Tag Archives: Gender Roles

Wayne Grudem explains male leadership in marriage

Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship
Man helping a woman with proper handgun marksmanship

I’m not willing to take advice on this from most pastors, but Wayne Grudem is someone I respect because he does such a good job of applying the Bible to political issues. So he’s practical.

Anyway, here is something he wrote that was shared by a newlywed couple I am friends with.

Excerpt:

Someone might say, “Well, okay, fine. There’s a leadership role for Adam, and I guess that means husbands should have a leadership role in their marriage of some sort. But how does it work? How does it work in practice?”

In our own marriage, Margaret and I talk frequently and at length about many decisions. I can tell you that I wouldn’t be here tonight unless Margaret and I had talked about this and asked the Lord about it, and she had given blessing to it, and said, “Yes, I think that’s right.” Sometimes we make large decisions such as buying a house or a car, and sometimes they are small decisions like where we should go for a walk together. I often defer to Margaret’s wishes, and she often defers to mine because we love each other.

In almost every case, each of us has some wisdom and insight that the other does not have. Usually, we reach agreement on the decisions that we make. Very seldom will I do something that she doesn’t think is wise–I didn’t say never. She prays; she trusts God; she loves God. She is sensitive to God’s leading and direction, but in every decision, whether it large or small and whether we have reached agreement or not, the responsibility to make the decision still rests with me.

Now, I am not talking about every decision they make individually. Margaret controls a much larger portion of our budget than I do because all the things having to do with the household and food and clothing and house expenses and everything . . . she writes the checks and pays the bills. I take care of buying books and some things about the car. I have appointments during the day with students. She doesn’t get involved in that. She has her own appointments. She has her own calendar. I don’t get involved in trying to micromanage all of that. We have distinct areas of responsibility. I am not talking about those things. I don’t get involved in those things unless she asks my counsel.

But in every decision that we make that affects us together or affects our family, the responsibility to make the decision rests with me. If there is genuine male headship, I believe there is a quiet acknowledgement that the focus of the decision making process is the husband, not the wife. Even though there will often be much discussion and there should be mutual respect and consideration of each other, ultimately the responsibility to make the decision rests with the husband. And so, in our marriage the responsibility to make the decision rests with me.

This is not because I am a wiser or more gifted leader. It is because I am the husband. God has given me that responsibility. It is very good. It brings peace and joy to our marriage, and both Margaret and I are thankful for it. Now, I need to add very quickly, men, this does not mean that a husband has the right to be a selfish leader.

Just about three years ago, maybe four years ago now, we started the decision making process. Margaret had been in an auto accident in Chicago. As part of the aftermath of that accident, she was experiencing some chronic pain that was aggravated by cold and humidity, and Chicago is cold in the winter and humid in the summer. Chicago was not a good place for that. Some friends said to us, “We have a second house in Mesa, Arizona, if you would ever like to go there and just use it as a vacation place, we would like you to do that.”

So we did. We visited Arizona. Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix. Margaret felt better. It was hot, and it was dry. And so I said, “Wow, Margaret I would love to move here, but I am only trained to do one thing; I can teach at a seminary and that is it. There aren’t any seminaries here.” The next day Margaret was looking in the yellow pages–literally. She said, “Wayne, there’s something here called Phoenix Seminary.” One thing led to another and God was at work in that seminary, and it was starting to grow.

Then we went through a decision making process. When we were in the middle of that decision making process, on the very day that we were focusing on that, I came in my normal custom of reading through a section of scripture each day, I came to a Ephesians 5:28, “Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.”

I thought if I would move to take a job in another city for the sake of my body, if I were experiencing the pain that Margaret had, and husbands should love their wives as their own bodies–then shouldn’t I move? Shouldn’t I be willing to move for Margaret’s sake? That was really why we moved to Phoenix.

Anyway, Dina and I were talking the other night about what would happen if – hypothetically – we suddenly found ourselves stuck with a child and responsible for it’s education. I said to Dina that I would have a meeting with her, and ask her to research all of the alternative forms of schooling, and look over the research on education and then come back with her recommendation about what would get us the most effectiveness for the least cost and risk. Dina said that she thought that was an excellent plan, but being the kind of person she is, she said that she would not wait to be asked to do this, but would instead pro-actively go and do the work and then present it to me to make the decision. A wife is a chief of staff, she does the research. She has to know all the politics. She has to do the face to face conversations. She has to make all the calculations. She has to be good at putting aside her feelings and being logical and analytical, in order to get results.

I think a lot of people worry that male headship means that husbands will micromanage like a tyrant, but that’s just wrong. That’s not at all what a man learns about how to lead others, in his workplace. A man looks for a wife with skills and experience to solve these sorts of problems for him while he is out working, and without needing a lot of guidance or monitoring from him. Micromanaging makes them both less efficient and more stressed. The more education and work history she has before she marries, the better she will be at solving problems on her own initiative. I always encourage young women to study hard things and to do hard jobs, but to stop working when young children appear (the first five years of the child’s life are critical). Learning hard things and doing hard jobs makes them more prepared for the roles of wife and mother.

