Well, this one’s probably going to make some people angry:
The standard practice when faced with this passage is to emphasize the duty it and the following verses place on husbands: to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and to lay down their lives for them.
This is all perfectly right and proper, however it is easy to skim over an important point.
And I am fully aware how little what I am about to say will be to the liking of most who read this, but it has to be said.
To say a husband stands to his wife as Christ stands to the Church is to say that he is very definitely in authority over her. Whatever obligations this may impose upon him, her duty to be obedient to him is in no way mitigated.
Now, as I began this post by suggesting our idea of authority may be erroneous, you may (I foolishly dare hope) suspect that this doesn’t quite mean what we would tend to think it means.
So what exactly does “authority” mean in a Christian marriage?
Authority means the right to be obeyed with regards to the subject of one’s authority. It is the power to create a moral obligation in a subject. If I own a book, then I have authority over that book, and so if you borrow it, I can demand it back and so create in you the obligation to give it back to me, not because I can force you to give it back, but because it is mine and if you refuse to give it back you will be committing a sin.
To say a husband has authority over his wife means that when he asks her to do something, it creates in her the moral obligation to do it, to the extent that he is invoking his husbandly authority. Obviously she can suggest something else, or make her own wishes known, and no man of sense would press his authority too often or arbitrarily, but at the end of the day, the husband is the one who holds the family policy.
Read the rest here