What does male headship in marriage look like?


I was told the story this week of two Christians arguing about whether or not it was right for a man to stay at home and run the household whilst his wife goes out to work.  An elderly Christian lady was arguing that it was the man’s job to provide for his family and a younger Christian man argued back that it was okay to swap roles.

The problem with this argument was its narrow focus on role in relationships.  I’ve posted elsewhere on this blog about the need to separate status, role and power when considering the relationships between men and women.  In this case, as roles are ingterchangeable, we need to think about power in the relationship.  Here’s four ways in which the couple could arrive at the decision for her to work.  These examples are all exaggerated for the point of illustration.

1. The absconding husband.
The man in this marriage has given up. He stays at home because it’s the easy option for him. His disengagement from work means his wife HAS to choose to work to pay the bills.

2. The bullying husband.
The man in this marriage can’t be bothered working and so FORCES his wife to work through threats. He wants her to work for him so that he can have an easy life.

3. The domineering wife.
The man in this marriage stays at home because his wife has told him to. He is less than a man and more of a pet.

4. The servant leader husband.
This couple has spoken openly about their aptitudes, gifts and the family situation. They both know that the wife will flourish in the work place whilst he has gifts of running the household. Staying at home would feel like a prison sentence to her but he doesn’t mind domestic life. And so he takes the responsibility on himself to stay at home for her good without being domineered by his wife.  Nor does he slack off or force her to work against her will. He also takes responsibility for the decision if things don’t work out. He never blames his wife for problems which arise.

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