Similarly, a wife does not want to choose a poor leader for a husband. She wants to choose someone who makes good decisions, and follows a plan through to a result. She should be looking at his decision making, especially in education, work and finances, and deciding whether he can do the male roles in a marriage.  She should be looking at his leadership style and communication ability. These things are well-defined, and she should be able to assess his ability by looking at his life to see if anyone follows his lead at work or outside of work on anything that matters. Does he reach the goals that he plans to reach? Is he realistic about risks and costs? She has to do an assessment of his leadership ability, because if she marries him, he will be leading her. Naturally, she will have to know something about leadership first, and know something about men, and what men expect to achieve with their marriages. What is his plan?

The easiest way for a man to avoid marrying a woman who resists his leadership is to not marry her. And the easiest way for a woman to avoid marrying a man who does not delegate tasks to her that she is better at is to not marry him. We are responsible for these decisions. As long as you don’t follow your feelings and intuitions, you’ll be fine. Don’t marry someone unless you have observed them demonstrating their ability to do the marriage roles cheerfully and well.

Studies show that egalitarian marriage results in less sex

From the ultra-leftist New York Times, of all places. (H/T Dennis Prager)

Most of the article is standard leftist boilerplate, but check this out:

Today, according to census data, in 64 percent of U.S. marriages with children under 18, both husband and wife work. There’s more gender-fluidity when it comes to who brings in the money, who does the laundry and dishes, who drives the car pool and braids the kids’ hair, even who owns the home. A vast majority of adults under 30 in this country say that this is a good thing, according to a Pew Research Center survey: They aspire to what’s known in the social sciences as an egalitarian marriage, meaning that both spouses work and take care of the house and that the relationship is built on equal power, shared interests and friendship. But the very qualities that lead to greater emotional satisfaction in peer marriages, as one sociologist calls them, may be having an unexpectedly negative impact on these couples’ sex lives.

A study called “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” which appeared in The American Sociological Review last year, surprised many, precisely because it went against the logical assumption that as marriages improve by becoming more equal, the sex in these marriages will improve, too. Instead, it found that when men did certain kinds of chores around the house, couples had less sex. Specifically, if men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming — the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do — then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores, like taking out the trash or fixing the car. It wasn’t just the frequency that was affected, either — at least for the wives. The more traditional the division of labor, meaning the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction.

[…][Study co-author] Brines believes the quandary many couples find themselves in comes down to this: “The less gender differentiation, the less sexual desire.” In other words, in an attempt to be gender-neutral, we may have become gender-neutered.

[…]The chores study seems to show that women do want their husbands to help out — just in gender-specific ways. Couples in which the husband did plenty of traditionally male chores reported a 17.5 percent higher frequency of sexual intercourse than those in which the husband did none.

[…]When I asked Esther Perel, a couples therapist whose book, “Mating in Captivity,” addresses the issue of desire in marriage, about the role sexual scripts play in egalitarian partnerships, she explained it like this: “Egalitarian marriage takes the values of a good social system — consensus-building and consent — and assumes you can bring these rules into the bedroom. But the values that make for good social relationships are not necessarily the same ones that drive lust.” In fact, she continued, “most of us get turned on at night by the very things that we’ll demonstrate against during the day.”

Now let’s leave that new study, and review an older study.

Egalitarianism inroduces a risk of divorce

Here is a related story about a Norwegian study that finds that egalitarian marriages have a higher risk of divorce.

Excerpt:

Couples who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a Norwegian study sure to get tongues wagging has shown.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled Equality in the Home, said.

Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of “modern” attitudes.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said, stressing it was all about values.

“In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said.

There were only some marginal aspects where researchers said there may be cause-and-effect.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” Mr Hansen suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight,” he added.

I think that this article is basically correct – men like having clearly defined roles. A man has the traditional roles of protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. He has the responsibility to lead in those areas. He doesn’t want to have the woman’s role, he doesn’t want to be forced to perform it. Complementarianism is the rational view, the view that leads to happier and more stable marriages. That’s not my opinion, that’s a fact. Men and women maybe be equal in importance and value, but they are not interchangeable. They are not identical.

Now, anyone who denies the facts has to do better than 1) introduce the bare possibility that all the studies are wrong and 2) claim that their own marriage refutes what the studies say and 3) sex isn’t that important anyway for the stability of the marriage, 4) a higher risk of divorce isn’t that bad for the stability of the marriage. The facts are what they are and the wise man proportions his beliefs to the evidence. Complementarianism is supported by evidence. Egalitarianism is just ideology.

