Contrary to popular teachings about unity in marriage, the Bible teaches that unity in marriage is primarily dependent on the actions, reactions and attitudes of a wife toward her husband and only secondarily on the behavior of the husband.
There are a lot of concepts that are given in marriage books today to try and help couples achieve unity. Some of these concepts, like unconditional love and forgiveness would even be supported by the Bible. But unfortunately, as with many other things – most teachings today on how to have unity in marriage mix truth with error.
God wants couples to unify by becoming one flesh in marriage
The Bible tells us about the unity God expects there to be in marriage:
“10 Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house;”
Psalm 45:10 (KJV)
“7 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; 8 And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Mark 10:7-9 (KJV)
When a husband and wife come together in marriage – this new relationship takes precedent over all other earthly relationships. Before they were married their greatest earthly relationship was with their parents and now it is with each other.
There are three important concepts about this unity in marriage that Christ talks about:
“And they twain SHALL be one flesh”
“so then they ARE no more twain, but one flesh”
“What therefore God hath joined together, let NOT man put asunder.”
Biblically speaking in marriage, a husband and wife are one flesh from the moment of their marriage covenant, yet they are to be becoming one flesh more and more the longer they are married and they are not to stop being one flesh as long as they both live.
In a way, this concept of being one flesh in marriage mirrors our salvation. From the moment, we are saved we receive Christ’s righteousness and are declared justified by God. But the Bible tells us “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) exhorting us to progressive sanctification. In essence the Bible is telling us “You are holy, so be holy”. In the same way, the Bible tells couples in marriage “You are one flesh, so be one flesh”.
In the next section I will talk about how we can practically make our marriage a true “one flesh” relationship as God desires it to be.
5 Steps to becoming one flesh in marriage
Below I have outlined Biblical concepts that I believe will bring the true unity that God desires for all Christian marriages. As I outline these steps you may see some things you have never seen in a marriage book or article and you will also see some things missing that you often see in books and articles on unity in marriage. At the end of these steps I will compare and contrast the Biblical model of unity in marriage with the modern-day model of unity in marriage.
Step 1 – A husband and wife are to have sexual relations on a regular basis
“3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.”
I Corinthians 7:3-4 (KJV)
The act of marriage or the consummation of marriage is sexual union. This is the most literal meaning of the Biblical phrase “one flesh”. Sex is to occur regularly in marriage. An interesting biological fact of sex is that it releases two bonding hormones (oxytocin and vasopressin) which God designed to draw a couple closer together.
On this subject of sexual relations in marriage Christian and non-Christian counselors are usually in fully agreement. The regularity of sexual relations is the first indicator of how healthy a relationship is. While it is possible to have regular sexual relations but still have disunity in a marriage – it is impossible to have full unity in a marriage without regular relations.
Step 2 – A husband is to know his wife
“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
I Peter 3:7 (KJV)
For husbands this is the first step in cultivating oneness with their wife. A husband cannot love his wife as God intended without knowing her and this involves him talking with her and spending time with her. God thought it was so important for a man to get to know his wife that in the law he gave to Moses for Israel he gave this rule for newlywed couples:
“When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”
Deuteronomy 24:5 (KJV)
God literally forbade men from going off to war or going away on business trips for the first year of their marriage. Couples literally had a one year honey moon in Israel!
So, this leads us to another question – why does a husband need to know his wife? The answer is found for us in the last part of I Peter 3:7 “that your prayers be not hindered.” What God is basically saying is “Husbands if you do not hear the concerns, needs and requests of your wife God will not hear your concerns, needs and requests”.
God wants all authorities whether they be Kings, governors, parents, masters, or employers to hear the concerns, needs and requests of those under them. This does not mean that a husband must give his wife whatever she wants or makes the decisions the way she wants him to. Sometimes God answers our prayers with a “yes”, sometimes he answers them with a “no” and sometimes he answers them with a “wait”. It is the same with a man and his wife.
When a man hears the concerns and requests of his wife and truly knows how she thinks, even if he does not act as she would like after hearing her this helps to build unity in the marriage.
