As I've pondered this, several things have struck me:
- A few years back, an older woman was telling me about how, as a child, she lived a life of sacrifice. I expected her to detail how she gave her own food to her siblings, or did their chores, or gave up special privileges, or something of that sort. Instead, when I asked her what kind of sacrifices she made, she told me about how poor her family was. She had to wear shabby clothes, etc. When I pressed her about what exactly it was that she gave up for others, she said, "I grew up poor. I didn't have the nice clothes the other girls did." As she said this, the meaning of her words struck her. "Actually, it was my mother who sacrificed, for us and for my father. I didn't give up anything at all." Perhaps some view wives as being in a similar situation. Like children, they have little or nothing of their own to sacrifice.
- Many men do not want to accept the idea that their wives may have had to make sacrifices in order to marry them. So, if a wife gave up an exciting career, a lovely home, the companionship of her family and friends, the fellowship of her church, her pastor's teaching and shepherding, etc., in order to move across the country into a shabby little apartment with a struggling, unappreciative husband --- this is simply seen as the wife doing what a wife is required to do. She is said to be doing nothing more than finally taking on the role that God has intended for wives to have. Some husbands will claim that the wife hasn't given up anything at all; in fact, she has gained much. Few husbands, it seems, want to admit to themselves, let alone anyone else, the depth of sacrificial love that many new brides show. It would shame the husbands.
- By the same token, many husbands do not want to believe that their wives daily sacrifice for them. It is easier on the male conscience to frame this as wifely duty, as required submission, as a husband having more rights than the wife, as anything other than loving sacrifice. For example, when a wife sacrifices her own sleep and comfort in order to tend to her infant in such a way as to allow the husband to sleep undisturbed, many a husband will view this as nothing more than a wife doing the minimum required of her. After all, he needs his sleep. She is the mother. She has no right to a night's sleep; thus she is not giving up anything. I have even heard husbands argue that, since God created women to be mothers, He must have also created them to need far less sleep --- and then I have heard those same men complain about not believing the "excuses" of exhaustion from their wives!
- It is easy for women online to berate each other about not being submissive to husbands. Loving sacrificially can be seen as something noble and strong and masculine and almost otherworldly. But submission --- now there is a hammer to beat over the head of any woman whose marriage does not measure up to the exacting standards of the submission police. Logic often flies out of the window, as does true submission. Thus wives who are doing exactly what their husbands tell them to do, and helping to make mutual decisions, are castigated for being rebellious and unsubmissive. "He is supposed to lead and you are supposed to submit! Let him make the decisions!" is the cry, no matter what the husband involved may actually want his wife to do. One wife was urged to tell her husband, "I will submit to you no matter what you say" and even to say "Get behind me, Satan" whenever her husband "tempted her to be unsubmissive" by asking her to help him make joint decisions.
- Submission can be feigned. There are entire books written telling wives how to manipulate their husbands under the guise of being submissive. Sacrificial love does not tolerate such nonsense. When we love sacrificially, and our husbands come to us for advice after they have made a foolhardy decision, we do not allow ourselves to utter such cruel nonsense as, "I am sure you will make the best decision, dear" (as one book urged wives to say in such situations). Sacrificial love, by its very nature, costs us. It requires us to be courageous, rather than to shirk responsibility. Too many unloving wives are prideful about their "submission" and secretly joyous over their belief that only men are required to love in a Christlike manner.
- If you get to define "loving sacrificially" as something that wives never do, you can turn it into anything you want. If men are never supposed to submit to their wives, a husband can live selfishly while pretending that he is really loving sacrificially. Or, better yet, he can wax eloquent about how he would love sacrificially were he ever required to do so. He would take a bullet for his wife and family; he would heroically fight off any attacker, he would commit all sorts of courageous acts of daring, without a thought to his own safety. But take out the trash? pick up his socks? actually talk to his wife for a few minutes each day? Get behind me, Satan! There is no way this man will ever disobey God and submit to his wife!