Doing Our Part to Promote a Happy Family Life
“Let each one of you individually so love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Eph. 5:33
1, 2. What is to be desired and what avoided, in marriage, and to whom do many turn for help?
A HAPPY marriage! Who among mankind that enters into this God-given arrangement does not want to have happiness? Even in this imperfect sorrow-filled world, there are those who have been able to find true happiness in married life. They have been able to avoid the divisions, the problems and the heartaches that are so rampant in the world today. But how? Is it by following the advice of the multitude of marriage counselors whose widely varied opinions are published everywhere today?
2 Centuries ago the wise man wrote: “To the making of many books there is no end,” and certainly there does seem to be no end to the writing of books on marriage and related subjects. (Eccl. 12:12) Psychologists, psychiatrists, medical doctors and the like give views and counterviews on what persons can do to have a happy marriage. Newspapers and magazines regularly carry columns with advice for the lovelorn. Still, difficulties mount and statistics on marriage and divorce show that a large percentage of persons resort either to separation or to divorce because they have not found happiness. But those who have problems can take courage. The Author of marriage tells us how it is possible even in a divided world to find satisfying happiness in this divine arrangement.
3. What questions are asked concerning marriage, and what suggestion is offered about a source of help?
3 Do you have a happy marriage? Have you found the joy that you expected with your life’s companion? Do you who have been married for many years still “rejoice with the wife of your youth”? (Prov. 5:18) On the other hand, do you have problems? If so, no doubt you would like to know of a source that can really help with sound advice. Of course, the source cannot eliminate all the difficulties that you might experience in this imperfect world, but it can help you to cope with problems and it shows you what you as an individual can do to improve your marriage. That source is the Word of God, the Holy Bible. Within its pages are found counsel and advice that will assist those who are willing to live by its directives. Consider now some of the problems of modern-day marriages and see how God’s Word can help a person to cope with them for the blessing of the family arrangement.—Ps. 19:7, 8.
4. (a) How do many women feel about man’s headship in the marriage arrangement? (b) What is the Bible’s view of man’s headship responsibilities?
4 One sore point among many of womankind today is the dominance accorded to the man in the marriage arrangement. To some women it is “male chauvinism,” that is, a vainglorious or exaggerated view that the man has toward his position as head over the woman. Let us say at the outset that male chauvinism, or a vainglorious attitude of the husband in a family, is not a product of the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. While Genesis 3:16 tells us that the woman would have a craving toward her husband and that he would dominate her, the Bible clearly shows that God did not purpose that the woman would be in a slavish bondage to the man. Rather, he was to be in position as head, or the one charged with oversight of his wife and the family that they might produce. In the days of the ancient Hebrews, about whose history the Bible has so much to say, godly women of spirit and ability, while subject to their husbandly heads, had much latitude and freedom of action and were happy in their place and were blessed in being used by Jehovah God to perform special services for Him. Examples among the many faithful wives of the Bible are Sarah, Rebekah, Ruth, Hannah, Esther, Elizabeth, and Mary the mother of Jesus.
5, 6. (a) How does headship flow, according to 1 Corinthians 11:3? (b) What do the apostles Paul and Peter have to say about how the husband’s headship is to be exercised?
5 The writings of the Christian Greek Scriptures of the Holy Bible shed much light on the headship role that the man has in the marriage arrangement. Let us first read such information and then we can better see how to make application thereof in facing today’s marriage problems.
6 Turning to the book of First Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 3, we find that the apostle Paul wrote these words to the congregation in Corinth: “I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.” Here he shows how authority in the Christian congregation flows, from Jehovah to Christ, to the man and to the woman. But, now, how is that headship of the man to be exercised? Turning to Ephesians 5:28, we read: “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hated his own flesh; but he feeds and cherishes it.” The apostle Peter adds to this by saying: “You husbands, continue dwelling in like manner with [your wives] according to knowledge, assigning them honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one.”—1 Pet. 3:7.
7. How do some wives at times feel about their husbands, and what questions can a husband ask himself regarding his headship?
