Marriage Big Issues

Many Christians around the world do not cohabit before they are married. Expectations of marriage in different cultures may vary considerably. This article is designed to help couples contemplating marriage to compare their expectations and hopefully come to agreement and intercept problems. It may also help some already married couples.

John Robertshaw  



The Big Issues
  1) Leadership
  2) Sex
  3) Money
  4) Life Together
  5) Household Roles
  6) Serving God
Wedding Vows
Bible Verses
Further Reading

The Big Issues

For each issue, I have included a few possible ways that people might operate in these areas. These may not all be biblical or godly! They are a basis for discussion and you may wish to add some other possibilities!

1) Leadership

It is well known that the Bible says that the husband is the head of his wife - but is he the head of the household? How are these played out in a modern marriage? It is important for both of you to agree on the authority structure in your marriage. Here are some possible arrangements but they may not all be biblical!

  1. Husband in charge - The husband considers himself to be the ultimate authority in all matters concerning his wife and the household. Although the wife may make suggestions, she recognises that the final decision is with her husband.
  2. Shared leadership but headship recognised - Here the husband and wife always make decisions together as a team, but it is recognised that if agreement just cannot be reached, the decision of the husband may prevail. They lead their household together.
  3. Shared leadership - There is no headship recognised. Husband and wife are equal in authority in all matters regarding their relationship and their household. Everything must be worked out by agreement or compromise.
  4. Divided leadership - The husband and wife take responsibility for different areas of life.
  5. Wife in charge - This may occur when the wife is a capable and strong person and the husband is more passive.

Here are some links to sections in my other articles which you may find helpful. Return with your back button! gender in marriage, headship, head of household.

2) Sex

Sex in marriage can be a great blessing, but unfortunately it can also be a major source of argument, unhappiness and abuse.

Sex within marriage

Hopefully, couples will value sex as a beautiful and tender expression of their love for each other. Unfortunately, some people dread having sex, feeling that they are simply a sex object for the gratification of their partner. Some people like simple, straight sex - others are looking for ways to explore new ways of increasing the thrill of the experience! It is helpful to understand the expectations of your partner regarding frequency and ways of having sex. Here are some different expectations regarding how sex in marriage may be negotiated. They are not all recommended!

  1. Sex on demand - The husband believes that his wife should submit to him sexually. He expects his wife to have sex with him in whatever way he wants and whenever he wants. It is less common, but wives may also be demanding in this way.
  2. Consensual sex - The man and his wife only have sex on agreement and without coercion.
  3. Bargaining or bribery - Sex is given in return for money or other favours.
Sex outside marriage

Sexual infidelity is a common theme in media, movies etc. and it is almost taken for granted as a fact of life. It is also very likely that people will have had sexual activity of some sort before marriage. So what is your behaviour when married?

  1. Sexual freedom - Some people may expect to enjoy extra sexual activity outside of their marriage. This may be through pornography, on-line sex, affairs, prostitutes etc.
  2. Faithful - For others, the expectation is that sexual activity for both husband and wife will only be within their marriage.

Here are some links to sections in my other articles which you may find helpful. Return with your back button! intimacy and tenderness, faithfulness, sexual Immorality, sex before marriage, adultery, domestic abuse(1)domestic abuse(2), pornography, other sexual practices.

3) Money

Money can be another major flashpoint in marriage. The Bible does not speak directly about how married couples should organise their finances. This is a case where you need to apply biblical principles as far as possible. Your wedding vows may include promises about sharing which may be difficult if you have been used to independent existence for some time before marriage. Your financial arrangements will also reflect the degree of trust you have in each other. You may also want to consider your attitudes to Christian giving. Here are some possible ways of dealing with finance.

  1. Husband in charge - The traditional set-up where all income is given to the husband who then decides how it should be used. He may delegate household expenditure etc. to his wife.
  2. Independent finance - Both of you feel that the money you have or earn is your own money. You both contribute to the running of the household etc. by paying various bills.
  3. Shared finance - Both of you feel that the money you have or earn is our money. It is all put together possibly into a joint bank account and you both discuss and decide what should be done with it. There is no personal economic advantage for the higher earning partner. You may, however, both decide to give yourselves some personal money for clothes, personal effects, activities etc.

