What I learned as I interviewed a woman who is a therapist who is also married to a recovering alcoholic is that, in this case, submission is knowing how to lovingly, with the right tone, with the right words, with the right timing, approach a husband, intervening in their addiction, doing what is necessary to help them come face to face with their addiction. That is the most loving response a wife can have. 

The key is more your attitude of loving them, wanting what is best for them, not what is best for yourself, and doing it in a way … that they know that they are being loved, not challenged.   

CW:  So, you are saying submission does not mean staying silent.   

CE:  Oh, absolutely not. No, it’s how you speak up.   

CW:  What other scenarios stuck out to you in this book that really challenged you or fascinated you? 

CE:  One [story] that I think is really helpful is the woman who is married to the non-believer for 50 years. Watching her progress – she is very honest about some of the mistakes she made. 

(Having been a pastor’s wife for 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of wives who wanted their husbands to be more spiritual. And they had this misconception that my husband and I -- “Oh, ya’ll must spend hours on the Bible.” I am like, Are you kidding?  I have laundry to do! We never have done a Bible study together because we prefer to study on our own and talk about it.)

Watching [this wife] talk about how when she made these spiritual overtures toward her husband, how she pushed him away -- it helped me understand Scripture when it talks about winning an unbelieving husband without a word. Quietly. 

It’s not that she never said anything to him. Again, it was her respecting him enough to say, “God will deal with my husband in God’s own time. I will get out of the way. I will no longer read my Bible in front of my husband, because it threatens him. I will not pray or make lavish ‘God-said’ [statements] in front of him.” 

As she stepped back and allowed God to work, she found out that her husband was not as threatened by her faith as by her overt piousness. It was not [really] piousness; it was self-righteousness.

She will say today they have a fabulous marriage, except for this one thing. He is not a believer. She is still praying. She knows that this approach will lead him to Christ far more than her overt words or actions.

[Also] typically, if a woman is a really strong believer and walking in the faith, she is not going to marry a non-believer. It does happen, of course, but ... it is usually a woman who comes to Christ after marriage. She has changed, so she needs to figure out how to deal with him appropriately, instead of making him be like her. 

CW:  Last question. You point out in your book that leading is a hard job for men.  How can wives encourage their husbands to lead well regardless of the circumstances?   

CE:  I think there are several ways, but most important I think is to get out of the way.  To allow them to make decisions [and] when they make a decision, not to be combative or to criticize. We learn much from our bad decisions, [even] more than our good decisions. I think that if a guy knows that he is going to make a decision and his wife is going to change it anyway, either right in front of his face or later behind his back … then he doesn’t have the same pressure to [make] that decision well. He sometimes needs to feel that pressure that he is leading. 

I think the other thing is if you have a husband who is passive, who is not a real quick decision-maker, [wives can] do the groundwork. Say, “Okay, this decision needs to be made. This is some research I have done,” but leave it with him. If it takes him 3 weeks to make it, let him make the decision. 

I have had women say, “Yeah, but if I did that, we would never make a decision,” but I say, “How do you know? You step in every time.” Eventually, he will make a decision. A roof needs fixing. The next time it rains, and there is a leak, he is going to call the roofer.  

CW:  Thanks for your insights, Cindy. If you want to learn more or purchase What's Submission Got to Do With It?, click here.