[This article contains a frank conversation about intimacy in marriage. Please read this only if you are mature enough to handle such things. If such offend you, please refrain from reading. Thank you!]
Is Biblical submission, in fact, damaging and dangerous? There are many today who say so, some even to my face. These say that God’s plan for marriage is unhealthily male-dominated, and best to be ignored.
If you know me at all, then you know that this isn’t my take on the issue. It saddens me that people who don’t know any better are perpetuating a culture of fear among those who are trying to do things the right way.
I have heard the same arguments brought up again and again over my time as a young Christian woman. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that people have said to me over the years! What makes me so passionate about this topic, though, is that I personally know of women who happened upon such ideas from the world and have become afraid.
I don’t want anyone to be unnecessarily frightened or be made to doubt because some person in the world has formed an opinion that is contrary to what they have been taught. I am going to prove that to you from God’s word how God does not want the sexual relationship to be male-dominated and show you what God really wanted submission to look like.
Is this something that we need to talk about?
Unfortunately, I think that the problem of feeling like intimacy is a game at which the man always wins is at times perpetuated by both sides of the fence.
There are many women in the church who think that their desire is wrong, or that that their needs are secondary to their husbands. These things are unfortunately even taught in churches – perhaps not in so many words, but the implication is that men have needs, and women need to fill them without complaint. That man’s needs must be filled regardless of how the wife feels about it.
Scarily, I know I have heard such things as this being taught. I have heard these exact same things being said. I have also had many women echo these same thoughts, writing to me and telling me that they don’t enjoy intimacy with their husbands, but they simply do it because they believe they can’t say “no.”
Is marriage really a male-dominated arena where the man is able to command his wife to fulfill his every sexual whim without complaint?
What kind of submission does God want?
The kind of submission that “just doesn’t say no” is a scary one, especially considering that there are some men that abuse their positions as the leader of the home and are physically abusive. Women are taught to simply not say no and give in to their husbands – no matter how they are treated – or they are sinning.
Do people actually think like this? Frighteningly so. I recall at one time I had one older lady in the church even tell me that if a husband was beating you up every day you couldn’t leave him, you would have to stay and do everything he said. Thankfully I had a loving mother that taught me otherwise… but what about those girls that listened to this woman’s advice?! This is a gross misunderstanding of Biblical submission! Your husband should never, ever hurt you.
So what are the facts?
Yes, the Bible says that we have to be submissive. We can’t really get past that fact.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18)
“A wife belongs to her husband instead of to herself…” (1 Corinthians 7:4)
“Let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
But though our discussion often ends there, God’s discussion did not. He tells us what the other side of submission looks like.
“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them”(Colossians 3:19).
” …let each one of you love his wife as himself” (Ephesians 5:33).
“…a husband belongs to his wife instead of to himself” (1 Corinthians 7:4)
God never wanted marriage – or the marriage bed – to be male-dominated. In fact, if anything marriage and sex are to be a place where the man is the one who practices ultimate sacrifice and puts his wife’s needs above his own.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church ” (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 29).
This is one reason, I think, why women take longer to receive their satisfaction in the bedroom. Men have to learn to slow down, be unselfish, and put their wife’s need for gratification first while they put their own second.
The wife does not need to be ashamed of taking longer or taking more of her husband’s effort. I have had many women tell me that they feel guilty when they take a longer time. You don’t have to feel guilty about this! God designed sex that way, and a godly man will understand that and will not only want to fulfill your needs but actually enjoy seeing your needs fulfilled in this area.
Submission is, in fact, mutual.
“submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
“Husbands and wives should be fair with each other about having [intimacy]… So don’t refuse [intimacy] to each other, unless you agree not to have [intimacy] for a little while, in order to spend time in prayer. Then Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control ” (1 Corinthians 7:3 CEV)
You actually should never “just consent” to your husband’s sexual whims. The reason why so many Christian marriages have so many problems with intimacy for so long is because of a misunderstanding of the woman’s half of the sexual union.
Please note: It needs to be said that if there really is an issue and the woman cannot enjoy the sexual relationship (sometimes – although rarely – there really are problems) that she does need to care for her husband’s needs in this area. It is like this with every need that our spouses might have – marriage is all about filling needs (read “His Needs, Her Needs” for more details on this and how to meet your spouse’s needs). Your body is not your own, remember? It really is very rare that this is the case, however, and more often than not, intimacy can be learnt and enjoyed by both parties in a relationship – it just takes time, effort, a little bit of knowledge, and practice. Either way, though, communicating how you feel and finding a way to meet needs that does not hurt is important.
So what does that mean then?
What does submission look like in the bedroom?
Like I said previously, some think that this means that a woman’s job is to simply lay there until the man is done, but submission is not a doormat. What needs to happen rather is that the woman needs to help her man to learn how to make this enjoyable for herself as well as him.
