How much should a woman submit to you before marriage?

A reader writes in:

How much should a girl follow you in dating? How much should she submit to before marriage?

These are actually good questions.

Being that I don’t have daughters (at least yet), I do not believe I have the whole picture down. However, I will answer to the best of Scriptural ability, and I’m sure some of the commenters can chip in as well.

There are multiple things you need to take into consideration here.

  • First, a daughter is still under the authority of her father according to the Scriptures. If her parents, especially her father, have any particular dating/courtship rules that they have given her, she should be loyal to them over you. This is important because it shows that she understands Biblical authority. Huge bonus points if she can point out she’s loyal to them over you because of what the Bible says.
  • Second, insofar as her parents dating/courtship rules do not conflict with anything that you’re doing/saying and you are in line with the Bible, she should be following your lead. Obviously, dating/courtship is a time where you learn about the faith, character, morals, and values of the woman that you are going to potentially spend the rest of your life with, so it is important to find a woman that is willing to follow you in everything that she is able without violating her father and the Bible.
  • Third, it is important for you to start teaching her about this. Most women nowadays, even the few(er) women who are actually legitimate Christians and want to be good wives, have places where they futz around instead of following your lead. You need to be able to gently correct her if she’s off course. Her response to gentle correction will tell you much about her loyalties in marriage: to herself or to you and God.

Overall, these are the main things that need to be taken into consideration. It is important to bring up difficult and/or uncomfortable topics to talk about like sex and make your expectations clear if you prefer things done a certain way.

As a relationship develops toward engagement and/or marriage, her ability and attitude to follow your lead should definitely improve over time as long as she is not in any violation of the Bible and her parents. If that is not the case, I would be very wary about marry such a woman as you may be digging yourself a deep pit.

With all of the feminist crap coming out of the culture and Church and even families, you may not have much support once you’re married if you ignore warning signs. Best to head it off in the first place by doing your best to vet a woman to the best of your ability.

Of course, when all is said and done, you have to live by faith.

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21 Responses to How much should a woman submit to you before marriage?

  1. SnapperTrx says:

    Definitely observe her obedience to her father. Her relationship with her father WILL spill over into her relationship with her husband and if she has a problem being obedient to her dad (exceedingly rebellious, tells you about how old fashioned he is and constantly complaining about his ‘rules’) she will have a problem being obedient to you WITH one exception. If you are much more manly than her father is or exceedingly hunky she may submit just because your a couple of numbers higher than her on the SMV scale, but this is a poor foundation to build a marriage on.

  2. @ SnapperTrx

    Yup, how much she respects and obeys her father is basically a fairly solid indicator of how much she will respect and obey you all things being equal.

    Being highly sexually attractive will help, but you don’t want to rely on that.

  3. Vasilli says:

    A really interesting question. But what if Father is missing?

    You can observe the dynamics around other males in the family environment – ie brothers. I mention this because I know an extremely attractive (though naive) 20 yo girl who views her older brother somewhat as a father figure. In her own frame she is a modern ‘feministic’ girl – but when her brother calls her out she will always defer – despite all the sassing at him.
    His sheer power of dominance, intelligence and character is irresistible to her. She sees strength, loyalty and fidelity towards her in her brother. I guess his perceived alpha traits are her template for the man she would like to pair with.

    She brings her boyfriends home to meet Mum and big bro, and believe me, it is a formidable experience for that boyfriend.

    So, if your girl has a brother who is a strong personality and a good man, and will come at you with a bunch of fives and whip your ass if you wrong her – chances are you’ve got a good one there.

  4. SnapperTrx says:

    The only issue I have with this is that you describe this girl as still being modern “feministic”. Despite her deference to her brother this would be a massive red flag, because she still sees her brother as her brother and someone she can slight if she wants to likely because of her “feministic attitude”. The deference minus the feminist attitude might work better, but if she still has that feminist attitude she will carry that on with her after marriage. A father has a responsibility to admonish and discipline his daughter, I don’t know if a brother can have the same weight as that.

    If dad is gone, though, I suppose its SOMETHING to look at. Does anyone else have input on a brother being a surrogate father figure in a young ladies life?

