As part of our premarital counseling, we each wrote a brief essay describing the “ideal husband” and “ideal wife,” seeking to be as biblical, specific, practical, and thorough as possible. We’ve edited our articles together (two are better than one!), and we hope this will be an encouragement to those who are married or seeking to get married. After six months of marriage, reviewing what we wrote has been convicting and motivational. We are both sinners, and far from being a perfect husband or wife. But in Christ, through whom we have forgiveness of our sins, we are able to extend grace to one another and strive to live out a joyful, God-honoring marriage.
An ideal husband is first a Christian. His highest priority and aim in life is living for Christ, which shapes how he thinks and conducts himself in every arena of life: work, relationships, church, and free time. He is walking by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), which means he is living life with faith in and dependence on God. He is growing in sanctification, and is a blessing to those in his sphere of influence, especially his wife and children.
In marriage, the husband should be the leader, protector, and provider for the family. Paul writes to the Ephesians:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.Ephesians 5:22-24
Our culture views male headship as an old-fashioned, even dangerous, relic of patriarchal societies. However, the headship of the husband is the clear biblical blueprint for marriage, and is God’s intended design for flourishing relationships. As the head of the family, the husband sets the vision for what the home and family is like. He is not an authoritarian dictator, but leads with conviction about what is most important, and has a compassionate desire for his family to thrive, both physically and spiritually. This means he leads his family in major decisions (e.g. where to live, areas of ministry in the church, how to raise children) by initiating discussions, asking good questions to solicit feedback, praying regularly about these decisions, and moving towards action.
As a leader, he also needs to know his family intimately, such as each member’s strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears, and is able to care for them with encouragement and wisdom. He knows how to utilize the strengths of his wife and encourages her to exercise her gifts in the family, church, and other spheres (Prov 31:10-31). Also, as a leader, he seeks wise counsel from other men in his life, but is not dependent upon the approval of specific individuals, such as his parents. His ultimate authority is God’s Word, and he can see when the counsel of others is in alignment with Scripture.
As the protector of the family, the husband should care for his family’s well-being, both physically and spiritually. Physically, he keeps his family safe, which could mean proactively keeping them out of dangerous situations or ensuring they are not out alone at night. Spiritually, he protects them from false teaching and corrects sinful thinking. He should be spiritually wise and discerning not to place his family under unbiblical teaching, and should also be sensitive to when his wife or kids are spiritually struggling so that he is able to come alongside them and effectively and lovingly help them hold fast to Christ and His Word.
The husband should also be the primary provider for the family, both physically and financially. He is responsible for keeping his family sheltered, fed, and meeting their practical needs. He should be a reliable and trustworthy man, so his family does not worry about whether he is capable of taking care of them (1 Tim 5:8). Not providing for his family is on par with apostasy and a betrayal of the Christian faith. Although God intended the man to be the primary provider, God does not restrict the wife from being industrious and entrepreneurial (Prov 31:16-18). In fact, Scripture encourages the wife to care for her children and her husband, engage in commercial activities, generate an income, and be well-educated, generous and merciful. The primary role of a husband as the provider does not conflict with the wife being financially successful. Scripture instructs husbands to commend their wives on their achievements. The husband should be able to rejoice with his wife, understanding that her success does not diminish his role as the provider, and her work can be a blessing to others and used to the glory of God. There is no jealousy in love (1 Cor 13:4).
Beyond material provision, a husband should seek to understand his wife, intimately acquainting himself with her thoughts and heart. Husbands are commanded to live with their wives in an understanding way (1 Pet 3:7-8). Men and women are different, and it will not always be intuitive to a man why his wife thinks or feels a certain way, or has concerns he cannot relate to. Living with her in an understanding way means listening to her attentively and responding with care. Depending on the situation, she may need a word of encouragement, a long reassuring hug, or even a gentle but firm correction if her thinking is veering from biblical truth. It takes wisdom, time, and intentional pursuit of his wife for a husband to understand her and show love in a way that is most fitting for her and the circumstance.
An ideal husband loves his family genuinely and sacrificially. He is not only fulfilling all the duties God calls him to in a perfunctory way, but it’s clear from his conduct that his heart and affections are fully engaged. He loves his wife and children, and they do not doubt he would lay down his life for them because he does the harder task of laying down his life daily, sacrificing his energy, time, interests, and needs for their good. This can mean helping his wife clean the home after a long day, patiently listening to her talk about her struggles, or playing with the kids even when he’d rather go to sleep. He reflects the beauty of Christ’s sacrificial love for the church (Eph 5:25-26). His love for his wife is also exclusive, devoted, and loyal, and she does not fear he will be unfaithful because he is a man of integrity, with a pure conscience before God. He continues to pursue her in love, tenderness and genuine affection, working hard to keep deepening their relationship even after many years of marriage.