More Than a Feeling: How Husbands Should Love Their Wives

Written by: Alex Montgomery (Husband to Diane Montgomery)HusbandLovingWife

If you asked a man if he loved his wife, most men would certainly say yes. “Of course I love my wife, that’s why I married her.” Marriage seems so simple. Two people fall in love and live happily ever after.

But in the real world, marriage isn’t so simple. Half of marriages don’t end anything like “happily ever after.” And lots of men don’t truly love their wives. Sure, men say they love their wives and genuinely feel love for their wives. The romantic attraction is unmistakable, like nothing else in the world. So how could I possibly say that lots of men don’t love their wives? Loving your wife in a godly way means not only having a feeling but acting that love out in real life.

Love Her Sacrificially

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Eph. 5:25
This is a direct command to husbands, one that is supposed to last “til death do us part.” While every husband feels love for his wife, obedience to this command is less common and not as easy as it might originally appear. If everyone was already doing this, then why even command it? But not everyone does this. Paul tells husbands that their love for the wife must be like Christ’s love for the church. How did Jesus love the church? He gave Himself up for her.
Jesus showed us what true love is. He left heaven to become like us and gave up the glory due to Him to be mocked and ridiculed. Instead of giving people the hell they deserved, He died to take the penalty for our sins, and forgave us for insulting Him in the process. That’s how Jesus loved us. And that’s the model for husbands. I know Jesus had strong feelings for us, but those feelings were not the end of his love. He acted out His love by giving Himself up for us. In the same way, husbands need to give themselves up for the good of their wives. Feeling love for your wife is not enough; you need to actually do something to love her.

Love Her By Leading Her To Christ

“That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5:26-27


Men also need to love their wives in a way that makes their wives more holy. It’s not just about making her feel good. No amount of gifts, flowers, or compliments about her looks can accomplish this part. While these are all good in their place, they’re not enough to fulfill the command in Ephesians 5. Husbands need to lead their wives to become more like Christ. They need to build their wives up, not simply in their self image, but also as a fellow believer. Husbands ought to encourage their wives to read their Bibles, share Christ with others, and live out godly character. This shows a long, lasting commitment to working for her good. Christ loved the church by giving her his righteousness and sanctifying her, and husbands need to lead their homes to know God and live holy lives.
If husbands are going to follow Christ’s example of love, they need to be the spiritual leaders for their homes. If your wife has to drag you to church or shame you into reading your Bible, then you’re probably not loving her in a way that makes her more like Christ. When your family prays, are you waiting on your wife to volunteer? Step up to the plate and lead your family to pray, to discuss the sermon, and to share what you’re learning in your personal Bible reading.

Love Her As Your Own Body

“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,” Eph. 5:28-29


When a man loves his wife like this, he takes care of her needs as if they were his own. If he knows that she likes the dishes to be done when she comes home, he puts down the remote and does the dishes. He doesn’t do it because he loves scrubbing pots and pans, but instead does it to help his wife. It doesn’t matter whose job it is, the loving thing to do is to actively work for her good.

Love Her By Understanding Her

 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  1 Pet. 3:7


Loving your wife can be a difficult task because it involves thinking about someone other than yourself. Husbands must learn to understand their wives as women. She’s not a man, and she doesn’t want to be treated like one. There are things that are appropriate for the guys that a woman would rather miss out on. But even beyond that, there are things that a man would appreciate that a woman simply would not.
One year for my birthday, my wife got me tickets to see my favorite college football team. I really appreciated it and felt really loved because she thought about what I enjoyed. If I wanted to make my wife feel loved though, I probably shouldn’t get her football tickets. I need to understand what she likes and what she wants because she’s different than me with unique needs and desires. I need to figure out how she feels love. Husbands, show your wives love in a way that’s meaningful to her, not just to you.
Men must also understand that their wives are “fellow heirs of the grace of life.” God created man and woman in His image and made woman from the rib of man. Eve was like Adam, she was a human in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). They’re both children of God. Husbands need to respect their wives and love them “as their own bodies.”

Men must be careful to not misunderstand the talk of a “weaker vessel.” While some are quick to point to this language as a sign of the Bible being captive to its culture, in truth these words still hold true today. Peter used them to demonstrate that women are different than men. We must consider the feelings and attitudes of our wives and realize that they might not be the same as our own. The term “weaker vessel” doesn’t mean “inferior being” but simply refers to the fact that women aren’t generally as strong as men. Unlike the world, which usually treats “weaker” beings as inferior, Peter uses the fact that women and men have differing bodies to illustrate that husbands need to understand and love their wives.