  5. SapphireYagami says:

    okay but what if the girl is in my situation? i have a dad but he isnt active in my life. So in the future do i let my potential husband meet my dad or in my case call him because we live in different states or what?

  6. Vasilli says:

    @SnapperTrx – Oh not such a massive red flag…. I should clarify.

    This is a real 20 yo modern girl – and I also described her as naive. She imagines herself – like all her girlfriends – as a feminist because she’s young, social and typically self-absorbed in her own coolness (or perception of it).
    The reality is that she can be crushed like an eggshell. She’s barely out of her teens and is conditioned by the values of the strong family culture she’s been raised in (despite absence of Dad). Big bro is equal to the task, and along with wise, hard working mum will guide her through the years of her tertiary studies and major life choices. She knows this in her core but loves to think she is ‘adult’ and ‘independent’ at the same time.
    It’s only a matter of time until she reconciles with the reality that her true empowerment comes from the solid family culture and unswerving supports she’s a part of. The fact she is going to test the boundaries is not a red flag alert, it’s just part of growing up.
    She will make someone a good wife and be a good mother. That’s my piece done.

  7. How much should a woman submit to you before marriage?

    As others have noted, the question is good and real, but does have the pattern of legalistic questions, like How far is too far with touching before marriage? This is all the more clear if we throw feminism out altogether, which actually causes our legalism in this case, imo. I believe it is the pattern that men lead in the church, not just that church leaders must be men. Read that again if needed. I mean that lay men also lead, without being *the* leaders. Leaders with formal appointments lead other leaders.

    What’s the difference between submission and obedience?

    At work, I’ll obey each thing my boss tells me to do, but I work in submission to a general job description and organizational mission. Submission covers everything, and is an attitude, not just behaviours, though it is also behaviours, not just sentimental attitude. Obedience is very specific. One way unions protest management is by “work to rule,” where they only do what they are explicitly told to do, without showing any initiative or enthusiasm. It reduces productivity and shows how workers are genuine voluntary partners in the success of businesses. It’s also true in churches, and families.

    I have always looked for young women who enjoy masculine leadership from any man, peer in age upwards. I look for co-operative support, help, encouragement, and initiatives that don’t seek to compete or steal the limelight from the men. As I view things “woman is a help meet for man” and “man the head of woman” *not* just a wife or husband thing, father and daughter thing. In fact, why does a man’s submission to his mother not suggest he is good husband material? His respect for his dad is a good sign, though a measure of independence ought to be what his dad encourages him towards too.

    I think gender is subtle and there in all relationships, such that men tend to lead and women follow, though I’d not give direct orders to a female police officer. In that case, I’d see police assisting good citizens, not giving orders either way except via official channels, which goes back to the “Who leads church?” question. Society won’t be perfect, and nor will we be. But I think men should feel responsible to work as a team to secure the welfare of groups, and women should feel responsible to co-operate rather than competing.

    Given all that, then I’d say the longer one was “dating” a Christian girl, the more one would hope she was coming to rely on your leadership, until it largely replaces key supports like father and brothers.

    She will leave father and mother and cleave to her husband and the two will become one flesh. She will leave and cleave, just as he leaves and cleaves as well. But they will be more like peer supporters for the most part. A husband is not a father figure but a brother figure. That’s in the Song of Songs.

  8. Robyn says:

    “How much should a woman submit to you before marriage?”

    The question implies that there should be any (some level) submission before marriage. The short answer is zero. A wife is commanded to submit only to her *own* husband; not her boyfriend not her betrothed.

    The question is more revealing of the heart that is asking it. It reminds me of Peter asking Jesus, ‘How many times do I have to forgive ….?’ Both questions reveal a take more give less attitude, “how much can I get away with before I have to take responsibility?” I would tell my daughter(s) that if a boyfriend is trying to take privileges or rights that are exclusive for marriage then they need to beware of religious entitlement.

    My husband said that if a prospective husband asked this question he would see it as a sign of laziness and tell both of our daughters to not consider him. He’s “Over-vetting” to find the easiest prospective wife, so it’s simple to rule her because she’s already formed into an amazing godly woman, without any responsibility (which is what comes with the power of the vito – authority) or relational work from him.

