Becoming one is the ideal of a Christian marriage. It is mysterious. It is brought about through love. If you don’t have this–and you feel unloved, I hope you have begun building yourself up through the love God has for you. Stay awhile in Solomon’s allegory of love, getting past the sensual into the ardency of the love between God and you. This is not easy nor instant. But, the goal is for you to feel loved and to respond with love.
In our love relationship with God, we don’t have to clean ourselves up, put on new makeup, wear alluring clothes etc, etc in order to be loved. As Luther said about justification, “We are more attractive because we are loved.” We don’t have to make ourselves attractive in order for God to love us. We are not saved by cleaning up our lives. Instead, we put aside sin because we want to please the One who loved us first and still loves us. We are attractive to God as we are. But, because we love Him, and want to be one with Him, we seek to please Him in all we do.
In marriage, you shouldn’t do things to win your husband’s love. They might not work and you will just be left with bitterness! But, if you comfort yourself through God’s love, you can then do things for your husband without demanding (or even expecting) his love in return. You can make yourself more attractive or put together some delicious meals, or watch a sports game with him, or even put down your phone and listen to him. And, most of all, you can see to it that you respect him, not to please him as much as to please God.
I am sure you have heard many admonitions for wives to submit! It is a favorite theme of many preachers and church leaders! The command was given in the context of Paul’s instruction to a group of young believers in a city in today’s Turkey. His main point is that they are to love each other as God has loved them which he described in Ephesians 1. Then, he carried that theme into the family household, giving instructions to wives, husbands, children, and servants. The husband is to lead and the wife is to go along with his leadership, but this is in the context of the mystery of oneness (Ephesians 5:32). (How can a leader be arbitrary with one he loves so much and with whom he is pursuing oneness?) Then, Paul turned to the wife and reminded her to see to it that “she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
An arbitrary demand by a husband for respect and submission will kill a relationship. A self-absorbed personality or a controlling one who has to have his own way, and defines that as “leadership” of his family, will surely stifle love. The marriage may endure, but it won’t be a Christian one. There will be a pulling away, a lowering of commitment to oneness. The wife begins a pursuit of her own interests just to survive. Always losing, often coupled with being put down for what you like, how you think, dress, wear your hair, will destroy oneness and love as surely as a wet blanket will put out a fire. If you have put up with this for a long time, you have my sympathies.
I don’t know your situation at all or how wrong your husband has been. (Or how wrong you have been.) You aren’t doing this to get love from him. Seek to revere him in some small way because God, your true love, has asked it of you. Don’t expect anything in return. Find something for which you can hold him in high regard. Perhaps he is really kind to the children. Or he is an excellent singer in church. Or he really keeps the grass cut well. There must be something! Find it and tell him and show it in your body language. He needs to see and hear your respect. Let this become an everyday thing with you. Keep it up. Don’t expect anything from him in return. It may not “work.” He may not change at all. Your marriage may continue to collapse. But, you will have done what was pleasing to your Father, Brother, and Friend. And if the day of divorce comes, you will have the assurance that you did what you could (no matter what others may say or think), and will hear, “Rest here awhile beside Me, my good and faithful servant.”
Ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen you so that you can experience the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:14-21). And your response will eventually be:
I am my Beloved’s, and his desire is for me (Song of Solomon 7:10).