Part of the problem, too, in my opinion, is that we've lost our way as a gender. I'm all for equal rights, don't get me wrong; we all deserve respect. But, marriage has changed in society as our roles have changed over time. And as a result, divorce rates have gone up. There are a lot of reasons for this (which I won't go into here), but I think a lot of it has to do with our expectations as men and women. Women want to have options. We want to be able to work or not work...have kids or not have kids...be loved, romanced, respected, and revered, be in charge, and have the fairy tale. I'm generalizing here, of course, but it seems to me a lot of women want options to do and be whatever they want, but they don't want any expectations put on them. I suppose the same could be said of men...I'm not being sexist here.
Our guys are on the sidelines trying to figure out what side to root for. Some of us are telling them - don't worry about bringing home the bacon on your own, love...I can do it, too. For lots of guys, that's cool. They have no problem sharing the load. It takes the weight off of them and makes it possible to pay the bills (yes, I get it - for many of us, two incomes are the only way to survive). The problem arises when women try to tackle it all: raising kids and being supermom (seriously, Pintrest is the devil - it makes us all look bad), keeping an awesome house (why exactly did this become a societal competition?), looking amazing (diet, gym, next fad?). All this "control" leads us to feeling "out of control." And it confuses the hell out of most men? What they hell are they good for if we can do everything? Are they just along for the ride? Are they just there to pick up the slack? Or are we going to let them be men? Do we have the strength to give them back their most valuable roles? Men are (usually) natural protectors and providers. That doesn't mean women are weak...it just means we (usually) are better care-takers. These are, of course, generalizations. And I'm not saying this concept of "secular submission" is for everyone.
Men and women are both capable. But, to keep things going smoothly, decisions have to be made. In a relationship, each person needs to take some of the weight. How a couple divides it is up to them, but it has a lot to do with the personalities, talents, and needs of the people involved. For our family, I'm better at keeping house, he's better at cooking. I'm better at keeping up with our son's extra-curricular activities, he's better at discipline. I'm better at grocery shopping, he's better at keeping the finances. It's a constant balancing act that requires answers to questions like:
Who did I marry? What does that person need most? What does he or she want most?
I'm not saying that we should roll over and be doormats. But, when we got married, we sort of signed on to be partners...to build each other up...to stand beside each other. If we wanted total freedom - we wouldn't have chosen this path. If we wanted total equality...we would be out there burning our bras. Marriage is not a feminist institution. It's an agreement between two people that involves compromise and hard work. In marriage, we aren't likely to get everything we want. But something we should expect is that our partner will do everything in his or her power to make us happy - if we do the same. It's a symbiotic relationship. And there IS a recipe for making it work.
The difficulty is finding the right ingredients, knowing that over time, we may need to change things up a bit.
A "secular submissive" is a woman (or man, I suppose) who does everything in her power to be the woman her husband needs and wants. She doesn't take abuse, but sometimes she has to learn to keep her opinions in check and her mouth on notice. She has to learn her husband inside and out. What makes him feel strong and powerful? What makes him feel weak? What does he love about her? What would he change? It doesn't mean losing yourself. But it does mean learning to make him happy. It means...when you have two choices, and he'd prefer one, you go with that - because you love him - and because it makes you happy to make him happy.
The benefit? He's likely to do the same, eventually, because he'll feel grateful to have such an accommodating and hard-working woman at his side.
The "secular submissive" concept is also my answer to the more religious "submissive wife." See, I'm not Christian (though I'm plenty spiritual in my own way). I've done a lot of research on submissive wives, and while a lot of the ideas work for me, the religious references often don't. So, I had to come up with a personal application. I still use some of those religious principles as a springboard (and I'll write about some of that here), but "secular submissives" do not have to believe in God. I am not doing this for a higher power, I'm doing it for me, for my husband, and for my marriage. And in some ways, that makes it harder. To say you're doing something for God can take the sting out of unpleasant choices and actions. You can rise above it. Your husband isn't God. So resentment is an emotion that can easily rear it's head when he isn't giving what he's getting. That's something a "secular submissive" really needs to learn to deal with.
Being submissive takes guts, even though it stems from a person's natural predilection. It takes a lot of soul-searching and consideration. You have to figure out what you need most and want most...and you have to figure out what your man needs and wants most. And then you've got to put him first. Before yourself. Before your children. Before your work. If you want your marriage to be amazing.
I'm still learning the way here. And I'm by no means and expert. But, I'm at a point in my journey where I'm ready to start sharing.
Why bother, might you ask? Especially when I know I'm opening myself up to criticism from both the feminists and the religious "submissives"? Well, because in my research, I haven't found anything for those of us non-religious folks who want healthy marriages with traditional gender roles. I'm tired of feeling like a failure as a woman because I can't hold down a full-time job, raise an amazing kid, and be a killer wife. I think a lot of women feel that way. I think a lot of MEN feel that way. We've put far too much pressure on ourselves - too many expectations on our gender roles. Men are now expected to be strong protectors who romance their wives and be vulnerable and sensitive...but only when their women want it. They're supposed to help raise the children and help with the housework and give up all their time to the wife and family. They're supposed to listen to their wives and support their dreams and be the backbone of the family. It's a bit much, don't you think? Wouldn't it be easier if we all let each other off the hook a bit? Cooled our expectations?
It takes a lot of saying "no". It takes a lot making choices. But, ultimately, the goal is a lasting, happy marriage that benefits everyone involved.
I look back at the women of the past. Those hard-working, stay-at-home moms who always put their kids first. Husbands expected to be put first...and society sure had a lot to say to women about how they could and should put their men first. But there was a lot of underlying resentment towards men. Men asked for what they wanted in unsuccessful ways. And women did as they were told with hidden anger and growing depression. Sure, some of them found happiness. But, the feminist movement wouldn't have happened if women, as a whole, were happy. They wanted opportunity. They wanted respect.
But what if we could be respected AND be good wives and mothers? What if we could be happy "June Cleavers" with meaningful work outside and inside the home? What if we embraced our gender? What if we made it our own? What if we reveled in it instead of trying to be more like men to prove ourselves worthy? We don't have to be tough in the same ways. We have our own kind of strength. And femininity is a virtue, girls...not a weakness. Our more nurturing ways are necessary to society. Our ability to mother and care for is imperative. No...it isn't for everyone. And those women who choose a different path...more power to them. I don't judge women who decide to devote their lives to becoming CEOs and politicians...women who want to change the world and use their power and intelligence to do that. I think they can even find the right men to marry if they choose.
For me, however...things are different. I married a traditional man with some alternative interests. And I'm learning to adapt to my world - because I love him to the moon and back.
There are different types of submission. My philosophy (which is always in a state of metamorphosis) is currently broken into two concepts: sexual submission and mental/emotional submission. Notice there is no spiritual submission? Yep...that's the difference between secular submission and religious submission, because, quite honestly, religious submission includes both of the other types, too. That spiritual component is the thing that makes religious submission possible and necessary. You're doing it all for God. With secular submission, you're doing it because it works and because it's just the right thing for your marriage. It is an on-going choice you make because you love someone and because it makes things run more smoothly for everyone involved - and because it meets the soul needs of the people involved.
This is about seeking happiness. It's about finding a place of harmony, balance, and calm. In a way...that IS spiritual. I'm the yang to his yin. We are equally necessary, but our roles are very different. And we continually aspire to improve upon what has already established.
For us, submission is just natural.