@Jennifer_Judson - I’m so sorry that the experience you had with marriage was pain-filled. I appreciate your response, and you are right in that all of the issues take a back seat when we, of both genders, are in total submission to Christ. Things gets a little sticky though, when people become dogmatic about what being in total submission to Christ looks like.
I am not an expert on the original languages of the Bible and cannot speak from that respect, to the accuracy of the translation of Genesis 3:16. My own marriage has certainly had its share of ups and downs and failures and growths, and I am no expert on that subject either. But I do think that the way we view the curse, and the way it’s worded here, have real-life implications today. We can shrug our shoulders and say “I don’t know why it happened. It just did. It just was. It just is.” But what we think about it, and the way we teach about it, affect us on all levels - from how we see ourselves as children of God, to the way we operate our homes and raise our families, to the way we structure our communities, and ultimately, the way we address these issues on a national level.
I don’t disagree that “wanting our own way” is a universal human failing - men and women are guilty of this, from birth on, and we each instinctively use our innate (and sinful) skills and abilities, physical force or emotional manipulation, for example, to get what we want. But the point is that this is sinful, regardless of who does it. Men are not justified in always having the final say - ultimately pulling the “headship” card - to get what they want, or in thinking that their “own way” somehow equates more closely to God’s will than a woman’s “own way” for the simple reason that they are male. Females should not simply “be quiet and submit” and allow men unquestioned power as they march toward destruction because they are the ones with the greater responsibility before God. And this is the message that is transmitted when we teach that the Bible gives men absolute, final say because they have a divine commission to be the rulers, or as you phrase it, more responsibility before God. Injustice and wrongdoing should be addressed by those who can address it, regardless of who, or when, or where.
If Genesis 3:16 tells men that their wives will desire to dominate them and that they must subdue, or rule over her (because this interpretation pairs the wording used in chapter 4, when God tells Cain that sin will crouch at the door and desire him, and he must rule over it) it prescribes an atmosphere of enmity within the marital relationship. This understanding of the text implies that women will strive against men as part of the curse, and men’s ordained role is to subdue her, conquer her, and rule over her. In this interpretation, a man dominating his wife is a God-ordained mandate.
In the other interpretation - where the curse states that women will desire, or long for, their husband, but he will instead be inclined to rule over her, we have an explanation for the way things are in the world today, and a warning that the curse will result in loneliness and suffering for both parties. It is also something that we, as Christians working to roll back the curse and help grow the kingdom of God, can feel free to battle against. We can support and work toward unity and oneness in our marriages, because Jesus conquered sin and the curse and we are not entirely in bondage to it any longer. In other words, we can stop teaching that women are by nature inclined to rise up and usurp authority over men and that men, in return, have been given a divine calling to dominate and conquer these troublesome women. We are free to teach mutual submission and to esteem each better than ourselves.
To me, the second view lines up better with both the character of God and with reality and human nature as we know it. Most women naturally delve into the deeper waters of emotions and relationship on a regular basis. Men tend to draw back from the messy depths and are not worried much about emotions, emotional health, and relationships. Studies indicate this, cultural jokes indicate this, entire seasons of sit coms in the US have been successful due to their portrayal (and mis-portrayal) of this common source of conflict and lack of understanding regarding emotional dynamics between men and women (A silly, but telling example:http://weknowmemes.com/2011/10/his-her-diary-on-the-same-day/ ). And this all applies even before we mention the dynamics of sexual intimacy in marriage, and the problems created in the relationship because of vastly different expectations and hopes in that area as well. I agree that both men and women want to be loved unconditionally, wholly, and fully - but their understanding of what that kind of love looks like is often quite different.
When we look at the differences in men and women in the world at large - beyond the realm of Christianity, the problem is even more pronounced. The common cry from women is that "he only sees me as my body - my thoughts, my mind, my identity as a person don’t matter. " For example, look at the vulgar jokes and crude language that dominates “shop talk” - anywhere men congregate and women are not typically present. Look at the culture-wide objectification of the female body; consider the pornography that nearly always includes acts that are specifically humiliating, degrading, and dehumanizing to the women involved. Prostitution, sex trafficking, domestic violence. In almost all of these cases, the victims are largely women and girls, (boys, men, and transgender people are also victims, but at a much lower percentage than girls and women). And in many cases of abuse and prostitution - the women being used won’t leave, or press charges, or defend themselves, because they “love” their traffickers and abusers. Women are not, in general, “using” the men in the same way that the men are using them. I don’t think men need encouragement to resist, rule, or dominate women. I think Genesis 3:16 is very descriptive and provides a perfect explanation for why this is so. I maintain that this is what the curse refers to.
You are the second person I’ve spoken to about this who said that they have seen (or counseled) people in marriages where the woman desires to control her husband. And while I can think of a few scenarios where this could be the case, I am curious as to what it looks like in practice. I don’t count “wanting to get my own way” as a desire to dominate or rule over another person. Nagging a spouse to take out the trash or wash a load of clothes is not demonstrating a desire to “rule over them.” A woman throwing a temper tantrum because her husband says they can’t afford a certain piece of furniture isn’t doing so because she is, by nature, slated to be “contrary” to her husband. This indicates childishness, immaturity, selfishness, for sure. But I don’t see those things as a power move to usurp authority and challenge the husband’s place.
I have also seen angry, resentful, bitter women who tear their husbands down, nag at them, and berate them, but I can’t think of one who was doing it to dominate, humiliate, or conquer her husband. In almost all cases, when I talk to those women, it boils down to resentment and hurt because he is not being the leader she thought, or hoped, or expected him to be. She is not “dominating” him out of a lust for power - she is angry and resentful at not being valued, cherished, or heard, and she is either retaliating and trying to hurt him back, or she is trying to push him toward being that person. What she says most often is one of these: He doesn’t hear me when I try to talk to him. He isn’t present with me. He doesn’t care about me. I chase kids around the house all day, and he comes home and locks himself in the den to watch t.v., leaving me to make dinner with kids everywhere. He loves work more than he loves me. He respects his friends opinions more than he does mine. She is “longing for her husband” - perhaps in a very ungodly way, and surely her responses are also sinful - but it’s a far cry from wanting to usurp his authority.
This is a hard topic to address, and is a bit of a rabbit trail from the original post, and I apologize for that. I appreciate the conversation and want to say that what I have written is not meant to be offensive or inflammatory, or pointed at any of the men in this forum. I have been extremely grateful for the richness of the material linked and presented here (and in the new topic that was started for that purpose). Thank you all for the compassion and understanding that you have demonstrated in addressing the concerns and questions about our (women’s) value in the eyes of God. I have, more than once, found myself reading your comments with tears in my eyes, thankful for godly men who can see the great uncertainty and hurt that lurks at the heart of these difficult questions.