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Submissive wife - Or Mekabel?

Have you been hearing what I'm hearing?

An article in Mishpacha Magazine.

A podcast episode on Headlines.

All addressing the question:

"Is The Submissive Wife a Torah concept?"


You may recognize this terminology as a mis-rendering of the title of Laura Doyle's groundbreaking and controversial book, The Surrendered Wife.

And it seems that many people have isolated, magnified, and taken out of context, one suggestion apparently made in the book: That a wife should allow her husband to make all decisions in the household.

Now whoa, whoa, calm down there.

'Cuz if you've been hanging around this space for a while, you KNOW I'm not going to advocate that, right?

So what bothers me is not so much whether or when this advice might be correct.

Rather, it's the rampant misunderstanding of the entire Mashpia/Mekabel relationship - effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

So let's get back to basics, shall we?

The foundation of the Mashpia/Mekabel relationship is that men are wired to be Providers: the Giver, the Leader, the one who sets the path and leads the way.

As a Mekabel, a wife receives from her husband and builds with it. She taps into the power of that relationship when she notices and appreciates what she receives from her husband, respects him for it. and expresses her desires in a way that inspires his natural inclination to please his wife.

The result? NOT a bunch of repressed and oppressed skirt-wearing doormats, as a superficial view might imply.

Rather, tens of thousands of happier wives AND husbands, who find that their relationships are more deeply connected, with more emotional intimacy than they ever imagined.

So what's with this making decisions bit? Does this mean that a wife is mevater for everything? For the big things? For her wants but not for her needs? That she gives in on the little things so she can hoard some collateral for bargaining on the really significant stuff?

Now that we have our foundation in place, we can better understand why those questions are essentially meaningless. Because the answer is "it depends" - but not in the way you might have thought previously.

It all depends on whose paper it's on.

Meaning - is this issue about the husband's own responsibilities, or actions that affect himself directly? Like

  • What he eats

  • How he dresses

  • Paying the electric bill

  • How he runs his business

Well, in that case most likely the wife would grant him the respect, dignity and trust to make the decision that is right for him.

Is it something that directly affects her? Like

  • which restaurant to go to

  • which recliner to buy

  • how much help she would like in the kitchen

  • when she takes a nap

Then she expresses her needs or wants as a desire - what she wants, not as something he needs to do or change. Something like this:

  • I would love to go to the new Mexican eatery

  • It would make me so happy to have the blue recliner

  • I want to take a nap on Shabbos for 1/2 hour

And finally - what if it's something that affects the family, like

  • where to send the kids to school

  • where to go for the Pesach seder

  • what neighborhood to live in

Here's were it gets sticky, right? Because if the husband is the Mashpia, does that mean he gets to make those decisions on his own?

Well, not really.

When it comes to decisions that affect the family or the children, that calls for a discussion.

Notice that I said a discussion - NOT a fight!

(Know how to do that? Few couples do. That's why we devote most of an entire class in The Secret Spark course to... peaceful, balanced conflict resolution..)

Having said that, I'll leave you with some food for thought:

When a wife has built her relationship so that her husband feels her trust and respect, and she actively receives from him by expressing desires and showing appreciation...

then she has created a relationship in which she is confident that her husband truly wants to make her happy in any way he reasonably can....

and sometimes she might want to structure the Discussion something like this:

  • Listen deeply to her husband's opinion

  • Express her desire non-confrontationally, and then

  • Trust that he will make a decision giving all possible consideration to making her happy.

That's really different from "being mevater to the husband's decision on everything," isn't it?

And if it still bothers you, that's perfectly fine - you can always revert back to the regular, garden-variety balanced problem-solving method of your choice.

And meanwhile, you might want to re-visit the greater topic of the Mashpia/Mekabel relationship, and learn how it has brought more joy, more connection and more emotional intimacy to countless frum marriages.

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