Being an Influencer of Your Husband
About the Guest
Who's at the helm of your marriage? Are you? Is your husband? Sara Horn had always been driven and focused on her career. She had even wondered early in marriage if she needed her husband at all. But now as a seasoned wife and mother, Sara wanted to try something different and challenged herself to practice biblical submission for a year. What Sara experienced during those 12 months changed her and transformed her marriage.
Who’s at the helm of your marriage? Sara Horn challenged herself to practice biblical submission for a year. What she experienced during those 12 months changed her and transformed her marriage.
Being an Influencer of Your Husband
Bob: Sara Horn says she spent a year trying to embrace a better understanding of what biblical submission is all about for women. She said, along the way, she realized there were a lot of misconceptions.
Sara: I just got an email from a wife, last week, writing me and telling me that her husband had bought my book, My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife book. He was reading it, but the reason he was reading it was because he was always telling her how she needed to be more submissive; and yet he had some very major sin in his own life happening. She was, literally, just kind of waiting for him to come home, and the hammer to fall, and him say, “Here’s all these points that you need to be doing.” It broke my heart, because that is not biblical submission.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 16th.
Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So, what exactly is biblical submission? Sara Horn joins us today to help explore that subject. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was watching a movie recently. The mom in this movie—you walked into the front hallway of the mom’s house—and on the doorframe was a picture of a fish riding a bicycle. I thought, “I know what that picture’s all about.”
Dennis: You talking about the quote that was repeated by Gloria Steinem?
Bob: Yes: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” [Laughter] That’s what she said; right? That was the statement that was being made in this movie—the woman in the movie was a very liberated, autonomous—
—she didn’t have any need for a man whatsoever. She wound up finding one and marrying him in the end; but at least, that’s what she was thinking when she started.
Dennis: Yes. If you knew the story behind Gloria Steinem’s upbringing, and what she endured, you’d understand why she had an opinion of men as she did. That doesn’t make it right; but it was a terrible background that she experienced, as a young lady, growing up.
We’re going to talk today about a relevant subject that I think all single women / married women—whether you’ve been married a week or 50 years—can benefit from. We’d just invite the men just to kind of eavesdrop, because this does have to do with you.
Bob: And with fishes and bicycles—it has to do with the whole thing.
Dennis: It really does. Sara Horn is going to teach women how to ride a bicycle. [Laughter]
Sara: I’ll do my best! [Laughter]
Dennis: Sara has been married to Cliff for 16 years. She’s a mom and author of a book. I’ll let you give them the title of the book—the subtitle is A One-Year Experiment and Its Liberating Results.
Dennis: That’s not an overstatement; is it?
Sara: It’s not. It really isn’t.
Dennis: So, what’s the name of the book?
Sara: My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife. That’s right—we go there.
Bob: And when you and Cliff got married, did you make a vow to love, honor, and obey?
Sara: Yes. But “be submissive”—probably not—not in my mind, at the time. [Laughter]
Bob: What did you think “obey” was? What part of “obey” did you not understand at the time? [Laughter]
Sara: That’s a very good question! We kind of, you know, blurred that out with—
Dennis: So, what you said—when you started your marriage—that you had a role-less marriage, where both of you equally shared the responsibilities in your marriage.
Sara: I would say so. We took turns with chores / we took turns with pretty much everything.
We were kind of in that newly-wed phase where, yes, I wanted to show love to my husband / I wanted to do sweet things for him; but I don’t think I necessarily viewed it as being a helpmate. In fact, I would say that that term, to me, was very old-fashioned and something I probably chafed a little bit against.
Dennis: Was that demeaning, as a term?
Sara: Probably at the time—probably at the time. I was very driven and very focused on career and in my ambitions. I always wanted to be married, but I saw it as just part of kind of my life.
Bob: You said in the book—that in the first years of the marriage, when you were in your 20s and on a career track, you did have the thought, “Do I really need him anyway?”
Sara: Yes; there were times that came up. I know that sounds so harsh; but there were times that came up, I think, in our marriage where I was doing everything—
—at least, I felt like I was doing everything. I don’t think that was necessarily my husband’s fault. I think it was my just over-zealousness to want to control everything.
When you’re in that place / when you’re doing that—and I’ve heard from a lot of other women who, I think, they catch themselves with that—they start thinking: “Well, why do I need my husband if I’m taking care of the kids, and I’m taking care of the house, and I’m also working, and I’m doing all of these things? Why do I need him?”
I think that is a huge red flag, obviously, that can open the door and do some damage to your relationship.
Dennis: Your husband is in the military.
Sara: He is.
