If you’re turned off by the “submissive” word in the title, trust me, I GET IT. Keep reading. (Disclaimer: I’m not a perfect wife and quite often a very crummy one. I’m also not a marriage counselor or expert on submissive marriage. I’m simply sharing what’s worked for me.)
It was nap time. I’d finally gotten all 3 boys to sleep. I collapsed onto the couch, and flipped through channels on the TV, until I landed on The Submissive Wives’ Guide to Marriage, on TLC.
I’d never heard of the show, and I was immediately intrigued. But what does it mean? It means going back to the Bible, and learning about what God says about marriage and wifehood.
The word gives me creeps. The heebie jeebies. It makes me think of a slave or servant. A woman who doesn’t speak and doesn’t ever do anything for herself. Who lives to serve her husband, a man who must clearly be a tyrant.
Not at all.
The show profiles Tara Furman, a well-spoken, middle-aged, Christian wife in North Carolina. She’s in a happy, more-than-25-year marriage, and she credits it to her choice to be a submissive wife.
Does it mean she doesn’t have an opinion and lets her husband control her?
It means she focuses on being her husband’s helper, lover and supporter. And as a result, he treats her like a queen.
(In fact, I think being a submissive wife takes a very strong, confident woman.)
So about 8 weeks ago, without saying a word to my husband, I started my own submissive wife experiment. I took a few points from the show and adapted them into my own marriage.
It has been amazing!
Here are a few of the changes I’ve made:
1. Physically greet my husband at the door when he gets home from work, with a smile and a kiss. Or at least a great attitude.
In the show, Furman asks the viewer, “Is your dog the first person to greet your hubby when he gets home?” Think about it. Your hubby’s been working all day. He’s been gone since 7am. He fights traffic and finally gets to the front door of his home. He opens it. The dog is there to say hello, but no one else even looks up. How heartbreaking. Furman calls this process “reentry,” and every day when her husband gets home, she and their kids deposit their cell phones into a basket and greet Dad at the door. Furman also usually has dinner going and a cold beverage to greet him.
With 2 toddlers and a baby, I’m not always able to do to all of this, but I can make a point to stop whatever we’re doing when the husband gets home, get up from my seat, and physically meet him at the door with a smile and a big kiss. Sometimes, I’m nursing so I don’t stand up but I let the kids greet him at the door, and I give him a big smile and hello. One day, I thought ahead enough to get him an ice water in his favorite blue Solo cup, and had one of the boys walk it out to him at the car. Groundbreaking? No. But it made him feel special and know that we anticipated his arrival home from work.
The point isn’t that you have to have dinner ready or you have to be fake-happy when he gets home. Heck, you may work and not even be home when he gets home. The point is that, in whatever way you can, communicate that your man is respected, he is the leader of the house and that the family is happy when he comes home. If you’re not home when he gets home, can you make his lunch before he goes to work in the morning, or iron the clothes he’s wearing tomorrow? However you can, communicate that you’re grateful for him. In my experience, the attitude is far more important than the action.
2. Embrace my role as my husband’s helper.
I’ve heard this phrase before, but it hadn’t really resonated until seeing the show. I can control my own life, the kids, the house. But when it comes to my husband, I can be content to be his helper. And, here’s what changed it for me: “just” being the helper totally takes the pressure off of me!
With 3 boys 4 and under, I have enough to worry about everyday. So now, instead of micromanaging all that my husband does too, I just let it go. And all I need to do is ask him how I can help.
For example, for years, it’s been my responsibility to manage our rental properties. Now with 3 young children to bathe, feed, change and teach, it is a huge drain to my emotional energy to manage tenants and maintenance of our properties. Rather than trying to do it all myself, I asked my husband to take over. He agreed happily. Since then, he’s been doing an excellent job, and I have the relief of knowing that he will make the best decisions for our family. I don’t need to ask him to give me the rundown of what he’s doing for the properties. All I do is ask, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” The pressure is now off me, and I don’t have to worry about it. And even if something goes wrong, I don’t have the pressure of knowing that the responsibility falls solely on my shoulders. It’s his responsibility.
