Who is Supposed to “Wear-the-Pants” in Marriage? by Tim+Anne Evans


Anne and I recently had a conversation with a married friend who has a traditional/hierarchical/complementarian marriage perspective. His fallible interpretation of a handful of controversial Bible texts includes a husband having authority over his wife. He questioned our “co-leadership” marriage position, stating; “God is a God of order, someone has to wear-the-pants—and in my marriage that’s me!”

We explained that we try to live our marriage based on God’s original marriage design—in the beginning.

Before sin entered the story both the man and woman were created in the image of God—they were intrinsically equal (Genesis 1:27). And both the man and woman were given the procreation and dominion mandates—they were functionally equal (Genesis 1:28).

If God’s original marriage design included the husband having a measure of authority, being a spiritual cover, or the designated leader over his wife—God never mentions it in the Creation story.

Review the text, after creating humans God addressed the plurality of persons. He blessed both the man and woman (Genesis 1:28a). He declared the miracle of two becoming one (Genesis 2:24). And the mystery of a married couple being naked without shame (Genesis 2:25).

In the beginning … God never commanded the woman to submit to or obey the man. Male rulership, patriarchy, misogyny, hierarchy, sexism, forced female subordination, and later marriage views (hierarchical- traditional- complementarian) all came after sin entered the story.

Let’s briefly review different marriage views:

+ In the male rulership marriage view (Gen.3:16)—gender trumps.
+ In the hierarchical/traditional/complementarian marriage views—gender trumps.
+ In the egalitarian marriage view as we currently understand it, functional equality and mutuality are highly valued.

The decisions making process includes: couples compromising by seeking middle ground; deciding to defer the matter to a trusted third party after agreeing to abide to his/her decision; or if a decision affects one spouse more than the other, the spouse who has more at stake in the decision should have more to say in it.

In the egalitarian marriage view—pre-agreed on process trumps.

God’s original marriage design (what we call co-leadership) is similar to the egalitarian marriage view because functional equality and mutuality are highly valued. However, a couple’s main focus is including God as they both I.O.T.L. (inquire of the Lord). And they wait for both the husband and wife to have green-lights from God before making decisions. In co-leadership—God trumps.

Back to my friend’s statement; someone has to wear-the-pants in a marriage. We explained that after being married forty years, and passionately living out equality/mutuality/co-leadership principles, we have found that our marriage works best—and is by far the most joyful—when figuratively speaking neither of us wears any pants!



Tim+Anne Evans have been married forty years and continue to passionately explore God’s marriage mystery of two becoming one. They are both ordained ministers and each have master and doctor of practical ministries diplomas from Wagner Leadership Institute. They are parents, grandparents, spiritual parents, authors, and pastoral counselors. Their book; “TOGETHER Reclaiming Co-Leadership in Marriage” focuses on marriage … in the beginning. Tim is a retired fire chief; Anne is a licensed nurse and certified life purpose coach. Together they co-lead REAL LIFE Ministries full time. Find out more at www.TimPlusAnne.com.


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  • Whenever I hear this “wear the pants” conversation, I’m confused. Why does anyone have to make a big deal about authority if you actually have it? To me, that’s insecurity. Except for extremely rare occasions, any leader should not have to declare their position.

    • Well said, Jon Pyle. My husband has a natural power in the way he moves and speaks but he has never had to constantly remind me or anyone with whom he works. It’s just who he is.

      Both the people he leads and I respect him so much for this and we have never needed anyone to “wear the pants” in our marriage. We love each other enough to care what the other says and come to conclusions we both find amendable.

  • I have found that the vast majority of complementarian marriages that actually work are ususally comp on paper, but egal in practice. Love your testimony and a great example to your friends.

