What Happens When You Can't Submit to Your Husband?

 The Bible tells wives to submit to our husbands, but what do we do when our husbands are not Christians? What if they're not fit to lead? What if they're addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography or gambling and are opening up our homes to sin? Should we submit then? Kara from Grey Ministries brings clarity to this very confusing situation! Read now or pin for later :)

You know those people that speak their thoughts and react without even thinking, and even when they do reign in the strength to shut it, the look on their face tells it all? Yeah, that's me. I wear my feelings on my face. 

Being submissive is not natural for me. As much as I try to be nice, my nonexistent filter interferes. This is why writing works better; there is a delete button.

"He's not going to boss me around."

"I didn't marry him to be his servant."

During the early part of my marriage, my expectations weren't exactly what anyone would call "Biblical". I said what I thought, Biblical or not (usually not), with colorful language. I loved him, of course, but I didn't want to serve him. I was a different kind of girl back then.

“Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words, but by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
-1 Peter 3:1-2 (NIV)

The kind of girl I am now longs to be able to submit to my husband, but I haven’t always been able to submit to him like the Bible says I should. Why? One reason is addiction and the behaviors associated with it. 

Should we submit to someone whose choices are contradictory, even offensive, to our belief system?


We can't be the submissive wife of an addict.

When our husbands are in active addiction, they aren't fit to lead. There are a lot of things we have to do if we're married to men struggling with addictions that don't fall under the biblical definition of "a submissive wife". Don't feel guilt over not living up to the expectations of the Proverbs 31 woman! The way I see it, the addicted version of my husband, the man consumed by darkness, isn't really my husband. And I'm going to do everything God tells me to bring him back to the light.

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Click to Tweet: You can't be the submissive wife of an addict. If your husband is in active addiction, he isn't fit to lead.

During a really bad time in our life, I wanted to leave my husband. I was ready to run. However, my mama reminded me that my job as his wife was to be his helpmate and not his mother. She even reminded me of the vows I took in front of God, “...in sickness and in health, for better for worse.” And at the extreme point he’d reached in his addiction, it was definitely a sickness. He had mentally and emotionally checked out.

What do I do if I cannot submit to my husband?

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”-1 John 3:18 (NIV)

When the Bible tells us to submit, it also says that our husbands are supposed to love us the way Christ loves the church. If he isn’t doing his part, does that mean we’re off the hook? Our actions shouldn’t be unholy just because their actions are. While we may be unable to submit to our husbands, our behavior and the way we treat them can still reflect the love of Christ. After all, we do love them… very much.

Love your husband

“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” -1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)

Christ loves us unconditionally. Part of unconditional love is making the best choices for the ones we love and putting their needs ahead of our own, even when it breaks our hearts. We’ve been breaking God’s heart since the beginning of time, but His love for us never stops. To love like Jesus is to love without contingencies.

And you know, maybe you can't submit to your husband in everything but there may be small areas in which we can still submit. During active addiction, that may not be wise but when they start to move into recovery, there will be areas you can slowly relinquish control. It's an act of love, not of trust; trust has to be earned. 

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Click to Tweet: To love like Jesus is to love without contingencies.

Pray for your husband

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
-1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

Instead of telling our husbands what we really think about them, we can tell God. We can also ask God for wisdom and a calm, peaceful heart when dealing with our husbands. Jesus said that when we come to Him in the name of the Father, that we would find rest for our weary souls.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
-Matthew 11:28-30 (CSB)

In prayer, we can ask God to change our hearts to be the kind of wife God wants us to be, "lowly and humble in heart". Even if personal pride, arrogance, anger, frustration, offenses and hurt doesn't seem to be the problem, ask God to refine your heart. It doesn't matter how faithful we are, there is still work to do in all of us.

Surrender your husband to God

“The Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.” –Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

We cannot change our husbands- but God can. Jesus said that faith the size of a mustard seed would move the mountain (Matthew 17:14-20). Hannah petitioned to God in deep prayer through tears and mourning and He blessed her womb (1 Samual 1-20). Jesus healed the paralyzed man because of the faith of his friends (Mark 2:3-5). There isn't anything we can do for them without God, but with God, do not cross out a miracle!  

"Oh ye of little faith..." (Matthew 6:30, Matthew 8:26, Matthew 16:8)

Let's not be women of small faith. Let's be women who move mountains. 

If your husband's heart is hardened, if he is abusing you, if he has lost his way to the point of no return, don't be afraid to walk away from the situation as you surrender him to God. What fellowship has darkness with light? Bad company corrupts good morals!

"Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?"
-2 Corinthians 6:14 (CSB)
"Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" -1 Corinthians 15:33 (CSB)

Never stop sharing the love of Christ with your husband.

“And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
-Romans 10:15 (NIV)

I’m not telling you to beat him over the head with a Bible or preach to him day and night, but your husband needs to know how loved he is. He needs to know that the shame he feels doesn’t have to last forever, and the addict inside of him doesn’t have to be his future. God has put us here for a reason. We don’t know His plans, but we do know they are good.

Encourage your husband

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
-John 16:33.

We are to be our husband’s helpmate, even when we think they don’t deserve it because really, do any of us deserve anything? “You deserve to be happy,” people say it all the time, but do we? What have we done that entitles us to endless happiness? Where in the Bible does it say that? Even Jesus suffered. Fortunately for us, the Bible doesn’t say we deserve to be sad forever either. Living by our fickle emotions will only get us into trouble, ladies. 

"For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast."
-Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB)

Setting healthy boundaries might hurt sometimes. Opening a bank account with only our name on it makes us feel guilty. Separating from our husbands because their decisions have jeopardized the safety of us and/or our children can break the heart. As long as our actions are coming from a place of love, God's Hand is in the situation. Not being able to submit to our husbands today doesn’t mean it will always be that way. For now, it’s okay to lead. 

Lead to Jesus. 


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