3 Ways Men and Women Exercise Unrighteous Dominion in Their Marriages Without Realizing It


Unrighteous dominion may not seem like something Mormons would encounter often in their marriages, but "it's more common than we think," Julie de Azevedo Hanks says. 

In a recent podcast with Angilyn and Nate Bagley, Hanks, an LDS licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, explained what unrighteous dominion is and how it can be harmful in marriages. 

But what is unrighteous dominion and how do we recognize it in our marriages? To help illustrate, Hanks pointed out three ways you could be using unrighteous dominion without realizing it. 

1. Making Decisions Without Counseling with Your Spouse

"I've seen a lot of financial decisions made or employment decisions made without counseling and consulting a spouse," Hanks explains. "Taking a new job that requires the family to move is not just something you inform your spouse of."

The Church has advised that members make these kinds of decisions together during family councils and not leave these impactful decisions up to just one spouse.

"The family council is the most basic of the Church," Our Family: A Practical Guide for Building a Gospel-Centered Home, reads. "Under the direction of the father and the mother, this council can meet to discuss family problems, work out finances, make plans, support and strengthen family members, and pray for one another and the family unit."

Rather than one spouse making all the decisions, we should be including our families in decision-making to avoid unrighteous dominion. 

2. Using Anger to Control Others

"Being angry is not bad," Hanks says. "I want to distinguish angry thoughts and feelings and angry behavior. . . . You can say, 'I'm angry.' But when you tear someone down, a good question I ask is, 'Can the other person continue to feel good about themselves in this interaction?'"

Naming calling, belittling, and other actions of anger can devastate marriages and use fear instead of love to motivate others, a definite sign of unrighteous dominion, Hanks says.

While speaking in the October 2007 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley said the following about anger and how eliminating acts of anger can affect marriages:

"I plead with you to control your tempers, to put a smile upon your faces, which will erase anger; speak out with words of love and peace, appreciation, and respect. If you will do this, your lives will be without regret. Your marriages and family relationships will be preserved."

3. Hierarchy Structures

In the podcast, Hanks describes two kinds of societal structures—hierarchies and partnerships—and how they relate to families. 

A hierarchal society is controlled by dominance and ranking others based on who is stronger, who is faster, who makes the most money, etc. In societies like these, women are often not highly valued, and, in fact, everything associated with women is considered weak, particularly caregiving. 

On the other end, in a partnership society, men and women are valued equally and everyone participates in caregiving. In these kinds of societies, everything is based on relationships, not ranking. 

"This applies to families and how we organize our families," Hanks explains. "Is our family based on ranking or is it based on relationships? And when you're acting out of a relationship, which is connection based, you're going to have a lot less unrighteous dominion because you're caring about the connection, not your status."

While speaking about the priesthood, Elder H. Burke Peterson made it clear that:

"Men are not superior to women. However, by the very nature of some of the things we do, we imply this. The fact that a man holds the priesthood and is the presiding officer in the home, as well as in Church organizations, does not in any way make him a superior being. The priesthood is a divinely given authority and responsibility which will receive its ultimate fulfillment only when there is a devoted and happy wife at his side. Note 'happy' is the description of the wife."

For the full podcast with Julie de Azevedo Hanks, click here

Lead image from Getty Images

As a wife, mother, clinical counselor, and musician, author Julie de Azevedo Hanks understands better than most the demands placed on women in the Church, and she has spent years providing clinical counseling to Latter-day Saint women and families. The Burnout Cure dispels common cultural myths that often leave women feeling “never good enough.” Through scriptural quotes, personal stories, and clinical examples, Hanks offers a bevy of tools designed to help sisters identify and meet their emotional needs, to accept their limitations, to let go of the guilt and perfectionism, and to lean on the Lord?


Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content