Who does the dishes? Who makes the decisions? Who pays the bills? Who bathes the kids? Who brings home the bacon?
For every couple this might look a little bit different, but that doesn’t mean “anything goes” as it relates to what role a husband and wife should assume in marriage. Fortunately, we aren’t left to guess what our roles should look like. The Bible gives clear instruction.
But, before we dive into how a husband and wife’s roles are different, have you ever considered how our roles are the same?
Our Roles Are More The Same Than Different
The fact is, our roles are much more the same then they are different. The similarities in our roles stem from our equality in value. God has created both man and woman in God’s image, and he values us the same (Galatians 3:26-29).
Since we’re equal in value, the highest common goal we have towards each other as husbands and wives is to love one another.
The Bible speaks MUCH more about our general roles as individuals, compared to our more specific roles as husbands and wives. Think of all the “one another” commands in scripture… to love one another, respect one another, forgive one another, comfort one another, be kind to one another, etc… We could sum up the Bible’s instruction to everyone in one command, “Love one another.”
Before you consider your individual role as a husband or wife, make sure you are first considering your greatest and most important role – to love. Marital roles are simply different expressions of love and must serve the biblical purposes of love. Any fulfillment of a husband and wife’s role that isn’t motivated by, and carried out with, love is not biblical (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).
If a husband is more focused on his marital responsibility to lead than his individual responsibility to love, his leadership might become too rigid or controlling. Leadership without love is really just control.
If a wife is more focused on her marital responsibility to submit than her individual responsibility to love, her submission might end up making her look, or feel, like a doormat. Submission isn’t silent. Submission speaks.
Marital roles can’t be correctly fulfilled outside of first fulfilling our individual roles to love.
Our Roles Are Different
Read Ephesians 5:22-24 below to see how the Bible defines a husband and wife’s role (and please read Ephesians 5:25-31 for a more detailed explanation).
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do 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 as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”
A husband’s role is to sacrificially and lovingly lead. Dennis Rainey has summarized a husband’s role as, “… to lead in such a way that makes it reasonable and enjoyable for his wife to follow.” Husband, your leadership should make your wife want to willingly follow you.
Here’s a few ways to sacrificially lead your wife (here are 25 more ways):
Create an environment where your wife feels comfortable to share her opinion in decision making.
Initiate planning date nights, going to church, spending time in prayer, and asking about her day.
Be faithful in doing what your wife asks of you.
Help out around the house without her having to ask.
A wife’s role is to lovingly submit to her husband. Howard Hendricks has explained a woman’s role as, “A biblically submissive wife’s focus is not on enabling wrong behavior, but on empowering her husband to pursue right behavior – to help him become the man God wants him to be, and the leader that God wants him to be.” Wife, your submission should give energy, encouragement, affirmation, and instruction to your husband’s leadership.
Here’s a few ways to lovingly submit to and show respect to your husband (here are 25 more ways):
- Encourage his leadership by affirming him when he takes initiative.
- Praise his character.
- Speak the truth in love in decision making and when his behavior needs correcting.
- Ask him how you can pray for him.
Using Scripture’s specific instructions on what it looks like for both husband and wife’s roles within marriage is important to maintain a healthy marriage. However, don’t focus so much on your marital roles, that your individual roles slip by the wayside and you begin to perform your marital roles without the key ingredient – loving one another as God loves you.
Finding the perfect balance here isn’t something that can be accomplished over night. Talk about your roles often with each other and give yourself, and your spouse, grace and encouragement when it comes to figuring out what this looks like in your marriage.
Hans co-founded Marriage Revolution with his wife, Star, in 2010. He counsels couples in The Woodlands, TX, speaks at marriage conferences around the country, and provides leadership and direction to Marriage Revolution.