Milk and Honey Magazine explains the importance of putting Jesus first in marriage!

Treat Her Right (For Men)

Don Martin

From the moment a man says “I do” to his bride, jokes abound about how the groom’s future will be solely devoted to fulfilling the wishes of his wife.

Even at my own wedding, my sister-in-law had my wife and I perform a demonstration where I put my hand on top of my wife’s followed by my sister-in-law pronouncing to me, “This is the last time you will ever have the upper hand” [cue the wedding guests laughing while men throughout the room mutter “she’s right, so true”].

Now I appreciate a good laugh like the next guy, but I sometimes wonder whether or not Christian men have started to buy into this mainstream rhetoric and forgotten what the Bible says about being a husband.

Furthermore, do men know why it is important to be good husbands to their wives?

As I pondered these questions, I searched the concordance of my Bible for verses about husbands, wives, and marriage. Once I sifted through a half dozen verses in Proverbs about ‘quarrelsome wives’, I turned my attention to the New Testament where I came across a familiar verse: 1 Peter 3:7. The verse reads, “husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life.”

From my experience this is usually where the verse ends when recited at weddings or in marriage counseling sessions. The verse, however, doesn’t stop there. The final line reads, “Treat her [your wife] as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.”

Really? My prayers are impacted by the way I treat my wife? This line stopped me in my tracks. In fact, I reread the verse several times and then the entire chapter of 1 Peter 3 to make sure I understood the verse correctly. To the best of my knowledge I did, so I read the last line of verse 7 one more time, “Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” Peter is admonishing husbands to treat their wives well so that the husband’s prayers “will not be hindered”.

Even though this was a new idea to me, I did know three things for certain: 1. I am a husband, 2. I pray, 3. I don’t want those prayers to be hindered in any way. Until now, I had never connected my relationship with my wife to my prayer life with God. I guess I always considered them to be separate entities each with their own issues and room for growth. If I am to accept this new idea, then the next question that comes to mind is, ‘what does it mean to treat her as you should?’

I went back through the verses about husbands, wives, and marriage and pulled out three commandments for how husbands should treat their wives. Not surprisingly, these commandments are filled with common sense. Also not surprisingly, men tend to screw these up (myself included) on a regular basis. I believe there is a reason for this that I will circle back to at the end, but first, let’s take a look at the three commandments in turn:

1 Corinthians 7:3 – “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.”

See, this isn’t so bad. The scriptures teach married men and women that they are to have sex with their spouses. More specifically, though, husbands and wives are to learn what their spouses desire and strive to fulfill them. This is all about communication. I completely understand that talking about intimacy is not as fun as engaging in it, but I encourage husbands and wives to strike up these conversations regularly. You might just be surprised where it leads. Throughout the three and a half years of marriage to my wife, I have found that discussing our desires not only improves our romantic life, but also connects us on a deeper spiritual level.

Ephesians 5:25 – “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church. He gave up his life for her.”

In the context of this verse, I relate love to sacrifice. Couples are all told that marriage involves sacrifice, and they typically shrug as if it won’t be a problem. What I have found, however, is that sacrifice is always tougher in practice and rarely comes in the form that we envision it.

Ephesians 5:25 gives the ultimate picture of sacrifice in Jesus dying for us (the Church). Jesus did not have to give his life for us, but his love was so great that he was willing to suffer for our benefit. While the vast majority of men will never be in a position to have to die for their wives, there are other opportunities to sacrifice that men are faced with consistently. To name a few:

  • Watching sports vs. spending time with your wife
  • His career goals vs. her career goals
  • Deciding where to live and whose family to be closer to
  • Hanging with the ‘guys’ vs. doing some chores around the house
  • Helping with the kids and making dinner

If your husband is anything like me, he may be saying, “this is all good, but shouldn’t she be sacrificing for me too?” Yes, absolutely! In the most successful marriages, both members strive to serve each other’s needs daily. But, men, hear me out on this. In the event that your wife does not engage in sacrificial love, that does not mean you should not either. Ephesians 5:25 does not include any qualifiers, and our actions should not either.

Colossians 3:19 – “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.”

Again Paul writes to husbands about loving their wives, but he also adds to never treat their wives harshly. What does this mean exactly? The word ‘harsh’ is defined as any action that is “ungentle, unpleasant, stern, or cruel”.

Note to Husbands: If you didn’t have a problem with the first two commandments, I am going to guess you won’t make it through this one unscathed. Have you ever raised your voice to your wife in anger? What about fought with her or argued with her? Have you ever ignored her, told her what to do, or talked negatively about things or people that are important to her? Odds are you answered ‘yes’ to at least one of these. Every husband falls short in this department to some degree, and I would argue that it is almost impossible not to.

This brings me back to my hypothesis on why I believe husbands struggle with treating their wives appropriately. It has to do with prayer. When we pray, we are building a relationship with God. When men pray and treat their wives as they should, those prayers are not hindered. Satan does not like this. And even though Satan cannot always keep men from praying, he can tempt them to mistreat their wives in an effort to hinder those prayers. It isn’t a fluke that the very commandments for how husbands should treat their wives are the same ones that men are tempted to break most often.

On a personal level, 1 Peter 3:7 has caused me to re-evaluate the significance of my relationship with my wife as it relates to my prayer life. It has also helped me to realize that I am going to be tempted to do the very things that I am commanded not to do. My advice to myself and other husbands is simple: Be on guard, love your wife, don’t skimp on the intimacy, and keep praying! And to wives, I recommend that you spend some time in the Scriptures studying verses written specifically for you. A few common passages to begin with are below!

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. Ephesians 5: 21-22

Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 1 Corinthians 7:1-7

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. 1 Peter 3: 1-6