Joshua Harris notes, “What God is saying here is a radical reverse of the way our world works. He says to husbands, “Don’t use your physical strength as justification to mistreat your wife-instead, show her honor.”

When you commit to marriage, you’re committing to putting her needs above your own. For all the single people out there, if you’re not ready to do this, then don’t get married. Don’t lie to the woman you supposedly love by telling her you love her and then being inconsiderate of her needs. For the married guys, give yourself up, give up fighting for your rights, and love your wife. Take care of her needs, look out for her good, and prove that your love is more than a feeling.

If you’re wondering if all this truly matters or if it can actually be done, read the second part of this series to see why the stakes are so high and how a husband can live this out in his own marriage.

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7 thoughts on “More Than a Feeling: How Husbands Should Love Their Wives

  1. Ladies,
    Thank you for your comments and feedback on the post. I’m glad we can all wrestle with the Scriptures to discover what God desires for us. I noticed some similar themes in both of your comments, so I’d like to address your main questions here.
    Each of you noticed that I applied the idea of Christ sanctifying the church to the role of husbands. I completely agree that a husband cannot die in the place of his wife to take away her sins (as Christ did). However, the Bible does teach that a husband can still sanctify his wife. The Christian husband does have supernatural power – the power of God for salvation – just LIKE EVERY OTHER CHRISTIAN who shares the gospel. (Romans 1:16) When the husband shares the gospel with his wife and leads her to be more Christ-like, he is indeed making her holy.
    This is not, however, strictly something that husbands do. The Bible tells us that “whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20) While Christ is the only ultimate source of salvation, this does not discount the truth that he uses human agents to bring that salvation to the world. In addition, both husbands and wives are said to have sanctifying power to bring the gospel to their unbelieving spouses. (1 Cor. 7:12-16)
    You both also mentioned that the Bible doesn’t command husbands to lead. You are completely right in saying that there is no verse that says “husbands lead and exercise authority over your wives.” You also noted that there is no special gift that males have that God wants them to use to rule over women. However, husbands leading is not primarily a matter of gifts, but of roles. We must be sure to use our gifts in the way God has prescribed, not simply the way we see fit. No matter the gifts, God’s roles and His rules still apply. (cf. 1 Cor 12-14)
    God has not given husbands the right to be tyrants, but he has given them the role and responsibility of leaders. In fact, husbands are not even commanded to exercise authority. Wives are, however, commanded to submit to that authority. (1 Tim 3:11-12; cf. Col 3:18) What this shows me is that God didn’t want to put a verse in Scripture that husbands could twist to show that they get to dominate women. Instead, God gave instructions on how husbands are to lead their wives, using Christ’s servant-leadership as the model.
    The male role of leadership and responsibility in the home is a theme throughout Scripture. It shows up even before the Fall. God gave the first command to Adam before Eve was ever created and gave Adam the responsibility for that command. (Gen 2:16-17) When they disobeyed, God called to Adam and confronted him with his sin. From the beginning, God has expected the husband to take responsibility for his family. This role for husbands is not a primarily a right or a privilege, but instead a responsibility.
    I know all of this can be a very sensitive subject, but I hope you can see the gentleness and care that the Bible devotes to this subject. There is no license to rule, but rather responsibility to lead. The Bible doesn’t allow husbands to dominate their wives, but tells wives to voluntarily submit. Whether God has given you the role of submission or leadership (and most people do both in different areas of life), all of this must be done out of love for God and for your neighbor.

    • I have to ask wives – are you easy to live with? Or do you want to be the leader? Do you think you know more than your husband…especially in the area of raising children? What my husband, Doug, and I have found is that so many things are written on “Husbands love your wives.” Very little is written about “Wives, be respectful!” It is much easier for a man to love a woman that respects him. That is a whole new “ball game!” My husband and I will be married 48 hears in June and I must tell you that I had NO IDEA what it really meant to “respect my husband.” It is an ever-ending process! We have led many classes on the 14-week DVD series “Love and Respect” by Dr. Eggerich. You are correct when you say that you are not “submitting to your husband!” You are submitting to God to do what He would have you do. There is tremendous power in submission. God honors it! Again, wives, make it easy for your husband to love you by being the “cheerleader” God has designed you to be. I am amazed that my husband still loves me!!! I have tried on more than one occasion and in more ways than one, to be the “head of the house.” I am sure many of you will agree with me. Just speaking to you out of love. Please note I did not say ALL of you ladies. I speak with love and with encouragement to seek the Lord daily to “die to self” and live for the Lord by honoring your husband! I know I have not just won a popularity contest! I am glad I am not in a place where you can throw rotten apples at me – or shoot darts! Have a great day with Jesus!

