I would like to get some feedback from your experiences as women about something less talked about; female led relationships, or FLR.
Please understand this has nothing to do with S&M or dominating female sexual behavior; more so, that he feels I am more of a leader and he is happy to wait on me hand and foot and have me leave him lists of things to do, etc., and essentially ‘serve’ me; something that I am not at all use to.
My dilemma is two-fold. I was raised Southern Baptist, being taught female obedience to the husband, and after many, many ill instances of abuse I’m not buying it anymore.
I try to honor God in all that I choose to do in my life my work, and when my husband approached me about his interest in a female-led relationship a couple of years ago I’ve been running the ‘godliness’ test ever since.
I cannot find anything in Biblical resources that even touch the subject, so I almost feel like I’m left to use the reverse testing which is ‘if it doesn’t take away from my relationship with God, then ok’.
Help! and thank you!
-Questions on an unfamiliar subject
I’m going to be honest; I had never heard of FLRs (Female Led Relationships) so I had to do a lot of research in order to fully understand what this type of relationship entails. Here’s a quick summary for those unfamiliar with this topic:
An FLR (Female-Led Relationship) is defined as “a relationship in which the woman is in control or is the dominant partner.”
The depth to which the wife has authority over the relationship varies; it can include various kinds of dominant behavior by the female partner, such as control over finances, where the couple lives, works, or how they live on a daily basis. Many times, an FLR entails the domination and subordination of the man; even sexual activity can be completely controlled by the woman who determines how and when sex is practiced.
The husband usually asks for the woman to lead and have authority over the relationship; he might even ask to pamper her or serve her like a butler. Many men want the woman to rule over them, make demands and punish them for any disobedience.
So, Does an FLR follow God’s blueprint for marriage?
While there are not many Christian resources that touch on this subject, THE biblical resource does answer this question. Every Christian marriage is going to look different and function differently but it should follow the basic blueprint for marriage roles:
- Wives should submit and respect their husbands as the Church submits to Christ (Eph. 5:22-24, 33; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:5; Ti. 2:3-5)
- Husbands should sacrificially love and lead their wives as Christ sacrificed himself for the Church (Eph. 5:23-33; Col. 3:19)
- Husbands and wives should treat each other as brothers and sisters in Christ (Gen. 1:26-27; Gal. 3:26-29)
In an FLR, do the roles mirror the relationship between Christ and the Church?
I’m sorry that you have witnessed so much abuse and distortion of God’s plan for marriage. It breaks my heart when something God designed for our good is ruined by human sin, hurts people and damages the Gospel. Female inferiority, forced obedience, and abuse were never part of God’s plan.
A wife is called to submit to her husband but she is not called to obey him; there is a difference in Scripture. Submission is a voluntary choice of the heart, which can only come from an intrinsic equality within the relationship. Obedience is based on a hierarchy within the relationship. A wife can choose whether or not she’ll submit to her husband or submit to God, it cannot be forced; it is an attitude of the heart. But obedience is an action of complying with the orders of the hierarchy. Children are commanded to obey their parents, slaves are to obey their masters (this is like the employee/employer relationship today), and citizens are to obey their government, but wives are never commanded to obey their husbands.
In an FLR, the submissive and obedient role is given over to the husband. This can seem quite appealing for women who have seen or experience first-hand abusive relationships, but changing the role of leader to the woman doesn’t keep the relationship from becoming abusive; it just changes who is getting abused. I read blog upon blog, website upon website, forum upon forum about how the men were treated as inferior, their every behavior controlled and any deviance from this behavior led to discipline, even physical punishment.
Just as extreme Complementarianism/patriarchy views and treats women as inferior and controllable, FLR’s begin to view men the same way. Both of these types of relationships are distortions of what God intended for husbands and wives. If a woman is treated like a slave, not allowed to have an opinion on family decisions, and disciplined for “disobedience,” the world would call this abuse – but why is it acceptable for men to be treated in this way? Domestic abuse/discipline is wrong no matter who is the head of the household.
Neither husband nor wife should be mastered, bossed around, and punished for “disobedience.” Marriage is not a version of slavery or the parent/child relationship. Your husband is not your ruler and the wife should not be the ruler over her husband either. Husbands and wives are two equal image bearers of God, brought together to fulfill their different roles that mirror Christ’s relationship to the Church and bring glory to God and His Gospel.
In an FLR, do husbands mirror Christ’s leadership over the Church?
“Whoever is the best leader leads” isn’t part of the blueprint God created in Scripture. Your husband may or may not be naturally the best leader, but God still asks him to be the leader in his marriage. There are many things that don’t come naturally for us that God asks us to do, such as loving others, putting people’s needs before our own, or reading God’s Word. There are also many things that do come naturally for us that God asks us to abstain from, including sex outside of marriage, lying, and selfishness. A man may say, “You know, I’m just not that great at trusting God and my wife is better so I’m going to let her do it for us.” Just because you are or are not good at something or whether it comes naturally or not doesn’t negate your obedience to God’s commands for your life, your marriage or your relationship with Christ.
God commanded for husbands to take the loving leadership role, just as Christ is the loving leader of the Church. But, in an FLR, the biblical marital roles are reversed and the wife becomes the leader of the relationship. When the roles are reversed so is the picture of Christ and the Church. As Sarah states in ‘Gender Roles: What’s the Big Deal,’ “Role reversal would not only go against Scripture’s clear teaching in Ephesian 5 for male headship, but also misrepresent the relationship between Christ and the church.” If the analogy is going to remain consistent as laid out in Scripture, then the roles in an FLR suggest that Christ submits to the Church and the Church leads Christ. This is a distortion of the Gospel and damages our personal relationships with Christ as well.
In FLRs, do husbands and wives treat each other as equals in Christ?
After much research, one of the problems I noticed was that it puts women on a pedestal over men and can view men as of less worth than women. A poll taken among those practicing FLR revealed that 39% believe women are superior to men, 49% believe women are superior in some ways to men, and only 12% believe women are not superior to men.
Neither man, nor woman, is superior; we are both made in the image of God and equals before Christ. (Gen. 1:26-27, Gal. 3:28) But this is not found in an FLR relationship. As one blogger wrote: “But for men and women who seek out female led relationships, equality is not part of the deal.” God’s blueprint for marriage roles should never lead to the superiority of either the husband or wife. Over and over I read of the wife treating the husband as insubordinate and him feeling like he was subservient to her. There was a consistent thread of emotional, psychological and physical abuse, not the picture of equality, Christ-like love towards each other and self-sacrifice as Scripture commands.
When our marital roles fail to obey God’s commands, our relationship with Christ will eventually be damaged. We cannot distort the Gospel without damaging our spiritual relationship too. Our marriages mirror the Gospel and show the world what a relationship with Christ is like.
Should husbands help out around the house? Of course. Should wives be consulted in family decisions? Of course. But, in my opinion, I believe that FLRs take marital roles to extremes that distort the Gospel and are not what God desires for the husband/wife relationship.
Some more recommended sources:
- I Don’t Get Submission
- Gender Roles:What’s the Big Deal?
- Truths of Submission
- Myth of Submission
- How Husbands Should Love Their Wives