Also, when a husband knows his wife he knows her passions and her interests. As long as those her interests do not conflict with her primary duties as a wife, mother and keeper of the home he should encourage her in these things. For example, maybe his wife likes to paint or to sing in church. Maybe she has desire to write for a woman’s blog, maybe she likes to write poetry. Perhaps she has a desire to run in home daycare. None of these things would automatically contradict with her primary duties as a wife, mother and keeper of the home.
However if a woman has a passion to be a mega news giant superstar and wants her husband to stay at home and take care of the home and kids(like Fox News star Meghan Kelly for example) her passions and ambitions are at direct odds with the role for which God designed her. This is by definition an example of selfish ambition on the part of a woman.
See “I wanted a wife and so did she – Ex-husband of Megyn Kelly speaks out about his marriage to the FOX News star” for more on this feminist superstar.
Step 3 – A wife is to learn how her husband thinks
“And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
1 Corinthians 14:35 (KJV)
Not only in spiritual matters, but in all matters of life a wife is to learn how her husband thinks and what makes him tick. A wife knowing how her husband thinks is critical to building the unity God desires for marriage between a man and his wife.
Step 4 – A wife is to submit to her husband
“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 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. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
Ephesians 5:22-24 (KJV)
The inevitable result of a woman getting to know how her husband thinks is that she will discover ways that he thinks that she disagrees with. Now a woman has two choices when she realizes these differences. One is to try and correct or change her husband’s thinking and the other is to submit. God calls women to do the latter and submit even when they disagree with their husbands. As long as a husband does not directly ask his wife to sin she must submit to him everything.
Step 4 – A wife should offer her advice in kind way, not in a contentious way
“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
Proverbs 31:26 (KJV)
In the previous step, we discussed that in order to maintain the unity in marriage that God desires for couples to have a wife must submit to her husband especially when she disagrees with him. But this does not mean that wives are forbidden from sharing any wisdom they have with their husbands.
But the attitude and method in which a woman shares her wisdom with her husband is very important. The Bible warns against wives being contentious with their husbands:
“It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.”
Proverbs 21:19 (KJV)
Even if the words of a wife to her husband are wise, if they are delivered in a contentious or angry manner to her husband they will lose their intended effect and will cause the unity in the marriage to decline rapidly.
Also, a woman should always understand the position from which she offers advice. She is not her husband’s mother, his teacher or his authority. He is her authority and Biblically speaking his authority over her is even greater than that of her father’s.
A woman should view herself as a subject which gives counsel to her King and remember the Scriptures exhortation to wives to be “in subjection unto their own husbands”(I Peter 3:5).
Step 5 – A wife is to be her husband’s crown
“A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.”
Proverbs 12:4 (KJV)
The Bible tells us that a wife should be a crown to her husband. What is a crown? A crown brings glory and honor to its recipient. So, what the Bible is saying is that a wife by being her husband’s crown is one who should bring him glory and honor. She is to be his greatest cheerleader and supporter. The unfortunate truth is that many wives today are more of a dunce cap than a crown to their husband. Just as a wife being contentious with her husband breaks the unity of the marriage so too a wife failing to honor her husband for the man that he is will quickly break the unity of the marriage.
But there is another interesting aspect of a crown – especially that of a king. It was very common in ancient times that when a King conquered another land he would take the crown of the conquered King and put it on his head to show his ownership and authority over his newly conquered lands.
But what if a King liked the crown of another ruler and wanted to wear it more often but it did not fit his head well? Perhaps it was two small and would almost fall off his head or maybe it was too large for the diameter of his head and it would slide down in front of his face. So, what would the King do? He would give the crown to his craftsman and have them resize the crown to fit his head perfectly. Perhaps he would have them add some additional gems and take some gems away that he did not like. The point is that the crown would be molded to the King’s liking and made to fit his head perfectly.
In the same way wives need to move beyond mere submission to their husbands in their quest to truly be one flesh with their husbands.
