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Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Complementarian or 'Traditional' Marriage -- Is It Really the Ideal?

Every marriage is unique. There is no "one-size-fits-all" type of marriage. Just as every individual is different, every marriage too is one-of-a-kind. However, every marriage is bound to fall under any one of the categories which I will mention below, with give or take some minor and special distinctions. Find out where your marriage falls under and assess if it is working for you.

There are apparently three kinds of marriages, as I have only recently realized, from my research. 

First is the WIFE-LED or the 

The wife is in-charge in this marriage.


                                                     Next is the EGALITARIAN or the 
                                                             PARTNERSHIP MARRIAGE.
Nobody is the boss of anybody in this marriage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And lastly... 

                                                                                   The COMPLEMENTARIAN                                                                                         or the TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE.

The husband is the head of his wife in this marriage.

As a recap...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The Wife-Led Marriage is "when both spouses agree that the wife will act as the leader and the ultimate authority. Sexual activity may be completely controlled by the woman who determines when and how sex is to be practiced."

The Egalitarian Marriage is "when both spouses agree that there will be no leader and no structure in the marriage. Theoretically, everything operates on an equal plane. Intimacy is a major concern and each partner is equally free to initiate behavior that will lead to sex."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The last type of marriage I will discuss is the "Traditional" Marriage or what people now call as the Complementarian Marriage.


According to, a complementarian view of marriage is :

"the teaching that masculinity and femininity are ordained by God and that men and women are created to complement, or complete each other. Complementarians believe that the gender roles found in the Bible are purposeful and meaningful distinctions that, when applied in the home and church, promote the spiritual health of both men and women. Embracing the divinely ordained roles of men and woman furthers the ministry of God’s people and allows men and women to reach their God-given potential.

The complementarian view starts with Genesis 1:26–27, which says that God created humanity, male and female, in His own image. Genesis 2:18 contains the further detail that God created Eve specifically to complement Adam: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The two genders are, therefore, part of God’s created order. Any modern-day blurring of the genders or distortion of the roles is a result of the Fall.

Complementarianism follows Ephesians 5:21–33 as the model for the home. The husband has the role of headship in the family. He is to nurture his wife and lead his family lovingly, humbly, and sacrificially. The wife has the role of nurturing her children and intentionally, willingly submitting to her husband’s leadership. When both husband and wife are complementing each other in this way, Christ is honored. In fact, the marriage itself becomes what it was designed to be: a living picture of Christ and the church (verse 32)."

Wikipedia explains it further:

Complementarianism holds that "God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church."[4] Proponents of Complementarianism generally see the Bible as the infallible word of God.[5]

The complementarian position is seen to uphold what has been the most traditional teaching[6] on gender roles in the church. However, the terms "traditionalist" or "hierarchicalist" are usually avoided by complementarians, as the former “implies an unwillingness to let Scripture challenge traditional patterns of behavior”, while the latter “overemphasizes structured authority while giving no suggestion of equality or the beauty of mutual interdependence”. Therefore, they prefer the term complementarian, “since it suggests both equality and beneficial differences”.[7]

According to the Christian post too: "A recent study suggests that married couples will have more sex and be less likely to divorce if they assume more traditional gender roles where the husband does 40 percent of the housework and the wife earns 40 percent of the income."

As I have shared in my previous posts, I have experienced  

With one child - 2005
2004 to 2005: TRADITIONAL

When Dong and I first got married, we had a "traditional marriage" with "traditional" roles. He was the provider and I was the homemaker. I call this phase "traditional" because I still was not entirely aware that such a set-up was "Godly". I was aware though that the husband working while the wife stayed at home was what was more acceptable, usual or "normal". I had part-time jobs but my main roles back then were to take care of him, nurture and breastfeed our first baby Therese, and keep our new and humble home clean and homey. I was content being second-fiddle to my husband. The "highlight" of my day was when he would home from work. That was our "us" time when we would talk and bond. It was a lovely time. :)

With two kids - 2007
2006 to 2008: EGALITARIAN (but leaning towards WIFE-LED in the latter part)

We transferred residences and I got more higher-paying part-time jobs. Dong was also employed and together we contributed to the household's income. Good thing though because on top of the house's mortgage (We were living in my father's mortgaged house because Papa asked that I pay for its monthly amortization since he was at that time in a deep financial bind.), we also had another baby, Andre. We shared in paying the bills, attending to the kids' needs and had a good partnership in maintaining peace and order in our more spacious home. Our roles were not as defined, but it was a generally pleasant time, with some minor problems (mostly financial due to Papa's mortgage). 