Dennis: Now, you’re not a real tall woman; okay?
Sara: No. [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m picturing he’s a little taller than you.
Sara: He is! He is—about six foot— six / one.
Dennis: You’re talking about—who has been in the military, coming up on a couple of decades now. He’s served a number of times—been deployed in Afghanistan.
Sara: Yes; yes. Correct—and Iraq.
Dennis: And you’re saying you got married so you could ultimately control him?
Sara: Probably not with those words in mind when I got married, but I did not see myself as wanting to be this helper.
Bob: You had to wrestle with Ephesians, Chapter 5, as you dug into this; because that’s one of the passages that talks about wives submitting—1 Peter, Chapter 3.
Bob: There’s a passage in Colossians 3 that talks about this.
Bob: In the Ephesians passage, before it ever talks about what wives or husbands are supposed to do, it says, “Submit to one another.” Now, a lot of women find that verse and they go, “There is my get-out-of-jail-free card.”
Sara: Yes. Yes; and with that thinking, you think, “Okay; well, I will submit to him if he’ll submit to me.” So, I’m waiting on him to do something before I’m willing to do it. The way I read those particular verses—
—my understanding is: “That’s talking about within the church / that’s talking about within the body of believers.” But then you do get down to the specifics of a wife submitting to her husband and a husband loving his wife as Christ loves the church. I think that’s the distinction—I think that’s the difference.
Bob: So, you look at that and say, “That’s not teaching that a husband should submit to his wife in certain areas.”
Sara: For me, my honest gut feeling is “No.” I think we both submit to the Lord, as believers—I guess you could say we submit to one another—but when it comes to the role of marriage—when I read that Scripture, I see it as wives submitting to their husbands, as to the Lord, in our relationship to Christ—being selfless, showing that support and understanding.
Bob: Yes, and I think you’re right. I know I’m kind of putting you on the spot here; but the context for that section of Scripture is really talking about: “What does it look like to walk in the Spirit?”—
Bob: —because being filled with the Spirit is right there in the middle of Ephesians, Chapter 5. Then it’s saying, “Here’s what it looks like to be filled with the Spirit.” When Paul says, “Submit to one another,” he goes on to talk about three different kinds of relationships—the husband/wife relationship, the parent/child relationship, and the employer/employee relationship. He says: “When you’re in a relationship where submission is what’s supposed to happen, submit. So, children, you should be submitting to your parents. Employees, you should be submitting to your employers; and wives, you should be submitting to your husbands.” He would not say, “Now, parents, you need to submit to your children.”
Bob: “Bosses, you need to submit to your employees,”—we’d laugh at that.
Bob: And yet, people want to look at the husband/wife relationship and say, “Well, I think it’s talking about mutual submission.”
Dennis: I think what I want our listeners to hear in this discussion—you still share a lot of the duties around your home.
Sara: Oh, yes.
Dennis: I mean, it’s not that you get a set of scales out—
Dennis: —and it’s 50/50—that’s an impossibility in a marriage relationship.
Sara: It is.
Dennis: Your spouse is never going to do as much as you do.
Sara: Right. Well, and I’ve written a blog post about the whole 50/50 thing before—I think—50/50 doesn’t work. The reason is—I think, at some point—one of you gets tired, one of you gets lazy, one of you wants to just kind of back away and say, “Let the other person pick up the slack,” so to speak. I think 50/50 doesn’t work. I think you have to really pour yourself into your relationship and pour yourself into the person that God brought you together with.
Dennis: And Cliff—as you went through this one-year experiment—how did you see him change, as a leader?—how your submission to him empowered him to begin to assume more and more responsibility, as a man, who leads his family, spiritually, and your family?
Sara: Right; yes. That was probably the biggest surprise for me this whole experiment / this whole year. I thought I would change. In some ways, I was concerned of how I would change; but with him, I saw so much growth and change in what he did as a leader. It was just by stepping back a little—it was like he had more room and just the opportunity to really start thinking about what it looked like to lead our family.
So, the biggest difference I saw was with our son. He would, instead of saying, “Do what your mom says,” he would do more of an example with him and say: “Your mom needs help in the kitchen. Come on, I’m going to show you how to do the dishes.” It was very much an example-setting.
As I was talking to him—maybe sharing concerns / things that were going on—he listened, and he would give more advice if I asked for it. But we were on the same page more often when I let him make the decision.
It was because he would listen to what I had to say, and my thoughts, and my input and then make the decision from there.