7 This, then, is the counsel of holy spirit to husbands in dealing with their wives over whom they have headship. It sounds very simple. The great problem is that due to imperfection and inborn selfishness there are times when the husband, while wanting to be the head of the family, fails to show that necessary love and consideration for his wife, the weaker one. Often a wife will say of her husband that she doesn’t feel loved by him, that her husband’s only concern is his own pleasure and satisfaction. Within the Christian congregation, then, a husband must take stock of himself and face up to realities. Ask yourself, Do I love my wife as I do myself? Do I assign her honor as to a weaker vessel, the feminine one? Or, have I been one that is interested only in my own satisfaction and what I want? Do I take into consideration her needs and desires? When it comes to decisions, do I give her a listening ear, or do I make all the decisions, irrespective of any desires that she might have?
8, 9. In what areas can a husband give consideration as to how he is exercising his headship?
8 Let us consider some of those areas where lack of proper headship gives rise to problems that take away from happiness in marriage. It may be that both husband and wife are sharing together in the Christian hope and are dedicated, baptized servants of the Most High God, Jehovah. Do you as a husband make it a point to share time not only with your own relatives, but also with those of your wife? Or do you make things miserable when your wife’s relatives are coming for a visit, or when you are visiting them? Do you share equally with your wife’s side of the family as you want your wife to share equally with your side of the family, to the extent possible in your circumstances?
9 What about times of relaxation together? Is it always what you want to do that is done by the family? Do you consult with your wife as to what she might like to do, rather than making arbitrary decisions? Think of how pleasant it would be for the husband and wife to sit down together and plan on where they might spend a few days of a vacation, rather than for the husband to exert his authority and make the decision without consulting with his wife.
10. When it comes to rearing children, what should the Christian husband have in mind?
10 Consider, too, how headship applies in the raising of children in the family. Do you as a husband leave all the disciplining of your children to your wife? When the children do well, are they your children, and when they do not do so well, are they her children? If it is a united effort that is being put forth in the rearing of the children, how much more this adds to true happiness and joy in the family arrangement! The apostle Paul wrote this to the Ephesians: “Children, be obedient to your parents in union with the Lord, for this is righteous.” (Eph. 6:1) You will note here that the command is to obey parents, not just one of the parents. The further advice to the Ephesians was: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” The New Testament in Modern English says at this verse: “Fathers, don’t overcorrect your children or make it difficult for them to obey the commandment. Bring them up with Christian teaching in Christian discipline.”—Eph. 6:4.
11. How do some husbands fail in headship matters, giving rise to what complaints from their wives?
11 A further point that should be given serious consideration by the husband in the Christian household is that of taking the headship that God has given him. Many times wives will complain that their husbands just refuse to make decisions and leave everything to them. Of course, at times that is the easiest course, the one of least resistance. But, Christian husbands, that is a shirking of your God-given responsibility before Jehovah! A Christian husband is required by God and his Word to take the lead as the one appointed in the theocratic arrangement of things.
12. (a) Why does the assuming of headship responsibilities in the family not bring happiness to the woman? (b) Is this a degrading of her position, making her inferior to the husband?
12 When a husband lets everything slide, does not come to grips with making decisions, and his wife has to take over that responsibility, unhappiness results. First of all, though some women lose their husbands and have to guide the family in place of the man, the woman is far better equipped for giving wifely support than for taking on the role of family head. That is how God made her. She was created in the beginning as a complement to the man, a partner with him, and this is the happier role for her. Do you remember what Jehovah said when it was evident to the man that there was not a companion for him among all the rest of earth’s creatures? The record says: “And Jehovah God went on to say: ‘It is not good for the man to continue by himself. I am going to make a helper for him, as a complement of him.’” (Gen. 2:18) So the woman was to be a helper to the man. That is an exalted position for the woman to occupy. Speaking of Jesus in his prehuman existence under the title of wisdom, the book of Proverbs says that he was beside Jehovah as a “master worker.” (Prov. 8:30) So, husbands, work with your wives as treasured helpers, consulting with them, getting their views and opinions, and then take the lead in the household in major decision making. Your doing so can result in true happiness in the marriage bond. This does not mean that you have to do everything yourself, but remember that it is to you as head that your household looks for direction as to what is to be done and by whom. Working together will make both headship and subjection a blessing in the marriage bond.
