It is not sufficient to simply be married. To be is to exist, and nothing more. For a marriage to be the kind of marriage God wants us to have, we must do more than simply exist in a married state. A godly marriage is the result of dedication to being the very best husband or the very best wife one can be. The Christian husband should have a desire to be the very best husband he can be for his wife. This pleases God. There are several terms that could be employed to describe how a man can be a good husband, such as love, faithfulness, godliness, and caring. These and others are certainly good descriptors of factors that help make a good marriage. There is one word that underlies all of these. When this concept becomes the desire and intent of a husband, he will usually find that his relationship with his wife becomes enriched as the love they share flourishes. What is this powerful word? It is “understanding.”
In 1 Peter 3:7 the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel…” This scripture demands of the reader to understand “understanding” as it applies to marriage and the will of God. There are several ways that understanding will help a man be the husband that God would have him to be, and to have the fulfillment of a happy marriage. In the scope of this article we will look at three things that a husband needs to understand in order to promote a healthier relationship with his wife. First, he must understand God’s purpose for marriage. Second, he must understand his role in the marriage. Third, he must understand his wife.
Understanding God’s Purpose For Marriage
The Christian husband must understand God’s purpose for marriage. Too often, marriages are simply a union of lives based on the attraction of the man and woman to each other. God has designed marriage to be so much more! The horrific divorce rate in our country demonstrates what happens when a marriage is simply based on attraction. Over time, the attraction becomes diminished and the desire to nurture the marriage fails. A marriage based on attraction is a self-seeking marriage. A marriage based on godly love and understanding will be able to withstand the challenging times. While physical attraction is important within a marriage, it is only one factor among many. A godly marriage is a marriage that begins with a love for God, and is built upon that love. When our love for God is as it should be, that love will culminate in a healthy love for our spouse.
One purpose that God has for the institution of marriage is companionship. God created the first woman (Eve) to be the companion for the first man (Adam). When God created man, He said “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Ge. 2:18, NKJV). Thus, God established the first marriage with the stated purpose of companionship. Husbands, are you a companion for your wife? Do you encourage companionship by spending time with her and giving her your full attention? Do you put her in a place where she feels like she must compete with your job, hobbies, friends, or other things for your attention? There is a reason women tend to be more affectionate than men, and part of that reason goes to the very purpose of their creation. The wise husband will value the companionship of his wife and seek to nurture that companionship. It is hard to “find time” to devote to these things, thus it is necessary to make time. Nurturing your relationship with your spouse must be a priority. It is essential to a healthy marriage.
Another reason that God created marriage is for physical fulfillment (1 Co. 7:1-4; 8-9; He. 13:4). 1 Corinthians 7:2 teaches that a man or a woman is to be married “because of sexual immorality.” The idea behind this is that God created men and women to have sexual desires, but intended that those desires only be fulfilled within the marriage relationship. It is, therefore, the responsibility of each spouse to be sure that they are attending to the physical needs of their spouse. The husband is to “render to his wife the affection due her” (1 Co. 7:3). The Christian husband who understands God’s will for him will attend to his wife’s need for affection and physical fulfillment (1 Co. 7:5). It may not be in your nature as a man to show affection, but if your wife desires your affection it is your duty as her husband. Your job is not to be sure you get what you want out of marriage. It is to be sure you are giving your wife what she needs! Far too often, marriages are destroyed because one or both of the spouses failed to meet the physical and emotional needs of the other. When someone else comes along who is willing to meet that need, the result is often disastrous. A garden needs to be nurtured. It needs weeds pulled and the vegetables or flowers fertilized. A marriage is like a garden in that respect. It needs to be tended. It needs nurturing. Sometimes the weeds must be pulled. Those things that harm or threaten the marriage relationship need to be removed. The love needs to be fertilized with selfless attention. It takes diligence and work, but the results are a beautiful garden of love!
Understanding the Role of the Husband
It is essential that the Christian husband has understanding concerning his role in the marriage. God has instituted within the family, roles which work according to His plan. When these roles are understood and honored, the family can function as God intended. Just as God has placed within the church certain roles of leadership and function that meet His design, He has done the same within the family. Neither in the church nor in the family do these roles indicate that one person is more important than the other. God has placed the man in the role as the head of his wife (1 Co. 11:3).
When a Christian man understands his role as the head of his wife (and thus his family), he will be better able to fulfill God’s purpose and will have a more fulfilling marriage. Too many men abdicate their role as the head of their family. When this happens, the burden of filling this role falls upon the wife or goes neglected. The man who understands his role as the head of his wife will not seek to lord over his wife, but rather cherish and honor her (1 Pe. 3:7). As the head of the family it is incumbent upon the man to be the provider for his family (1 Ti. 5:8). While this responsibility may be shared by both spouses, the burden lies upon the man. God has designed the role of the wife as the keeper of the home (Ti. 2:5; 1 Ti. 5:14). In order for her to fulfill her God given role, he must fulfill his role as a provider. The marital relationship suffers when these roles are not fulfilled. Honoring these roles provides an environment that encourages the marriage to flourish.
Understanding His Wife
Lastly, the husband needs to understand his wife. The differences between men and women are manifested physically, emotionally, and psychologically. While these differences can contribute to misunderstanding and strife within a marriage, such does not need to be the case. God made men and women different for a reason, and that reason is seen in the roles in which God has placed them in the family. Women are physically and emotionally equipped to fulfill the role of the care giver in the home. Men are likewise equipped to provide for and protect the home. These differences should complement each other and when in harmony create a strong union around which the family prospers.
The Christian man should seek to understand how his wife thinks, what triggers her emotions, what her vulnerabilities are, and what she seeks from him in their marriage. Wives likewise need to understand their husbands. The key to such understanding is communication. With this key, a couple can unlock the mysteries that center around their differences, and learn to meet the needs and challenges that stem from these differences. Remember, she is your partner, your lover, your helper, your life companion. Seek to understand her mysteries. Seek to fulfill her needs. Talk to her. Provide for her. Protect her. Hold her. Cherish her. Reassure her. Affirm her. Love her. Lead her to Heaven. You are her man, but more importantly you are God’s man. God has blessed you with your wife and has given you a charge to be her head, and treasure her heart. Remember, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD” (Pr. 18:22).
Men of God, may God bless you with an understanding of His will for you as the husband of your wife and the father of your children. May that understanding enable and empower you to be the man God would have you to be, and the man your wife needs you to be.
Michael serves the Boiling Springs Church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC. He is on the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger.