Steve and I often receive e-mails from wives asking questions about how to respond to a husband with whom they disagree in some way. This is obviously a situation that every wife will have to deal with in her marriage; for many it will be on a regular basis. Some who write to us give an example of one particular issue of disagreement, such as her desire to have more children while he says “no” or activities he allows for the children from which she thinks they should be sheltered. Here is an example from a Mom’s Corner request e-mail:
We’ve managed to keep most of our children’s hearts, but two of them just seem determined to test us and stray. My husband isn’t sure that we are losing their hearts. He thinks that their behavior is ‘normal’ for children their age. One is eleven, the other seven. As a mom, I fear being too harsh and severing that connection completely, but I also fear being too soft and watching them slip further away. My husband sees no problem at all with their conniving, lying, and trickery to get out of chores, but I think that’s because he’s gone all day and can’t deal with things immediately. So is there a problem? Is it me? Do I leave it until it becomes a problem for my husband? I would appreciate a Corner in response to this. A questioning wife
Other wives are crying out for answers to the questions and problems raised from living with a husband who either isn’t saved or is not following the Lord. The anguish in her heart not only for herself but also for the consequences in the children’s lives is evident. These e-mails relate stories of husbands who don’t lead their families spiritually, bring negative influences into the home, allow the children do be involved in things that are spiritually harmful to them, don’t spend time with their families, leave decision making to their wives, and more. If the man attends church, he may appear to be like the other men, but his wife knows a different story at home. These wives are caught in a terrible emotional dilemma: how to submit to and honor a man who isn’t being what God wants him to be and is leading the children down the same path. Here is an example of this kind of situation, also from a Mom’s Corner request e-mail:
I am married to an unbeliever who says he is a Christian. How do I keep him from cussing around our son and treating him with contempt? He also watches things on TV that are inappropriate. He then tells our son he is an adult and will watch what he wants! He is very controlling and rude. He goes to church with us about 60 percent of the time. Please address this issue. Thank you!!! Another questioning wife
I am not a counselor, but I can share some thoughts as a sister in Christ that I believe relate Scripturally to the wives who have a particular area of disagreement with their husbands and also to those whose husbands are not leading their families spiritually at all. I give these ideas based on knowing myself and from interacting with other wives who have written about similar situations. What I am writing is not addressed to wives who are victims of abuse.
While you may not find yourself facing these same scenarios, every wife has a husband who will sin at least from time to time. She needs to know how the Lord wants her to respond to her husband at these moments, and what she is to do with her thoughts. I think the verses we will be looking at in these Mom’s Corners could apply to wives who have a godly, Christian marriage.
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (1 Peter 3:1-6).
The first part of 1 Peter 3 is written specifically for a wife with a husband who is not obeying the word—either he is not saved, he is not following the Lord Jesus with his life, or he is not obeying in a specific area. This section of Scripture sets a clear path for a wife if she disagrees with her husband when he is not following the Lord and what it is that will bring about change in him, if it is to happen.
Often Scripture is silent in areas about which we would like exact direction, but here we find six verses that deal with a problem that wives face and for which they want biblical answers. Sometimes, I have read others who suggest a wife respond to a sinful husband in ways outlined in other sections of Scripture discussing how one believer relates to another. However, 1 Peter 3:1-6 would seem to supersede those verses since these are talking specifically to a wife.
The keys in this portion of Scripture I believe are:
“without a word”
“meek and quiet spirit”
“calling him lord”
“not afraid with any amazement”
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives” (1 Peter 3:1). I find this verse to be most amazing. A wife is to be in subjection to her husband—even the husband who is not obeying the word. That kind of husband would be the most difficult husband to follow.
When a wife disagrees with her husband, either she is right or he is right. Let’s first assume that she is discerning Scripture correctly, and her husband it the one not obeying the Word. Then I believe 1 Peter 3:1 would apply. The verse says she is not to say a word.
Often it is a wife’s words that get her into trouble. She sees something she thinks isn’t right. She expresses her concern, unhappiness, or dissatisfaction. Nothing changes. She brings it up again, in another way. Nothing changes. Over the course of the years, this becomes a continual pattern for her. She has tried repeatedly with her words to win her husband to her way of thinking. Rather than being successful, she has grown the wedge between them. Perhaps the reason she hasn’t been successful has to do with the teaching in these verses.
While I believe strongly in the truth 1 Peter 3:1 teaches for a wife in how to handle a disagreement with her husband, I am not saying it is easy. I have been trying to learn to be obedient to this verse for over thirty years (in the Loving Your Husband session, I share practical examples). There has certainly been improvement in my life, but I have further to go. However, it is my heart’s desire to keep praying and asking the Lord for His grace in this area. I also ask Steve’s forgiveness when I fail, and I try to choose the path of obedience when a conflict rages in my heart over wanting to say something versus being quiet.
The second possibility is that the husband is right, and the wife is wrong. In this case it is obviously best that the wife is quiet and doesn’t persuade her husband to her position. Therefore, it appears to me that whether a wife is right or wrong, her best direction when there is disagreement between her husband and her is to be quiet.
The word “conversation” in verses one and two does not refer to spoken words between people. It is the same Greek word (anastrepho) in both verse one and two. According to Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary, it means “behavior.” A husband is not won by the words of his wife but rather by her behavior.
There is much more I want to share in relation to this passage of Scripture and our roles as Christian wives. I am going to make this into a Mom’s Corner series. For now, I want to challenge you to consider how these verses relate to you personally, particularly the section about winning a husband without words.