Find out how to be a submissive wife and what the bible really says about biblical submission. Plus, learn 5 easy ways to submit to your husband and shower him with love every day!
When Being a Submissive Wife Doesn’t Come Naturally
We argued before bed, and I tossed and turned.
Tired of his tools and clutter laying around, I aired my frustrations in no uncertain terms. I loudly spoke my truth, and there was no stopping me.
“Why do I feel so terrible now?” Deep down, I knew I could have shown more grace and kindness.
The next day, while browsing a list of topics to write about, I came across the term “submissive wife.” Ouch.
It’s intimidating for me to write on the topic of becoming a submissive wife, because it doesn’t come naturally.
Why? Because I can be extremely stubborn when I think I know what is best.
(Maybe you struggle with this, too?)
We love, respect, and trust our husbands. But, we also have a side that thinks we know best – and we want to do things our way.
So, what should those of us do who are submissively-challenged as wives? How can we learn to submit to our husbands?
To begin, we need to learn what true biblical submission really is.
Special Note: Most importantly, make sure your life is submitted to God first. If you want to make sure you are a child of God (a Christian, ready for heaven), read our post How to Be Saved According to the Bible. There are lots of misguided teachings surrounding this topic!
What is submission in marriage? (according to Galatians 5)
Even though I am far from a picture-perfect example of submission, this study is beneficial for me and I hope it encourages you, too.
First, does the bible say wives should submit to their husbands?
We often answer this question from the knee as it lunges forward in a Kung Fu-style reaction, kicking the male chauvinism back with a resounding NO!
But, we cannot escape the fact that the Bible clearly teaches submission to husbands in Ephesians 5.
No matter how you feel about the topic, lay aside any bias at the altar of trust in God and see what the Bible says about wives submitting to their husbands.
When taken in context (Ephesians 5:22-33), you will come away recognizing there is providential balance and mutual respect in the Biblical marriage relationship.
Let’s begin with verse 22: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.”
And what is the original definition of the word ‘submit’ here? (I got my Greek-scholar husband to help me with this one… here’s our hilarious text volley from that day –
Ok, now that we have that out of the way… back to the Greek word ‘submit.’
ὑποτάσσω – to place yourself under, to cause to be in a submissive relationship, of submission, involving recognition of an ordered structure, of the entity to whom appropriate respect is shown.– BDAG Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd Edition
This Greek word “submit” is actually a combination of two words, one word meaning “a position under” and another word meaning “arrange or put in place.”
So we see that true biblical submission is an active role that we choose to take on as wives, to recognize the authority God has set up and to be subject to it. It is not brought about by some chauvinistic man holding a woman under his thumb.
Instead, it takes a spiritually strong woman who realizes the importance of the God-given role of submission. And, a realization that if Jesus himself submitted to the Father’s will out of love, we, too, can submit to our husbands.
The bible instructs husbands, too
A true understanding of the final phrase “as to the Lord” can only be found in Ephesians chapters 1-5:21. The audience who received these instructions were Christians.
The male and female members of the Church in Ephesus had already submitted to the Lord and to each other (Ephesians 5:21).
They found their spiritual forgiveness and blessings in Christ (1:7), their faith and responsibility (2:8-10), God’s wisdom revealed in the Church (3:8-12), their supreme unity (4:1-6) and their Christian path paved in love (5:1-21).
It is in this context that ideally, husband and wife have both already submitted to the Lord. Let’s continue to verses 23-24:
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
Jesus, the head of the Church, gave himself in death for the Church. Jesus was not selfish with this role, and neither can a husband be with his wife!
I love how Drs. Cloud and Townsend put it in the well-known book Boundaries:
Whenever submission issues are raised, the first question that needs to be asked is, What is the nature of the marital relationship? Is the husband’s relationship with his wife similar to Christ’s relationship with the church? Does she have free choice, or is she a slave “under the law”?– Boundaries, p. 168
So, the healthy context for biblical submission happens when both husband and wife are under the headship of Christ. God gives husbands a responsibility toward their wives, and we as wives have an equally great responsibility toward our husbands.
But what if my husband isn’t a Christian? Do I still need to submit?
Peter handles this exact concept in 1 Peter 3:1-2:
“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”
One way to think of this is “My husband isn’t a Christian…yet.” This must be your daily prayer for him.
It’s possible to submit to a non-Christian husband, as stated in this passage. But, the caveat is that he must know you are submitting to Christ, first and foremost.
Now that we know what it really means to submit according to God’s plan, we must understand how being a submissive wife truly blesses us!
How being a submissive wife blesses you
When God told you to submit to your husband, did you know He actually did so for your own good?
Here’s why submitting to your husband is a blessing:
It takes the pressure off of you.
When we control things ourselves, it may give us a temporary sense of satisfaction. But allowing my husband to lead actually takes a lot of the pressure off me in day-to-day life.
I have enough to worry about with caring for children and completing my other tasks, it is actually a relief to allow my husband to lead and not feel like I have to control every little thing!