3. Hold back when I want to direct my husband.
For me, I’m learning that it’s more about what I don’t say, than what I do. And, I’m finding that holding back when I really want to direct, or tell my husband what to do, might actually be communicating more love and respect to him than words ever could.
For example, one night we were grilling dinner, and as is usually the case, it was my job to prepare the sides in the kitchen, and my husband was going to grill the meat outside. We’d decided we wanted to eat at 5:30pm, so around 5pm, I started prepping the sweet potatoes and corn to bake inside, but I noticed my husband wasn’t starting the grill.
Rather than nag him, over and over, to start the grill. And then telling him that he never times the meat cooking correctly, I asked myself, What’s the worst that could happen? Well, the meat won’t be done until after the rest of the dinner. We might be really hungry by the time dinner starts.
Well, we can have some snacks then.
So starting that night, I made a conscious decision to not direct my husband.
I didn’t say a word.
Eventually, he started the grill, and we ate dinner a little later than normal, but it was fine. Since I hadn’t blown up at him, or critiqued him, it was a happy, peaceful vibe at the dinner table, and we all had fun. We even laughed! (Like, a lot.) The best part was I didn’t have to take on the role of being the “boss” of everyone in the house, as I might have previously thought I needed to. I don’t need to assume that role of being “the nagger”. The fact is, I don’t enjoy that. And, it’s not helpful to anyone.
As I continue implementing this lack of directing my husband, I’m realizing that I actually don’t need to nag. When he knows that I’m not going to be reminding him, it seems like he’s actually more likely to initiate the tasks on his own. And again, if he doesn’t, the responsibility falls squarely on his shoulders.
This happened recently when we were leaving on vacation. We were going to be staying in a beach house, which meant we had to bring almost everything with us, from shampoo to charcoal to paper plates to food. Before we left, rather than calling the shots, I asked my husband what he wanted me to do. He said he wanted me to handle the interior, and he’d take care of putting the boat on the trailer and getting the outside stuff together.
Suddenly, it became so easy. Once I knew what my job was, from him, that was all I had to worry about. And because I wasn’t nagging him to get his stuff done, he just… well, he just did it. Let me tell you, my friend. This was our very first family vacation where there wasn’t a single solitary argument, disagreement or miscommunication. We got 3 boys 4 and under (including a 5-week-old at that time) down to the beach house with all our stuff for 5 days without a single ounce of tension. It was glorious!
And it all came from me learning to take his direction, and not fighting to direct him and tell him what to do.
4. I focus on being grateful for what my husband does everyday.
In the show, Furman focuses a lot on what she loves and values in her husband. And in this process, I’ve tried to start doing the same. And it turns out, it’s really helping my attitude about everything. When I focus on how hard my husband works for our family, I’m less likely to be mad when he leaves his dirty socks on the floor. When I think about how he still thinks I’m beautiful (despite 52 pounds of baby weight), I’m not going to be annoyed that I have to take out the kitchen trash again.
As an admitted control-freak, type-A personality, this has been a huge change for me. But I simply go into each day, asking myself how I can best help my husband. And how I can show him my respect. And love.
Once I realized that I’m thankful for who my husband is, I stopped valuing him based on what he did or didn’t do. I started valuing him for the person he is.
5. I make my husband feel important. (Because he is.)
My husband works his butt off all day, so that I can be home with our kids. My husband loves me unconditionally. When I think of it that way, why wouldn’t I want to make him feel important? He is!
Once I decided that I wanted to make my husband feel special, it just started coming out in my actions. I’d bring him his favorite peppermint tea in bed. Or, I’d pick him up some new loafers at Target, because I noticed his old ones were getting raggedy. I’d let him sleep until 8:30am on a Saturday, while I get up with the kids at 6am. Of course, with our 3 little ones, I’m not always able to do all of this. But the point is: the gratitude is there. If not in my actions, then at least in my mindset.
Alright, I’m ready for your comments and questions! Please keep the conversation constructive.