Tuesday, January 18, 2011


If..as my previous post indicates I believe..there is no biblical basis for the "The man has the final word in all things" marriage..how does a couple attempt to come to a final decision in issues where there is a difference of opinion? Does someone need to have a final word for there to be resolution?

There are ample examples of issues that would present such a dilemma. Where to spend holidays as a newly married couple or where to go on vacation or whether to take a vacation or not for that matter. Whether to buy a car or furniture or clothes might be another. What ground rules should there be for the kids keeping a clean room or having a time to get in from a date or whether to date at all are further issues where differing opinions may be held by a mother and father. [Not to mention the teenager involved in the problem.] Some couples might say they have NEVER argued/disagreed over things like that. I would have to say in fifty-one year of marriage we've argued/disagreed over every single one of them.

But certainly all the above issues are minor compared to things like whether or not to change jobs. [Either spouse] Maybe even whether a woman COULD/SHOULD have a job outside the home. Whether to move to a new pastorate or change churches or to buy a house or how to handle the money/income as bills are being paid. If someone doesn't have the final say, how can you EVER make a decision in matters like these? It's funny few people ever seem to say the woman SHOULD be the one with final say but the man SHOULD and that BECAUSE the scripture says so. NOW I've said the scripture doesn't support that position. Boy have I placed couples in a terrible predicament. I agree. I have. One in which it will take the Holy Spirit to work everything out. What a terrible position for us to be in. Right?

I'm going to approach this from an unusual perspective and one that is somewhat difficult to explain. But it is one that I teach in marriage seminars having hammered things out over fifty-one years of marriage to the same person. In this post I'm only going to set the stage for a couple of upcoming posts that will clarify. So bear with me in this introduction if you will.

I think it helps to remember that in every marriage you have three elements. I call them the "I" "You" and "We" factors. For the sake of this post I'm going to call the male the "I" [The first element] and the female the "You." [The second element] If Mary were writing this she could and would, I'm sure, reverse it for the sake of making sense from her perspective. But I'm writing so I'll do it this way.

The third element is the "We." So every marriage has an I/You/We to it. Each of the two individuals helping create a "we." It is also true that no marriage will have any healthier "we" than it does a healthy "I" and You." In other words, there can be no healthy "we" to any marriage without there being a healthy "I" and "You."

With that in mind let's suppose the "You" [female] is absorbed by the "I"[male] so that she looses her individuality or identity and the male dominates. [Having the final say automatically IS domination.] This guarantees that the "we" will suffer. I'll show how later but one thing is, were that partner to die or leave, [divorce..it does happen.] the "You" would have little sense of who she is as her identity would have been lost in a marriage.

I've seen this happen over the years, unfortunately, as I've pastored widows who were at a loss about decision making in life because "he always made the decisions." This is one of the reasons I'm convinced God never intended for any Christian's decision making identity to be lost in a marriage.

Likewise, if the "I" [male] is absorbed by the "You" [female] so that he looses his individuality or identity and the female dominates, [Having the final say automatically IS domination.] the "we" suffers with the same result as the above. In our culture the first is far more likely to happen than the second.

There can be a third kind of marriage of course, where the "I" and the "You are ONLY individuals and NEVER really build a "We" at all and the only thing they have between them are the children. The problem is when the children leave the nest, and they do, THERE IS NO "WE" that remains having never been built. They wind up as strangers sitting across the breakfast table from each other. That would get old quick it seems to me. Reports do say, by the way, that the fastest growing group getting divorced in our day is that group married 30 years or longer. I think I know why!!

But there is a biblical model for marriage. It is where a serving "I" and a serving "You" are always committed to building a serving "We" together. But always with a mutual respect for each other where neither has an automatic right to the final answer on any issue. They then raise children who grow up watching two mature, healthy adults live together under the Lordship of Christ discovering answers to difficult issues so they [The children] can grow up having an example of respect, get married, have kids, and reproduce after that kind. THAT is a long sentence AND a biblical definition for marriage in my estimation.

