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Here’s What ‘Submissive Wives’ Gets Right


I am the granddaughter of a pastor. A philandering, stealing, downright unkind Mennonite pastor. For many years, my mother and I would often ponder how difficult we found it to understand or empathize with my paternal grandmother and what appeared to be her unending loyalty to my bad grandpa until the day she died.

That was when I was 20. Okay, even 30. But as I mature as a human being, mother, and wife, and grow in my faith, I realize my grandmother was exemplifying a submissive wife. My grandmother may have even been exactly the kind of woman who is being featured in the new TLC show, “Submissive Wives’ Guide to Marriage,” much to the outrage and disdain of women (and I’m sure some men) worldwide.

When you think of human oddities and examining the most extreme of human conditions, TLC is the go-to microscope of the widely varied and strangest afflictions. Amid programming which features gigantic scrotum, trailer-park life, and beefy brats in crowns, to name a few, The Learning Channel sums up its latest offering with the following teaser: “Enter the private world of submissive wives, who believe a woman’s role is to serve and submit to her man.” Despite the inflammatory manner in which the feature is presented, the heart of the matter really isn’t off-base or offensive at all, especially in relation to network’s other high-ranking offerings.

We All Could Be More Submissive defines submissive as “inclined or ready to … yield to authority.” Let’s look past the closet S&M junkies and road ragers and assume a benevolent spiritual stance. Being a submissive wife doesn’t mean getting on your hands and knees and allowing your husband use you as an ottoman. It doesn’t mean being forced to do perform sexual acts against your will. It doesn’t mean sleeping outdoors (unless that’s your bag) while you cook him a big fat steak and tuck him into a featherbed. Cue the scene in the movie “Coming to America” where Eddie Murphy’s princely character demands that his arranged wife-to-be perform a series of humiliating—albeit giggle inducing—acts right before the big “I do.”

For me, being submissive actually means ‘get over yourself.’

For me, being submissive actually means “get over yourself.” Die to yourself and your ego as Christ did for humankind, and as God asks us to do for each other as humans. It means, when you love someone more than you love yourself, there’s no ego involved in serving them or putting their priorities before your own. In this day and age of selfies, me-first attitudes, and marriages lasting until the fun, beauty, or money runs out, men and women alike could both benefit from submission.

Don’t get me wrong: I’d love to see a show based on mutually submissive attitudes in marriages, but that wouldn’t be as provocative, now, would it? It’s interesting that TLC has chosen the singular feminine viewpoint, but I guess that’s what draws higher ratings.

It Never Hurts to Put Others First

Ladies, put down the Cosmopolitan magazine and hang up the partyline with your homegirls. Here’s the simple advice. You won’t have to demand to be treated like a queen when you’re already putting out the vibe of kingship.

It sucks that the entire biblical passage about submission isn’t shared in its entirety.

It doesn’t take anything away from you as a valuable human being to make someone—specifically, your husband, your No. 2 in your list of priorities in your spiritual life—feel like the boss. Just as Tara Furman proclaims at the end of the promo, “If you are a strong woman, you can submit to your man.” Again, this is applicable to a stable, healthy, faith-based marriage. If this isn’t your agreement, you probably stopped reading at the first paragraph.

It sucks that the entire biblical passage about submission isn’t shared in its entirety. And it’s not hefty. Ephesians 5:22-33 says, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” And what comes after that, people of the earth?! “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

So back to my grandmother. Is it okay that she stood by my turd of a grandfather? Not for me to say. I don’t know what my grandparents’ conversations about said dastardly behaviors entailed behind closed doors. As far as we know, the husbands featured in the show are not cheaters, liars, or scoundrels. But what I have learned from my grandmother’s acquiescent example, and the principle at the heart of “Submissive Wives,” is being obedient to the Word, putting goodness out of there not because there is an expectation of reciprocity, but because there’s not enough of it in some households—or the world, for that matter.

So why wouldn’t I desire to kickstart my good karma in the safest place that matters most to me, my home? Now, you go on girls (and boys), and find out for yourselves and your family what servitude really means.