  9. SnapperTrx says:

    This is one of the reasons I said “observe her relationship with her father”. Your right, a woman has no obligation to submit to a boyfriend. Now a betrothed fiancé I am unsure since, according to the bible, a betrothed woman has a different status than an unmarried girl (a distinction is made in the OT). I have come to dislike modern dating partially for this reason. What does it accomplish? A man pours his resources into a woman as though they were married but she can walk off with no obligation. At the same time the girl learns nothing because her boyfriend cannot act with any authority, so instead he must act like a lovesick sap in order to keep her around unless he is so hunky she throws herself at him and will do anything to avoid losing him. Weird stuff.

  10. Robyn says:

    yes SnapperTrx, you did say “This is one of the reasons I said “observe her relationship with her father”. And you’re right. Further, (my husband suggested) it be done in conjunction with an observance of full family dynamics … not just her dynamic.

    But the question wasn’t about what level of rebellion (which we all have – female and male rebellion are just opposite of each other) she displays, it seems to be about how much control/authority can a man expect to exhibit over a woman **before** he takes responsibility for her in marriage.

    I can’t help but feel it comes from a place of emotional/mental testing: not unlike “a try before you buy”. Don’t get me wrong, I understand helping kids make the wisest choice. But like we’ve told our daughters, who are just beginning this process, you won’t find a mature seasoned alpha like your Dad and it’s unreasonable (and a little unfair) to expect a 23-25 year old male to have the quality of control and leadership that a 55 year old male does.

    Nor will a man find a completED wife full of respect, grace and submission in a woman of such young age. It’s something women become through marriage and childbearing/rearing.

  11. Elspeth says:

    What Robyn said. Both times.

  12. Jonadab-the-Rechabite says:

    Excellent discussion and comments.

    I’ll add that submission involves supporting a dominion vision. Literally placing her mission under his – hence submission. So if she were planning on marrying a missionary to Russia, learning Russian might be an act of submission. If she were betrothed to a medical professional, boning up on medical billing, law or how to emotionally support her future husband who deals with human suffering all day might be submission. It does not matter if he is a butcher, baker or candlestick maker, if she is to be married to him as his help meet, submission before marriage means preparing to help him his dominion work after the wedding and maybe before, (subject to the description of her father).

  13. @ Robyn

    You’re technically right I suppose, but that’s not really how it works in real life.

    A woman shouldn’t *submit* per se to a man prior to marriage, but she is auditioning for the position (and him vice versa). There is no switch flipped where a man or woman suddenly is like “because we’re married you have to submit/respect/be my helpmeet now” or “because we’re married you have to be the head while I follow you.”

    Generally, a man and/or woman’s behavior prior to marriage will show their ability to execute the roles and responsibilities of marriage. So no, a woman is not going to actually “submit” to a man prior to marriage and neither will a man “lead” a woman, but they will definitely be making choices that show that type of behavior as a relationship progresses toward marriage.

    Whatever you want to call that, it’s going to be there or at least should be there.

  14. Robyn says:

    Exactly DS; it’s a question that doesn’t have an answer, because it calls for any man or women to move into the relationship, and *just* be aware because like you said: ” … they will definitely be making choices that show that type of behavior as a relationship progresses toward marriage.”

    The point of my original comment was that when a man is more worried about “how much is SHE supposed to submit” it not only demonstrates where his level of accountability and responsibility are; but it also shows his view of submission is a religious one (functional for earth) rather than a relational one (substance for eternity).

  15. earlthomas786 says:

    For me I don’t expect or demand submission from perspective women/girlfriend because they aren’t my wife…however I do observe the relationship with her father because that’s the God given and lawful male authority in her life and her general attitude when she is with me. Submission is an inherent behavior.

    And I’ll put it this way…if they don’t have that behavior or are disgusted by it…they’ll usually leave as long as I have the inherent behavior of leadership.

  16. Stephanie says:

    There is something there, like “soft submission,” or “submission lite” lol, but it’s probably more obvious in couples where the girlfriend/engaged woman is actively looking for ways to follow his “soft leadership.”

    Something I can think of from my husband’s and my courtship 11 years ago was where we were going to go to church. Church was extremely important to him, he made sure he went every Sunday and since I adored him, of course I wanted to go with him while we were dating (he loved me going with him too 😉 ).