  • A single unified body may decide to wear pants and when it does it is not an authority issue but a fashion issue. Complementarians continually disobey Jesus when they emphasize breaking apart what God has joined as One

    • AMEN! Thank you Mike Young! Not to mention the clear teaching about Galatians 3:28 that is corroborated by the WORK of Christ “For He is our peace, who hath MADE BOTH ONE, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby …”

      What ‘BOTH’ has he made ‘one’/ Well the Gentiles and Jews of Galatians 3:28 of course…but the PRINCIPLE of this teaching is for all the parties of Galatians 3:28 whereby JESUS HAS broken down the middle wall of PARTITION between each of the two party groups, including men and women making of two ONE NEW ‘MAN’…that is why there is NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE IN CHRIST, bond or free, Barbarian and Scythian, etc…for we are ALL one by the WORK Jesus DID, and by nothing else…Him having slain the enmity between all members of these groups BY HIS WORK…

      Yet many men still teach women that because of Gal 3:28, we are NOW permitted to access the throne of Grace because of this verse and NOTHING MORE! What horrid kind of scoundrel would knowingly dare to mutilate Christ’s work in this way and spread such ongoing cruel bondage in the name of Christ? I thank God every day for those who have taught and still teach God’s way of equality, justice and truth and helped rescue me from this treachery.

  • All this is lovely until you read 1 Cor 14:34-35. Then I am in subjection with obedience to my husband again…as saith the law and must be silent!

    Whoever translated this has driven a stake into the hearts of women and driven them out of the church…because I doubt that these are the words of Paul but you will be hard pressed to find a reformed fundamentalist who doesn’t hold to HIS OWN VARIABLE PERSONAL interpretation of this, firmly and unequivocally…nowhere else does scripture silence a voice like this. Of greater offense than even this is the number of churches that require their ministers to sign a legal agreement to keep women silent and powerless in the churches, on pain of losing their jobs! This is in direct opposition to the character of the God of the Bible:
    1) God is no respecter of persons (has no favorites) (except the male gender)
    2) God SAYS “is not my way equal, is not your way UNEQUAL” (well?)
    3) Eleven times Paul says we are not under the law but under grace, never implying that this only applies to the male gender…yet we find he supposedly has written a new law here just for women. I thought the law was given by Moses but grace and truth by Jesus Christ…except this NEW law by Paul…
    4) We are forbidden to have ‘respect of persons’ in James 2:9 yet 1 Cor 14:34-35 COMMANDS respect of male persons!
    5) Are we to follow Jesus’ teaching or not? “All things ye would that others do to you do ye also unto them”…unless they are women? I don’t find this qualification anywhere else.
    6) Psalm 68:11 literally says “11 The Lord doth give the saying, The female proclaimers [are] a numerous host.” How can this be if they are silent?
    7) Even though the Holy Bible enlists the voices of many women to speak without interruption to the churches…yet in church practice this is SIN! Surely it is a wonder that any women remain in fundamentalist churches…when, as soon as they are able to reach a place where they are comfortable doctrinally they are driven out because of the widespread interpretation of the above verse and the resulting gross sin in the men because of the absolute power that they have taken unto themselves.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hold to this interpretation of the verse, but after 7 years of basking in this idea of egalitarianism, I came upon this verse today and AGAIN it punched me in the face, and I rejoiced that I have left the church… I can no longer stomach it in almost any form. It is NO family of God where such teachings are the case and a family has two heads/mediators (the male partner and God). In such families, how can God win when a man’s exertion of his own will, gauged by the woman’s submission to it, is the measure of the family’s spirituality! Surely this is a monstrosity.

    Where is the God who hates oppression, bondage and who came to set the captives free? Who has hijacked Him? Who has usurped His ministry? Who has driven Him out of the churches for I rarely find Him there? He is outside the camp with many women and men who only know how to follow Him…like me…and my broken heart.

  • I agree that any sort of healthy relationship needs to be mutual. People seem to forget that at the beginning of Christianity men and women worked together to build up the Kingdom of God. Jesus had great love for women and treated them as equals. I am sad when people find lines of scripture to justify their bigotry. Thank you for continuing to speak out.

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