5 Ways Hierarchy in Marriage Hurts Men, Too

by | Feb 1, 2022 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 21 comments

How Wives Submitting Hurts Men Too

What if setting up marriage as a hierarchy, where men make the decisions, isn’t good for men either?

We know that it can lead to problems for women (as we talked about yesterday), but what if it can hurt men too?

On Tuesdays I don’t do huge posts, but several amazing comments along these lines were left yesterday across social media and the blog, and I wanted to highlight a few of them. (And there were many, many awesome comments! I just found these ones that matched this theme!).

1. Having to make all the decisions puts undue pressure on men!


Puts too much pressure on him. (My husband says.)


I was a wife who was happy to submit to my husband, who never abused the authority I perceived him to have. My life was pretty easy – I didn’t have to think too much about big decisions, I trusted my husband completely, and if it turned out badly I was off the hook. Our relationship was great and easy. Then I started reexamining gender hierarchy because my husband didn’t buy it. While it was the fabric of my upbringing, it was not part of his. I remember when I heard God gently challenging me that I needed to step up and be a full person and partner in my marriage. I was putting a burden on my husband that was not fair or right. I didn’t need to seek God myself in more than a cursory way when we faced a crossroads. It was harder to be a fully-functioning partner, but I started to step up. Gender hierarchy can cause a women to be squashed but it also puts an unreasonable and possibly crippling burden of responsibility on men that I don’t believe is part of Jesus’ “easy and light yoke”.


2. When submission means “he decides always”, then you don’t develop good relationship skills


This faulty perspective contributes to a lack of problem-solving skills as well as conflict resolution skills: the husband pulls out the “final say” card and the wife pulls out the “submit” card; neither is invited or obligated to have prayed, listened, valued, respected, negotiated, navigated, collaborated, prayed, waited, prayed, submitted to each other as unto the Lord, searched for options, etc.

Elizabeth G.

I feel like the toxic teaching of “the man makes the decisions” was not only set up to allow men to have their way all the time, but to shield them the expectation of appropriate communication skills. If all man is expected to do is to not talk and get his way all the time, how can this NOT be abusive at some level? Even for a “good guy”, a system that removes any iron sharpening iron, just feeds narcissism.

If someone had told me that the ability to calmly and kindly make decisions together was the first thing I should look for in a man, I would have avoided abuse.

Girls who were raised without a voice dovetail perfectly into marriages without a voice.

Holly N.

3. When he always decides, you both miss out on the blessings of teamwork


We don’t believe we are being led by God if we can’t come to a mutual and comfortable compromise or agreement, even if there’s no abuse. We don’t believe God would have one of us force the other into an uncomfortable or unfair position, that’s not love. So if we can’t agree on a decision together then we aren’t seeking Jesus but instead ourselves.

We are a team and a team grows and is healthy when operating as a team not when one person calls the shots for the other like a parent, owner or dictator.

We both need to learn how to be considerate of each other’s feelings and learn to work together and that only happens when we both stop to work together on the big and small stuff and my husband doesn’t need that burden himself, talk about anxiety.

Lydia N.

My husband and I used to adhere to the idea of men being the head of the house/submission thing. During that time we had a big financial decision to make and we were not in agreement. My husband is not good with finances and he struggles with “seeing the bigger picture”. I was counseled by an older woman in my church to “just submit and if it doesn’t turn out well, then that’s on his head with God and not yours”. I felt, and still do, this is just a means of getting out of any adult responsibilities and being able to blame shift if things don’t work out as hoped for in some cases. I took her advise, things went south financially (we lost our home), I blamed my husband and then had to do the work of realizing that’s not a healthy way to have a partnership nor to slough off my own responsibilities. We now have a more balanced, “strength based” marriage. But I don’t think it’s always a “personality difference” if someone doesn’t want to make the big or little decisions.


4. If the husband makes decisions alone, you miss out on spiritual growth and blessings

One amazing thing often can happen if BOTH spouses are seeking Jesus for direction – lot of times they both get the SAME direction! Like those you’re already on the same page before you even talk about it. It is very affirming when that happens. I feel same when I’m studying and then the pastor preaches what I was discovering in my studies. You miss out on those things if you don’t take responsibility for your own spiritual walk and delegate it to others.


if a wife just sits around and waits for her husband to tell her what God says, she misses out on the opportunity to develop her own faith. Last year, we were considering a major decision that we both needed to 100% agree on. Praying over it, I had one question outstanding, so I asked the Lord to answer that question for me. My husband, who had also been praying over our decision shared something which he felt God was saying to him but which didn’t make any sense to him – the message was the answer to MY question!