    I knew from seeing my parents’ marriage that I wanted to stay where he felt comfortable being a member at – you’d think this is something obvious but we’ve known Christian couples where the wife pretty much forces the husband to go where she feels comfortable – his feelings be damned 😦 There’s no way a husband can be the spiritual leader in that kind of setup in my opinion.

    Once we were engaged, we narrowed down the churches we liked to only 2. One I was more preferential with, and wanted to stay there, however my husband felt uncomfortable staying and raising kids there and preferred the other church which I also loved. I remember thinking pretty vividly that if I was going to remain single, I could stay at that church that I preferred, but I knew I wanted to marry him, so I went with the one that was also really great that I knew he’d feel very comfortable growing in spiritual leadership at.

    In my parents’ marriage, for years they just didn’t go to church, and then when they did go, my dad preferred one that was 45 min away. My mom really enjoyed one that was in our small country town but it was led by a very hill-billy, country Pastor that my dad just didn’t like and didn’t relate to at all. My mom just decided she would take us there and that my dad could “go along” if he wanted. He didn’t. She (in my opinion) really damaged whatever possibility of him being our spiritual leader for the family by making that choice. Ironically… she would complain about feeling like a single mother and being mistaken for a single mother lol 🙂 It all could have been avoided if she had just followed where he wanted our family to go (it was a great church connected with the private Christian school I was at so she DID like it, she just didn’t like the inconvenience.

    For one of our couple-friends who were in our wedding, after a few months of their marriage, the husband confided in us that he was really resentful of her basically forcing them to stay where she wanted (which was where all her family went and the church she grew up in). She *would not* go with him to another church.
    It really affected him to the point of complaining about the situation to people outside their marriage 😦 She just did not care.

  17. earlthomas786 says:

    She *would not* go with him to another church.
    It really affected him to the point of complaining about the situation to people outside their marriage 😦 She just did not care.

    Makes me wonder if that was brought up before they got married. Church choice would be #1 issue to discuss IMO.

  18. Stephanie says:

    “Makes me wonder if that was brought up before they got married. Church choice would be #1 issue to discuss IMO.”

    It must not have been 😦 But it’s just a tiny example (I’m sure most couples have something like this during their pre-marriage time) of little things where “soft submission” or “submission-lite” during an engagement period can be seen. If they had talked about this during engagement and it was clear they wanted different things/futures, they may have gone separate ways which would have been good probably.

  19. thedeti says:

    How much should a woman “submit” to a man before marriage?


    I’d prefer to look at it as “she should follow his lead in the relationship, to the extent following that lead doesn’t conflict with her father’s/parents/elder’s directives.”

    Yes, follow his lead: When you go out. Where you go. What you do together.

    She: Let’s go to Expensive Steak Place. I’ve never been.”

    He “No, we’re going to Hole In The Wall Place. You’ll like it. The food is great.”

    She: But I wanna go to Expensive Steak? When are we going to go there?

    He: I dunno. Maybe next time. Today it’s Hole in the Wall. Because I like it and that’s where I want to take you.

    Don’t “submit”. “Follow his lead”. “Follow his lead” is practice for “submission”.

  20. feeriker says:

    Don’t “submit”. “Follow his lead”. “Follow his lead” is practice for “submission”.

    Indeed. Note also how she reacts to a gentle, but firm and unmistakeable “no” to a request or demand such as in the example above. If she displays a pattern of acceptance and follows your lead, then that’s a very good sign of how she would behave as a wife. OTOH, if she melts down in a screamy hissy fit each time she doesn’t get her way, it’s a no-brainer that she’s going to be nothing but trouble as a wife (and the typical North American woman today, never having been told “no,” can’t even conceive of not ever getting what she wants, whenever she wants it).

  21. earl says:

    OTOH, if she melts down in a screamy hissy fit each time she doesn’t get her way, it’s a no-brainer that she’s going to be nothing but trouble as a wife…

    The thing I’m starting to remember again is once you are married you are ‘one flesh’. Do you want to be one flesh with someone like that? And that can go for the outside display of marriage and the relations.

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