How to Find the Motivation to Submit to Your Spouse

With fear of a pandemic spreading across the globe, some people are running amuck—antibacterial gel and toilet paper in hand! 😉 What’s even more ridiculous is how we often completely ignore the other “relational” illnesses that afflict our lives and marriages.

Most of you know that when my marriage was at its messiest, arguing was a frequent symptom of what was truly making my marriage sick. The source of the “illness” for us was an inability to submit and focus on unity.

I was a chief offender in this, often resisting my husband’s decisions or judgments whenever I disagreed with him. Honestly, this still is a challenge for me, though I’ve learned to appreciate setting aside my agenda for our agenda.

Many conservative biblical experts say that submission in marriage is primarily the wife’s role and responsibility. And though I agree that God clearly commands a wife to submit to her husband, as well as determines a certain order in marriage, I also see that this should work both ways.

Allow me to explain my answer to this daunting question …

4 Reasons God Expects Submission in Marriage

Because it …

1. Requires humility that honors Christ.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” —Ephesians 5:21

Most point to the passage that follows this verse, rather than noting how this command is for every Christ-follower.

The world needs to see our gentleness, compassion, and love. Nothing shows that better than humble submission.

2. Tests our faith in God.

I think most wives struggle at one point or another to submit and unify with their husbands when disagreements arise. That’s why it requires and even tests our faith in God.

I submit to my husband, knowing that God is the One ultimately in control. God will work all things out for the good—for His good purposes (Romans 8:28). 

3. Reflects Jesus’ relationship to the Father and the church.

This is where God’s order in marriage reflects the order in the relationship between the Father and Son. Jesus always submits to the Father’s will, being completely unified/one with Him. Furthermore, Jesus operates as the head of His bride, which means the church/believers (Eph. 5:22-24).

As Christ-followers, we are to reflect this order in our marriages as well—giving the world a glimpse at this divine romance between Christ and His bride.

4. Keeps us unified and going in the same direction.

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” —Amos 3:3

Ever try to run a three-legged race going in different directions from your partner? It just won’t work! And it’s the same way in marriage. We must set aside our pride and find ways to agree—to be unified.

This takes a LOT of submission and humility, which ALSO reflects the attitude Christ kept in everything (Phil. 2:1-5).

This also goes for husbands, since this reflects Christ’s sacrificial choice to die for His bride. That’s the ultimate degree of submission for someone else’s sake! (Maybe this should be reason #5!)

How Submissive and Unified are You in Marriage?

Click to download the Submissive & Unified Inventory.

Hover over each Scripture to see where the questions spring from—scoring yourself with this grid: 1 never; 2 rarely; 3 sometimes; 4 often; 5 very often. 

Even though some of the verses I’m sharing point to either a wife or husband, apply the truth to yourself, no matter your gender.

1. When my spouse and I disagree, I’m more concerned with doing God’s will—including in how I respond—than getting my way (Luke 22:42).

I’m giving myself a 3 on this one. That’s because I’m far too selfish and me-focused. Still working on that week’s emphasis! 😉

If you struggle here, the answer is tucked inside Luke 22:42—find a way to do God’s will. If you’re a Christ-follower, this “answer” should motivate you. 

2. I realign my attitude to Christ’s, finding strength to be humble and submissive when I feel my spouse pulling away (Phil. 2:1-5).

The key part of this question for me is, “when I feel my spouse pulling away.” When that’s the case, it typically jolts me into finding a way to realign with Christ. So I’m probably a 4 here, with room for improvement.

3. I embrace the command to submit to my spouse because I know this divine order in marriage reflects Christ’s relationship to the church (Eph. 5:22-24).

Do I embrace this in my head or in my heart? I think I do in my head, but sometimes let my heart lead me astray. So I’d say I’m a 3.5 on this! Lol! Can I do that? Okay, okay! I’m a 3! 🙂

If you struggle here, remind yourself of God’s reasons for asking you to reflect Christ’s divine romance through the mirror of your marriage.

4. I regularly look for and make sacrifices in my marriage, hoping this reminds my spouse of how much I love and value him/her above myself (Eph. 5:25).

This one is tough because I know I’m not doing this often enough. But I do think that I make this an intentional focus most days. So I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt with a 4.

If you struggle here, you might want to call in reinforcements like an accountability partner, a counselor, or at the very least a “To-do Love List.”

5. When my spouse does not give me what I want, I still work hard at showing him/her respect and honor regardless (Romans 13:7).

I’m probably a 4 here. My husband and I have both worked on this over the years. We’ve even come to dub it “loving in faith”—loving when feelings of love are hard to come by.

If you struggle here, know that God expects you to do your part whether or not your spouse does his or hers. We may not need to trust everyone, but we all “owe” others respectful treatment.

6. My spouse would say that I work hard at finding resolutions we both can agree to, doing so respectfully (1 Corinthians 1:10).

I think I’m a 4 here. Part of it comes from being a pleaser who dislikes conflict. But the larger reason for me is that it blesses not only my husband but God as well.

If you struggle here, ask God to increase your awareness of Him in times of conflict. This is typically all I need to realign my heart with the Lord’s heart.

7. I prioritize love-making by freely giving of myself to my spouse, knowing this enhances our oneness and unity in marriage (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).

Did you know that when you don’t make “love-making” your priority, it actually weakens the unity in your marriage?

This is one reason why I make this a priority in my marriage—giving myself a 4 here.

If you struggle with this, remember this puts your spouse in a vulnerable position. So imagine the implications of this neglect. It might be all you need to step up your game!

8. I work hard at remaining sensitive to and fully available to care for and listen when my spouse needs my sympathy, love and compassion (1 Peter 3:8).

