Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy. A Book Discussion. (Index here)
Part V: Living it Out (Practical Applications)
Chapter 26 – Marriage as a Partnership of Equals. Jack O. Balswick and Judith K. Balswick.
The Balswicks begin their essay by mentioning three different types of marriage models: male leadership, mutual submission and equal regard. Within the male leadership (patriarchy) model tends to be hard patriarchy or soft patriarchy. Hard patriarchy is where husbands make the final decisions and wives willingly submit to the husband’s authority. Soft patriarchy emphasizes the suffering servant model. The mutual submission model is the based on Paul’s admonition to in Ephesians 5:21 to submit to one another. The equal regard model is in response to feminist ideological concerns that stress independence rather than mutuality and interdependence. The Balswicks opt for mutual submission as the best model. The patriarchy model creates power struggles. The equal regard model, when the “in sickness and in health” clause of marriage vows comes into play, tends not to bear up under periods of one sided stress in the relationship.
The Balswicks go on to point out that the patriarchy model tends to create dominant husbands and manipulative wives. The husband is placed in a position of having to be the authority on all matters and decisions even when he may not be the most qualified. This tends to lead to defensiveness. Meanwhile, she is without official status to influence decisions and learns ways to manipulate to get what she wants. As the Balwick’s observe “… a husband whose masculine security is based on his wife’s submission places himself in the position of actually being under her control.” (451) By simply disobeying she is able to cripple him.
The Balswicks mention five types of power: exploitative, manipulative, competitive, nutritive and integrative. The last one is the one they say Jesus emphasized as illustrated in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.” It is personal power used for the sake of another.
The Balwicks point out submission is not about loosing yourself in your spouse or doing whatever they want. It is about being truly attentive to your partner and seeking the best for them. They acknowledge this takes considerable work and perseverance through each other’s insecurities, mistakes and shortcomings. But in the end, it allows for a level intimacy and honesty that can not be found in any other marriage arrangement.
From here our attention is turned to issues of parenting and housekeeping. The Balswicks are quick to point out that when it comes to parenting, nowhere does it elevate mothering over fathering. Parenting is a team effort. They point out that families with a strong fathering presence tend to raise boys who display empathy, affection and nurturing behavior, and girls with a greater sense of self, personal boundaries, and a higher propensity to achieve career goals.
Dual earner families are discussed. There is a need for husbands to be engaged with ongoing household management, but also often a need for many wives to surrender perfectionist household and parenting standards. “Good enough” in household management is often better the perfect when it comes to relational well-being.
The Balswicks list four principles for relational embeddedness of marital equality:
The Covenant Principle – It is a reciprocal unconditional commitment to one another. It is commitment to stay in relationship and love in times when we feel we are not getting back what we are giving.
The Grace Principle – It is the willingness to forgive and valuing each, even with failures and imperfections. Confronting offenses and becoming reconciled when one is guilty of offense is a must but shaming the other (making them feel they are wrong in their being) is not exercising grace.
The Empowering Principle – “…the ability to envision and encourage a spouse to be everything God created him or here to be.” (460)
The Intimacy Principle – The two becoming one flesh. This does not eradicate individuality but rather creates two strong individuals who can be emotionally connected even during anxious and fearful expressions. Self-disclosure deepens self-knowledge but there must be a safe place for that to happen and this is built on the preceding principles.
All in all, I think they are right on target.
Jack O. Balswick received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He is professor of sociology and family development at Fuller Theological Seminary. He coteaches with his wife Judith on gender and sexuality and coleads workshops across North America on relationship topics. Publications coauthored by the Balswicks include The Family: A Christian Perspective on the Contemporary Home; Authentic Human Sexuality: An Integrated Christian Approach; Family Pain: Getting Through the Hurts of Family Life; and The Dual-Earner Marriage: The Elaborate Balancing Act. Jack and Judy are members of Pasadena Covenant Church. They have two married children and four grandsons.
Judith K. Balswick received her M.A. from the University of Iowa and Ed.D. from the University of Georgia in counseling and human development. She is associated professor in and chair of the Marriage and Family Therapy Department, School of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary. Besides coteaching and coleading workshops with her husband Jack, she directs the Marriage and Family Clinic training at Fuller. She has coauthored with her husband Jack the publications listed above.
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