  2. Good post, though I would like to make a few comments.

    ” If you asked a man if he loved his wife, most men would certainly say yes. “Of course I love my wife, that’s why I married her.”

    This is correct. As I stated in another comment on a post, it is just a ‘given’ that husband loves his wife……that is never in question or never disputed. If there are marital problems it cannot be any fault of his…….he is loving her, right?

    “Sure, men say they love their wives and genuinely feel love for their wives. The romantic attraction is unmistakable, like nothing else in the world”.

    Romantic attraction sounds all flowery but really the attraction is purely sexual. Some of the most well known preachers will declare with pride that the top priority on a husbands list is sex (not romance) while a woman’s #1 priority is communication. The old saying, ‘love at first sight’, is that just that……an old saying. Typically a woman or man is drawn to one another based on physical attraction…..and love has nothing to do with that.

    “Love her Sacrifically”

    “Love her by leading her to Christ”. That sounds really good but the Bible never tells a husband to ‘lead’ his wife. People place alot of importance on the word “head’……..way way more than the greek word’kephale’ by defintion implies.

    ” Husbands need to lead their wives to become more like Christ. They need to build their wives up, not simply in their self image, but also as a fellow believer. Husbands ought to encourage their wives to read their Bibles, share Christ with others, and live out godly character.”

    Is this something only husbands can do or should do? Both spouses should be doing this for one another, don’t ya think?

    “That he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Eph. 5:26-27

    If all the passages are read in context we will see that Paul bounces back and forth from talking about husbands and wives, Christ and the Church. In these verses he deals with “HIS” relationship to the church. Can a husband cleanse his wife by reading the word of God to her? Does he do all this so he (the husband) can present her (the wife) to himself? Can the husband make the wife spotless, without wrinkes, holy and without blemishes? My husband might be fabtabulous but he can’t do all that for me…….only Jesus can do those things. When you interpret the passage in that sense you give the husband some sort of supernatural santification power on par with Jesus…….I kinda doubt that the husband is being referred to here.

    “If husbands are going to follow Christ’s example of love, they need to be the spiritual leaders for their homes.”

    Many a conservative thinker equates the husbands love with leadership or (love=lead). Suggesting that the husbands way to show proper christ like love is to lead his wife. The husband is to imitate Christ in love not in being a leader. We know this because as verse 25 tells us that Husbands are to love thier wives even (equivalent to) as Christ also loved the church, AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR IT. Love in the context of Ephesians 5 equals giving (love=sacrifce/giving). And in NO instance is a husband ever called the ‘leader of the home’……you just won’t find it. All this is inferences, assumptions, whatever you want to call it based on the word, ‘head’. Kephale (head) in the greek does not mean ‘boss over’ or ‘authority over’…..i checked.

    Love Her As Your Own Body”

    “Love Her By Understanding Her”

    ” Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Pet. 3:7

    Yes, women are only the weaker vessel in the physical sense (but even that is not across the board) there are some women that are stronger than their men. So, generally speaking it is true. But, what I have seen happen is that good christian men use this passage to infer that women are inferior generally (in all areas) by virtue of being female. What they don’t realize (and the KJV tranlates very tenderly) is the greek says that if a man does not honor his wife his prayers will be CUT OFF. Meaning a man seeing that his wife is weaker in an area can’t treat her like crap and still expect God to listen to him. I mean, hey, when God ‘cuts you off’, that don’t sound like something trivial.

    • I am not going to address all of this post but I do take issue with your comment: “Romantic attraction sounds all flowery but really the attraction is purely sexual. Some of the most well known preachers will declare with pride that the top priority on a husbands list is sex (not romance) while a woman’s #1 priority is communication. The old saying, ‘love at first sight’, is that just that……an old saying. Typically a woman or man is drawn to one another based on physical attraction…..and love has nothing to do with that.”

      You are acting as if sex is some purely base act that has no bearing on anything whereas the reality of it is a husband having sex with his wife helps him to feel emotionally connected. Women need to talk you are right, we need communication to feel the emotional connection in order to have sex but he needs the sex to feel the emotional connection. So that’s why it’s #1 on the husband’s list, it’s not simply a physical need it’s also an emotional one. For more on this you can see Sheila Gregoire’s blog and there are many others that address this gender difference. http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2013/03/wifey-wednesday-does-everything-really-come-down-to-sex/

  3. Just saw your reply, Terri. Very well said. I have posted a similar reply to part 2 of this post. Thank you for your thoughts.

