This article is part of a limited series called Be A Man. These articles are taken from a Bible study I conducted for several months. The purpose of these blogs is to examine and discuss what it means to be a man, a husband and a father according to the Bible, and how we are to live that out in our modern world. While the Bible study was originally for men, not all topics are gender specific, meaning that women, wives, and mothers can still learn and be encouraged from these articles.

How does it work?

How are husbands supposed to work with their wives?

What kind of balance needs to be struck so that a marriage can thrive, or just survive?

These and many other questions have been asked for ages. Husbands want to know. Wives want to know. Engaged couples want to know. How do we make this thing work?
There is no easy answer. The answer may be simple to explain, but nothing about it is easy as far as the application and living out of this Biblical truth.

First, I’ll talk about a traditional way husband-wife dynamic, one that most are familiar with. This may be the way your family works, the family you grew up in functioned, or what you have seen in different families. After I go through this traditional dynamic, I’ll talk about what I believe to be a more Biblical founded dynamic between husbands and wives.

The Traditional Husband-Wife Dynamic

In the traditional home, there is a very simple dynamic between a husband and wife. It looks something like this.

The husband is the head of the household. The wife, and children follow the leadership and direction of the husband. Obedience or adherence to his rule at all times and to the letter is what is required and expected in this dynamic.

Christians that follow this kind of thinking look to Scripture like Ephesians 5:22-23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3.

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the LORD. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which He is the Savior.”

“Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and then head of Christ is God.”

While these verses do indeed say that the man is the head, there is more to them, and we will get there in a moment.

Something important to realize about this understanding is that the husband-wife dynamic is a very top-down authority kind of relationship. The husband says, or decrees, and it is so. Or it will be made so because that is how the husband wants it. This kind of relationship can lead, not always, but can lead to a dictatorship. The husband makes his demands and his lowly servant, his wife, does what he asks because he said so.

Interestingly, in most cases where the husband-wife dynamic looks like this, love is not the motivation behind any actions, on the husband or wife’s part.

This top-down authority also lends itself to be abusive very easily. Not necessarily abuse in a physical way, though that can happen. With a top-down dynamic, the man is in charge of the relationship, and it is increasingly easy for a man to overstep his bounds and abuse his wife. It could be verbal, like calling her names or teasing her in a mean spirit, as to put her down or lower her self-esteem or worth. It could be emotional and mental abuse, where a husband may imply that she is good for nothing else but the role of a servant, that she should have no thoughts or ideas that are not “Yes Dear” and “I will, my husband.”

You may laugh at this. You may think that I am joking about this, but the reality is that even now there are couples that function this way. The abuse goes unchecked and unreported because the husband and wife both live with a poor understanding of what the dynamic should be. Or what God intended it to be.

And if you are in a relationship like this, or you know a couple that operates this way, I am not condemning them. It is possible for a husband and wife to work and function in love in this way. I have seen in couples that I know. My only wish is that they would move towards what I believe is a healthier, more biblically oriented dynamic.

The Biblical Dynamic

To explain what that looks like, let us examine some Scripture.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27

“The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to him. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will be one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” Genesis 2:18, 21-25NIV

I remember reading a book as a kid that put this idea of equality in such a simple way, yet spoke of the great complexity and power of this idea. It went something like this.

God created the woman out of the man’s rib on purpose. It was a design, done with great care. If God had made Eve out of Adam’s foot, it could mean that he was over her, a conqueror of women, meant to oppress and step on all women. If God had made Eve out of Adam’s head, it would mean something else. It could mean that she was over him, that she was the intellectually superior one, that man and his mind and thoughts were forever below those of the woman. Both of these were not the case. God didn’t create Eve out of the foot of the head.

God created Eve out of the rib, a place of security, sheltered beneath the arm. She was created to be close to his heart. Eve was made from the side of the man, to stand beside him, to support, to assist, to be at his side for the journey of life.

This was the ideal. This is the ideal. When God created the earth, perfect in purpose and design, this is how God established the husband-wife dynamic. A man and a woman, side by side, equal in purpose and position before God, that was the original intention. That is how it was, and that is how God wants it to be today. A man and wife shouldn’t be stuck in a hierarchical structure where orders are handed down. God wants a husband and wife to go through life together, hand in hand, side by side, working together through the issues that life throws their way.

Side by side is how a relationship works. Top-down authority is how a business works. When God made Adam and Eve, it was for a relationship. That was what He wanted, and does want for couples today.

God continues to mirror this with His own relationship with Israel throughout Scripture. He speaks to them as a husband to his wife, partnering with them, being in love with them, wanting to work with them, and walk along side them.

“Return, faithless people,” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband…” – Jeremiah 3:14

While Israel was out chasing other gods, worship anyone or anything but the LORD God, God called out to them as a husband does to a wife that had left. He wanted this to go back to the way they were, He the husband and Israel his wife walking hand in hand, being in a relationship. As He had always designed them for, and longed for most earnestly. While God is clearly using human language and imagery we would understand, it helps illustrate how a couple, a husband and wife dynamic was created to work. Not a top-down hierarchy, but a side by side relationship.

You may think that this kind of side by side relationship is impossible. You may conclude that a top-down authority arrangement would be easier to work with. That decision is ultimately up to you. I am not commanding or condemning anyone’s relationship, or how it is structured.

However, a relationship built on equality will last much longer. A relationship built where a husband and wife walk and work side by side will be much more effective in all areas of life. A relationship, a biblical husband-wife dynamic, one that is not top-down, will more easily mirror the kind of relationship that God desires to have with us; a relationship of mutual love, not hierarchy.

This is how a marriage will thrive. This is how a man and woman will grow more and more in love. This is the husband-wife dynamic that God wants for all of our marriages.

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