Egalitarian marriage does not make women happier

Elusive Wapiti writes about in this blog post.

Excerpt:

Norwegian researchers confirm and extend Brad Wilcox and Steven Nock’s research suggesting that egalitarianism sets couples up to fail:

“What we’ve seen is that sharing equal responsibility for work in the home doesn’t necessarily contribute to contentment,” said Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled “Equality in the Home”.

The lack of correlation between equality at home and quality of life was surprising, the researcher said. “One would think that break-ups would occur more often in families with less equality at home, but our statistics show the opposite,” he said.

The figures clearly show that “the more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” he went on. The reasons, Mr Hansen said, lay only partially with the chores themselves. “Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” he suggested. “There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight.”

See, Wilcox’s view is this:

The companionate theory of marriage suggests that egalitarianism in practice and belief leads to higher marital quality for wives and higher levels of positive emotion work on the part of husbands. Our analysis of women’s marital quality and men’s marital emotion work provides little evidence in support of this theory. Rather, in examining women’s marital quality and men’s emotional investments in marriage, we find that dyadic commitment to institutional ideals about marriage and women’s contentment with the division of household tasks are more critical. We also show that men’s marital emotion work is a very important determinant of women’s marital quality. We conclude by noting that her marriage is happiest when it combines elements of the new and old: that is, gender equity and normative commitment to the institution of marriage.

His full study from 2006 is here.

Now some people think that if men are not forced to do women’s chores, it will somehow lead to domestic abuse. What do studies say about that?

Domestic violence more likely in two income couples

From Psych Central.

Excerpt:

Intimate partner violence is two times more likely to occur in two income households, compared to those where only one partner works, according to a new study.

Conducted by Sam Houston State University researchers Cortney A. Franklin, Ph.D., and doctoral student Tasha A. Menaker and supported by the Crime Victims’ Institute, the study looked at the impact of education levels and employment among heterosexual partners as it relates to domestic violence.

While the researchers found that differences in education levels appeared to have little influence, when both partners were working, intimate partner violence increased.

“When both male and females were employed, the odds of victimization were more than two times higher than when the male was the only breadwinner in the partnership, lending support to the idea that female employment may challenge male authority and power in a relationship,” said the researchers.

The study was based on telephone interviews with 303 women who identified themselves as either currently or recently in a serious romantic relationship.

[…]The study found that more than 60 percent of women in two-income couples reported victimization, while only 30 percent of women reported victimization in cases when only the male partner was employed.

[…]The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Violence Against Women.

Now let’s see if women in church have their views informed by studies, or not.

Church women have it exactly backwards

For further reading, check out this excellent post from Sunshine Mary. I am including this for life application.

Excerpt:

My husband and I attend a large Protestant church of the superfunrockband denomination. On Wednesday evenings, our church holds small group Bible studies, and HHG and I attend the one for married couples.  We meet in a large room and split into small groups, each group with its own table and leader.

This past week was rough because the topic was sex.  I just could not believe that all the things we joke about Christians saying were actually said.  For example, one young woman actually used the women-are-like-a-crockpot crock of crap.  This is not true, in case anyone has not figured it out yet.  It does not take a woman, Christian or otherwise, eight hours to become sexually aroused.  The idea that a man needs to spend eight hours giving her tender kisses, helping with the laundry, telling her how much he loves her, and bringing her flowers just to turn her on is wrong.  She may like all those things very much, they may be nice things to do, but they will not make her sexually aroused.  Why do Christian women keep telling men this?  It’s like we’ve all succumbed to mass delusion.

Unbelievably, another woman told the group how hot it is when her husband does the dishes and plays with the kids.  She actually said that as a serious comment, and all the other ladies laughed and nodded.

[…]I could no longer stand it, so I whipped out my iPad and looked up a recent study, refuting her blue pill bull pucky…

[…]For the entire evening, it was the same old yip yap about helping with the housework, making sure your wife feels loved enough, making her feel safe, blah blah blah.  None of this is good advice for generating attraction, of course, although it wasn’t surprising.

Why do Christian women perpetuate these myths about attraction, thereby assuring themselves and their husbands a frustrating sex life?  It’s certainly not Biblical.  We could be really jaded and say they are just lying, but I don’t think that is the reason.

It’s more that we hear this over and over again – that we want men who are always tender, gentle, and sensitive, that we need a deep emotional connection, lots of intimate conversation, and plenty of sweet romance before we can feel sexual attraction.  This advice is pervasive: it’s on every Christian website, in our movies, magazines, sermons, and books, and thus we just come to believe it.

You would think that these studies would destroy feminist myths, but a lot of what goes on in churches is never checked against the data. Maybe we should start, though. And note that this is a case where the Bible and the data are once again in perfect harmony — in the sense that both claim that the sexes really are different. It’s the church’s embrace of radical feminism that’s wrong.