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Many men are enamoured by the authority they think they have over their wives at home and they try to enforce it, only to meet with resistance from the wives. Many wives think their husbands should be taking up more responsibility in the home and are never hesitant to remind them about it! This conflict can give rise to heated words and even ends up in blows in many families. What does God's word have to say?
1Co.11:3 says that the husband is the head of the wife and Christ is his head. As the head, his responsibility is to love his wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ep.5:25). When the husband loves his wife in this way, he will show it by taking care of her needs, providing for her, protecting her, etc. The problem comes when the husband does not think of such responsibilities but only of his 'authority'. He thinks his word should be final, and everyone in the home should simply do what he says. The fact is that in a practical sense, no one can exercise authority in a pleasant manner unless those under his authority respect him. He can say his wife does not respect him, and then try to enforce his authority more. But the more he does this, the less his wife will respect him and the less his actual authority becomes!
At the same time, the wife is looking at the way the husband is shirking his responsibilities and keeps trying to prod him to become more responsible. She does not realise that the more she does this, she is causing him to think that she has little respect for him! Then the cycle of this kind of behaviour becomes stronger and the couple and the children suffer. If only the wife recognises that only when she shows respect for her husband for the position of authority that God has given her husband (Ep.5:22) the husband is likely to be motivated to take up more responsibility! But she thinks she is helping her husband to become better through her constant reminders!
Think of an ideal situation where a husband sincerely loves his wife and is trying to do everything he can for her good, and she respects him for that and shows that respect to him in the way she talks to him and behaves with him! Of course, this is an ideal and not a realistic situation. But this is the goal towards which we ought to strive. This is how we need to press on to perfection, instead of blaming the other person and trying to correct them.
One thing that will help us in this direction is to realise how imperfect we ourselves are in every way, and give allowance for the other's imperfections too. If we understand how many situations in our life have shaped us this way, then we can be merciful in thinking that our spouse may also be bearing some baggage from their past. It is also good to know that even when our intentions are right, the many basic differences between the spouses can still cause misunderstandings. How important it is then to constantly try and understand our spouse better and better!