Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Love of a Husband

Many Christians put so much of their attention on the submission of wives that they leave a huge void concerning the love of husbands for their wives. Furthermore, the statements of popular leaders like John Piper, Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, and John MacArthur who emphasize husband authority, excuse the unloving behavior of husbands and place the blame for the husband's abuse on his wife, give the impression that husbands do not need to love their wives at all, that the focus of husbands should be to insist that their wives submit to them. Where exactly is this command in scripture? Besides the command of the Gentile king in Esther, it is NOT in scripture at all. Complementarian doctrine is taking men off the narrow way and into the ditch.

What ARE husbands told to focus on? They are to love and sacrifice for their wives. Since when is demanding obedience either love OR sacrifice?

So what does a husband's love look like? First, consider what a man does to interest the woman on whom he has set his sights. He calls her a bad name, right? He tells her she's a lousy cook, or that her hair is full of cooties. Absolutely not! A woman who is treated like that, is likely to have nothing to do with him. If he persists in such behavior, she will likely tell him a home-truth or two that will have him slinking away in shame. Does he approach her and tell her that God told him she is to submit to him? Of course not! She'd rush away from him as fast as she could or laugh in his face. Yet, this is how husbands presume to “love” their wives.

So how DOES a man convince a woman to date and marry him? He speaks respectfully to her, he treats her as he would like to be treated, he shares his thoughts and feelings with her and listens to her thoughts and feelings as well. He becomes her friend, her companion, someone she can rely on, and she returns the favor. He begins to include her in his plans, making decisions together; first for what they will do on a given day, and much later where they will live and how they will raise children.

Yet, once they are declared husband and wife, the husband changes his behavior. He no longer makes decisions WITH her unless he wants to. He makes decisions FOR her, and orders her to follow them. He stops loving her and starts ordering her—but insists his ordering her is loving her. He shifts his entire focus from loving and winning her to dominating her. He calls this possession and smothering of her spirit love.

Men do this in varying degrees. Some through belief in the complementarian view alone, maintain a “trump card” that they can pull out at any time. Even if they rarely use that card, it is still there. The inequality is still a form of domination. Others go a step further and expect their wives to get permission for nearly everything: how money is spent, whether she can go anywhere, what they will eat and when, what her role is, and how many children they will have, and what she will believe of the scriptures. Still others use verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse to keep their wives humiliated and subjugated. And then there are those who use physical violence in addition to verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse to keep their wives under their control.

These husbands protect their wives from others, but don't consider that the person their wives most need protection from is their husbands.

Basically, husband, go back to courting your wife. Even though your wife says she doesn't want to make a decision, encourage her to start thinking about what she would decide if given the opportunity, but do not force her to make a decision. If you withheld from her the freedom to make choices, she will need time and encouragement to grow in this skill. Talk to your wife and listen to her, like you did when you were courting—or even better than you did when you were courting. Treat your wife as you would like to be treated if you were her. Although you will have to ask her for the details, many behaviors are common knowledge. Would you like your input scorned or ignored? Of course not! Then don't scorn or ignore or brush off her input. Would you like to be treated as less important than she is? Of course not! So stop treating her like she is less important or less valuable than you are.

Honor your wife. This is not limited to telling her flowery words, giving her roses, chocolates, and jewelry, or honoring her on Mother's Day. Honor her by listening attentively to her thoughts,ideas, and feelings--even when they are complaints about your behavior. Don't silence her. Discuss how money and time will be spent and make decisions together. When you don't agree, don't pull out the trump card and expect her to do it your way. Instead, keep brainstorming for ideas until you find one that works for both of you. When you have a deep abiding love for your wife, you will be concerned that she is satisfied, that decisions do not hurt her.

And don't forget to sacrifice for your wife. Put your own needs and wants aside so that she can go back to school, go on that trip, or anything else she believes would be beneficial to her. Stop thinking all the cooking,housework and child care is her job. Pitch in. It is your job, too. Do your own laundry if your wife agrees that would be helpful, and throw the boys' jeans in with your own. And PLEASE do NOT wash light and dark colors together!

A husband who enjoys fellowshipping with his wife, is likely to have a wife who enjoys fellowshipping with him. Real fellowship requires trust, friendship, and equality in both everyday life and in your social and spiritual lives. Give your wife the gift of equality in every area. Never assume you know better than she does; perhaps YOU are the person who lacks information. Talk it out, research together, decide together.

Lastly, read I Corinthians 13 together—perhaps once every 4-8 weeks. Does your wife feel safe enough to be honest with you and tell you if the chapter describes you? If she doesn't feel safe (and you may have no way of knowing) and/or if the chapter does not describe you, you need to improve in loving your wife and in giving her preference over yourself. In fact, it is best to presume that you always have room for improvement in loving your wife.

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge," a novel about a wife who discovers traditional marriage advice doesn't always work. See


  1. Excellent post. You might enjoy this lovely twist on the Proverbs 31 woman.....

  2. Thanks Quivering Daughters! I enjoyed that post very much. It IS an excellent and truthful and liberating twist on Proverbs 31. Eric says it very well. I think it is even more refreshing because it comes from a man.