Should I Submit To My Boyfriend?

Q: “Should I submit to my boyfriend?”

One of the smart readers of this blog submitted this question to us recently. To be honest, it doesn’t come with an easy answer. On the one hand. . . since a boyfriend is not the same as a husband, submission in that relationship can be misplaced. On the other hand, since dating is preparation for marriage, I’m left to wonder if it’s reasonable to think a girl could disregard what the Bible teaches about submission while dating and then suddenly flip a switch after saying “I do”? If those same questions are swirling in your mind as you consider how to act in your own dating relationship (now or in the future), here are three things to keep in mind.

1. Your boyfriend is not your husband.

You may really, really like your boyfriend. He may have everything you are looking for in a future husband. The two of you may have even talked about getting married. But none of that is the same as actually being married. Breakups happen. They happen to couples who love each other very much. They happen to couples who were sure they would be together forever. Breakups can even happen after a couple becomes engaged. No matter how much you love him, your boyfriend is not your husband. There is no place in Scripture that places a boyfriend in authority over a girlfriend, likely because there is no guarantee that this is a permanent relationship. This doesn’t mean that you are free to disrespect or disregard your boyfriend. Ephesians 5:21 urges all Christians to submit to each other because of our loyalty to Christ. Yes, Christ calls us to treat others with love, respect, and consideration, but don’t fall for the temptation to play house with your boyfriend by pretending that you are already husband and wife. The guidelines the Bible offers for married couples are just that—for married couples. Marriage is intended to be a covenant, an unbreakable relationship. Dating just is not the same.

2. God has a plan to teach you submission.

How can you learn submission outside of your dating relationship? God’s Word has that answer covered. Ephesians 6:2 says, “‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise).” Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Another way to think of submission is respect, deference, or honor. Marriage is not the only relationship where we are called to submit. Your relationship with your parents is the classroom where God intends for you to learn biblical submission. He also calls you to honor and obey your spiritual authorities. This could include your pastor, your youth pastor, your teachers, or a mentor. Do you find it difficult to submit to your parents? When your youth pastor calls out your sin or challenges you to live more Christ-like do you tend to disregard his words? Don’t be fooled into thinking that submission will be easier when you’re married. It won’t be.  Make a habit of respecting others and deferring now to those God has placed in authority over you instead of assuming it will come more naturally later.

3. Remember the real reason to submit.

Listen to Ephesians 5:22–24:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

This passage gives us a hint about why submission really matters. Marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the Church. Paul really hammers this point home a few verses later. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). Submission isn’t about power trips. It’s about putting the mystery of the gospel on display. When you submit to your husband someday in marriage, you’ll be showing the world what it means for the Church to willingly surrender to the lordship of Christ. I’ve got good news! You don’t have to be married for your relationships to put Jesus on display. Look for ways to honor and glorify God in all of your relationships, including your dating relationships. Speak with kindness. Forgive freely. Run away from sexual sin. These are ways you can showcase Christ without treating your boyfriend like a husband. “Should I submit to my boyfriend?” is a good question. Perhaps an even better question is, “How can I use my relationship with my boyfriend to most honor God?”

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager for Revive Our Hearts, and a host of the Grounded videocast. You can hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast.