Is Marriage Meant to Be a Headship or a Partnership?

Ephesians 5:22– 28 gives instructions on how to run a household based on godly principles: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now, as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”

Submission is a difficult concept for people to accept in modern-day society. When people hear the word “submission,” they often think of women who don’t have an opportunity to speak their minds and must be silent, allowing their husbands to make all the decisions. However, that’s an archaic understanding of the word submission.

In day-to-day life, marriage should work as a partnership, with both parties having a say in how the marriage functions. However, in times of conflict, when both parties feel they are right, one person must submit. This helps to promote peace and allow for conflict to be properly resolved. In Ephesians 5, Paul calls the woman to be the one who submits first. A woman yielding herself to God will submit to Christ and allow Christ to direct the husband to make the decision. When a decision is made, the wife needs to support her husband. If a wrong decision is made, it’s not the time for the wife to gloat or say, “I told you so.” Instead, this is an opportunity for them both to grow in how they communicate, support, and mutually respect each other.

A healthy marriage is both a partnership and a headship. But how can a marriage reflect both principles from Ephesians 5? Here are some ways a marriage points to both headship and a partnership:

A Husband Who Submits to Christ Will Value His Wife’s Input

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A marriage not based on mutual respect and love will cause one party to feel excluded or not valued. If a husband is in obedience to Ephesians 5, he will love his wife enough to put her first above all else, including his own opinion. When appropriate, it’s possible the husband would decide to allow the wife to make the main decision, even if the two are in conflict. This would allow the wife to be heard and for her input to be valued. When her husband makes the final decision or submits to his wife, both give God glory when one submits to the other.

A Wife Who Submits to Christ Will Allow Her Husband to Lead

It is difficult for a wife to submit to her husband even if she knows his decision is not the right one. A proper decision is not one in which the man gets to make the decision and make everything okay but instead makes a decision with his wife’s input in mind. He is making a decision that will mutually benefit both people. Her wife will honor and respect her husband and allow him to make decisions. If he loves her and puts her first in everyday life, it will be much easier for her to submit to him than to someone who ignores and devalues her. It’ll be more important for her to be heard even if she feels devalued somehow. However, if she is feeling honored, valued, and appreciated for who she is, it will be easy for her to submit when the time is right.

A Husband Who Submits to Christ Makes the Best Decision for His Family

Although it may be difficult for a wife to submit to her husband, it will be easy for her to do so if his prior decisions have always been in the best interest of his family. When a husband puts his family first and makes decisions to benefit them while making sacrifices, he has demonstrated a sacrificial attitude. This is an attitude most like Christ and one that a wife can trust when a decision becomes difficult to make. When her husband operates within a sacrificial attitude, it helps build trust and intimacy between him and his wife. She knows she can trust him because she knows he has her best interests in mind.

Couple on couch researching on computer finances

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A Husband Loves God as Much as Himself

The last verse in the Ephesians 5 passage talks about a husband who loves his wife as much as he loves himself. This is speaking highly of a husband if he loves himself. When we were born, we were born with a sin nature. We are naturally inclined to think of ourselves first. When we yield our lives to Christ, the Holy Spirit teaches us how to be more sacrificial and live our lives according to the fruits of the spirit. The fruits of the spirit are the antithesis of selfishness as they are others-centered—fruits such as kindness, love, patience, and gentleness benefit others, not ourselves. When a husband loves God as much as he loves himself, he will put God above all things. Even when a decision needs to be made, and he disagrees with his wife, he will make that decision based on what will be in his family’s best interest. He will not think of himself or put himself first, but rather what is in the best interest of his family. A wife who has difficulty with submission will be able to submit more readily with an attitude of sacrifice, love, and respect for her.

Verse twenty-eight also discusses how a man loves his wife as much as he loves his own body. In addition to being born with a sinful nature, we are all born with an inclination to avoid pain and enjoy pleasure. Therefore, they will avoid anything that will cause them suffering or harm of any kind. But with the Holy Spirit, he can change from a selfish person to a selfless person. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice, enduring suffering at the cross. In the same way, when a husband is working to do the same for his wife, submission will come easily to both parties.

Ephesians 5 demonstrates that a marriage can both be a partnership and a headship. When a man is the head of his home, it does not mean he acts in a controlling or manipulative way, making decisions that only benefit himself. On the contrary, he makes decisions in the best interest of his family, putting her and his family first above all else. When the family operates correctly, and the husband, who is the head of the home, operates with integrity, sacrifice, and love for his wife, a marriage can demonstrate both a headship and a partnership as both people work together for the good of each other. They also give God glory by placing him at the head of their marriage.

Related Articles:

What Submission Is Not

What Is Submission in Marriage?

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Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website

Related Podcast Resource: 5 Ways to C.O.V.E.R. Your Marriage in Prayer

One of the most important things you can do for your marriage is to pray for your marriage. Learning communication skills, conflict resolution techniques and intimacy hacks are great. However, if you’re leaving your marriage uncovered by failing to pray for your spouse and your marriage, it will always be vulnerable to attacks. Prayer is an essential guiding tool to get you and your spouse on the same page and create unity in your marriage. In this episode of Real Relationship Talk, Dana Che shares her acronym C.O.V.E.R., which teaches you how to specifically pray for your marriage. To listen, just click the play button below:

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