In Dalrock’s marriage isn’t a military unit, Oscar brings up a good question:
Here’s the conundrum. The definition of the word “authority” is: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience (synonyms: power, jurisdiction, command, control, charge, dominance, rule, sovereignty, supremacy).
If a husband has authority over his wife, how does he enforce her obedience? And if he’s not allowed to enforce her obedience, how, exactly, does he have authority over her?
Obviously, Warthog’s answer of “beat her into submission” is wrong. But, what’s right?
Gary Eden gets the closest, from what I’ve seen, but then veers off in the wrong direction.
“force her to obey” is always a distraction. You can’t force anyone to do anything; as the early Christian martyr’s proved with their life. But you can influence. You can set consequences for disobedience.
Withholding attention and dread game can work to influence a wife. But they are at best, indirect means and at worst, passive aggressive.These are popular in the Red Pill community because they are about the only tools a man has when the wife is firmly in control and he is trying to regain power by stealth. I’m not saying they’re bad or wrong, I’m just pointing out the context of those. That is not the full extent of what a husband can do.
Ultimately, it’s going to come down to setting consequences for disobedience. That can come in many many different forms. The cold shoulder is exactly that, a consequence of bad behavior.
This is incredibly unpopular in church circles. But if a man cannot establish consequences for bad behavior he has no real authority in the relationship (de facto).
The ironic thing is that while the church, society and law will do everything to makes sure you have no de facto power in their effort to cancel God’s de jure establishment of husband as had, they can’t outdo the God’s creation…
“Your Desire Will Be For Your Husband, And He Will Rule Over You”
Often all that is required is for you to have the brass balls to just seize control. They’ll squawk and complain and bluff ahead of time but in the end, they want to be ruled. All the bitter feminist talking heads in the world can’t stop a woman who is thrilled to be ruled by her husband. Maybe you’ll have to do it slowly. Certainly you’ll have to do it with understanding. But no one is going to just hand it to you; least of all an American Christian woman.
To correctly understand the situation, you must understand all of the underlying dynamics first.
- The husband has usually abdicated the head position or never been in it in the first place
- The wife has usually been acting as the de facto head (via abdication) or constantly been in it
- It could be the case that the husband has always been the head and the wife rebels, but this tends to be rare.
Next, it is important to understand Scriptural marital obligations and vows.
- It is the obligation of the wife to submit to her husband, as to the Lord (e.g. Eph 5, Col 3, Tit 2, 1 Pet 3, 1 Tim 3, etc.) and respect her husband (Eph 5, 1 Pet 3).
- It is the obligation of the husband to love his wife sacrificially toward sanctification (e.g. Eph 5), treat the wife as he would himself three different times (Eph 5), nourish and cherish (Eph 5), not be embittered toward his wife (Col 3), and live toward her with understanding that she is a weaker vessel and co-heir in Christ (1 Pet 3).
- Vows — whatever VOWS you took, the Lord counts as binding:
Example: “I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.”
Let’s work out the rest of this out.
- Your primary goal is to obey God rather than men
This should go without saying, but we should be more concerned with how we are viewed in God’s eyes than in our spouses/wives. This will change how we act toward them because we know that God does not tolerate our excuses, foolish behavior, and justifications.
“I forced my wife to obey because that’s what you said she should do in the Bible” ain’t gonna fly.
- To the commands to each spouse are unconditional.
They don’t say that wives should only submit to their husbands if they are acting loving and kind. They don’t say that husbands should only love their wives if she is respectful and obedient.
Unconditional commands help break negative behavior cycles where the wife acts bad, then the husband respond poorly, the wife responds poorly to that, and so on.
- The exception temptation
As I have noted before, whenever wifely obligations get brought up in Bible studies, there is always the exceptions that get brought up such as “what if he tells me to sin.” These exceptions are distractions from the commands–it is the exception temptation. Submit to your husband in all things, as to the Lord.
Gary Eden rightly identifies that “force her to obey” is a distraction from the commands of God. This is somewhat on the mark in terms of the influence paragraph, but then goes off on the tangent.
Putting it together
Your goal as a husband is not to “force her to obey” but to:
- Love your wife sacrificially toward sanctification (e.g. Eph 5),
- Treat your wife as you would yourself three different times (Eph 5),
- Nourish and cherish her (Eph 5),
- Not be embittered toward your wife (Col 3),
- Live toward her with understanding that she is a weaker vessel and co-heir in Christ (1 Pet 3).
Husbands in the situation of abdication or never led their marriage with wives who are de facto leaders are in a place of role reversal or rebellion. How does God treat us when we are rebellious and disobedient?
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
He makes the first move, to lead by example by sending Christ to die for us.
God’s marital commands are not here so that a wife will obey her husband (even though that is the optimal outcome), but so that a husband can show a rebellious wife how God loves us and how Christ loves His Church. This is how we reflect the Christ-Church image as the husband and wife.
Christ does not force us to obey, He shows us by His example and then asks (not demands) us to follow Him.
John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
John 15:10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Discipline (in the form of punishment, chastisement, rebuke, or reproving) only works when those under authority accept the authority (even when they are under it but don’t accept it). A good example of this is parents and children. Children do not like it when you give them a time out or punishment for wrongdoing, but they accept it because they know your word is law. Wives who are fully submissive to their husbands like Abraham and Sarah show this.
One who is already rebellious or continues to be rebellious is acting as an unbeliever. Usually you don’t even need to “punish them” or “enforce consequences” as usually the negative behavior will have its own consequences. What you don’t want to do is to cover for those consequences. Let the wife deal with them by herself.
This is similar to what God does with Israel when turning away from him and invaded by surrounding nations. He allows them to suffer the consequences of their disobedience and idol worship. It is only when they repent and call out that he delivers them.
So what is a husband to do…
- Be the head. Act as the leader, even when she doesn’t follow. Complaining and demanding don’t work. Leading may not work at first, but may eventually.
- Love your wife sacrificially toward sanctification. Don’t be a hypocrite (Matthew 7:1-2). Make sure you point out your faults first and work on them. When you have a pattern of consistent behavior start to kindly point out some of hers to help her become more sanctified.
- Love himself and love his wife as he loves himself. This is counterintuitive to most Christians, but it is Scriptural: “love your neighbor as yourself” and “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.”
A man who is running himself ragged to please his wife is putting her on a pedestal and idolizing her. A man must make sure he is holding himself to the standard of Christ through excellence in all that he does (heart, soul, mind, and strength or spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally) to be able to lead by example.
This is why “self improvement” such as gaining leadership skills, working out, losing weight, gaining muscle, dressing well, and things like that helps. It’s akin to holding himself to a higher standard (which starts to satisfy her hypergamy) and makes her want to do it too.
- Nourish and Cherish her. Meet her needs. Be kind and considerate. This shows her she is valued and important, which is important to leading by example to gain your follower’s/wife’s trust back.
- Do not be embittered. Self explanatory, especially for husbands where their wife is not obedient. Not only does this not work, but it increases the divide between the husband and wife.
- Live toward her with understanding that she is a weaker vessel and co-heir in Christ (1 Pet 3). She is not a man and therefore not as tough and resilient. You don’t have to treat her like fine China, but understand that men and women are different from each other and respond differently to different things.
Overall, Authority starts with that which Authority is derived: God and Jesus. They are the ones who you are accountable with the Authority first. Then yourself by holding yourself accountable to the standard of authority through godliness and excellence yourself. Then your wife. The Scriptures outline this fairly clearly.
Demanding obedience and forcing obedience are temptations like wives are tempted to use exceptions to get out of submission free. Each will be held accountable by God for what they have done to disobey Him.