If I’d just sat around waiting for God to speak to my husband only, we would BOTH have missed out on something which encouraged us that we were making the right choice. As it was, each of us was given a ‘piece’ of the puzzle, and it was only by praying & working together that we got the right answer!


5. Having him decide alone weakens your family in the long run


Husband centered marriage raises sons who subconsciously believe they are the center as well and shows daughters men are the center. The result of this I have seen first hand and it is unhealthy and not Jesus.


As a pastor and counselor, I’ve found while this (submit to your husband only) *can* lead to happy marriages, when a woman is widowed or kids grow up, they find themselves struggling, without identity, and without the ability to make good decisions since they haven’t had to flex that muscle ever. The same though is true of passive men who relied on women to take care of everything, as widows they flounder and get married quickly just to have another someone care for them. In both cases while it may work, it causes dysfunction later. It leaves them less a person. And the best marriage strategies should leave the whole person intact, because that’s the mystery of it…..two become one without losing themselves.

Mutual submission is the way. Both partners learning to submit when needed, both learning to make decisions when needed. This is the way.

Alex M.

There simply aren’t upsides to having a husband decide alone if you’re looking for good relationship skills, spiritual growth, teamwork, and maturity.

But there are so many upsides if you do things together, valuing each other, and seeking God’s will together.

Jesus wouldn’t tell us to do something that hurts us. And in our research for The Great Sex Rescue, when we surveyed 20,000 women, we found that when a husband makes decisions alone, even if he consults with his wife, the chance of divorce increases 7.4 times. And there are so many other bad outcomes–when she feels her opinions don’t matter as much, orgasm rates fall; marital satisfaction falls; it’s all just one big mess.

Check out chapter 2 in The Great Sex Rescue for more on this. But also remember: Jesus seeks our good. He would not have asked us to do marriage in a way that hurts us. And His ultimate aim is that we all seek after Him.

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

A Jesus-centered marriage, not a husband-centered marriage. That’s what He wants.

And that’s a good place to end our putting Christ back in Christian marriage series. Tune in tomorrow as we start our “Number of the Day” series, where I share one piece of super interesting research a day, leading up to the release of The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex and the totally revamped Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex!

5 Ways Hierarchy in Marriage Hurts Men Too

What do you think? Is there a #6 I should add about how hierarchy hurts men too? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Brambonius

    It can make him become a worse version of himself and much more a sinner if he is too full of the idea of ‘my wife must submit’?
    I alway get the idea that certain people I see online who always say that ‘wives must submit’ have a completely unchristlike attitude, a toxic mentality and a control issue. A bit of the opposite of the fruits of the spirit too, and a complete rejection of the golden rule in that they demand things they would never want anyone to demand from themselves.

    (I actually really hope that I’m exaggerating here and being unfair…)

    • Phil

      I was going to say if the man believes he has final word and is in “control” of his marriage it most likely spills over to other parts if his life and bottom line is if he thinks he’s in charge – well not only does he miss out on personal and spiritual growth he has the potential to go in the other direction away from Jesus and then he face potentially dangerous decisions that lead to more harmful stuff – I also wanted to say not sure where the comment came from blog/social media etc but Thank you Melanie for being brave and sharing about the lose of your home as a result of submitting. It resonated with me as I once shoved my business down my wife’s throat and she “submitted”. The result was bankruptcy and struggle. Today 16 years latter I am building a business once again but this time my wife is part of the equation and I take her direction and suggestions and we are healing. Thats what God does Melanie – he takes a pile of crap and turns it into gold! Love it and thanks for sharing.

      • EOF

        Oh, it definitely spills into other areas of life, feeding narcissism all around.

