by Cindy Easley
Kate and Will were seemingly the perfect Christian couple—active in their church, he the adoring husband and leader, she the supportive wife and helper. What none of their friends realized was that Will had sunk from social drinker to full-blown alcoholic—with Kate's "help." By always trying to keep up appearances, pretending that everything was fine, and never questioning her husband, Kate sought to maintain the image of a happy Christian home. What she was really doing was encouraging sin.
Godly submission does not mean standing by without speaking up while your husband makes bad choices or indulges in harmful habits. We read that a gentle and quiet spirit is precious in God's sight (1 Pet. 3:4) and worry that God expects a wife to never speak, never discuss problems, and always remain silent even in the face of sin in her home. But godly submission allows for open, healthy discussion.
I cannot be a helper to my husband, encouraging him to become the man God intends for him to be, without expressing my ideas, my thoughts, and my feelings. I cannot fulfill my God-given role as helper to my husband without healthy communication. Submission is not a reluctance to speak, but rather a respectful attitude when you speak. It is remembering that the role of leadership is a mantle placed on your husband by his Creator. We need to respect that role, even when we need to address a problem.
Godly submission means that we take our role as a helpmate to our husband seriously. Our job is to exercise our gifts as image-bearers of Christ to encourage our husband's godly leadership. When addictive behavior consumes a husband, whether it is a controlled substance, alcohol, or pornography, our place as helpmeet is to honestly and respectfully intervene in such a way that persuades him to seek the professional help he needs.
A "HARD" way to communicate
My friend Carol, a therapist, teaches couples a technique of assertive communication, with the acronym H.A.R.D. The assertive approach is honest. It is straightforward without intent to manipulate or control. This requires that a woman identify her feelings and think through how best to express them. The wife of an alcoholic may need to rehearse her words to a third party who will help her clarify her feelings and state them in a straightforward manner.
An assertive response needs to be given appropriately. This means you must choose the time, place, and atmosphere in which to communicate. It gives you the opportunity to choose a time when you are calm and in control of your own emotions. Even in a healthy relationship, appropriate timing is essential to good communication.
Assertiveness must be respectful. We need to choose words that are gentle yet firm. We need to express our opinions without demeaning our husbands. Respectful communication is cultivated when we separate a husband's personhood from his addictive behavior. Remembering our husband's strengths and focusing on the love and value God places on him will help us communicate the grief and pain from the addiction, rather than attacking the husband personally.
Finally, assertive communication is direct. We must be clear and concise with our words. It is especially helpful if the wife of an addict can express herself unemotionally and state reasonable expectations of her husband.
Codependency is not submission. True submission gently, respectfully, candidly encourages our husbands to grow into the leaders God has called them to be.
Adapted from What's Submission Got to Do With It? by Cindy Easley; published by Moody Publishers