As a counselor and life-coach, this is where I shine. So I’ll rate myself a 5 here.

If you struggle with this, my suggestion would be to pray for God to give you greater insight into your spouse. Even just the simple act of praying for your mate—especially if you aren’t already—can be all the softening you need to move toward this “like-minded” and compassionate stance.

9. I don’t base my choices in marriage on my feelings of love, but rather act in loving ways to grow love for my spouse (Col. 3:14).

This one reflects my answer on #5, so I’ll give myself a 4 here as well. I’m firmly convinced that loving choices lead to loving feelings.

If you struggle here, ask God to convince you of this as well!

10. Whenever our parents (or children) try to undermine or interfere in our marriage, I find ways to support and make my spouse my first priority (Gen. 2:24).

I probably score a 5 here because I’ve truly learned my lesson—having failed at this early on in my marriage.

If you struggle here, this could be a huge deal-MAKER—tearing down walls of hurt and resentment between you and your spouse.

My application for this week will be to work on #1. When disagreements arise in my life/marriage, I’m going to focus on doing God’s will above all else. Click here to view/download the Submissive and Unified Inventory to know how to tabulate your overall score. Then choose one area of weakness to formulate an action point like I did and am! Click Insight for 2020 Series to find all the other posts in this series. Click here to request to be added to the private FB group that’s supporting one another in this Insight for 2020 effort! 

Be sure to join me next week when I’ll be examining how trusting you are of your spouse. Sometimes this is your mate’s fault, sometimes it’s your fault and sometimes it’s a combination of the two. Come back by to see where you land!  


What will you choose to work on this week in your life and marriage, and why?


What tempts you the most to go your own way rather than seek unity?

12 responses to “How to Find the Motivation to Submit to Your Spouse”

  1. This has become such a touchy subject, and I think it’s because we forget that marriage is not about us or our preferences, but rather a shadow of the huge reality of Christ and the church. I’m sure there are some husbands for whom the “burden” of spiritual leadership is as onerous as the weight of submission is to some women.
    Thanks be to God, we don’t have to fill these roles in a vacuum!


  2. Beth, I always love and value your authenticity. It’s such a breath of fresh air! Your points really highlighted not only the command to submit to our husbands, but the blessing and benefit of it as well! As you said, Jesus was the perfect example of this and it is following his example that we do so. I want to keep this for myself and save it to give to my kids when they grow up!! Thank you!!


  3. I love your approach of distinguishing between symptoms and causes. Too often we only see the surface symptom and try to treat it, when we really need to dig out the root to eliminate it altogether. Thanks, Beth, for your persistent encouragement to take our relationships seriously.


  4. I don’t submit to no one,
    for I am not a mouse.
    Not the Father, not the Son,
    and darn sure not my spouse.
    I stand upon my own two feet
    tall beneath the desert sky;
    no one here will pipe retreat,
    there’s wars to be yet won!
    But life can be, you know, a mess,
    and I’ve seen too many dead,
    so I guess I must confess;
    some days I’d like to bow my head,
    shrug off this steely constitution
    and accept the grace of absolution.


  5. I could not agree more that in a healthy marriage, submission goes both ways. A big dose of humility (my word for the year) goes a long way in healing a troubled marriage relationship. Unfortunately, I had to find this out the hard way too!


  6. What a GREAT checklist, Beth, to get us thinking about areas of our lives where we are holding back and not submitting to our husbands AND God! Thank you for these reminders! Even the best of marriages need these reminders.


    Thank you for linking up at InstaEncouragements!


  7. Beth,
    Wow! Some tough questions to ask myself here! This point hit home: “God expects us to do our part even if our spouse isn’t doing theirs.” I can’t say, “I’ll do this if my spouse does that…” Humility and pride are two key issues. Sometimes I simply need to get over myself in order to submit. It is hard to humble ourselves and put another’s needs above our own. And pride…it creeps in every on of our relationships. The desire to be right, justified, validated, esteemed, can be carried way to far by pride. I continually have to remind myself that God loves a humble and contrite heart, especially in a marriage relationship. So many great nuggets of truth here! Hope you are hunkering down and staying safe!!
    Bev xx


  8. Haha, I’m sitting beside my husband and I blurt out “Yes, I got a 5 on 2 of them this week!” he’s familiar with me sharing things from these check lists the last few weeks! We both laughed! On a serious note, we have been praying that our marriage be strengthened and reflect God and his bride(thechurch). As always, Beth, you have given me things to reflect! #rechargewednesday linkup


  9. Bethany McIlrath Avatar
    Bethany McIlrath

    I appreciate these points and the inventory! I think “submit to one another” is often overlooked in discussions of submission in marriage. Thanks for bringing that up! We all evidence Christ when we wisely, humbly, and graciously choose to submit. I’d be curious to consider how God’s Words to slaves and masters tie in here too (since they are not familial relations but are mentioned in similar contexts!)


  10. I love your point that we can’t base how we act in marriage on our feelings but on God’s truths. Finding the motivation to submit to your spouse is hard at times but this is a great list! It was great finding you in the grace and truth link-up!


  11. Great post, Beth. I’m glad you reminded us that submission is for every Christ-follower. While it may be hard for us as wives, I also try to remember that God is ultimately the one in control when I submit to the authority of my husband as you noted.


  12. I have shared before that when I was married one of the biggest reasons we began to face challenges was the lack of God at the center of our marriage. If marriage is a reflection of Jesus and His Bride the Church then we need to make sure Jesus is present in our marriage. I wish I knew then what I know now. Thank you for being so honest about your own marriage as you share practical ways for couples to grow their own.


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