        When we were deep in the patriarchy teachings, my husband expected everyone to do what he said — and he’d get furious if they didn’t. Parents, siblings, friends, church leaders. It didn’t matter who, and when they didn’t obey him, you’d better believe I got an earful. If I was lucky that was all I got. If I wasn’t lucky, I’d get multiple earfuls over an extended period of time. He ranted at me over the course of a decade for one semi-major purchase his parents made that wasn’t what he told them to buy.

        Never mind the fact that as Christians, we’re called to HONOR our parents. In his mind, THEY were called to obey him. I can tell you he’s never once inspired them to seek God from his behaviors or attitudes.

    • Brittany

      Far from exaggerating, this just touches on the cliff notes of my experience. 🥴

  2. Anon

    It’s such an unhealthy dynamic. My mother followed this rule, so she’d leave decision making to my father – and then complain and criticise endlessly that he’d made the wrong decision, but it was all his fault because ‘he is the head of the home’ and she didn’t have any choice but to ‘submit’. Even though he’d ASKED her for her opinion so they could decide together!

    The sad thing is that now he’s died, she really struggles to make decisions independently. Even if she’s buying a new kettle or toaster, she has to get input from someone else so that she has someone to blame if it goes wrong.

    Choosing to live that way put my father under a lot of stress during his life, because he was left to make decisions in isolation, and has put my mother under a lot of stress since, because she now has no one to blame when things don’t work out the way she wants.

    My view is that if a wife decides to live life based on the ‘husband decides’ rule, then that is her choice – so they BOTH take responsibility if his decisions go wrong, because it was HER choice to leave the decision up to him. I wonder if so many women would be so quick to claim the ‘submission’ card if they were expected to take the rap for their husband’s poor choices?!

    • Phil

      Anon – your comment is awesome. Woman taking the claim not blame that she take responsibility that she too chose to live/lives that way….it doesn’t take away from a man dominating..and falling trap to the results of the fall…but yet…she does have a level of responsibility and is accountable and must also participate in the change…not just the man…wow it just goes back to making smart choices and being healthy and finding a healthy person to partner with to begin with so you don’t have to struggle in the first place! AKA all part of the root of the message around here…

  3. A2bbethany

    That’s one thing I realized early on, that I’d be blaming him for our entire relationship! If he made all the decisions, then he’s the fall guy for anything wrong in my life. And I didn’t want to resent him, so I made effort to learn to communicate my opinions. We both have had learning curves for doing that, and doing it productively.

    I think a defining one, was living arrangements. We were both hunting for a rental, but he’d found a house that we could barely afford(to rent). While I was looking for an apartment, because it’s much cheaper. It was hard, because I wanted to make him happy! Being in a house is a big deal for him, as he grew up never living in one.(at least not long, while I did the opposite in my childhood)

    But I had to go back to the best financial decision, which was to have wiggle room in our money! We’re now in a wonderful apartment, that we both like. And we look forward to someday, owning that house and achieving his dream.

    I think that was the decision that we both graduated to knowing how to communicate our opinions and the why behind them. So that the best choice for our tiny family, is made.

  4. Jo R

    Does consent matter in areas beside sex? Because if it does, then worst case, a wife might find herself in a marriage where she never consents to anything her husband decides, if he plays the hierarchy, “I’m in charge” card every time. 🤔🤔🤔

    • Nathan

      Sadly, I’m sure that there are some marriages where the husband plays the submission card for EVERYTHING, and the wife has no voice of any kind anywhere. I pray that this changes.

      • Anon

        I met one man who proudly announced that he had forbidden his wife to pray EVEN SILENTLY because ‘I am the head of my household. My wife does not need to pray for her own needs or share her needs with me because God will tell me what she needs and I can pray on her behalf.’

        It’s controlling in the extreme. But a logical outworking of the ‘wife, submit to your husband in all things’ belief.

  5. Jo R

    Was the apostle Peter delusional?

    He expects that a wife might be able to help win over her nonbelieving husband with her silence, yet how do SO many women describe the effect of their silence on their BELIEVING husbands? Too many believing husbands let their wives’ silence go to their heads, to such an extent that the husbands think their marriages are good and their wives are content in the relationship, when in reality the wives are deeply unhappy and thinking seriously about leaving.

    Why has no one ever asked this question before (including me)?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The issue Peter was referring to was how to actually CONVERT an unbelieving husband–not how to change an abusive one. It wasn’t about “how to get him to treat you better” but rather “how to help him see Christ.” And his point, I think, was that we do that through how we live far more than preaching at him endlessly (which I totally agree with).