You might have a husband that doesn’t care about how you feel, and if you do, then my heart goes out to you.
However, most husbands actually care about how their wives feel. Most husbands actually want to make their wives feel good, and take pleasure out of giving their wives pleasure.
In a healthy marriage, you should not be the only person working to gratify the needs of the other.
I want you to remember two things in regards to your sexuality:
First of all, submission is mutual. If either one of you needs something, the other needs to give it. This becomes a problem for the woman when she doesn’t want intimacy, so what then?
Secondly, intimacy is an art.It doesn’t happen like Hollywood portrays it: two people who’ve never been together and then – “BANG!” – they suddenly and instantly have an amazing dynamite night. It is learnt. Even the desire for the sexual relationship is sometimes learnt. It gets better with time as you learn how to please one another.
Because it is learnt, your husband likely doesn’t know how your mind and body work and needs some help. He needs your help to learn how to make you feel good, both before and during intimacy. You need some build up to the fact, and that’s okay.
Submission looks like this: Two people working to meet each other’s needs above their own while communicating their needs to help each other to grow to deeper levels of intimacy.
A godly man will want you to feel good, satisfied, safe, and secure. Godly men are not selfish, just like godly women are not selfish, and when two unselfish people come together you have a beautiful relationship where needs are met and there is no fear – only love (again, I know I am taking liberties with the context of this verse, but the principles apply).
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
God did not design the sexual relationship to be male-dominated. At all.
Take the example of Solomon and the Shulamite.
In the Song of Solomon chapter 4, Solomon spends the first 15 verses praising his wife from head to toe and preparing her for the sexual union. The wife? She has one little verse at the end, basically saying (to put it in modern terms), “I’m ready now!”
In chapter 7, we see them come together in sexual union again. This time, Solomon praises her from toe to head for the first 9 verses. The last couple of verses are basically the Shulamite saying, “I love that my husband desires my body. Let’s do this again sometime!”
Do you see how intimacy as God designed it is not supposed to be dominated and defined by meeting man’s every urge, but rather that a husband has to learn to meet his wife’s needs and make her feel safe and secure? God’s man cares about his wife’s needs, which means that submission does not mean being a doormat. You are allowed to enjoy this as well. In fact, it’s better if you do.
So how can we learn to communicate better? How can we better know and fill our husband’s needs?
How can we learn to communicate our needs while still being in submission?
Communication is key.
I know communication gets blamed for everything, but I truly, truly believe that this is something which helps tremendously with growing together to greater intimacy. Let your husband know how things make you feel – whether good or bad – and let him learn how to make you feel good. Remember, submission doesn’t mean that you have to let him hurt you. Work this out together. It will take time – and he (or you) may not always get it right – but that’s when you just laugh it off and try again or try something new. Remember, it doesn’t have to be like Hollywood every time.
Be careful how you communicate.
The submissive wife is careful about how she communicates her feelings. It’s the difference between “you never make me feel good!” and “I really like how you do this.” Be careful to not say “I don’t like how you…” instead, say, “I don’t really like the feeling of ______.” Also change “I would love for you to do ______ for me,” rather than, “How come you never _______?!” Notice the shift? Men really need their egos built up in this area, and the way to do that is to let them learn you, but at the same time to never criticize, complain or compare.
Encourage two-way communication.
Remember, submission is mutual. Just as you want to be treated a certain way, so does he. Get together and express your expectation and desires in the realm of intimacy. Then come to an agreement which suits the both of you as best as it possibly can, and stick to it.
Read a book together and discuss.
This is how we started off communicating. We would both read a book and discuss certain points that stood out to us. We found that when we didn’t know what to say, or how to say it – the book did. The books that stood out to us the most were”His Needs, Her Needs” and “You’re Singing My Song.” We read, and discussed what each other’s needs were and how we wanted them to be filled (these books both deal with the sexual and non-sexual). It is much less confronting to hear something from a book than from someone else – and it’s much easier to approach someone with something that someone else has said – it’s just a fact of life.
Realize that it is okay to take some of his time.
Allowing him to take that time and realizing that it is good and right for you to take that time will help you to build a greater bond of intimacy together. This is not selfishness, and you do not have to feel guilty. Submission is mutual, and intimacy is a two-way street.
Find someone you can talk to about the particulars.
If you really are struggling to think of what could possibly help in the bedroom, then find a good Christian book dealing with the subject, talk to an older lady (with a good relationship – one who you can see is affectionate in her relationship!) or if you need to, go to see a professional. Find out what is wrong (if there is anything wrong) and how you can help this area of your relationship.
Submission doesn’t mean that you have to give up your needs. Submission doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. Being submissive does mean that you have to help another with their needs – but remember that this is a two-way street. Let your husband learn you, and tell him what you need. This is part of submission because submission is mutual.