With three kids - 2010
2009 to 2011: WIFE-LED (but became EGALITARIAN in the latter part)

My Papa died sometime in late 2008 and it led to me, being somewhat "crazy", for lack of a better word. My obsessive approval-seeking behavior towards my father went full-hilt again after his death. I became dominant and controlling over Dong and our marriage to "please" my (dead) father. Because Dong was sort of at a loss during this time (He resigned  from his highly stressful job.), I took it upon myself to "lead" the family. Incidentally, my career was in full-swing and I was earning well. Him, being passive and by his own admission, a bit "clueless" (I made it worse by being impatient and overly critical.), I started "wearing the pants" but became very bitter and resentful in the process. I got to make all the major decisions and direct the family towards the path I wanted, but I was so unhappy and I felt so unloved. :( Dong felt so depressed too that he wanted to separate from me and even worse than that, die! :(

Pregnant with our 4th - 2012
2012: EGALITARIAN (but leaning towards HUSBAND-LED)

The last quarter of 2011 was so bad that Dong could not bear it anymore and told me (while crying) about how hurt he was of my behavior. Because of that revelation, I told God to search my heart and change how I viewed our situation, if I could not change my husband. So, when 2012 was ushered in, I was already more respectful of Dong and asked him to make most of the major decisions. I was not as controlling anymore and I was generally happier again. 2012 too was to be my "fulfilled dreams" year. Everything I wanted to happen in my career happened in that year! What was not part of the plan was the fourth baby the Lord would give us once more. My career was going full-blast when I surprisingly got pregnant again! I was depressed at first but eventually accepted it as God's Plan for me. Little did I know that that baby would be crucial to my change of heart and my 180 degrees turn-around of character in 2013.

With four kids - 2013
2013 - 1st to 2nd Quarter : Semi-COMPLEMENTARIAN 

I would not consider it "complementarian" yet because we still had no clearly defined roles, but I felt more and more comfortable again in making my husband decide on important family matters, and more and more comfortable too of not working. Being pregnant for the first quarter of the year made that an easy decision for me to do. I was just too tired to take on extra work and responsibilities. Tutoring the kids and dragging my heavy belly every day were already difficult chores for me! I did not have much energy to do anything. At that time too, I was still reeling from a very stressful circumstance, brought about by my unexpected and sudden resignation from my job. Dong served as my protector and defender against some bosses from that company. I was content just being home to recover from the hurt that incident had caused and to relax as well, because I was already heavily pregnant by then.

Surrendered Nikka with my family - 2014
2013 - 3rd Quarter till present : COMPLEMENTARIAN but what I'd rather call now as CHRIST-LED :)

After I gave birth to Isabelle in April 2013, I started becoming more and more hungry for God's Word. I kept on reading the Bible and my book, "The Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free" by Nancy Leigh De Moss. (This was the book my husband gave me as a newly-wed in 2004 and which I loved reading too at that time.) The more I found the Truth in His Word, the more my desire was to be set free from all my spiritual bondages. It was during this time when I asked God to search my heart. I was sooooo tired of being constantly worried, anxious, depressed and fearful of the future!

In September 2013, after the Lord convicted me of my sins and opened up my spiritual eyes, I
submitted to God fully, and then, submitted to my husband Dong. It was that humble gesture of submission that the Lord used to break me free from all my spiritual bondages.

Whereas before I was constantly fearful, now, I am constantly peaceful.
Whereas before I was constantly depressed, now, I am constantly joyful.
Whereas before I was constantly having ludicrous battles with PMS, now, I have won over my hormones.

 To the point that Dong has to ask me now if I am about to have my period already. In the past, all he had to do was to look at my grumpy/tearful face and scrunched forehead and he would already avoid me at all costs! LOL. My LAST battle with PMS was in early December 2013. Read about it here.