Bob: I have to bring this subject up—and I’d really like both of you to comment on this—because, any time we talk about the subject of submission, the question of the controlling abusive husband factors in here—
Bob: —the guy who is not sensitive, who is not listening to what his wife wants, and who’s been telling her for years that she needs to submit and to be quiet—and a woman has gone to the pastor of the church and he said, “That’s what you’re supposed to do, honey.” That’s not biblical submission.
Sara: No, it’s not. It breaks my heart when I hear stories of that. I just got an email from a wife, last week, writing me and telling me that her husband had bought my book—my So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife book—and he was reading it.
Dennis: Oh! He hadn’t given it to her.
Sara: No. He was reading it, but the reason he was reading it was because he was always telling her how she needed to be more submissive; and yet, he had some very major sin in his own life happening. She was, literally, just kind of waiting for him to come home, and the hammer to fall, and him say, “Here’s all these points that you need to be doing.” It broke my heart, because that is not biblical submission. For a man, he is to love his wife—he is to cherish his wife. He is to love her as Christ loves the church. That is a big undertaking; because, you know, fellows—Christ died for the church! He died for us—He loved us so much.
So, that is not biblical submission. I think about—that is probably the biggest question I get from wives—is: “What if my husband’s a jerk? What if he is, not even physically or emotionally abusive, but just not nice?”
Bob: So, let’s ask Dennis Rainey what a wife should do if her husband’s a jerk.
Dennis: Well, I think she has to speak the truth in love. If he doesn’t heed those words / doesn’t respond to those words—and if you are a member of a church and he’s a believer, then I think you have a local church to appeal to—to go to and say: “I need your help—not to whack my husband—but to hopefully call him away from selfishness and from abusive”—in some cases—“abusive behavior and calling to accountability.”
Bob: And if the pastor of the church says, “You just need to go home and submit”?
Dennis: It may be time to change churches, you know, truthfully. There are—and Bob, you know we’ve interviewed a number of folks over the years—the place that breeds the most abuse of women are ultra-fundamentalist churches where there is a total non-biblical view of submission. They empower men to be beasts, not to deny themselves on behalf of their wives.
Now that’s really hard to say, here on the air, because some of those churches bear the name of Christ. But there have been those points of abuse. We wouldn’t encourage any woman to subject herself to any man who is physically / emotionally abusing her and is not willing to be accountable.
Now, if her husband’s not a believer—here’s where I think, not only do we have the church, but you also have legal authorities.
Dennis: You have the police to call. I would encourage a wife, at those points, where a man has threatened your life or has been physically abusive—I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage her to call the police and to use the powers that have been set in place, really by Scripture, to protect women.
Bob: Yes; the point is that submission does not uncouple itself from wisdom.
Bob: And you do have to prayerfully, wisely, with godly counsel, look at how you can show respect to your husband / how you can honor your husband; but if your husband is asking you to do something that the Scriptures forbid you to do, you don’t submit in those situations; do you?
Sara: No; no, I don’t think you do. I think you, like you said, you have to use wisdom. Choosing to be biblically submissive to your husband is not choosing to be a doormat or to be physically abused or emotionally abused. There are proper resources that you can go to. I would say: “If you sit down with a pastor, and you explain the situation, and you don’t get help, go find someone else who will help.”
Dennis: I’m going to flip the tables on you right now. What would you say to the husband, who’s married to the wife, who really is a controlling woman and frankly is, at points, maybe abusive of him?
Sara: Yes; that’s a hard one.
What I have found—and I’ve gotten some feedback, I think, from readers who say, “Well, your husband is just really nice.” You know, “He’s a good guy.” He is a good guy—he’s not perfect, but he is a good guy. I would say that we cannot change our spouses. We cannot change them the way we want them to be, but I would say that we can influence our spouses.
So, to that husband, who has a wife, who is unbearable at times or who is maybe even border-line abusive—I would say you need to sit down and talk with her. You need to—I don’t know—would you suggest that they go to their church? I mean, that’s kind of a difficult situation—if your wife is being abusive to yourself.
Dennis: Well, I’ve known some situations like this. In those cases, those husbands have offered to go sit under the counsel of a godly counselor—someone to go share their stories with because the husband realizes he’s not perfect either—
—but at that point, is looking for a third party to really speak truth into the relationship and, hopefully, paint a picture that gives them a better outcome if they’ll surrender to it. The problem is—as we all know—in marriage, it takes two.
Sara: Yes; it does.
Dennis: It takes two to dance.
Sara: That is the core issue / that is the core problem—I think, sometimes, is that it takes two—but you can only be responsible for yourself and for what you bring to the relationship.
When wives come to me and they say—and their husbands maybe aren’t abusive but they’re not very nice or maybe, “I love him, but I just don’t like him,”—that type of relationship—I say to the wife, “What can you do to fulfill your role, as a wife, and what can you do to influence your husband for the better?”
