Who's In Charge Here?

God's design for marriage is that husbands lead and wives submit to that leadership. But what does that mean in the context of a military lifestyle? And how well do you model the order God intended?

Husbands: Are You Leading?

Even when husbands are deployed, they still retain the role of family leader.

Suppose you are deployed when you hear from your wife that your 12-year-old son is acting up in school and at home. Think about your response. Would you tell your wife to handle it herself and not bother you with details? Would you listen to her observations and offer some advice for getting him back on track? Would you e-mail or talk to your son on the phone yourself?

The last two options would both provide leadership in this situation, if your access to e-mail and phone permits.

Now let's say you arrived home recently, and you notice that the house needs to be cleaned and organized. What's your next move? Do you bark out orders and make assignments to get everything ship-shape? Do you leave the task to your wife? Or, do you start pitching in?

As much as being head of the family doesn't allow you to shrug off your responsibility, it also doesn't mean ordering people around. Especially in that transitional period right after deployment, it's a good idea to ask your wife for some background information. In the scenario above, perhaps your family has designated Saturdays as work days around the house; if you had the background conversation with your spouse first, you'd have seen that plan in action. Furthermore, if you see something in the system you don't like, try to explain your position before making sweeping changes.

Compare yourself to the characteristics in the two lists below to determine how well you are leading your family in the areas of parenting, household maintenance, finances, spiritual growth and more.

What Headship Is

A husband who appropriately acts as the head of his home does:

  • Lead by example
  • Exhibit humility
  • Focus on building up others in the family
  • Demonstrate trust toward his family
  • Cultivate intimacy with his wife
  • Affirm his wife's strengths
  • Provide protection and safety
  • Delegate responsibilities while retaining the final authority
  • Take ultimate responsibility for the education and discipline of the children

What Headship is Not

A husband who appropriately acts as the head of his home does not:

  • Dictate orders without consulting with his wife
  • Seek to control his wife's actions
  • Need to "win" every disagreement
  • Criticize his wife's weaknesses
  • Use threats, intimidation or coercion tactics
  • Advance his own interests
  • Abuse his family physically, mentally, emotionally or psychologically

Wives: Are You Submitting?

When a wife is left in charge at home during a deployment, it is still possible to demonstrate an attitude of submission to her husband's authority.

Imagine you go to the mall when your husband is deployed. You fall in love with something you see, but the price tag is beyond your normal budget, even though it's on sale for the weekend. Would you buy it anyway? E-mail your husband about it to get his OK? Decide not to buy it since it's not in the budget you had planned with your husband?

The latter two choices demonstrate a submissive attitude, while going against your budget without your husband's consent communicates a low regard for his decisions.

Being submissive doesn't mean that you never disagree, either. For example, if your recently returned husband tells your young daughter she can go to the community pool without realizing a) she hasn't learned to swim yet, and b) there is no lifeguard on duty at that pool, that is not a time to sit quietly and pray for him to change his decision. You are responsible to step in and tell your husband those two important details so your daughter doesn't go alone. The key is in the delivery. Don't demand, "What are you thinking?!" Instead, try a softer approach, like "Honey, you may not realize …."

Compare yourself to the characteristics in the two lists below to determine how well you are demonstrating submission. Think about all areas of your life together, including childrearing, housework and maintenance, budgeting issues, your spiritual life and more.

What Submission Is

Being submissive does mean:

  • Recognizing your husband's authority
  • Managing to the best of your ability those areas your husband has delegated to you, whether that be the family finances, childrearing or home organization.
  • Telling your husband when you need to discuss a decision further before you are comfortable with it
  • Finding your hope in God as the foundation of your identity
  • Willingly showing respect and honor to your husband
  • Building up your husband so he is empowered to lead (in other words, don't take the reins every chance you get)

What Submission is Not

Being submissive does not mean:

  • Letting your husband do all the thinking for the family
  • Agreeing with everything your husband says
  • Putting your husband's will above God's will
  • Depending on your husband for all your personal and spiritual strength
  • Acting out of fear

In a military marriage, both spouses normally know how to do everything from changing diapers to changing the oil in the car, from cleaning the house to cleaning out the gutters. The measure of your leadership and submission does not consist of who does what task, but your attitudes as you seek to demonstrate the order God has specified for the family. It takes commitment, humility and responsibility on both sides as both partners submit to God above all else.

© 2009 Jocelyn Green. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Next in this Series: Solo Duty