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Gender Roles – Do They Always Fit?

Thursday, June 30th, 2016


man headI heard through my many years in church community that the husband, in subjection to Christ should be the provider and protector for the family. And it’s been traditionally taught that a woman should manage her children and her home. This little meme says that this is the “Natural Order of the Household.” Really?


This teaching sounded good to me for many years. It seemed to make sense to have some headship to the family system. Some women I spoke with through the years seemed to appreciate their husband fulfilling that role in their lives so I thought it all worked pretty well if it were followed.


I didn’t question it as it’s been taught that this model came from the Bible. Lately, I’ve been doing some internal evaluation about many things I’ve been taught. This is one of those standards that I truly no longer believe is something that is good for everyone, or in every situation.


Sure, a good husband who loves his wife dearly, follows his faith deeply, and honors his family is a good thing! There are situations where this is the very best and it works well. But, those situations are rare to find! Needless to say, not everyone is married and there are many more situations that just cannot fit that model and this causes many problems. I do not believe this is in any way, a “Natural Order.” This is not at all natural for some people and to try to make it so causes some people’s lives to get into all sorts of knots.


This model says that a husband should be the provider for the family, the protector and so on. Well, once again if the husband has a great job that can provide this is wonderful! But this isn’t always the case. So what should one do? And there are husbands who aren’t the best suited for being a protector. Their personality, or their daily situations just may not fit that role.


I find that this model can cause many internal struggles of shame, performance anxieties, and can create endless insecurity. I’ve personally known many men who feel ongoing shame from not being able to be a provider for their families. I also know families where the wife is the main provider due to her education or her career path. This also can undermine a husband’s sense of balance if he believes this model is the only biblical model for his family.


What about single moms, or dads? Where do they fit here? In my former church communities there were attempts to dance around this dilemma and try to find ways to fit this into a neat little box but honestly, it just doesn’t fit and once again can cause a sense of alienation from others due to the sense of not belonging to a “biblical” model of submission.


I’m a gay husband. My husband and I have talked a lot about this model and our own lives. Being in a gay marriage has taught me a whole lot about marriage, family, and submission to models that just don’t fit everyone. In our marriage I’ve learned that we both have different talents, roles, and strengths. We allow those to lead us into our own cohesive home and family. But I’ve also felt at times that I’m not fitting into a stereotype which causes me to have a lot of questions. But in reality, it works for us to mold our home into what does work for us, uniquely. I’ve learned that each person, married or not, with children or not, straight or otherwise, would do well to discover their own strengths and use them. This, is a far better spiritual model in my opinion. God has created us each, individually, with our own strengths.


There are spouses who do well at financial provision. Some do better at home management. Some will do well to see potential dangers and provide protection. Some are better at keeping house, cooking, or home maintenance. These roles are not gender specific – ever! We just cannot put people into those kind of narrow spaces. It just doesn’t fit.


As a man, I’ve always had talents that were often seen as more fitting for women.  I cook well. I clean. I also manage the home maintenance. I do the laundry, run errands and shop for household needs. My husband goes to a nine to five job. He’s good at what he does and works hard at it. He manages the finances, bank accounts and watches over our investments. He is good at that too! He isn’t good at cooking, or cleaning. These things stress him out! We work together equally to make all of this happen. Neither of us is higher, or more significant than the other in our roles. But being gay doesn’t make this unique. Regardless of a person’s gender, these roles are definitely flexible based on each person’s unique design.


As with so many other things, when we try to fit things into religious boxes like this it causes problems and takes away from people feeling good about themselves. The lack of freedom for each one to explore their own roles can cause people to fall back from seeking their own strengths and living out their created design!


In my humble opinion, this teaching of Christ the head of the husband, the husband being the provider, protector of the home, and the wife being the manager of the family and children somehow has been misconstrued and falsely interpreted. When this was created men were perceived to own their wives as property and things were very, very different.


In todays world it seems to me that those who do the very best with their roles, family relationships, marriages etc. are those who no longer believe they need to follow this archaic teaching. Those who discover their own strengths and live by them seem to be the most confident and the most effective at living out their daily lives. I know a man who raises and home schools his children while his wife earns the income for the family. They’ve done this for years and it really works for them. But this family has to constantly go against the grain of traditional religion. They have to live in self affirmation of their choices to live out their strengths and there are some who judge them for being out of sink with biblical teaching.


Frankly, I’ve always been naturally good at household things. I’m random, I’m creative, and I’m flexible. I’m good at managing our home. In my previous marriage, my spouse was great at managing our home. I spent my time within our relationship on my vocation and on outdoor maintenance. Things have changed for me and my role has changed too. These things are certainly not set into stone.


I’m not trying to say that the traditional model doesn’t work because for some it does. But as always, it’s not a one size fits all. Think about it. Does it work for you? If not, then find what does and live in it. There are traditions that are just that, traditions that are not truth.