Chapter 9

I Wear the Pants in This Family
The Marriage Partnership — Shared Leadership in the Home

Marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship.

Today we find many people talking about the shifting paradigms of decision-making in the home. Much of it has to do with women's roles in the work force.

The biblical picture of submission, as it relates to marriage, is always coupled with our submission to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Submission is not where the wife willingly becomes a rug her husband can wipe his feet on. Neither is it where the husband is barking orders and the wife jumps in fear at the sound of his voice.

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   The world out there has a lot of skewed views of man in the home. For example: "I'm loud, and I'm vulgar, and I wear the pants in this house because somebody's got to . . . " a line from Edward Albee's play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Or how about this one, a proverb from the Old Deep South, "Wives should be kept barefoot in the summer and pregnant in the winter."

   For starters, Donna and I both wear pants around the house most of the time. On any given day you'll find us in our jeans — hers will be Gap and mine will be Levi's 560's but we are definitely both into pants.

   In a recent report in Good Housekeeping magazine, we discovered that many people are talking about the shifting paradigms of decision-making in the home today. Much of it has to do with women's roles in the work force. According to a ground-breaking study released last year by the Families and Work Institute, women earn half or more of the income in an astonishing 44 percent of dual-earner homes. And the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 1993 show that 22 percent of women make more than their husbands — up

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from 17 percent in 1987. The magazine article goes on to conclude:

The numbers reveal a sea of change in American society that is turning the traditional family upside down. And more than money is at issue. When wives are the main providers, couples are forced to rethink the way they make decisions and take care of their children. For most couples, that means power shifts, negotiation, and sacrifice. Some husbands — and wives — feel humiliated or disappointed because they are not living the lives they expected to. Others feel emancipated by the changes, preferring to share the rewards and responsibilities of supporting a family, to being locked into old stereotypes (Good Housekeeping, January 1996, p. 93).

   Hans and I operate our lives as a team. Because I am home full time, our lives could be viewed as the vanishing traditional American family, where dad works and mom is at home with the children. But as "Baby Boomers", we have also adopted many of the good changes in the new roles of our generation. Hans has always been very active with the kids from birth! He has willingly been part of doing diapers, dishes, and other domestic duties. At the same time, although Hans manages the finances in our household, he makes sure that I am well aware of any important financial matters. I arrange for the upkeep of our family van and have done the research and purchasing of some of the major household items. We split up the work and have learned to trust each other and read each other through the years.

   The two most important passages of Scripture that form the foundation of our view of our marriage have to do with this issue of mutual value and submission to one another:

On the issue of equal worth — Genesis 1:27: "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." — This verse from the first chapter of the Bible lays the groundwork for our mutual respect for each other. We are equally

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created in the image of God and therefore match in all matters of worth and humanity. When it comes to worth, we know that although there is an authority structure in our home, it in no way lessens the value and contribution of each member of the family.

On the issue of mutual submission — Ephesians 5:21-25: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." — In this passage revisited once again, we point out that it begins with mutual submission. Following the admonition to "be filled with the Spirit" earlier in Ephesians 5:18, Paul showed that a couple walking in the Spirit will lovingly submit with care and concern for the needs of their spouse.

   So how do these principles make our marriage a team? To summarize these two bottom-line operating principles of our marriage, we believe that:

1. We are both of equal value and worth before God and have equal weight in our marriage.

2. Though we view Hans as the head of our home, we submit to one another's needs as we walk in the Spirit out of reverence for Christ.


   Submission is a topic that has been covered very well in many Christian books today. Although the subject is a hot topic, our purpose here is not to go into the depths of that discussion. We do, however, want to be sure to convey our view of what submission is not.

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Simply put, it is not where the wife willingly becomes a rug her husband can wipe his feet on. Neither is it where the husband is barking orders and the wife jumps in fear at the sound of his voice.

   As it relates to marriage, the biblical picture of submission is always coupled with our submission to our Lord Jesus Christ. We all need authority in our lives. This is God's plan. Since we are believers, Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We willingly and joyfully submit to Him because we trust Him, we love Him, we know He has our best interests at heart. The submission that a wife is to have to her husband is to be like that. This kind of submission is similar to what I described in chapter 7 regarding the way in which I respond to Hans. As Hans follows the Lord and obeys God in caring for my needs and in seeking to lovingly lead our family in spiritual growth, I willingly come alongside him in agreement. Indeed, he values my input.