There are still attempts by the Enemy to deceive me and by this sinful flesh to rear its ugly head once more, but being aware of them helps a lot. What I do now is hold every thought captive for Christ. 

                                        2 Corinthians 10:5
5 "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

I uproot every sinful thought immediately the moment it appears. I look to the Word for the Truth as soon as I feel a pang of restlessness or envy or fear. The only way to go against satan's deceptions is to always look towards the Truth. And Truth is not just an "absolute truth", as in "real facts" as opposed to lies (although it is that too) but the Truth is (if I may quote the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis) "according to Christian faith, the love of God for us in Jesus Christ. Therefore truth is a relationship."  

It is this new and renewed relationship I have now with Jesus Who holds the Truth and IS The TRUTH, Who is my WAY towards having a full and meaningful LIFE, despite all the trials and problems that still continue to arise, even after having submitted myself fully to Him.

* * *
Let's go back to the COMPLEMENTARIAN MARRIAGE. In simple terms, this is "when both spouses agree to complement and complete each other by following their God-ordained gender-related roles in the Bible, that is, the husband is the head of the family and the wife is the nurturer and follower. When both husband and wife are complementing each other in this way, Christ is honored."
Dong always tells me we are so "complementary."
His strengths are my weaknesses and vice-versa.
He says we have become better people because we
continue to learn from each other. :) -- January 2014

Something about the word itself,  the euphemistic and politically correct "complementarian" feels not quite right with me. I feel it is too secular and hardly explains the heart and spirit behind such a type of marriage setup. :(

I also feel that one can just follow it based on the letter and not by the spirit. A couple can go through the rigors of that setup and achieve relative "peace, harmony and order" in the home that a "normal, traditional" setup usually attains for the simple fact that men are intrinsically wired by the Creator to be leaders and women as responders from the beginning of time, before Adam and Eve's Fall.

But, for it to be really LIFE-CHANGING and FULFILLING, more than just complementing each other because of each sex's inherent strengths and differences, both the husband and the wife should not focus on their roles per se, but on Christ and Him Alone.

It is easy to fall into the "role-playing game" and focus on just finishing those tasks. 

Nikka and Dong - August 2013
The husband's roles are:

  • leader
  • protector
  • provider
  • final decision-maker

The wife's roles are:
  • follower
  • nurturer
  • helper
  • supporter

Just following these roles would not ensure a "happy" marriage. I would assume that many in this kind of "traditional" setup are not exactly beaming with joy. Some may even resent their supposed "God-given roles". Some may even skew this kind of setup by being overtly dominant (abusive husband) or by being overtly submissive (doormat wife). Although for the most part, many in this kind of "natural" setup are more likely to end up "happy" and not separate or divorce, simply because this "traditional" setup usually creates far lesser tensions and frictions than a wife-led or egalitarian marriage usually produces.
Wife-Led Marriages are usually the
ones with the most tension and friction.

When a marriage is CHRIST-LED though (not just husband-led and definitely not wife-led!), the roles themselves act as godly vehicles for each spouse to honor God. I believe that in and by themselves, the roles are not "magical". As I've mentioned, some spouses "hate" their "boxed Biblical roles". Some spouses also grossly misunderstand their roles and get totally off-mark, leading to abuse and oppression!

Spirit-Led Marriage - 2014
But, when all eyes are focused on Christ and in following His commandment for us wives to respect and submit to our husbands (and at the other end of the spectrum, for husbands to love their wives), everything becomes easier and a joy to do! It fails to become a chore. It fails to become just those marked "to-do's" in our long checklists. The roles themselves are transformed from mere "natural gender obligations" to "holy acts of love" that have a "supernatural" quality to them. In following Christ via our God-ordained roles (regardless of how our spouse acts or reacts), we are able to elevate the simple act of submission to our husbands, to mimicking the way the Church submitted to Christ!

Christ- Led family - Feb 2014
When a marriage is Christ-Led, the heart is in the right place. The motivations are correct. The spirit is aright. The focus is not on the spouse, not on the Biblical roles, not on anything or anyone -- but only towards Christ. 