It makes you happier to embrace your God-given role.
When God gives us life instructions, it is always for our own good/benefit. According to His design, He knows that living in a state of submission to a loving husband will contribute to your highest state of happiness in marriage.
At the end of Ephesians 5, children are instructed to obey their parents in the Lord. One of the best ways for them to learn this is by observing a devoted mother who submits to her husband, and their father who submits to the heavenly Father.
Your willingness to submit to your children’s earthly father is a real-life model to your kids for how they can submit to the heavenly Father. What a joy!
Not only does a submissive wife bless the entire family unit, it makes her happier, too, knowing she is a vital part of God’s plan.
There is less chance of infidelity & divorce.
When we display a spirit of submission to our husbands in every way we can, this is sure to lead to a calmer and more contented marriage.
This, in turn, increases happiness in relationships and makes infidelity/divorce a lot less likely to occur.
Your husband will likely show his appreciation right back.
When you show your husband how much you are trying to respect his role as leader of your family, chances are that he will be thrilled and shower you with his love and affection in return.
It’s the snowball effect: you start with a small act of kindness, your husband notices and does something kind for you, and the snowball continues to get bigger!
You may be thinking, “That’s great, Mary. But how do I become a submissive wife? Especially when I’m not in the habit?”
Thankfully, there are a lots of small things we can do that all add up to showing a spirit of submission.
How can I be the best submissive wife? 5 easy ways
Here are some simple ways we can all show more submission to our husbands, regardless of how easy or challenging it may seem.
1. Brainstorm ways to help him.
Did you know that ‘helper’ is your God-given job description? This means you are divinely-appointed for the task!
Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
In what ways are you uniquely suited to help your husband?
Take a moment to brainstorm. Think about the talents you possess and how you might best use them to bless your husband:
Are you super organized? Make your living space beautiful and help your husband organize his schedule.
Are you a great cook? Use this talent to fix his favorite meals and snacks without him asking. This will make him feel loved!
Are you a people-person? Accompany him to social gatherings and host get-togethers in your home. Make a point to invite his family and work friends over.
Whatever talent you uniquely possess, there is a way for you to use it to the glory of God and the benefit of your husband. Get creative!
Read Next: I’m a Keeper at Home, and Proud of It
2. Make him feel important.
There are so many ways to make your husband feel important and loved. The first step here is knowing your husband’s love language (the Five Love Languages book can be very helpful here!).
Then, knowing how your husband feels best loved and appreciated, work on implementing some new things.
Greet him when we comes home from work, spend more time conversing with him, cook him nutritious meals, fix him lunch, or iron his clothes. These are just some ideas – there are tons of ways to make your husband feel important!
Doing small things for your husband throughout the week adds up and will make your husband feel like he is the most important person in your life.
And cultivating the heart of a servant toward your husband will bless you as well!
One word for mamas: When we have little people with lots of needs, it’s especially challenging to prioritize doing more for your husband. But try, whenever you are able, to put his needs above the needs of the children.
After all, in 18 years the kids will be grown, but marriage is forever.
3. Be selective in how I “instruct” him.
My stubbornness makes it challenging to keep my mouth shut at times. But I’m trying to think before I speak, especially when it comes to instructing him or telling him how he can do things “better.”
This isn’t to say we can’t speak our minds honestly if we see room for improvement – it’s all about the delivery. Speaking with respect (at an opportune moment is even better!), goes a long way toward a submissive spirit.
4. Practice gratitude for all the things my husband does.
Just taking a moment to think about all the things my husband does for us is sobering.
I think about how hard he works, often to come home and continue to work fixing things around the house. He often helps with dishes and other chores, plays with the kids, takes the time to listen and support me, and even brings me coffee in bed (!).
Take a few moments to mentally list all the wonderful things your husband does in a typical day. Chances are, you’ll be amazed!
And one easy way to show submission to your husband is to verbally state your gratitude to him. Thank him often for his good qualities, and you’ll start to see more of them too.
Oh, and allow your husband to be the protector and provider – it’s his God-given role and he loves it!
5. Pray for God to give you a heart of submission.
The best way to cultivate a submissive spirit? PRAY.
Pray fervently that God will develop a heart of submission in you. If you go through all the motions of helping him, holding your tongue, thanking him, etc., but you don’t cultivate a true heart of submission – it’s all for naught.
In every way, that’s what God wants. Our hearts. And submitting to your husband is a part of that. Pray:
“Lord, help me to submit to my husband. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I like doing things my way. But I want to please you in this way and I know your plan is best. Please soften and transform my heart so I can submit to my husband the way you want me to. Amen.”
When you do your part to submit to your husband, God sees your heart and will reward you for it — regardless of your husband’s actions.
You also have to trust that what God said is best. Having a submissive spirit may be the total opposite of how you were raised. It’s something you must actively seek as you strive to do God’s will.
Are there other ways you display submission to your husband? Do you agree/disagree? What would you add to this list?