   Rarely has it been necessary in our marriage for Hans to "assert" his authority or tell me I need to go his way on an issue. In twenty years such a need might have occurred only a handful of times. Nevertheless, I view him as the one whom God holds ultimately responsible for us as

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a couple and family. Therefore, I respect his final authority.

   We work through situations mutually respecting the input and point of view of the other. As a matter of fact, Hans has often come to realize my more "feminine" point of view and "intuition" as one of his greatest assets. Because my very strengths and people skills are his weakest points, he deeply values and seeks out my insights on most situations. In that way, as Hans said, we both "wear the pants" in our family. But there is also a certain comfort I have in knowing "the buck stops with Hans." If I've had it with the kids, he'll deal with them. If a decision we've made financially doesn't work out, he usually has to bear the weight of it. Is that weakness on my part? Am I contributing to male chauvinism in purporting this view? I strongly believe the answer is no. Just as we experience a great security and strength as believers because of our trust in the Lord and His love for us, wives can know the same joy in this kind of submissive, giving relationship with her husband.

   I don't think I always submit in the way I've just described. Nor has Hans always necessarily carried his part as he should. I'm certain most of you identify with us and can think of times you have either been rebellious to God's ways or you have taken the easy way out by shrugging off responsibility. Nevertheless, we need to remember the impact our success or failure in this area has on our kids. They learn by our example for better or worse. They will model their own marriages after ours. If the husband is "lording it" over his wife either by quietly refusing to listen to her point of view or openly confronting her "rebellion" with his "superior" viewpoint, he is wrong. If the wife berates her husband in front of others (especially the children), or if she quietly goes her own way refusing to consider her husband's desires but doing her own thing, she is wrong. They will both reap what they sow.

   Paul put it best: "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them" (Colossians 3:18-19). Then he continued, "Since you know that you will

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receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving" (v. 24). If we sow to ourselves, in disobedience to God's Word, we will reap what is described in verse 25: "Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism." I like to think of "favoritism" as related to "excuses." We won't have any excuses when we refuse to walk this way!


by Charles Swindoll

"Except in a few isolated and special occasions, the women who appear in the Scriptures are competent, secure, qualified people who had responsible roles to fill and in doing so played a vital part in shaping of history and in the development of lives. They are beautiful examples of humanity at every economic level of society."

   From Woman: A Person of Worth & Dignity, by Charles Swindoll, p. 9


   Perhaps the best way for us to explain how we practice this type of "mutual respect decision-making" is to tell the story of a major life decision we had to make five years ago. It was one of the biggest career/life moves we have ever made. Looking back at it now, we realize that how we made the decision is almost as important to us as the decision we actually made. We were both equal stakeholders in the process, and when it was finally a done deal, we both had and continue to have a great peace in that decision as the right one.

   Decision-making for us has had a different face each time we've made a big one. I believe we've grown in this area through the years of our marriage. One of the most difficult and important decisions of our life came to us as the Lord was obviously closing the chapter of our work in Eastern Europe. For some reason, just as we were realizing that it was clearly time to move on to a new job and a new challenge, we received at least five strong feelers for new opportunities. Although we'd not indicated we were ready to move on, these organizations sought us out just at that time. They were all viable options with exciting possibilities for both Hans and me.

   Our usual practice of talking through the details and praying through the options was a part of this decision-making process. But one difference was that we needed to keep many of the details of the opportunities completely confidential. This made seeking wise counsel very limited. Furthermore, Hans' commitment was whatever choice we

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made would be the very best one for me, especially, and for the children as well. So he made sure we consulted together on all the angles of each option, and he made very clear to me that in this particular decision he would not consider anything unless it would offer me the greatest potential to use my gifts. As he expressed it to me, his basic attitude was: "This is a decision we both have to make in our heart of hearts. I will not talk you into anything."

   As we shared together, Hans came to describe each option as different "rafts" floating on the lake of our life. One by one, each raft except for two became burdened down with weights (various negative reasons) and sunk out of the running over a period of about three months. We were then left with two floating rafts. Each was highly desirable. One of the organizations flew Hans back to the U.S. for an in-depth interview. He was also able to visit the other one, and he came back to Vienna very sure deep inside which one was right for us. But I had no idea he knew! At that point, just between him and the Lord Hans decided he would not tell me but would trust the Lord to place in my heart the right one as well. I was actually leaning toward the one he was not inclined to take, but was still open to both.