Right now, as I go through this season in my life as a submissive wife, I always remind myself why I am in this journey in the first place: Is it just to have a happy family life? Is it just to have a more loving husband? Is it just to be more peaceful? None of those are bad or wrong. In fact, I am experiencing all of those good things constantly now! :) But, I always have to remember that the Reason I am doing all this is for God and Him Alone. Everything else is just a bonus.

I always have to constantly ask myself: Am I willing to let God direct me and show His Will for me, by submitting to and supporting my husband Dong, and his decisions for the family; thereby acknowledging that whatever outcome his decisions may result to, is God's Will for me?  The answer isYES.
Our youngest baby, Isabelle :) -Feb 2014

The question might be different if I were single and unmarried and the things I write about in this blog may be not as applicable... But, as a married woman, I am under my husband's headship, and I fully accept my role now as his helper and follower. I fully embrace our differences in our physical, emotional, and mental makeup. I fully celebrate our equality in the Eyes of God while also understanding humbly our "inequality" in terms of our God-ordained roles. 

So, to the question: The Complementarian or "Traditional" Marriage -- Is It Really the Ideal? My answer is: YES and NO.

Birthday of Therese - Dec 2013

YES because fulfilling our family roles based on God's composition of us as male (initiator) and female (responder) is quite ideal. It is "more natural" and doesn't go against the grain of our human nature, thereby producing relatively happier marriages, than say, a Wife-Led or Egalitarian one where there is almost always a power struggle.

NO because as I've mentioned above, one can be doing all the "right" things from the outset (following the husband, relinquishing the leadership role, etc.) and still not have one's heart and spirit aright (bitter, resentful, unhappy). 

What is IDEAL and this is completely my point-of-view alone, (Note: You can Google this all you want and not find it substantiated or agreed upon anywhere!) is a  Christ-Led Marriage, wherein the couple focuses on pleasing God and Him Alone, and the complementary roles just flow "naturally", in following His commandment for us husbands and wives.

                                                  Ephesians 5:22-33

Surrendered Wife, Nikka :) - Feb 18, 2014
22 "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy,cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church 
 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

So, maybe the next time somebody asks me what kind of marriage setup Dong and I have, my answer will be, "The Biblical one. The one wherein I submit to my husband, the way the Church submits to Christ."

And, if they further ask, "Oh, so it's the husband-led one?" My answer will be, "Yes in a way, because I have submitted to Christ first and I believe that in following my husband's leadership, I am, in effect, following Christ too, because Dong is my God-ordained authority here on earth, by the sacrament of Marriage. But if I would have to be strictly accurate about it, our marriage is Christ-Led. I focus on Christ and His Teachings and everything else stems from there, including submitting to my imperfect but loving husband, Dong." :)

Sisters in Christ, what is YOUR marriage setup? Are you happy with it? Do you want more fulfillment from it? Focus on Christ and Him Alone. He is THE Ideal. He is THE Leader. Let's all follow what He Says. If we do follow Him and Him Alone, everything else (peace, joy, love...) will surely follow. :)
                                    Matthew 6:33
 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

May we all be richly blessed! :)


  1. P.S. I changed it from 'Spirit-Led' (my initial post) to 'Christ-Led' because although they are One and the Same being part of the Trinity, it is more apt to call it Christ-Led since it is Christ we are setting our sight on and "leading" us. It is the Spirit though that allows for us to transform our human roles into holy and godly vehicles meant to honor God. :) Just a clarification. Thanks! :)

  2. This post reminded me that my mom and I picked out one of those horrible feminist cake-toppers for my wedding...the bride is standing with her hand on her hip, and a key in the other hand, and the groom is sitting down, looking miserable with a ball and chain around his ankle!
    I am so disgusted with my old-atheist self, and I am SO thankful that God has opened my eyes up to the truth!
    Thank you for another great post!

    1. Hi Paulina!

      It is supposed to be "funny" but it only is "funny" on a cake, but not in real life. :P

      I am so happy that you found God and found the Truth! :)

      Life is without meaning if there is no God. :(

      God bless you sister in Christ. :)




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