Marriage is about understanding and compromise. It is no secret that both partners must have their needs met, in order to feel satisfied within their union. But will submitting to your husband lead to a happier marriage and a happier you?
Rachel Held Evans, who describes herself as a Christian Evangelist and feminist woman, recently set out on a mission to reassess the roles of women in the Bible. Her task involved re-enacting the different ways that women of the Bible lived, and attempting to translate that into a modern day language. For one experiment she took on the model of Sarah, who was obedient to her husband Abraham and called him "Master."
The Feminist Who Called Her Husband Master
"What do you define as a feminist?" Evans asked during an interview with the Christian Post. "Who was it that said, 'If you describe feminism as the radical notion that women are human,' if that is how you want to define feminism then yes, I am a feminist."
Despite her strong female stance, Evans still agreed to call her husband "master" in order to gain a better understanding of other women who had decided upon a more "traditional" route in their marriages, which included a subservient role to their husbands.
"It was a little bit strange for both of us. He didn't relish it either," Evans admitted adding that it was also "strange to impose that hierarchy on our marriage."
Submission is a Two Way Street
"Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord," Ephesians 5:22 reads.
Some women have argued that submitting to your husband is akin to having trust in the Lord and the mate that he has chosen for you.
"People ignore the passage in the beginning that says submit one to another and then they just jump to wives submit to their husbands and try to impose the hierarchy of the Greco roman codes into a modern day society, which misses the point of those passages entirely," she suggested.
Evans pointed out that a lot of advice for women, when it comes to sustaining a Christian marriage, revolves around the idea that women should submit. And submission isn't a bad thing, Rachel explains, but it's a two-way street.
"The thing is, I'm not opposed to submission in marriage. When you put your spouses needs before you own and when you try to ask yourself 'What does my spouse enjoy and like and what would make him happy.' There's nothing wrong with doing that," she said. "It's just that when you submit one to another and have a team marriage, it goes both ways. I try to submit to my husband in a way that I try to put his needs above my own and think about what he would like or want, but he does the same thing for me. It doesn't go one way."
"Team effort…" she said. "I think that's a better recipe for a happy marriage, when both partners are thinking about how to honor and serve the other person."
There's More Than One Way to Skin a Cat?
"Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." Psalms 55:22
Evans admitted that calling her husband "master" wasn't all bad. At some point during the challenge her husband, as "master," was able to keep her from planning a Christmas party that she was anxious to throw. It turned out that she ended up being a little bit busier than she had intended and agreed that her husband had made a good call, although they bickered about it at first.
However, overall working under a hierachy just didn't work for either of them.
"Focusing on his needs [during my week of calling him master] wasn't a bad thing," she said. "But trying to turn that into a hierarchy where he's in charge and I'm always the support or he's always the leader and I'm always the follower, didn't really feel natural to us."
Instead, Evans and her husband have found a different balance that includes sharing one another's burdens.
"Leadership changes depending on context for us. I lead, sometimes he leads. I support, sometimes he supports. Especially when one person is busier than the other, the other person picks up the slack. Which just seems to make the most sense," Evans said.
Christian Women, French Women, and You
In her book "31 Days to a Happy Husband," Arlene Pellicane argues that a wife must stay attractive to her husband. Considering "attractiveness" a duty of marriage for some may seem offensive, but she isn't the first to make such a statement. Jamie Cat Callan put it differently in her book "French Women Don't Sleep Alone." Her book was far more targeted to the modern woman and it received rave reviews. In it, she charges that American women take all the "mystery" out of dating because they don't spend time on discovering themselves. Evans offered similar advice, emphasizing that it's important to maintain one's own individual identity within a relationship.
"We flourish when we are ourselves and we encourage our spouses to be themselves," Rachel said. "I try to encourage my husband to do what he loves. To discover his gifts. And he encourages me to be me and do me things."
But for her, taking individual time doesn't mean taking away from the relationship. And doesn't keep her from being a feminist Christian either.
"The key for us is just to try and celebrate one another for who we are and not try to cram ourselves into a mold that doesn't fit. We're happiest when we're just being ourselves and doing what comes naturally. "