Wives need to mold themselves over time more and more to their husbands likes and dislikes and to his various positions on the issues of life. They need to support and understand his passions whether it is his passion for his job, his ministries at church or his hobbies. This even more just mere submission – will bring the true unity that God desires to the marriage.
This does not mean that a wife may ever come to love everything her husband loves or hate everything her husband hates. There are some passions he may have that she will never be able to bring herself to share.
But a wife should pray hard each and every day that God would help her to mold herself and fit herself so that in the same way a crown needs to fit the head of the King who wears it – so to a wife needs to fit herself to her husband.
Putting it all together
So, when we look at Biblical principles for unity in marriage we see that unity comes from a husband and wife having regular sexual relations, talking to one another and knowing how the other person thinks, the wife submitting to her husband and the wife molding herself to her husband.
Why does Biblical unity put so much more responsibility on the wife than the husband?
When we take an honest view of the concept of Biblical unity in marriage, truly becoming one flesh with one another, we see that God places a much greater responsibility for unity on the wife than the husband.
In six different places in the Scriptures (Ephesians 5:22, Ephesians 5:24, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, I Peter 3:1, I Peter 3:6) God tells wives to submit to their husbands. Contrary to Christian feminists and egalitarians reading in “husbands and wives” to Ephesians 5:21, the Bible NEVER EVER calls on husbands to submit to their wives.
Instead in Ephesians chapter five we are told that marriage is to be a picture of the relationship of Christ and his Church. Christ does not submit to his church; his church submits to him. Christ and his Church are not equals – one is subordinate to the other. Does the Church mold itself to Christ’s image or does Christ mold himself to image of his Church?
The point in all this is while a husband bears some responsibility for unity in his marriage as God requires him to know his wife – the bulk of the responsibility for unity in marriage comes from a wife submitting to her husband and then trying over time to mold herself more to her husband.
What are some practical ways a wife can mold herself to her husband?
When we discussed a wife being her husband’s crown I brought up the idea that a wife should mold herself to her husband. Does a King change the shape of his head to fit his crown or is the crown shaped to fit the head of the King? We know the answer is that the crown should be made to fit the head that wears it. In the same way, God has made a woman’s husband her head and she is to fit herself to him.
Here are some practical ways that a wife can mold herself to her husband:
Take an interest in what he likes to watch on TV
If he likes watching certain types of TV shows – try and find some that you cultivate an interest in. You may not be able to cultivate an interest in everything he likes to watch and that is ok. But you should try and find some common ground with him in this area. Even if you just don’t like certain shows he likes – never shame him about things he is passionate about.
Take an interest in his extracurricular activities
If you husband likes to play on the church baseball league or he involved in a bowling league – try and cultivate an interest in these things. Support him and be his greatest cheerleader.
Take an interest in his passions
Maybe your husband is passionate about history or politics. Maybe he is passionate about science or science fiction. Maybe he is passionate about art, literature or music. Whatever your husband is passionate about – do your best to cultivate a passion for what he is passionate about. Now there may be some times where differences in intellect or preferences just make it impossible for you to cultivate a genuine desire for your husband’s passion for certain things. But even in these cases you should still support him in his passions and never shame him or nag him for being passionate about these things.
Cultivate a desire for his sexual preferences
In most cases men and women have very different sexual preferences because we approach sex from very different angles. A wife should cultivate a desire to dress inside and outside the bedroom in a way that pleases her husband. As long as what he is asking to her do inside or outside the bedroom is not sinful she should do it. But again, she should not just submit, but over time attempt to truly understand and embrace her husband’s sexual preferences. Ladies this is probably the single greatest way to instill passion in your husband toward you when you truly cultivate and embrace his sexual desires and this will help to truly unite you and your husband.
Accept and understand his spiritual positions
It is one thing to know and even submit to what your husband thinks on various doctrinal and philosophical positions. It is quite another to cultivate a desire to truly understand, accept and fully embrace your husband’s positions on various issues.
So, what this means practically speaking is that when a couple is first married a wife may have to submit first and understand later. But as a couple goes on in the years in the marriage and they grow in their unity – a wife should not be having to submit as much because she truly understands and embraces her husband’s positions.
