There is so much to say about this letter. It has been misinterpreted – to the detriment of woman – for centuries!

1) Mutual subordination:

Be subordinateto each other out of reverence to Christ.The whole letter must be read and understood in light of this first verse. The subordination must be mutual, as in any good working partnership.

First of all, let us define the word subordination. Other translations replace it with “submission”, meaning to be under the mission of the other, to support the mission, and bring it to fruition. That means that you are on a mission for each other with the goal of leading the other to heaven. To be successful each must put the other first, which is the meaning of true love.

Marriage is a partnership of men and women equal in dignity and value. This does not imply sameness in roles or expectations. There are important physical and psychological traits which result in differing skills and perspectives. Nor does the equality of persons mean that the two spouses will have identical gifts or characteristics. Rather, a couple who accept their equality as sons and daughters in the Lord will honor and cherish one another. They will respect and value each other's gifts and uniqueness. They will "be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5 , 21)...
In this partnership, mutual submission -- not dominance by either partner -- is the key to genuine joy. US Bishops pastoral document on family life, Follow the Way of Love

2) How to achieve this mutual subordination:

In the following verses, St. Paul, a great psychologist, shows what can keep us, as woman and man, from this true partnership. Because of our different natures and because of sin, we have to work on our specific weaknesses to make this true partnership and this mutual subordination happen. The model we will always follow and keep in mind is of course Christ and his relationship to the Church.

- The wife’s subordination

Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord…

This sentence, taken out of context, makes women’s hair stand straight up. We need to keep this verse in the context of the MUTUAL SUBORDINATION.

Do you feel you need to be in charge? 
Do you get out of sorts if you cannot have things your way? 
Do you feel you have to orchestrate everything? 
Are you angry when your significant other does not do as you ask or simply does not behave in line with your plans?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to learn more about subordination!

Let us look at woman’s nature through Eve. Eve, listening to the serpent, felt with her natural feminine intuition (she’s the guardian of the spiritual) that her along with Adam’s purpose was to become like God. She is right in that: man and woman were created in God’s image and called to holiness. She only forgot that their holiness depends on their submission to God.

She doesn’t submit her intuition to her partner, Adam, and impulsively decided to eat of the forbidden fruit, leading Adam to follow her, therefore making themselves their own gods, without God.

Women are often like this: they act impulsively upon their intuitions and wants things to happen their way. They often think they know better and therefore take control. In a marriage, this is when we say that the woman “wears the pants”.

Because of this specific weakness in women, and in the perspective of obtaining MUTUAL subordination, St. Paul focuses on a woman’s need to accept to be subordinate to her husband.

Woman’s mission is to be man’s helpmate, and to be the guardian of the spiritual in their relationship. How could a headstrong, controlling, insubordinate woman lead her husband to God?

Note: this does not mean that subordination goes only one way. St. Paul insists on the woman’s subordination because it is more difficult for her than for the man. Man also needs to be subordinate to woman, since partnership requires mutual subordination, but it is not his major difficulty (we can see how Adam was quick to submit to Eve in eating the fruit!). St. Paul focuses instead on the area men have greater difficulty with.

- The husband as head of his wife

For a husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church…

This verse is also very shocking because we think of husband and wife as being equals, and rightly so. Again, we need to remember that it is not a question of ranks but a question of missions.

Man is the head of his wife in the sense that his responsibility is to lead her to holiness, just as Jesus leads the Church to holiness. This is the meaning of his authority mission.

The Church submits to Christ, who is the head, but Christ dies for the Church and doesn't do anything without her. Similarly, the wife submits to her husband, who is the head, but the husband lays his life down for his wife and doesn't do anything without her!
Christ is the head of the Church and makes her holy by being the humble and meek lamb that came to serve and give his life! This is how the man is supposed to be the "head" of his wife...

As the Church submits to Christ, the woman submits herself willingly and lovingly to her husband trusting that he wants her greater good only. It has nothing to do with being the carpet under his feet!

- The husband’s love:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church, and handed himself over for her…

Is it hard for you to give up the long awaited football game to spend some time with your fiancé’s parents?
Is it difficult for you to sacrifice avideo game night to just have a romantic evening with your fiancée or help her choose a purse at the mall?
Is this meeting that will help advance your career more important for you than taking a day off to care for your fiancée who has the flu?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need to learn about self-giving love!

Subordination is not a problem for man. We saw how Adam, subjugated by Eve, didn’t even question her decision and followed her. There lies the problem! Man is the guardian of God’s law and is entrusted with authority to lead his family to holiness. His love for his wife should have pushed him to protect her instead of totally giving in. Man needs to learn from Christ how to love his wife and it requires sacrificial love. It is not the easy way.

Sacrificial love is not as natural to man as it is to the woman. When a woman falls in love, her love becomes the most important thing in the world for her and the subject of all her thoughts. She puts everything she is into the relationship and is capable of great sacrifices out of love. We can see this in her maternity: she can sacrifice everything out of love for her children.

It is not always so for the man. For most men, it is harder to give themselves up and put everything they are into the relationship. They would like to keep everything else as well: career, fishing trips, buddies and all! The father has a harder time than the mother getting up at night to respond to his crying baby!

This is why St. Paul emphasizes the necessity for man to learn how to love from Christ's example, by laying down his life for his wife and taking the means to lead her to holiness.

3) A mystery

This is a great mystery…

Marriage is a great mystery, much bigger than us, and it is a wonderful mystery too! Marriage is what best represents God's love for us.
The Father loves the Son and has entrusted everything to him.- John 3, 35
The Son loves the Father and does whatever he sees the Father doing. - John 5, 19
The Holy Spirit is the communion of love which binds the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. Each person of the Trinity is absolutely unique, but at the same time completely bound to the two others. -
The Healing of the Familyby Bernard Dubois

4) Better communication

In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.

Our culture, which considers communication as the panacea to a marriage, shouldn’t take this little sentence lightly: it contains the key to a better communication betweenspouses!

Man and woman do not perceive love the same way.

A wife's perception of love is in her need to feel LOVED. She thirsts for tenderness, romanticism, protection; she wants to be able to talk and longs for a good listener...

A husband's perception of love is in his need to feel admired, esteemed, considered, appreciated, supported, RESPECTED. Men have a very hard time with criticism, contempt or sarcasm.

A husband will be able to give his wife the tenderness she longs for if his wife contributes to building an atmosphere of respect and esteem where criticism and sarcasm have no room.
“If you treat him as a king, he will treat you as a queen.” (Jewish saying)

The love and respect connection is a key to marriage. A husband will be able to give his wife the love she most desires if the wife gives her husband the respect he desperately needs.