In the epistle of the Ephesians Paul starts out by setting an example which all things fallowing must embrace
Ephesians 5:21 “Submit your yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ”.
This statement of mutual self offering reflects the love which is the Trinity. The Fathers self gift to the Son and the Sons self gift to the father.
The Marriage of Christ to the Church is reflected in the marital union of a Man and his spouse. One gives all to the other and each has a role.
Now, customs and language of the first century do not translate well to the modern western reader. The driving factor behind Paul’s words are however still valid in any society even if modern culture seems to disagree with it. Concerning the submissive nature or subjugation of the wife to the husband I offer the fallowing:
There is an encyclical from Pope Pius XI Casti Connubii
This subjection, however, does not deny or take away the liberty which fully belongs to the woman both in view of her dignity as a human person, and in view of her most noble office as wife and mother and companion; nor does it bid her obey her husband's every request if not in harmony with right reason or with the dignity due to wife; nor, in fine, does it imply that the wife should be put on a level with those persons who in law are called minors, to whom it is not customary to allow free exercise of their rights on account of their lack of mature judgment, or of their ignorance of human affairs. But it forbids that exaggerated liberty which cares not for the good of the family; it forbids that in this body which is the family, the heart be separated from the head to the great detriment of the whole body and the proximate danger of ruin. For if the man is the head, the woman is the heart, and as he occupies the chief place in ruling, so she may and ought to claim for herself the chief place in love.
Children will learn to lead from their fathers but learn to submit by their mothers.
The role of the family of God (his Church) including the father is the role of Submission, the role of Mary “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, Let it be done to me according to your word” This is an image of femininity and of being the bride of Christ. And how the Church is submissive to Christ. In marriage as Pope Pius 11 writes about, in the family, the mother is the icon of this role.
Now the role of Christ, which the Husband represents in the family, is the image of Headship or or being first in the family. As Christ says, let him who wishes to be first, be the servant of all. “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Do not forget the Context mentioned in the beginning of the two being subject to one another. The Man Being the Head, and the Women Being the heart, which is greater? Neither, both are necessary and both have honor and dignity.
Gender roles are factor, who do the children go to when they need comfort, who rushes into a burning building to save the children, who teaches and who punishes. It is important to understand that the two halves of a marriage are one and the same working together.