4 Ways to Respect Your Husband (are also 4 ways to respect your wife)

As a married lady within the Church (not the church I am a part of in Chicago, but the larger network of Christians forming the universal Church) the notion that the most important job I have as a wife is respecting and submitting to my husband has been drilled into my head. Paul writes that as a wife, I am called to “submit myself to my own husband” and I “must respect my husband.”

These verses are taken from Ephesians 5 22-33 where Paul is giving specific instructions to husbands and wives: Husbands are to love their wives and wives are to submit and respect their husbands. What I find interesting is that people extrapolate extremely strict and “proper” gender roles for spouses that imply that respect and love are mutually exclusive characteristics for husbands and wives: as if husbands don’t need to respect their wives or that wives don’t need to love their husbands. And what is most surprising is that those who advocate that traditional gender roles within marriage are the unequivocal correct Christian marital arrangement seemingly forget verse 21 of that chapter: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. As a feminist Chrisitan, I am not against the idea of submitting to or respecting my husband, I am against the idea that submission or respect is somehow my job exclusively. Yet, churches still supply lists and tips for how women can show their *exclusive* respect to their husbands. But when you really look at these suggestions and think about it, it just doesn’t make much sense that these are tips solely for women as if men don’t need to follow them.

Take for example, this abbreviated list taken from megachurch, Mars Hill. Mars Hill is led by Pastor Mark Driscoll who advocates for some very problematic dynamics for men and women. The full list, titled, “12 Ways to Respect Your Husband” is located on Mars Hill website. I have no issues with respecting and submitting to your spouse, but to imply that these are specific duties assigned to wives implies that husbands do not need to worry about them. If Mars Hill didn’t believe this, this list would be called “12 Ways to Respect Your Spouse,” but they are not; they are specific to wives. But after engaging with this tips, we can clearly see that respect is something that both husbands and wives need to engage in fully and equally to have a truly Christ-like marriage.

1. Pray earnestly for your husband. Some may be prone to instruct, and it can become nagging when it gets to a certain point.

Yes, my favorite. And if you don’t mind, I am going to go ahead and let my language really reflect how I feel about this: If a man is assertive, then he is a leader; but if a woman is assertive, she is a callous bitch. Are you fucking kidding me? You telling wives that they shouldn’t tell their husbands what’s up when they need to because they will be seen as nagging. Well, if you are a man and you see your wife’s constant existence as a person with the desire to make her thoughts and opinions known and respected as “nagging,” you seriously need to spend some time with Jesus and ask if you actually are listening to his commandment to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Because I would argue that you are viewing your wife as a piece of property there to serve your interests and not a person with legitimate ideas and concerns. Seriously.

2. Listen to him—don’t dismiss him.

Although those who believe in the Angry Feminist Stereotype would think that feminists just want to dismiss men, the truth is we just want respect and to not be dismissed. And I agree, a wife shouldn't just dismiss her husband (accept when my husband, Patrick tries to tell me that Thor is a better Avenger than Iron Man. What a noob, right?). But listening needs to be reciprocated. This relates to the point above: Husbands do not have a license to dismiss their wives. That’s arrogant, selfish, and rooted in the idea that men are better, smarter, and more important than women.

3. Be aware of the power of the tongue: ladies, we can be passive aggressive, snippy, sarcastic, and make snide remarks and criticize.

Yes ladies, we sure can. And here’s a little secret: so can men. While there are definitely gender trends that show women tend to act relationally aggressive (Snippy, gossip, spread rumors) and men tend to act physically aggressive (hit, smack, slap), that doesn’t mean men don’t know how to gossip. It usually just means they are more direct about it: instead of being passive aggressive, they go and talk crap about their wives with friends. I am all for being able to vent, but at some point it goes too far into this, “Boy my wife is such a nag, huh?” mentality. Everyone needs to watch their tongue and strive to build their spouse up, not tear them down.

4. Let him know what you’re thinking and feeling. This fosters trust and healthy communication.

But wait, didn’t the first point make it clear that if women are too upfront with their thoughts and feelings they will be seen as nagging? Sorry ladies, we can’t win. But seriously, wives and husbands need to be upfront with their feelings, notice the body language the other is giving off, and be accountable. No one should hide their feelings and no one should dismiss anyone as nagging. That isn’t loving and certainly isn’t rooted in Christ. When Jesus' mother told Him that the wine had run out at the wedding they were attending, He didn't say, "Yeah....can you like, stop nagging me?" He respected his mother's wishes even though he stated that even thought it wasn't his time, he honored his mother and kept the party going. Mother-Son relationships are different from Wife-Husband relationships obviously, but the sentiment rings true regardless: women deserve respect and honor just as much as men do.

My point in this is not to tear down men or husbands, it is to show that the ways that wives are to respect their husbands are the same ways husbands need to respect their wives. No one has the right to dismiss or gossip about their partner - gender isn't an excuse.

For more information:

Ephesians 5
12 Ways to Respect Your Husband

 

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    Abigail Muldoon

    Abigail is a women's and gender studies graduate student at DePaul University and an HIV prevention researcher focusing in trans youth. She strives to build coalition between feminists, LGBT members, and Christians and show that these identities are not mutually exclusive. When she is not busy with school, work,and church, she enjoys watching Buffy and playing video games with her husband.

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