“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
In Ephesians and Colossians, when Paul instructs believing families regarding this concept of submission, deferment, and respect he tells men to love their wives as Christ loved the church. No easy task since it involves sacrificing one’s life to the needs of another! But we tend to obsess over the definition and levels of fulfillment on the wife’s side of things as if that were all that mattered.
Peter does not use the word “love” here, but his instructions might amplify that idea. Husbands are to know how to live with their wives. (“…in an understanding way…”) How many men have grasped that level of skill even after decades of marriage? Also, they are to show their wives honor. The word here implies something that we treat as precious. It can even be used for veneration. Here, I think it mostly means respect.
People like to insist that wives have to obey their husbands but they rarely refer to the respect that men should have for their wives. It really is a two-way street though. There are aspects of submission on both sides of the marital relationship. And it is less about who the “boss” of the relationship is. (Especially since the boss is supposed to be Christ.) Instead, the marital relationship is characterized by deferment, respect, and love on both sides. Marriage is a little expression of church. And both Paul and Peter call on all believers to submit to each other, placing the others first.
In the church, “stronger” believers are taught to defer and consider first the needs of the “weaker” members. Here Peter calls on husbands to treat their wives—fellow heirs in a shared salvation—as the weaker members. That means the husband’s first job is to always consider his wife’s needs first. What will be best for her and her relationship with God? And seems to teach here that the husband’s relationship with God is dependent in part on how his wife’s own relationship with God is.
So, husbands, upon whose needs are you focused?