How Does the Bible Say Husbands Should Love Their Wives?

Contributing Writer
How Does the Bible Say Husbands Should Love Their Wives?

In Christianity, one would expect men to love their wives and love their wives well. It’s out in the open in the Old and New Testament and straight to the point, even in the poetry of the Psalms. It should be simple, yes? In general terms, of course. But on personal and deep levels, it means much more than “just love them.”

I want to say that, as of this writing, I am an engaged man. I am on the brink of becoming a husband to my wonderful fiancée Hope, a fellow writer here at Christianity.com. While I am not a husband just yet, I have had to learn through hard lessons and opportunities to love your soon-to-be spouse in ways you didn’t expect.

What Bible Verse Says “Husbands Love Your Wives”?

There are two specific places in the New Testament where Paul calls us to love our lives.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 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. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:25-28)

“Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.” (Colossians 3:19)

It is important to understand why Paul makes these claims. After all, they may seem obvious today. We need historical context to see why this was important enough for Paul to mention. We will focus on the main passage, from Ephesians 5.

What Is the Context of Ephesians 5?

The Church of Ephesus experienced division between Jewish and Gentile Christians. As a result, Paul doesn’t just talk about the mystery of Christ; he talks about unity. His instructions about marriage emphasize unity between husbands and wives, which would set a model for the entire Ephesian church to follow.

Furthermore, his words about husbands and wives connect to what he says elsewhere in the chapter about Christ: marriage reflects Christ.

High church Christians (Catholic and Orthodox Christians, as well as Classic Protestants like Lutherans and Anglicans) particularly emphasize this point by calling marriage a sacrament. A sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace. As Joe Heschmeyer from Catholic Answers puts it, “A sacrament is a ‘sacred sign,’ by something visibly manifesting the invisible glory and workings of God.’” To go further, the sacrament of marriage, or holy matrimony, unites us like Christ and his Church. This is important because marriage is more than a symbol of Christ and his Church. It thoroughly represents headship, leadership, trust, love, and more.

Which brings us back to the historical context.

What Does Paul Say Husbands Loving Their Wives Looks Like?

In Roman culture, marriage was not done out of love for a person of the opposite sex. Instead, marriage was arranged between two families, usually to benefit each other’s finances and status. Furthermore, freed slaves were forbidden to marry Roman citizens for some time as well. As this PBS article on the Roman Empire explains, “Citizens were not allowed to marry prostitutes or actresses, and provincial officials were not allowed to marry local women. Soldiers were only allowed to marry in certain circumstances and marriage was to close relatives were forbidden. Finally, unfaithful wives divorced by their husbands could not remarry.”

To the pagan world, getting married out of love, regardless of class, out of love for God, was unheard of. So, when Paul emphasized loving your wives, he made a radical statement—especially since Roman men usually had several mistresses, seeing their wives as only useful for bearing children. Paul makes it very clear in reinstating what God ordained: marriage was between one wife and one husband, nothing more and nothing less.

Compared to the pagan world, husbands loving their wives were to be as Christ loved the Church. How did that look? It was sacrificial as Christ was (Eph. 5:25-26) that he should remain faithful only to her (v. 28-30), that he should hold fast to her before all other family members (v. 31-33). This is not a rule Paul poetically wrote, but it traces back to Genesis 2, where God says a man shall leave his parents and hold fast to his wife in becoming one (v. 24), which Jesus later affirms when confronted by the Pharisees as recorded in Matt 19:3-7.

To go even further, let’s look at the writings of the Early Church Fathers, specifically St. John Chrysostom, in his work, “On Marriage and Family Life.”

“You [husbands] have seen the amount of obedience necessary; now hear about the amount of love necessary. Do you want your wife to be obedient to you, as the Church is to Christ? Then be responsible for the same providential care of her, as Christ is for the Church. And even if it becomes necessary for you to give your life for her, yes, and even to endure and undergo suffering of any kind, do not refuse . . . You are sacrificing yourself for someone to whom you are already joined, but [Christ] offered himself up for one who turned her back on him and hated him. In the same way, then, as he honored her by putting at his feet one who turned her back on him . . . but through his untiring love; so also you must behave towards your wife. There is no influence more powerful than the bond of love, especially for a husband and wife.”

So now we know why Paul calls men to love their wives. However, we may wonder: What is the motivation for this?

What Motivates Husbands to Love Their Wives?

I’m not one to get behind a statement that starts with “real men,” but here I will. Real men love their wives, and real men respect their wives. Within Christian men, they love Christ and are not only devoted but humbly and willingly admit to sin and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with him. Whether through prayer or confession, God is gracious, compassionate, and slow to anger (Ps. 145:8-9). When God does this with us and more, we must do with our wives or, for engaged folk, our fiancées. The love of God is a motivation to love our wives well, let alone a blueprint.

Furthermore, seeking peace within conflict can be a motivation. That may mean admitting faults where you think they are. Just because it didn’t seem like a big deal to you doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big deal to her. Motivation can also be wanting or earning your wife’s trust, especially after it has been broken.

What also motivates husbands to love their wives is the wives themselves. When spouses are dedicated only to each other, they help each other grow in Christlikeness and trust, where they make decisions together, raise kids, and have accountability and approachability if one is wrong or hurt. Which brings us to our final point.

How Can Husbands Better Love Their Wives Today?

As mentioned earlier, husbands can love their wives by serving and leading sacrificially. Christianity.com contributor Joey Cochran puts it this way:

“Every day, through service and sacrifice, you should die a little bit for your wife. You should put to death your ambitions, your plans, and your purposes in order to look out for her holiness. That was the aim of Ephesians 5:25.”

He goes on to discuss how we can love sacrificially in small ways, and we should. When we learn to lead sacrificially in small things, we can learn to sacrifice in big things. Take decision-making, for example.

If a couple needs to make a major decision and both have opposing views, headship-wise, the husband makes the decision. This should not be taken lightly because it is not all about you or your comforts. You need to understand your wife's point of view as well as her concerns, ideas, and point of view. In doing so, you assure her that you are attentive and considering her needs. That final decision, for all you know, may lead you to die for what you want in favor of what is best for her and the family. On the flip side, If you make the best decision for yourself, it needs to be from a place of humility, prayer, and discernment, not from a place of pride, safety, and comfort. Either shows trust and care for the spouse.

Another way that husbands can love their wives is by knowing them. This is more than likes and dislikes; it is how to care for them when they are down for the count (depression, postpartum, anxiety, etc.). When you understand your wife well, she will likewise do the same or continue to do the same. You have to know each other.

Finally, you need to stand up for her. As Christ himself said, you two are one, and you leave your parents to be with her. Standing for her means putting her before your family, her family, and others. Her needs become greater than theirs and even your own.

As previously mentioned, I am an engaged man to a wonderful Godly woman. And while I am just shy of being married, I have to learn what it means to die for what you want, to seek forgiveness when you are wrong, and to lead by example. Sometimes, I have had to learn the hard way by examining my mistakes. But as humans needing Christ, we learn from our mistakes and strive to be better for our spouses and Christ.

Photo Credit:©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Prostock-Studio

Trey Soto holds a B.A. in Communication Studies from Biola University and an M.A. in Communication Management from the University of Denver. He is a photographer, a writer, and a podcast host at T.V. Trey Podcast. You can see more of his work on his Wix portfolio.


This article is part of our larger resource library of popular Bible verse phrases and quotes. We want to provide easy-to-read articles that answer your questions about the meaning, origin, and history of specific verses within Scripture's context. We hope that these will help you better understand the meaning and purpose of God's Word in your life today.