Misapplied Submission in Marriage…How Can we Help?

Today’s post is written by guest blogger and author Karla Downing.  Often we minister to women whose husbands are not spiritual leaders and many do not even know Christ. Biblical submission is often skewed in the mind of the husband and/or the wife.  Read Karla’s post as she gives thoughtful insight to help women have a healthy view of submission.

“If you’d only submit to me, everything would be fine,” Trina’s husband sternly tells her. “The problem is that you don’t just do what I say without opening your mouth.” Trina feels confused and wonders if Rick is right. After all, she does tell him her opinion and tries to get her way sometimes. She also questions some of the things he does and even argues with him like when he spends the money on himself and then there isn’t enough left to pay the bills. On the other hand, Rick is demeaning and demanding and only sees his way. When she tells him she doesn’t like what he does, he doesn’t seem to care how upset she is. All she knows is that she is unhappy and hurt and now she wonders if she should just keep it all to herself and be quiet.

Submission is often misunderstood and misapplied. It doesn’t require a woman to be a non-person in the marriage. It doesn’t give her husband the right to dominate her or refuse to hear her concerns. And, it doesn’t mean she should ignore irresponsibility, mistreatment, or sin. When a man is demanding submission and blaming his wife for all the problems, it is a tell-tale sign that he is misusing his authority.  Women in difficult marriages need to know the truth about submission, yet they often don’t. One of the characteristics of these women is that they look at Scripture rigidly and apply it in a black and white way.  It’s all or nothing and their husbands reinforce that thinking.

One of the ways you can help women in difficult marriages is to be aware of their struggles with submission. Be careful not to tell them to submit without really understanding what that means in their particular situations. Recognize that there are women in your Bible studies that need to hear that there are exceptions to submission. They need to hear that it is good for them to speak up about things that aren’t right and that their husbands need to give them a voice in their marriages. The next time the topic of submission comes up, keep these women’s needs in mind. There are more of them in your studies than you think.


Karla DowningKarla Downing is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages and the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com. Karla offers practical tools based on biblical truths to Christians in difficult relationships. She also has a passion to teach ministry leaders how to reach out in more effective ways.




10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages, Karla Downing

Women Making a Differrence in Marriage, Lana Packer


  1. Pattie says

    May I recommend Sara Horn’s newest book, “My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife.” It’s a first-person account of her year learning what submitting to her husband really means.

  2. lawrence says

    Submission and respect work perfectly in a marriage. i strongly believe that if you respect a person he/she will inturn respect you. so wives should respect and be submissive to their husbands as the same way we are to God.

    • Chris Adams says

      I agree fully but if there is violence in the home I believe in protection not thinking submitting to violence is wise or healthy.

  3. says

    It’s hard to submit to a controlling man. Especially if he isn’t a believer. A husband and a wife are equal in importance but separate in function. God should be the head of household and if a husband is obedient to God and reads and studies the word, he knows how to love and treat his wife. He understands that she has a voice and decisions should be discussed and agreed upon together. If after discussion and equally hearing both sides out you can’t come to an agreement, then the husband has the final say, and you are to submit unto him. If you still don’t agree in your heart and you feel he is wrong then you fight on your knees. Go to God and ask God to soften his heart, to open his mind, and ears to listen, and let God do the work. If your husband is a foolish man and not living under God’s order it SUCKS for lack of a better word, but you still have to submit unto him unless what he is asking or doing is sinful or causes you to sin. You do not have to submit if it goes against God’s principles and his word. How ever be meek in your attitude towards him. Don’t argue bully or try to force his hand. Kill his controlling spirit with love, meekness and kindness. I leave you with these passages from the good book! God bless you all!

    1 Peter 3:1-7
    English Standard Version (ESV)

    3 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, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

    • Chris Adams says

      Good words M.O.G., and you are right, it is hard when he isn’t falling under the headship of Christ! Thank you for pointing out the truth in the midst of a difficult marriage.

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