  4. Thank you Alex for a kind response to comments. 1. We both agree that the husband cannot die in the place of his wife to take away her sins. But, then I think we all are in agreement on this one. 2. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and say “If” a husband has this supernatural power when sharing the gospel with his wife, then we must also confer this same power on a wife. Not just on men/husbands, deacons, bishops, etc. (as i was used by God to win my husband to the Lord). 3. 1 Cor. 7:12-14 in context is dealing with one spouse that is an unbeliever and one that is not. Up to this point in the conversation, we have been talking about ‘believing’ husbands using scripture in effort to dominate/control thier ‘beliveing’ wives (however benevolent it may be). These passages deal with one believing spouse and one unbelieving spouse. And really this ‘santification process’ is all an attempt to make holy the children that were considered unholy by Jewish standards. 4. You said, “that the husband’s leading is not primarily a matter of gifts, but of roles.” I would really like to know where God points us to gender roles in the Bible? As in men are leaders and women are followers. If following gender roles is part of our ‘sanctification’ then you would think God
    would be pretty specific and break it all down for us, huh? You seem to be comparing gifts to roles like they are the same. And then you link them together and then proceed to make following these gifts/roles a rule handed down by God. First, you need to show biblically that God cares just as much about these ‘gender roles’ (which you won’t find the word “role” in the Bible) as he does about spiritual gifts……good luck! 5. “God didn’t want to put a verse in Scripture that husbands could twist to show that they get to dominate women.” Be that as it may Alex, men have done it, and done it since the beginning of time. What has happened over time is the the patriarchal message has been repackaged and watered down to make it more acceptable to women. Artistole said that women were inferior by nature. That was the main reason they were to be excluded from the realm of leadership in the home and society. Martin Luther stated, that if a women dies in childbirth, what of it……that is what she is for……can’t you feel the love. Anyway, the patriarchalist/fundamentalist movment has devised a new strategy that seems to put women on equal footing with men while at the same time keeping women subordinate through gender roles……….brilliant! That’s why it think it is soooo very important to point out where God gives these divine gender role rules! 6. Could you please point out to me in the ‘creation account’ where God gives the man leadership? God does not lay the responsibility for the fall at Adams feet because he failed to lead but because he eat of the fruit and sinned willfully. The Bible tells us that Eve was decieved but Adam was NOT deceived……he knew what he was doing was wrong and he did it anyway. So, yeah, he is responsible but not because of a failure to take leadership over the woman, or any failure of Eve to stay in her proper gender role (no leading, just following) Christian tradition has really placed the fall of humans on Eve, to be honest. They have rewarded Adam with leadership over all of creation and women for his part in the fall. Men seem to be proud to take responsibilty/leadership on themselves. For, if women try to participate they are not encouraged but rebuked (there must be something great about all this servanthood/ leadership/responsibility thingy? 7. ” This role for husbands is not a primarily a right or a privilege, but instead a responsibility”. That sounds very noble but how do we apply that rule to a couple where the husband is incapcitated and cant work? Has mental problems or just refuses to contribute to the welfare of the family at all? I have a friend who works and makes all the family decisions (as her husband is diabled)……..what does a women do in this position? Is she violating Gods Word?

  5. I agree with Alex Montgomery. Surprisingly.

    I’ve mainly been in settings where male leadership in the church and home is emphasized, and I’ve often struggled with it. Why did God give give leadership gifts to women if they can’t use them (at least in the “big” leadership positions)? Submission and following seems really, really tough.

    But after some conversations with friends, memorization of Ephesians 5, and beginning a relationship with a guy, I am now extremely grateful for all the godly male leaders that I see. And I am surprised at my lack of desire to lead in my relationship. I’m very grateful to the guy for taking initiative and risk; because I trust him to follow God, I am very content to follow him. As others have told me, submission/following is easy if you marry a guy you respect.

    Leading is tough. It means responsibility. And if I think submission is hard –then leading is harder. And I think men are better able to handle that than women ’cause we worry. Even if that isn’t the reason, I think God has his reasons for giving males and females different roles. Part of being a Christian is obeying the Bible even if we don’t understand God’s reasons.

    One friend told me that trusting a man’s leadership is like following God. I know that comparing male/female relationships to our relationship with God is a basic principle in the Bible, clearly pointed out in Ephesians 5, but that really hit me. Because even though I struggle at times to trust God, I can point to situations where God’s way was the best way for me, and I am glad now that I followed Him. And hopefully, if I ever marry, I will be able to have the same faith in my husband that I have in God ….or at least a faith that God will lead through him.

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