This past spring, we held our first marriage conference at Hope Unlimited and it was downright fantastic! We had a lovely time connecting with couples – ranging from newlyweds to married for decades – and going deeper into the Scriptures to discover what God says about marriage.

We have another marriage conference coming up Spring 2020, so be on the lookout.

One session in particular centered on how to diminish the dominance of one spouse over the other. Or, how to handle disagreement within marriage. The Bible lays out a natural order in the home to be sure, but how do we keep our homes from becoming battlegrounds for vicious power struggles?

There are two prevailing views I’ll share first; then I’ll offer a third.

The first view is the radical, chauvinistic stance that man is the sole authority in charge, and the woman must fully submit.

Period.

Her status is barely a step above the children.

In this arrangement, the woman has no voice and no vote. She is to blindly obey in the name of “trusting” her husband, which can be a hard sell if the husband has a history of horrific decision making.

She is also routinely bludgeoned into silence with Ephesians 5.

Yet this type of interaction is most certainly NOT what Paul was talking about.

The second view is diametrically opposed to the first. Some call it ‘mutual submission,’ where the wife submits to the husband, and the husband submits to the wife. This process is supposed to happen at random with no clear guidelines. It surfaces certain questions like, “When is it my turn to submit, and when is it yours? Who gets to make decision #1,391?”

This situation breeds a leaderless home with no direction, and everyone pouts and whines if they don’t get their way. Each time a decision must be made, a fight ensues over whose turn it is to submit. “I submitted last time, so you submit this time?” There’s no way forward without one spouse out-victimizing the other.

I understand the sentiment behind mutual submission, but I have watched the practical outworkings be nothing short of confusion and strife.

Ultimately, someone will rise to power and dominate, because a home must have leadership and a structure for making decisions in a healthy way.

So, is there a third option?

I think so.

It is undoubtedly not ultra-submission, like the first view; or mutual submission, like the second.

I call it “mutual deference.”

To guard against dominance, both husband and wife must agree that each party gets a vote on decisions, and each vote is weighed equally. For a couple to proceed with a particular decision, there must be two ‘Yes’ votes.

If there is one ‘Yes’ and one ‘No,’ then you do not move forward.

What do you do if you reach an impasse and cannot find agreement?

Simple.

The one who is the most scared wins.

For example, I am the natural spender in our family (primarily on books). If I want to make a purchase that is outside our typical budget, then we cast a vote.

Two yeses and we move forward. One yes and one no, we don’t.

It doesn’t matter if I really, really, REALLY want it, think God wants me to have it, have plenty of money for it, and so forth.

If she is the most scared, then she wins. And vice versa.

Why? Because maintaining the integrity of our marriage is more important than any item or opportunity I think we should seize.

Yes, even if I think God “spoke” to me… If my wife has a red light, then she wins.

Perhaps your spouse missed it. Maybe you should have jumped on the decision or opportunity in front of you. Nevertheless, you honor God more by protecting the integrity of your marriage.

When I first told Lindsey I felt we were to move to Knoxville and plant a church; I had barely gotten the sentence out of my mouth before she said, “I’ll book the Uhaul truck.” Knoxville was burning in my bones but had she said no, then we would have stayed precisely where we were.

Because the one who is the most scared wins.

As you defer to each other, it removes the struggle between who is submitting to who, are you submitted enough, am I being emasculated as a man, etc., etc..

As a side note: Men, if allowing your wife to have a voice on a decision makes you feel “emasculated,” you need to go get yourself sorted out before the Lord.

The woman was taken out of man’s side – not his foot – for a reason. And a dominate woman is as dysfunctional as a dominate man.

Can’t we all just get along? Certainly.

As long as everyone has a voice.

It’s so much better that way.