Women and Their Responsibility in Marriage
By Norma Miller
November 1, 2020
I grew up as a tiny girl on a dairy farm in an Amish Mennonite community in Canada. One of my main goals and dreams in life was to be the best wife that I could possibly be. I would always be willing to serve. I would keep a very clean house, always serve wonderful meals, and never say a disrespectful or unkind word to or about my husband. I would go where he went, stay where he stayed, and his people would be my people, and his God my God.
When I grew up and did marry at age 21, I threw my heart and soul into this relationship. I opened my heart wide, gave everything, and took responsibility for a lot of things that weren’t my fault because I wanted to be sure to give my 100 percent. After all, didn’t a godly wife have great power to help her husband find healing? Wasn’t it her job to keep him happy? Many times I gave in to what he wanted for the sake of peace. The only problem? I began to lose pieces of my own personality in the marriage.
Marriage was not intended to be a union where one partner loses themselves. It is the melding of two souls into one, not one soul overtaking another.
The sad thing is, I am learning it is not only Amish Mennonite girls who are taught things about marriage that are not true. In almost every Christian Church in the world, throughout generations, women have been taught that they have the power to change their husbands (with the Lord’s help, of course). They are taught that they can turn their marriages around. They are taught that if they are always respectful, the marriage will go well.
Now don’t get me wrong, women do hold great power to bring change. Women can help their husbands find great healing. We all need to lay aside what we want many times in a marriage. But, and this is the question of the hour, why is it that churches are heaping so much responsibility onto women for the sake of the marriage relationship?
I have listened to many a sermon on the man being the head of the wife, and the wife needing to submit to him. But when it comes to taking any responsibility, suddenly the wife is called to task. And granted, there are some women who really need to be called to task. We ALL, male or female, are responsible for our OWN actions. (This will be mentioned again in a bit - so stay tuned.) But for now, can we focus on the word “head” for a bit. Some of you are simply going to have to humor me for a few minutes. In the Greek language, there are a couple of different meanings for the word “head,” and one of them means ‘source,’ and the other means ‘authority’ as in a military way. Contrary to popular belief and opinion, the original Greek word used in ancient manuscripts was not the one that meant ‘authority’ (because that one was used only for purposes such as the military), but the one that meant ‘source.’ During translation, since there was confusion, the wrong definition was used.
Now before we begin to argue on how accurate my information is here, that isn’t the main point. For just a few minutes, humor me and ask yourself, “If this is the case, how would this change the way I view roles in marriage”?
Ok, so I am not going to shove new doctrine down your throat. But let’s say, for the sake of those who simply cannot believe such a translation error could have occurred, that the original texts written in the Septuagint (original Bible) actually meant ‘military authority.’ I still would ask you, what happens when an entire regiment of soldiers is disorderly?? Who is called to task for it? What’s that? A little louder please! That’s right! The leader of that regiment.
Now let me ask this - why is it that when a home is disorderly, the wife is the one who usually gets the blame? When the wife isn’t happy, why is she always told she should lower her expectations? (There are times this is necessary, and there are cranky and ungrateful women in this world.)
Why are women given so much responsibility for the health of the marriage? Yes, I am aware that one person can singlehandedly do a lot to make or break her marriage. But, by and large, in churches all over North America at the very least, when there are issues in the marriage (even abuse) and women go to ask for help, they are asked questions such as:
- What are you doing to cause him to get angry?
- Are you being respectful and submissive?
- Are you doing your part?
- Do you pray for him?
- Do you speak words of encouragement to him?
- What could you do to help him?
Now some of these questions are good. The issue with this is - are we truly aware of what it actually takes for MOST women to come and admit she isn’t happy in her marriage?
Usually by this time she has wept and prayed hours and hours. She has read the good marriage books and tried building her husband up with positive words. She has communicated her heart. She has often tried everything she could think of and she is desperate. To be asked these questions at that point is very painful.
So, what am I suggesting? If you are concerned that I am going to blame it all on the poor husband, you can relax now. I won’t do that. I know it takes two to make a marriage work. I know there are many marriages where there are issues with the wife. Women are, after all, human too.
But I don’t believe that we are aware of the damage being done in churches today, that has happened for generations because of too much pressure and responsibility being put on women in marriages. Even abusive marriages.
I personally know of a woman (and have heard so many similar stories) whose husband is extremely abusive and selfish. She had to leave the home with her children for safety, and yet people feel sorry for the husband and ask her if she couldn’t at least cook him some home cooked meals and speak positive words of encouragement to him. What? Folks, let’s think here. SHE had to leave her home for her safety. SHE had to live in someone else’s home with her children because her husband is not a safe man. Do we really think that she should make him meals to make it easier for him? This man needs to grow up and take responsibility FOR HIS OWN ACTIONS and get help. This woman should not be given any more responsibility at this time than to rest and take care of her children.
Now I know I’m already probably about to get kicked out here, but since I have the floor, I’m going to take this one step further. (I know - a lot of nerve, right?)
Let’s go back to the husband being the head. If the husband is the head and if the head means ‘authority,’ and if we think the buck must stop with him, who is really responsible? It seems to me, in today’s world, we have a lot of little boys in big, grown up bodies who want all the fun and privileges of marriage, but none of the responsibility. As a result, we have a lot of tired, haggard women taking responsibility for a lot of things that really are not their problem in the first place.
If we want to get serious about roles in marriage, the Word tells us pretty clearly that the husband’s role is one of provider, protector, leader, and the woman’s role is one of helper. Why is she helper? Because God saw that it was not good for the man to be alone. He saw that man was not complete alone. So He gave him a helper suitable for him. The word helper used in Hebrew for wives is the same word that was used when Jesus told us that God gave us the Holy Spirit to be our helper.
Women are not created to be slaves or servants. Women are created with an intuition - a gentle, nurturing side that brings wholeness to the marriage when allowed. This side of her can and does help her man to heal if she allows herself to be used and if the husband allows himself to be vulnerable enough to let her in.
The husband carries a strength, a safety, and a protecting ability that also heals his wife when he allows himself to be used and if the woman will allow herself to be vulnerable. These things are not intended for us to use in a way that we take advantage of each other, but that we work at together in harmony, each person bringing their gifts to the table to offer freely for the benefit of all, not to take from one another.
When we get right down to it, I am responsible for my actions and you are responsible for yours. We cannot blame those on each other. We need to lay down our walls and become vulnerable and safe places for each other in order for this marriage thing to work.
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