If you’re like me, you’ve probably seen the chart floating around Facebook that lists attributes of the first child, middle child, last child and only child. And more than likely, you’ve resonated with at least one of the traits in your box. Can I get a shout from any of my fellow first-borns out there? I mean, really. We didn’t just think we were the boss. We were the boss. Or at least we had our siblings convinced that we were.

Well, while it certainly seems valid that the majority of first born children are, shall we say, bossy, while others are happy to take a back seat, I’m convinced that once a girl gets married, she forgets her birth order and becomes absolutely certain she’s in charge. And what’s more, she’s determined to make sure her man understands that unequivocally.

She’ll cry, she’ll pout, she’ll call her mom, she’ll call his mom, she’ll squeal to her friends, she’ll withdraw and she’ll start cooking only quiche and fruit cake. Until she gets her way. And once she plays this game a few times, she’s confident she’ll have her husband right where she wants him: right under her thumb, saying, ‘Ma’am, yes ma’am,’ and singing second soprano.

This is a woman fulfilling Genesis 3:16: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Desire there is not the, “Ooo I love you, gotta have you” sort of desire. Desire there is talking about desiring his role and wanting to conquer him. Not as pretty, huh?

I don’t know if you’ve realized it, my darling fellow wives, but we have within us a sinful desire to rule over our husbands.

This desire was not part of Adam and Eve’s marriage before the fall. It was a consequence of the fall. It’s not pretty, it’s not funny, and it’s not okay.

In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster. It threatens to suffocate our marriages, ruin our witnesses and damage our relationships with God. If we’re honest, we’ve all seen this play out, and we probably cringe when we witness it happen in public. You know, you’re sitting there in a pew, filling out your tithe check before the service begins, and bam, right there in front of you a wife starts belittling her husband, ordering him to do something or telling him in no uncertain terms that she will NOT do whatever it is he’s telling her to do. She’s loud, and she makes it clear—to her husband and to anyone in earshot—that she’s running this show, and he dare not tell her otherwise. “Fear the wrath of a wife challenged,” she seems to say with her piercing glance and pursed lips. The husband, seeking not to make a scene, shrinks into his seat, willing her to pipe down.

This ought not to be, friends.

God has established our role as wives as that of a support system and helpmate. Ephesians 5:22-24 and Colossians 3:18 both give us wives our marching orders for marriage. We are to complement (to match and balance, although I’m certain a few genuine compliments for your man would not be unwelcome) our husbands, not to challenge and fight against them. God set the order for our homes with the man as the head, just as Christ is the head of the church. This shouldn’t make you feel inferior, my fellow female, as this is a place of safety. It’s not a role that means we are worth anything less than the man we married—quite the opposite. We certainly aren’t worth more to God than men; we are all of equal importance to Him.

However, God does place a certain value on the woman as He instructs the man to watch over, care for and love her. Proverbs says a noble wife is worth more than rubies to her husband (Prov 3:15). I am blessed to feel that way in my own marriage, which certainly makes it easier for me to submit to my husband as Scripture instructs me to do. Yet, even when our husbands do not seem to treasure us as they should, to treat us as we would like or to make the decisions we think best, it is our responsibility to the Lord to still find ourselves humbly under their headship—me under my husband and you under yours. Unless a husband asks his wife to sin or harms her, the Bible teaches us that a wife should not usurp her husband’s authority. If he makes the wrong decision with the family finances or about a move to another state, the Lord will deal with him. But just as it is not our job to be the “Jr. Holy Spirit,” it is not our job to be “Jr. Husband.”

Here are a few ways to convey to your husband that you happily follow his lead and will try your level best to honor his role in your home:

  1. Do not—ever—challenge or negate something he says in public. Ever. If you disagree with something he says or does, fine. Tell him about it in private. Explain your thoughts on the matter when you are alone. Challenging him in front of others conveys to him and the others that you disrespect him and his judgment and that you are not a united team.
  2. Ask, don’t tell. It’s a simple thing really, and it goes all the way back to second grade when you learned the difference in a declaratory sentence and an interrogative sentence. With just the arrangement of your words and the inflection of your voice you have the ability to strengthen your husband’s confidence as a man and as a leader. Give him the chance to lead and to do well at it. Suggestions and questions will go a long way in your relationship for really minimal effort on your part.
  3. Yield to his final decision. Once you have had a discussion about a decision that needs to be made and both of you have discussed the options, positives, negatives and outcomes, be willing to let his final decision stand. You’ve had your say. But at the end of the day, your husband is the one who will give account to the Lord for your family. If he has to be the one upon whom that burden is laid, let him be the one to have final say over family matters.
  4. Let your attitude reflect respect. Did you realize (I’m sure you did) that we can say one thing with our mouths and mean another in our hearts? You can submit to your husband with lip service but have a heart bitter toward the man and the decisions he makes. If you’re going to commit to obey Christ and submit to your husband’s leadership, let your attitude reflect it. Your attitude will validate or negate your actions and words.

Unless you’re a hermit, you know that living life as a submissive and respectful wife is counter-cultural.

 It doesn’t make sense to the world and often even offends those who don’t understand it. And you know, as long as our marriages look just like the marriages of the world, why would they buy into this? But, if we start displaying our marriages according to Scripture and do things the way the Lord says, our marriages really will be the best gospel conversation we could have with people. When a watching world starts seeing Christians that keep their marriages together until death and marriages that are characterized by true love, mutual respect and commitment, they’re going to want what we’ve got. Sticking to our God-given roles is so crucial to this. Don’t be fooled into thinking you should be the boss. When you are, you’re playing right into Satan’s hand and being a pawn in his evil army.

What ways have you discovered to be great for building up your husband instead of tearing him down?