I would suggest you read this over again to have a grasp for the next installment. I also hope you will bear with me as I go into a teaching mode these next couple of posts. So next time I will add a few ingredients, stir the pot a bit, and try to cook up a serving of biblical and logical ways of sharing the marriage leadership where neither person is lost to the uniqueness and giftedness they bring to it. All of this under the Lordship of Christ and the power of His Spirit.

Paul B.


Rex Ray said...

OK Paul…I’m all ears…sounds good. While I’m waiting, I’ll throw in two-cents.

My mother said daddy was the head of the family but she was the neck.

I’ve said: “I wear the pants in my family but Belle tells me which ones to put on.”

I’d been ‘drafted’ in the military and Belle was a school teacher when we married at 25 and 24. I guess I marred under false pretense that I liked coffee and was going to be a preacher. (I set a record at SWBTS as being the fastest ‘drop-out’.)

Belle and I agreed on ‘DEPARTMENTS’ as to the one who had the final say that lasted 52 years, but on the 53rd year I’ve been ‘losing’ her – last week for a short time, she thought I was her father.)

Since I’ve held jobs as an auto-mechanic, I got to choose what automobile we drove. More than once I told Belle “Look what followed me home.” (It would be a car on a chain.)

On the other hand, I agreed to settle down on jobs (teaching school and construction) when our kids got old enough to go to school.

Belle has picked the houses we’ve rented and bought and the furniture. Sometimes our lips would not quite reach, but we’ve never yelled at each other. She retired a school teacher and me a tool designer at LTV

Paul Burleson said...


Your "two-cents worth" is more valuable than that from my perspective. I'll wait til the next post to show why. Great minds and all that stuff. You'll see it I'm sure.

Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Paul, This sounds very familiar. I believe you shared this in the Men's Seminar at Southcliff BC. Thanks for sharing. Rhonda and I, like you and Mary, have argued over the years and have learned how to be a "WE". There are some areas where Rhonda is obviously the expert as there are areas where I am the expert. We have learned to bring it all to the table and come to an agreement. I have learned to trust Rhonda when she offers an opinion. Rarely will I go against it. I have learned that she speaks with great wisdom.
Ken Colson

Aussie John said...


"THAT is a long sentence AND a biblical definition for marriage in my estimation."

Mine too! She and me are the whole we!

With my family and church background, it was a long, and sometimes painful journey before the light came on.

Having read Bob's comment and your answer, I will now keep my peace.

Gem said...

Looking forward to reading what you have to share! :)

Chris Ryan said...

Would you happen to be familiar with Murray Bowen's Family Systems theory? You and he are sounding a lot alike.

Paul Burleson said...


I'm not familiar with the name Murray Bowen at all. But..if this sounds like him...he has to be a very bright fellow. RIGHT!!!. ;o

Seriously, I'm not familiar with him but will do a little research. Sounds like someone worth knowing about.

Chris Ryan said...



Anonymous said...

It's me, L's.
You wrote: 'My mother said daddy was the head of the family but she was the neck.'

I love that saying.
I saw a film where the mother said something similar and added 'and the neck turns the head'.
In that movie, a great deal of skill and patience was used by the women of the family to convince the father of the house that he was really in charge, when all the while . . . . yes, the ladies knew how to 'turn the head'.
But you know, he was happy, they were happy.
No one was humiliated because they loved one another.
Maybe that's how it's supposed to work best: caring for one anothers feelings and not forgetting to love.

Aussie John said...


I cannot applaud these articles more loudly than to use my poor attempt at blogging to bring them to the attention of the three or four readers who grace my pages.

I dare say your eight points, which say so much about the person.

It has been my contention that the recognition of those with gifting to be elders MUST be well known, long term members of a local congregation.

If that were the case such as your list describes, would never be "viewed to be gifted leaders by others... appointed by the Holy Spirit and then recognized by the people".

Anonymous said...


How are things going with all of that flooding? It looked terrible on the news here.

You wrote this: ""viewed to be gifted leaders by others... appointed by the Holy Spirit and then recognized by the people"

I'm not sure if its in the Scriptures, but in my Church's tradition, there is such a thing as recognition by 'acclamation' of the people. Your words remind me of that tradition.

Am praying for Aussies hit hard by flooding,