What I have found / what I’ve heard from other women, who have applied some of these things that I learned during my year, is that influence can really change their husbands for the better when you are more patient / when you are kind. I mean, how often are we kind to our spouse?
We’re kind to strangers—how often do we actually treat our spouse with kindness? So often, we get that argument back, “Well, when he’s nice to me, I’ll be nice to him.” But somebody has to go first.
Bob: Sara, you said that your marriage, before this year, was a 7 or an 8. You’d give it a 9 today.
Sara: I would.
Bob: How would Cliff say you are a different wife as a result of your one-year submission experiment?
Sara: I actually asked him this the other day. He texted me—he’s deployed right now. I said, “What was the difference that you saw after we went through this year?” He said: “You are more willing to let me lead. You are more willing to step back and let me make the decisions for our family.” That boosts him—that gives him confidence. That also puts some, I would say, good pressure on him to be more intentional about leading.
Dennis: It does.
Bob: Is it scary for you to do that because, now, you’re not calling the shots like you used to?
Sara: The longer that we’re doing it, it’s less scary. [Laughter]
Dennis: You’ve learned to trust him—
Sara: I have!
Dennis: —that he will hear you, listen to you, and seek your advice / your counsel before making a major decision—
Sara: Yes; right.
Dennis: —because that’s how he’s wired. You described your husband, earlier, as being a processor.
Sara: Yes; yes.
Dennis: And you’re a fast decision-maker. That’s kind of where you two rub each other the wrong way.
Sara: Yes. Well, and more importantly, I’ve learned to trust God. So, if my husband does make a decision I don’t necessarily agree with or I think, “Mm, I don’t know about this!” I’m trusting God to take care of the details, and to watch over our family and our marriage and those decisions, and that He will bless it.
Dennis: I have two points to make, here, at the end of the broadcast. First of all—and this is going to sound terribly self-serving—but I really like your question that a wife ought to ask herself at the beginning of a day: “How can I help my husband?”
I think that’s a great question—that if a wife would ask that and then, in the power of the Holy Spirit, ask God to strengthen her to fulfill that—there’d be a lot of energized husbands in the process, and a lot of marriages that would move out of the ditch and maybe where the man might really indeed take responsibility and lead in the relationship.
And secondly, I just want to affirm you for writing this book. I just applaud you embracing God’s design and even being honest about sharing what you came out of before. I would encourage anyone, who’s listening to this broadcast: “If you’re looking for a great wedding gift for a couple that are starting out, this would be good because most of them don’t have the right blueprints there”; you know? They don’t.
Sara: Thank you; right.
Bob: Give them this and tuck a certificate for a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway in the middle of it.
Sara: There you go.
Dennis: I agree. We’re going to send Sara and Cliff to the Weekend to Remember and say: “Thank you,” for his military service on behalf of our country.
Sara: Thank you. Well, I appreciate that. Thank you.
Dennis: Thanks for being on the broadcast.
Sara: Thanks for having me.
Bob: We do have copies of Sara’s book, My So-Called Life as a Submissive Wife: A One-Year Experiment and Its Liberating Results. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order your copy. That’s 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” By the way, you can also order your Weekend to Remember marriage getaway gift certificate when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order the gift certificate as well.
You know, speaking of the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, we have hosted three or four dozen of these events already this spring and still have another dozen or more happening, here in May and on into June. One of the things that many of our listeners may not be aware of is the number of people who make a first-time profession of faith in Christ at a Weekend to Remember getaway. I was speaking at our getaway in Branson, Missouri, earlier this year—that weekend, we had about 1,100 people who were in attendance for the getaway, and we had 52 who made a first-time profession of faith in Christ.
It’s one of the great things about the getaway—it’s a safe place for people to come and hear about marriage and, in the process, hear about the importance of the gospel as a foundation for your marriage. A lot of people, over the years, have responded to that message. I mention that only because, when you support the ministry of FamilyLife, this is what you’re supporting.
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During the month of May, we have a goal of trying to raise $1.1 million. We need these funds to put us in a good place, moving into the summer months, as there are a number of projects we’re trying to keep on track; and the funds are necessary to make that happen. We have some friends of the ministry who have provided matching funds to help your donation go farther during the month of May. Details about the matching fund are available online. You can donate, online, at FamilyLIfeToday.com. You can also call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about your money. In fact, there are eight important money conversations / money decisions that couples need to spend some time interacting on. We’re going to look at those eight conversations tomorrow with our guests, Russ and Julie Crosson. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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