   As the process was heating up for a deadline, we set aside two days to seek the Lord with prayer and fasting, promising not to speak of the decision again until we'd completed those two set-aside days. Finally, we drove to a Vienna park to share our hearts once again. Just in those two days, the Lord brought together in me some reading and Scripture to clearly confirm His leading to me. As we sat together in our van (the only "private place") in the pouring rain, Hans asked me which option I believed was the one the Lord had for us. I told him my conclusion. It was the same as his, as I soon found out. He told me then and only then that he had been convinced of it for several weeks. But his attitude was that only if God showed me directly would we walk through the door together.

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   I can't express clearly enough how powerful it was to me that Hans honored my needs and respected my insights! He also demonstrated faith in the Lord to entrust me to Him and showed honor for my own walk with the Lord by leaving things in His hands. He refused to manipulate me or place his own position and calling above the plans the Lord would have for me in our next place of ministry.


   We have tried to focus each chapter on a "Hero Husband" to lend a positive slant to a book that might appear to be "husband bashing." We will do the same later in this chapter. First, however, we also want to share a true story of a couple we have known who have had a tragic marriage that did not turn out well. Many details have been altered to protect their privacy. Though worse than some, this story personifies the destruction to a marriage and home when a husband and wife do not live according to the plan the Lord has provided as we just described — not with submission, respect, yielded love, and consideration, but with selfishness, rebellion, harshness, and bitterness. It reminds us of Proverbs 17:22: "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

   Mandy and Brent were married for twelve years. They have two children, an eleven-year-old son, and a nine-year-old daughter. They met in their church singles group. They grew close as they worked together in music, enjoying the gifts of each other, and admiring what they saw in each other. They soon began a dating relationship. Things were a bit rocky from the start for them, but they wrote it off to their mutually strong personalities. Before long Brent proposed and Mandy accepted. Even so, doubts plagued Mandy. Her parents' marriage had ended in divorce. Brent was just happy to have the exclusive love of Mandy; she was quite a "catch" for him. Their singles leader and other friends warned them to wait awhile before getting married. Putting all

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advice and doubts aside, however, Brent and Mandy married the following summer.

   Within the first year, both Brent and Mandy knew they had made a big mistake. The very concerns that had aroused doubt in Mandy were now her life. Brent, whose brother and father had died when he was a baby, was the only child of a widowed mother. He soon resented any outside interests and friends Mandy had, feeling jealous of her time and love. Their previous goal of working in music together had quickly evaporated. Brent had decided not to pursue further education and refused to see Mandy pursue her professional goals. Giving up on his own previous goals, he decided instead to try his hand at selling automobiles. As a moody and mostly self-absorbed man, he was not able to make a living at sales.

   Their two children had arrived much too quickly for both of them. Mandy tried to help make ends meet by waitressing a few times a week, but the resentment between them was thick. Brent complained that Mandy didn't "support" him and would not "submit" to his leadership. Mandy struggled with Brent's expectations that she treat him as the "king" of her world. He withheld love as punishment for her lack of submission and service toward him. Brent left most the child care and training to Mandy, only relating to the kids as a "doting daddy," with pet names that suited babies and toddlers, but which quickly grew old as the kids grew older.

   The years went by. Both Mandy and Brent grudgingly accepted their lot together since, as "committed Christians," divorce was not a option for either of them. But their marriage had become a cold war. The bitterness each felt for the other in their own minds, they attributed to the other's failure to obey Scripture. Brent convinced himself that their whole problem from day one had been Mandy's refusal to "submit" to him. To him, she was living in sin since she had rebelled against his "leadership." Mandy, on the other hand, was sure Brent was

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incapable of ever loving her as "Christ loved the church." He was too busy loving himself and correcting her and the kids to actually love them. His harshness and sharp comments cut Mandy deeply.

   In their eleventh year of marriage, Mandy fell seriously ill. Mandy knew she needed emotional and spiritual healing as well as physical healing. She and Brent agreed to go for marriage counseling. They found a wonderful counselor with whom they could both be open. But the bitter years and pain have definitely done their damage.

   None of us know how much the pain of a "crushed spirit" contributed to Mandy's illness, but Scripture clearly does correlate emotional and spiritual health with physical health. We cannot expect to live with anger, pain, resentment, and hurt forever without eventual consequences. This painful story should put up warning signals to all of us. We hope it will give you pause to "stop, look, listen, and seek."

Stop — Are you struggling with each other in the area of submission?

Look — Review Ephesians 5 to check your marriage against the truth of God's Word. Are you willing to give and love your spouse and not demand your own way? Have you allowed distance and coldness to grow?

Listen — Ask your spouse: How do you view our roles in our marriage and home? Men, ask: Am I too demanding or harsh with you? Do you feel that I "lord it over you" in our marriage? What changes would help you most? Women, ask: Do you sense my respect for you? What could I do to honor you as my husband? What changes would help you most?

