In Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, Ischomachus relays a conversation he has had with his new, young wife. He has been training her to run the household, and at one point he says to her:
But the most pleasant experience of all is to prove yourself better than I am, to make me your servant.
What does Ischomachus mean by this?
He was in charge of the entire household. He was the patriarch. His word was essentially the law to the house.
But he cannot do everything. He could not be everywhere at once. And so he is explaining to his wife the importance of her role in managing these other areas of the household, areas that were just as important as the work he himself did. Things like the organization of resources and management of servants.
The goal was to have a wife so capable that he could put his entire trust in her. If she became industrious and diligent, and she said something in relation to her domain, he would not hesitate to obey that word.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.Proverbs 31:11
It is not abdication to listen to your wife in regards to her domain and responsibilities. In fact, you have delegated those tasks, and it would be foolish to ignore her.
In Ischomachus’s case, if his young wife worked to organize the tools of the household, it would make sense to ask her where certain tools should go, and therefore become her servant in the matter.
If your wife tells you to take off your shoes before you enter the house, you are not giving up your manhood by obeying her command in this matter. If you have given her the responsibility of beautifying the home, you want her to excel at it, and if she excels at it, you should be glad to become her servant in this instance.
To disobey her would be to hate yourself. To disobey her would be making a mockery of your own authority. If she opens her mouth with wisdom, why would you not listen?
It is an insecure husband who doesn’t want his wife to excel at anything. It is an effeminate man who thinks he is in competition with his wife. It is false masculinity to keep your wife under your thumb, so you can override her wishes in everything.
Let your wife do what she was created to do. Guide her, husband her, and if you are blessed, you will be happy to become her servant.