4) Life Together 

This section is designed to explore what you expect from your life together. How much time do you hope to spend in each other's company developing your friendship with each other. Do you expect to continue with all the activities you had before you got married?

  1. External factors a priority - If your main priorities in life are career, work, church or other interests, you may end up having independent lives and not seeing much of each other or your family. You may not have much quality time to develop your relationship and friendship with each other. Some jobs and activities may involve long periods of separation.
  2. Family life a priority - If your main priority is your relationship with your spouse, you will together plan your work, careers and other interests so that you can spend plenty of time together and develop your family life. This may involve being less ambitious, earning less money and having more modest lifestyles.

Another related issue is distraction with phones, browsing, social media, video gaming etc. Do you give each other proper attention and have quality conversation?

5) Household Roles

The Bible does not give strong guidance in this area. The assumptions in the Bible reflect a culture where the men are the main breadwinners, farmers, hunters etc. and the wife has a more domestic role. In modern cultures, life has changed a lot with the emphasis on equality and the education of women. It is good to discuss your expectations.

  1. Traditional roles - The man is expected to be the main wage-earner. The wife is expected to shop for food, cook, clean the house and care for the children etc.
  2. Flexible roles - Husband and wife share household tasks and care for the children. Both may also be wage-earners.

Here is a link to another article which you may find helpful. Return with your back button! gender roles.

6) Serving God

Christians will want to know how they will be able to share their faith with their partner and how they will be able to serve God. A lot will depend on the type of Christian they are or are not! Here are some possible situations!

  1. Committed Christians - The husband and wife are both born-again Christians who are followers of Jesus Christ and are individually devoted to him. They want their marriage, family, work, careers and home to be guided by God and to glorify God. Husband and wife wish to use their time and their home to serve God effectively.
  2. Church-going Christians - The husband and wife are regular church-goers and faithfully serve in their church. Apart from church meetings, their lives are pretty much like those of everybody else around them.
  3. One active Christian - Only one of the couple is a committed Christian or church-goer, the other is a Christian by religion.
  4. Religion - One of the couple is a Christian by religion. The other belongs to another religion or has no religion.

Here are some links to sections in my other articles which you may find helpful. Return with your back button! the first marriage, defining marriage, walk with God, love

Wedding Vows

Wedding vows before God, family and friends are the central part of a marriage ceremony. They are the promises which form the basis for the marriage covenant. There is no list of vows in the Bible, but they are usually based on biblical principles and will vary between cultures, churches and individuals. Your husband or wife is usually the only person in the world that you make these life-long promises to. You should only make these promises if you agree with them and intend to keep them!

Christian vows often cover four broad areas:

  • Love and care
  • Faithfulness
  • Permanence
  • Sharing

Here are some common traditional Christian vows:

Example vows:

1st Part
N, will you take N to be your wife(husband)? Will you love her(him), comfort her(him) and protect her(him), and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her(him) as long as you both shall live? I will.
2nd Part
I, N, take you, N , to be my wife(husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish(and obey), till death us do part, according to God’s holy law; and this is my solemn vow.
3rd Part
I give you(receive) this ring as a sign of our marriage. With my body I honour you, all that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you, within the love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Here are some links to sections in my other articles which you may find helpful. Return with your back button! marriage covenant


People have different priorities in life. Here are some areas of life put in a possible order of priority. Make your own list - you can change the categories and the order to match your own priorities!

  1. God himself
  2. My husband or wife
  3. My home, household, children family, close friends
  4. My work and career
  5. My church and Christian activities
  6. My other interests, entertainment, exercise, social etc

Bible Verses

This is a selection of Bible verses related to some of the issues above. You will find more Bible study and comment in the articles listed in the Further Reading section below.

Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Gen 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Matt 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Eph 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 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. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,

Eph 5:30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

1 Cor 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.

1 Peter 3:1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
7 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.

2 Cor 6:14-16  Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people..."

Eccl 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Eccl 9:9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.

Prov 31:10 An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.

1 Cor 7:2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‚Äč‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Prov 5:15 Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?

Job 31:1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?
2 What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
3 Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity?
4 Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?

Further Reading

You can find more information and Bible study about marriage issues in the related articles:

Christian Marriage
Sexuality and Gender
Divorce and Remarriage

Written February 2021   

Last Edited: 2021-02-17   

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