Seek — Professional help from a biblical counselor if your marriage is on the rocks.

   Remember Ephesians 4:26-27: " 'In your anger do not sin': Do not let

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the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Dr. Paul Meier, respected psychiatrist, author, and godly husband, makes a powerful statement about these verses. In the many years of his practice as a doctor of body and mind, he has found that many diseases, including cancer, are "caused by not obeying this clear command of Scripture." Anger is meant to be dealt with. If it is not, it will eventually weaken the immune system and illness will result!

   Furthermore, if we allow anger to rule us, we will be in danger of actually giving Satan grounds against us through our unforgiving spirit. He will seek to use that anger to further damage us and our relationship.


   Now on to a more encouraging story. Same potential for destruction, but with a much brighter outcome. David and Jenny are both highly talented individuals. In their early years of marriage both had impressive jobs in corporate America. They each had their place to flourish, they enjoyed their life together immensely. David, strongly driven in his job, was also disciplined in managing their good income to invest it for their future.

   Several years later they decided to start their family. When their daughter arrived, they agreed they wanted Jenny to stay at home to raise her. Within weeks of the arrival of their baby, David and Jenny made a major move for David's career. The adjustment of new motherhood was compounded for Jenny by the shock of a totally new environment, after leaving her career position as well. She had a tough time. David's success and responsibilities went on, but he was taken by surprise at the struggle Jenny was facing. His high-powered, successful wife was showing new sensitivities and needs. Yet he plowed ahead full bore, placing some expectations upon Jenny that she could not meet. Although David believed, in theory, in loving Jenny, respecting

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her in her new role, and sharing all decision-making with her, Jenny did not feel those things from him. They had some painful times and misunderstandings, and sometimes the state of their marriage discouraged them deeply.

   So what changed the situation? Commitment! The commitment that David and Jenny had to their marriage and to the Lord. That commitment was what pushed them to find answers to the misunderstandings and to make needed changes during a difficult time in their marriage. David arranged to go with his friend to Promise Keepers. Even after the birth of their son, things continued to improve. David was a great father, and he was growing in understanding of his responsibility to meet the needs of his wife. Their godly pastor recommended "Marriage Encounter," as he had seen the tremendous results the marriage retreat had produced in many marriages. David and Jenny scheduled the weekend, not really knowing what to expect. They returned to tell us that their marriage had been transformed. They even asked us to please recommend "Marriage Encounter" in this book.

   We consider David a "hero husband." Unlike so many men who are unwilling to consider their need to change and grow, David sought out excellent resources. David opened his life to these lessons. He has grown markedly in his ability to respond well as he has sought the Lord for His help. He's been a testimony to those who know him in his loving relationship to his wife, Jenny. The Lord continues to move David out of some of his more natural negative patterns with obvious positive results. He and Jenny are a very effective team whose love for the Lord and commitment to growth are sharper than ever because of their great gifts!

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1. For husbands:

   Your position of authority in the home is sacred and comes with a great deal of responsibility. Do not use your place for dictatorship but for leadership in your partnership with your wife.

2. For wives:

   Consider how you can lovingly submit to your husband in ways that support him. If you find that you live in a difficult marriage situation, pray for grace to do what is right, and pray for him that God will change his wrongful attitudes.

3. For both of you:

   Think about some of the issues raised in this chapter and write down your own convictions about them. Here are several questions to ponder:

In our marriage, do we view the husband as being the head of the home?

If so, why? In what ways do we mean that he is the head?

As the head of the home, what is the man's unique responsibility before God to fulfill that role?

In the issue of submission, what does the Bible (as in Eph. 5) mean in real life in your marriage?

   Finally, if you sense that there is a real problem in your marriage in this area, work through this three-step list that we shared earlier in this chapter:

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Stop — Are you struggling with each other in the area of submission?

Look — Review Ephesians 5 to check your marriage against the truth of God's Word. Are you willing to give and love your spouse and not demand your own way? Have you allowed distance and coldness to grow?

Listen — Ask your spouse: How do you view our roles in our marriage and home? Men, ask: Am I too demanding or harsh with you? Do you feel that I "lord it over you" in our marriage? What changes would help you most? Women, ask: Do you sense my respect for you? What could I do to honor you as my husband? What changes would help you most?

Seek — Don't be afraid to ask for help with your marriage. Talk to your pastor. Seek a professional counselor's help. Attend a transforming "Marriage Encounter" weekend.

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