January 15, 2011
Last night, I had a conversation with a friend about the role of a wife. It’s a complicated role- often confusing and difficult. As Catholics, we believe that divorce is not an option; women should be submissive to their husbands and husbands should love their wives. What exactly does that mean?
There is much controversy over the concept of “submissiveness” these days. As women in the 21st century, we are told to be strong, independent, and decisive. Submissiveness is seen as weakness. But where does that leave us in a marriage? If the wife is the strong, independent, decisive one, what is the husband’s role? What’s the point of being married if you act as if you don’t need the other person, because you can do it on your own?
To be submissive (according to the dictionary) means “the incidence or trait of voluntarily yielding to the expressed will of another.” It doesn’t mean to be scared or timid, but rather it takes great strength to submit as a wife. She has to voluntarily decide to listen to her husband and to trust what he thinks is best for their family. However, the wife should take great comfort in knowing that in every decision the husband makes, he should take into consideration the needs and desires of his spouse, because he loves his wife and his decisions should be in union with the will of God. As Pope John Paul II said, “Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: You are not her master; but rather, her husband; she was not given you to be your slave, but your wife. Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.”
A wise woman told me “I’d rather follow my husband into possible failure than to live independent of him and continually have conflict in our marriage because I want to lead.” The constant struggle for power in the home is one of the biggest conflicts in most marriages today. But if the man takes on his role as husband and leads properly with true Christian love, then the woman can feel a certain peace in knowing that their marriage will only grow stronger. Men and woman were created equal but different - there is nothing wrong with that. Husbands can’t be husbands without wives and wives can’t be wives without husbands. You should thrive in that necessary devotion to each other. God made his plan and now we need to follow it and enjoy the blessings that come when we follow rather than lead.
“A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1 Corinthians 11: 7-10)