For instance, if your husband is stricter on discipline with the children that you would be if you were leading the family, you need to find a way to not just submit to his methods but truly understand and embrace them. If your husband has different doctrinal beliefs or applications of Scripture than what you were raised with you need to find a way over time to cultivate and appreciation for and fully embrace his positions.
Should a wife lose herself in her husband?
In our culture, today it seems that the greatest sin a person can commit is to not be true to themselves or lose their identity in another. Our identity as a person comes from the combination of our likes, dislikes, passions and beliefs. So, if a person changes their likes, dislikes, passions and beliefs for another person they are said to be giving up who they are or losing their identity and this is wrong in the view of most people in our culture.
I don’t think a wife has to give up everything she likes to do, her passions or her preferences as long as those things don’t cause disunity in the marriage. If a wife loves to sing in church but her husband cannot sing at all that does not mean she should have to give up singing unless somehow it was causing a conflict in the marriage.
However, over time while she may not have to completely give up her identity – it will change if she truly strives for the unity in marriage that God desires. This is similar to how when we become Christians our identity changes, yet we all as Christians are still individuals. We can see in the Gospels 4 very different individuals who wrote those books so we know the Apostles did not lose their identity by becoming Christians. But they all changed! They started conforming themselves to Christ and there were changes in their identity so they could become more like him.
In this same way while a wife may not completely lose her identity in marriage, she certainly should go through big changes in her person over the years as she is married to her husband. If a woman has been married to a man for 10 years and nothing has changed about her likes, dislikes, beliefs, or behaviors I can guarantee you that she is not united with her husband in their marriage as God desires her to be.
I remember years ago, I had a female relative come to me while she was going through a mid-life crisis. She told me “After decades of marriage to my husband I feel like I lost who I was with him. What he likes I like, what he dislikes I dislike. I lost myself and I don’t even recognize the person I am any more with him from who I used to be”.
My response to her was “good – that is exactly what God wanted you to do. Your husband is a good Christian man. Even though he is imperfect like we all are – there is nothing wrong with the way you have molded yourself to him over the decades. What you are listening to is the world telling you that you need to be your own person. But you need to listen to God who tells you that you need to mold yourself to your husband – keep doing what you have been doing and God will bless you. Stop listening to world.”
What is missing from Biblical unity that the world says marriage needs?
There is a word that you may have noticed that is missing from all the Biblical advice on unity I have just given. That word is compromise.
The world teaches that unity in marriage is all about a man and woman compromising with each other. “I will give in to you on this and you will give into me on that.” Now don’t get me wrong – when it comes to things that have nothing to do with morality compromise in marriage is a good thing. Like when we choose where we go to dinner that is not necessarily a moral decision. How much is spent on dinner is a moral decision, but whether we have a hamburger or pizza is not.
But I think in most cases what we call compromise on these no moral things is just us being selfless and putting the other person first and that is a good thing.
But when it comes to moral decisions, including financial decisions, career decisions, what church is attended, religious beliefs, discipline and teaching of the children, decisions about sex and other things like this there can be no compromise. A husband is always called by God to do what is he believes is right before God.
A husband should hear his wife and know how his wife feels. But knowing how his wife feels and compromising on moral issues with her are two very different things.
But what about him?
If your first instinct when you started reading through this article was to think “what about him?” then you have revealed that you have an unbiblical view of yourself and your marriage.
Before I continue – yes I did write an entire article last year on this subject entitled “10 ways to know your wife” which you can check out later.
But if you are the “what about him” woman I want to give you the following passages of scripture to mediate on.
“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”
Romans 12:3 (KJV)
“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
1 Corinthians 11:9 (KJV)
After letting the truth of these two passages penetrate your heart I suggest you re-read everything I have written and do not worry about your husband’s part in the unity of your marriage. Worry only about your responsibility for unity as the wife knowing that you bear the greatest burden in making your marriage truly unified by submitting to your husband and molding yourself to him.