that comment right now.

      In the meantime, welcome to the blog. 🙂
      And we always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

    2. Anon,

      Here are my thoughts and I’m thinking out loud, so pls don’t take my thoughts as set in concrete or stone. 🙂

      How does one differentiate a ‘trivial matter’ from a non-trivial matter? Or from a matter that is not exactly trivial but not exactly a deal-breaker?

      How often to visit relatives might be a relatively trivial matter, if both parties’ feelings about visiting those relatives are not all that divergent, or not all that strong (pro or con). But if one spouse has been giving in to the other spouse’s preference time after time, and is now feeling some resentment because their preference is never being respected or allowed to have effect, then that becomes a less- or non-trivial matter, in my view.

      Likewise, decisions about how much money to spend on the house or where to go for holidays. They are not in and of themselves deal-breakers, but if one spouse is always having their way and the other spouse’s wishes are being regularly discounted and sidelined, then what happens to the mutual love and good will in the relationship? It goes down the gurgler. The spouse whose preferences are being rejected all the time will naturally be feeling injured, hurt, offended, and probably somewhat resentful. And the spouse who is routinely having their way is patently not showing all that much love and consideration for their mate.

      For me, a decision to buy a car is a pretty big decision (cars tend to be expensive!) so for your husband to unilaterally make that decision, sounds wrong. A Christian husband who loved his wife as Christ love the church, would not make such a decision unilaterally or make it knowing that his wife was quite uncomfortable with that decision.

      Re the cash gift you are receiving from your family, I understand your feeling reluctant to let it just go into the joint finances, since you H has already demonstrated that he can make decisions about the expenditure of joint finances unilaterally, in disregard of your preferences and wishes.

      You said

      Deep down something does not feel right.

      I think you are correct to have this feeling. Your husband has shown that his love and respect for you is wanting.

      Have you looked at our definition of abuse in the sidebar of this blog? You might want to look at it and see if you think it applies to your husband.

      I understand and respect that making assessments like this is not easy. But we have found that it is helpful to encourage readers to pay attention to their gut feelings (e.g., the feeling ‘something is not right’).

      Your friend is giving you her advice on the basis of a one-off circumstance (You receive money from your family; your husband wants it to go into the joint finances; and you do not.) But your friend is not taking into account the pattern of behavior that your husband has been using for some time, and how his pattern of treating you shows that he is in fact sinning as a husband by seldom or never heeding your preferences and wishes.1 A pattern of behaviour like that shows that the husband is NOT loving and caring for his wife.

      1If a wife’s preferences and wishes were for clearly sinful things, then the husband need not adapt to her preferences and wishes. But it’s pretty clear to me, from what what you’ve written, that you preferences and wishes are not for sinful things. 🙂

      1. I have been reading your blog for sometime now and was interested to read your response to this wife. In my case, I tend to be the [“]naughty one[“], in that I spend some of the money I earn on my home, children and myself and I do not give an exact account of the amount spent to my husband. He thinks a lot of stuff are unnecessary. But to me these things are important. I do follow other blogs which encourage wives to follow their husband’s lead in everything and to allow the husbands to control finances, including their wives’ income. The shocking part about these blogs are that it is the wives who promote this idea of total submission! I don’t think I could ever allow my husband to take charge of the finances completely as no one is infallible and instances of abuse are more rampant now than it would have been in Jesus’ time. Money affects people at different levels and abuse can enter a marriage halfway through a marriage.

        My husband does not insist that I give an account of my spending which is a good thing. My family and in laws are strict Christians who believe that wives are to submit in everything, and I mean everything. Even if the husband makes a wrong decision, it seems that God will step in and make the consequences right for the wife, because she obeyed God and submitted to her husband! I have this teaching thrown at me but I do not subscribe to it. I am a rebel in my in-laws eyes who probably look at me as a threat as I am unlikely to follow their orders blindly. My sisters in law do not work and are completely dependent on their husbands for every need. I chose to work so that I would be free from this type of bondage.

        You indicated that some matters may look trivial on the surface. I am curious to know if wives have the option of not submitting to their husbands if they felt that their husbands were not making the right decisions. If this is the case wives could for the slightest suspicions and imagined fears refuse to submit. What if the wife was wrong about her husband and the husband was not being abusive in a particular instance.

      2. Hello Seeker, your comment sat in moderation for a while because I just didn’t quite know what to do with it. I ended up putting quotation marks around the word “naughty” — to guard againsgt other readers from being triggered by that word. I hope you understand.

        The question you raise about submission would require more time to answer than I can give. I suggest you look at our tag for
        Submission, and read the posts there, of which there are about 30. That should help you think it through more.

    3. This is interesting because there are men out there who don’t want you to work so you have no money of your own and if you want to leave the abusive marriage, you are supposed to go with nothing, as it all belongs to him. So in light of that, he has no reason to expect you to give him that money, it’s not his, he didn’t earn it it is your inheritance. If he forces you out on the street, you need something to help you survive. I’ve seen how it works, what’s yours is his and what’s his is his.

  15. What it is NOT? (trying to stay on target)

    Headship is NOT: lording, controlling, bossy, self first, micro-managing, an attitude of more spiritual because of gender. [Headship IS:] being the love of Christ to your wife which is more than tingly emotions and sexy feelings. It is more than bringing home a paycheck while letting your wife run / do everything else. It does not fear admitting to having made mistakes.

    Submissions is NOT: always agreeing / being agreeable, being unable to express fears, hurt feelings or confusions, it does not mean having to have the same religious or political ideas / convictions as the husband, covering up the sins of the husband, staying with abuse because it is not the kind you can call the police over, not standing up for what is right even if it is over ideas in a conversation, always sacrificing while the husband does all the gaining.

    1. Mother Goose,

      Welcome to the blog and thank you for your comment!

      We like to encourage new commenters to read our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      Again, Welcome!

    2. Hi Mother Goose, I added a couple of words in [brackets] into your comment, because the way you’d worded it didn’t make sense to me. Can you please check and see if my emendation is correct? Thanks. 🙂

      BTW, we do this fairly often as blog moderators — fix typos and things that readers appear to have typed by mistake. I’m not singling you out, only trying to help, and to help our readers all understand each other. And please tell me if I ever make a mistake.

      1. Thank you I did not see that it looked odd until after I posted it! I was just wishing for an edit button.

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