13. Is woman’s Biblical subjection to her husband abject slavery? Give reasons for your answer.
13 Getting now to that perhaps somewhat touchy subject of subjection of the wife to the husband, let us turn first to Paul’s words to the congregation in Ephesus on this matter. Paul said: “Let wives be in in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord.” And the apostle Peter wrote: “In like manner, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.” (Eph. 5:22; 1 Pet. 3:1) To many women those are ‘fighting words’ in today’s world of women’s liberation But it does not have to be so at all. If a woman truly loves her husband and her husband is meeting the qualifications of a Christian husband, some of which are discussed in this article (though we have by no means gone into all facets of the situation), then it can be a pleasure for her to be in subjection to him. That is not abject slavery. Rather, it is playing her God-given role, which results in her happiness and joy. Just what can the Christian wife do to make a marriage happy?
14. (a) Why might some wives have a problem in showing Biblical subjection to their husbands? (b) Why is Peter’s advice at 1 Peter 3:2 applicable also to women with believing husbands?
14 It may require some changes in her personality, just as the husband may have to make some changes. If the woman tends to be independent, well able to care for herself, she may find that it is not so easy to be in subjection to a husband. She may have to make some adjustments in her thinking, even drastic changes in some cases, so as to do her part in making a happy union. If she has a husband who has not until now shown the consideration she would like to see, she has the opportunity to work for improvement. The apostle Peter said that women with unbelieving husbands could help their spouses if such wives, by their chaste conduct together with deep respect, showed Christian subjection to their husbands. (1 Pet. 3:2) That being the case, the matter should be far easier to handle if the husband is a dedicated and baptized Christian, working with his wife in Jehovah’s service.
15. How can a wife win her husband’s approval in her role as homemaker?
15 There are many ways that wives can win over their husbands. It can be by the way that they maintain the home. If it is kept clean and tidy, that can go a long way in encouraging the husband to play his role properly. Do you take pleasure in your role as a homemaker? When your husband’s friends come to visit, is he proud of the home into which he has them enter? That is something to think about. If a home is unkempt, with yesterday’s dirty dishes in the sink and heavy layers of dust on the furniture, and a generally slovenly appearance greets the eyes of those who visit, this can detract from the happiness of marriage. It goes without saying that at times husbands themselves can help in these matters by keeping things neat. But right now we are speaking of ways to help your husband so that he can be proud of you as a loving and devoted wife.
16. If entrusted with the family budget, what is the wife’s responsibility?
16 There is also the family budget to consider. Do you strive to keep within your financial means? If your husband entrusts you with the finances for running the home, getting the groceries and paying the house bills, do you work to keep within your budget, not expecting that you can be a spendthrift because he will come up with further money if needed? Again, it goes without saying that a husband should try to provide sufficient funds for the family budget. And where there must be some economizing, both parties in the marriage relationship should work together for the common interests of the family.—Prov. 31:10-31.
17. In what ways can a wife show interest in her husband’s responsibilities (without prying into areas that he may have to keep confidential) and thus keep open the lines of communication?
17 Keeping open the lines of communication with your husband is also important. Again, this does not fall on the wife alone, but both must work at it. But there are certain things that a wife can do to help, without inquiring into matters that may be of a private nature if her husband has responsibilities in the congregation. She can strive to involve her husband in conversation about his work during the day, perhaps problems that he can share with her, and she can tell him about her day at home with the children, or about her activity in witnessing about the Kingdom. It is this interest in each other’s lives that works to be a blessing and brings happiness in the family circle.—Prov. 16:24.
18. Name some other problems hindering family unity that can yet be discussed.
18 Thus far we have dealt with two main areas in promoting family unity, that of the headship of the husband under God’s arrangement of things, and that of proper wifely subjection, as outlined in the Bible for wives. But there are many other areas that need our attention in a discussion on family life. For example, there are the problems of a nagging mate, of disciplining the children, and also of the marital relationship, spoken of by the apostle Paul as the rendering of that which is due each mate in their intimate lives with one another. (1 Cor. 7:3-5) It will be of interest to consider these matters, and so the succeeding article will take up these points in greater detail for our benefit.