Why did God create human beings male and female? He made us in His own image and likeness, but unlike Himself, he split us into two sexes (Genesis 1:26-27). He carefully, intricately and brilliantly created us to complement each other physically, mentally and emotionally. Together in marriage, we two become “one flesh” (Genesis 2:23-24).
These differences are complementary—but they are differences. If you don’t understand them or you work against them or you try to ignore or erase them, they will cause unending perplexity, frustration and friction.
The Creator of male and female sent along instructions for how to make His creation function marvelously. Ephesians 5:22-33 encapsulate these principles better than bookshelves full of self-help books with marriage advice. But it takes a lot of depth to truly understand it, and it takes faith to apply it.
To women who want to understand men, the Apostle Paul says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing” (verses 22-24).
A woman who applies this instruction, submitting to and obeying her husband as unto Christ, will be fulfilling a man’s greatest emotional need from her: respect. God made the man to excel when respected and followed as the leader. God made him to be bolstered and encouraged by the woman’s encouragement and admiration, and her recognition of his achievements. He needs the loyalty and support of the woman. He needs to be understood for his masculine interests, drives and ambitions. He needs honest feedback and responsive support for his ideas, suggestions and requests. Her appreciation for the things he does gives him a kind of confidence that only she can provide.
Women, don’t view this need in men as a weakness—treat it as God’s design. Accept it, embrace it, and make yourself expert in meeting that need!
To men who want to understand women, Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (verses 25-28).
A man who applies this instruction will be fulfilling a woman’s greatest emotional need from him: love. A woman needs attention. She needs appreciation, approval and sincere compliments. She needs people and personal relationships. She needs to be loved, respected and treated with tenderness. She needs a shoulder to cry on without fear of rejection. Her opinions and wisdom count, and she needs to know that the man recognizes that. She needs to know a man appreciates her differences and tries to understand her emotional makeup. She needs him to be sensitive, protective and caring of her total welfare.
Don’t view this need as a weakness. Realize that it is God’s design. Accept it, embrace it, and make yourself expert in meeting her need!
Ephesians 5 boils this all down to one marvelous verse: “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence [respect, venerate, treat with deference] her husband” (verse 33). This is a command, but it’s also an insight into the deepest needs of men and women: Women need love—men need respect.
When both the man’s needs and the woman’s needs are met, a virtuous cycle begins. A woman who is loved finds it far easier to show respect. A man who is respected finds it far easier to show love.
When those needs are not met, the cycle turns vicious: If a woman doesn’t receive love, she tends to withhold respect. If a man doesn’t receive respect, he tends to withhold love. This is the natural tendency, and when we give in to it, marriages become train wrecks.
Ephesians 5 does not say, Husbands, love her as long as she respects you, or, Wives, reverence him as long as he shows love. For this to work, husbands must love unconditionally; wives must respect unconditionally. A man must love his wife, even when she isn’t lovable. He must govern his thoughts and actions toward love. A wife must respect her husband even when he isn’t respectable. She must govern her thoughts so as not just to show reverence, but to be reverent.
God’s ground rules for marriage are all about the way of give. A man must give love to a woman. A woman must give reverence and submission to a man. A man must give godly leadership to a woman—leadership that earns her respect and that is a joy to submit to. And a woman must be a lovable woman, to recognize, encourage and receive a man’s love.
This one verse is the world’s best marriage advice! If a husband and wife apply it, they are guaranteed to solve and avoid countless misunderstandings and problems, and build a harmonious marriage filled with respect and love!