      But we’ve taken these verses to mean “change his behaviour” when that isn’t what Peter was talking about at all.

      Also remember in those days a woman couldn’t survive without being married to someone or having a protector. So walking away wasn’t an option. We need to remember that when we read the advice. Think of how you would advise a woman in a difficult marriage if separation/divorce wasn’t an option.

      • Jo R

        Oh, I know he’s talking about something completely different. And I wasn’t even thinking about abuse per se.

        But why do so many women wonder why their silence, which purportedly is their role in marriage, doesn’t inspire Christlike self-sacrifice in things like improving communication, continuing or even increasing the thoughtfulness most men show in the dating and engagement phases, more involved parenting, and so on?

        • Phil

          Jo – I read your comment after it first posted and was going to reply but then got distracted and since then had a better reply come to me…it is the simple answer that Sheila has been talking about here. Why don’t women wonder why their submitting “isn’t working”? THEY DOIBLE DOWN ON THEIR BELIEF. That is what most of us do when we believe something. If we have the wrong belief in the first place but don’t know it and can’t see it then we double down. And think about it. We are talking faith, GOD, Jesus, religion. If someone gave you a set of beliefs that you have believed for 40-50 years thats a tough one to see. I watch this woman in my church. Him and his wife are our friends. I really like my friend and his family. His kids are adults and have kids at this point but I just love the family. My Friend? Well he is our Sunday School Superintendent. He holds the Hierarchy belief and while it is not necessarily demonstrative and or even blatant it is there. In more recent days with the pandemic, our church stopped taking offering by passing a plate during the service as a potential covid precaution. What this has done is modified our service a bit and my friend is also our Worship Leader and directs hymns during church. We also have childrens church during our main service which my friends wife conducts during church. We also have not had a choir in 2 years and she loves to sing. My Friend inadvertently started dismissing the kids to children church after the first hymn of the day. This is quite different than after the offering how it used to be. This means my friends wife does not get to pray and sing some more before she moves to the children’s church downstairs. She has expressed her trouble with this to us because she sits in front of us and smirks and makes comments as she leaves to go to the children. Why does she not talk to her husband about this and get him to change it? Every Sunday its the same thing over and over – It is so obvious to me – you are married to him for CRYING out loud. Just talk to him! However, she is silent and is obviously doubling down own the belief she has that submitting to him <—- his leadership (NOT HIM/GOD) that GOD will come rescue her from the situation. It's not going to change Jo. Maybe it will go back to the way it was one day after covid…but between now and then….she is stuck. That is exactly what Sheila has been talking about around here for IONS now…it effects people in different ways….and Sheila has given us the more dramatic stories…but that is a perfect example of the problem…and that problem has the potential to become the more dramatic issues that have been shared around here.

          • Phil

            oh and btw? My friends wife is from the UK.

          • Jo R

            Women double down because we feel like we haven’t yet stomped out of ourselves that resistance to selfless sacrificial service. And yet our husbands still don’t respond, or even notice.

            What other option is open to us? If we bring it up, sometimes even just once, we get accused of nagging. So we try to do, do, do more and more while keeping silent, and what happens? We become more and more remote from the one person we should be closest to. We wind up way lovelier than we’d have been if we’d remained single.

            So again, why doesn’t the “proper” behavior of wives inspire positive change in husbands who have, frankly, be coasting in their marriages?

  6. Nessie

    I wonder how many men have grown bitter towards their wives over having the weight of making decisions rest solely on their shoulders under this train of thought?
    Alternately, how many women have become embittered when the husband makes a poor choice and consequently her bitterness leads towards less sex (which is how most of these men/women likely measure sexual satisfaction)?

  7. Gari

    If the wife will ultimately have to go along with her husband’s decision (or even avoidance of decision) , (or a if a daughter must always submit to her father), then she gradually surmises she’s better off to not think too much, and to not listen to the Holy Spirit. This leads to a shut down of mind and conscience in order to “get along” and to prove her “trust in God” to lead through her husband.

  8. Patricia

    How can I print this out?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Can you copy and paste? I’m not sure what else to suggest! I’m sorry.


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