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21 things a man needs to know about marriage (part 3)

This is the final installment in a three-part series. The full first part and second part of 21 things a man needs to know about marriage is here, but we’ve listed the first 14 things from those posts here.

  1. A man needs to know that the ultimate team is marriage.
  2. A man needs to know the difference between being a consumer and an investor in life, in relationships, and marriage.
  3. A man needs to know the Christ-like role of servant, husband, and lover.
  4. A man needs to know that marriage is meant to mature a man into Christ-like character.
  5. A man needs to know the meaning of love.
  6. A man needs to know that a marriage and family depend upon God as their maker.  
  7. A man needs to understand sexuality as God’s good creation, distinct from its counterfeits.
  8. A man needs to know that the key to great sex is exclusivity.
  9. A man needs to know that marriages typically have a one or two year “honeymoon era.”
  10. A man needs to know that living together and having sex before marriage uses up a good portion of the “honeymoon era” euphoria. 
  11. A man needs to know that commitment is a key to success in all of life, and especially in relationships with a woman.  
  12. A man needs to know that marriage is not easy.
  13. A man needs to know that the purpose of marriage is less to make you happy, than to make you holy.
  14. A man needs to know that God gives authority and responsibility to a husband to make the marriage thrive and last.

things a man needs to know about marriage15. A man needs to know that he can change his marriage by changing himself.  He can make himself a better husband by making himself a more consistent and devoted follower of Jesus.  If he wants to improve any aspect of his marriage, family or parenting, the solution lies in deepening his daily commitment to God.  The path to build a great marriage or heal a marriage is to humble one’s will, to let the Holy Spirit take control of him and to obey Christ.

16. A man needs to know that romance is created and sustained intentionally.  Thinking about what she likes, remembering what is important to her, setting things up the way she prefers … these are all critical.  In dating and various stages of life, romance can spontaneously happen, but for the long term, it must be deliberately planned and created.  If a man wants to be a leader, this is an area in which to lead.  It leads to good things.

17. A man needs to know that divorce is avoidable.  He understands that nothing is impossible for God, and he humbles himself to admit and repent from the ways he fell short in loving his wife in the past, so he can excel at loving her from this day forward.

18. A man needs to know that he can recover from a wife’s affair because he has the power to forgive.  Jesus forgave all his sin, and he is called to do the same with his wife.  Furthermore, he seeks to understand what led his wife to be unfaithful, even if it means admitting his own failure. Usually a man breaks his vow to choose, love, and protect her before a woman breaks her vow to be faithful.

Note: if you have an affair, you don’t have control over whether you can recover because you can’t force a wife’s forgiveness.

19. A man needs to know that even the worst things can be redeemed for deeper purposes.  Romans 5:3-5 reminds us to rejoice and find value in tribulation, loss, and suffering because tribulation brings perseverance, and perseverance brings proven character like that of Jesus, and proven character brings hope, and hope does not disappoint because God’s love is poured out to us by His Holy Spirit.

Face crises and trials and suffering straight on with Christ and a few close teammates. A man steps up by surrendering to Jesus Christ and persevering in making Him the center and Lord of his life.

20. A man needs to know that humbling yourself to your wife is the gutsiest and most successful way to heal her heart and your frequently-compromised relationship. A man with courage and wisdom will never overlook his wife’s hurt feelings.  And he’ll seek to overlook the disrespectful words she blurts out in reaction to how he hurt her feelings.

When you are in conflict, don’t wait for things to blow over.  Don’t try to point out her fault.  Don’t try to minimize the situation.  And don’t defend yourself.  Instead, be a leader.  Start the apology.  A great starting point is, “I was wrong.  I hurt you.  Please forgive me?”

21. A man needs to know that a wife wants you to lead her, but will tend to lead and control you if you don’t lead and initiate.  Leadership starts with your character and your devotion to Christ.  Your walk with God determines the quality of your love and leadership as a husband.

Seek God.  Read His word in the Bible.  Pray for Him to shape and lead you.  Humble yourself before Him.  Seek a mentor or group to help you grow and become a good husband.

Leadership of a wife is humility before God, initiating teamwork with your wife, praying with her every day and praying for your family.  Most guys I know well are like me in this: If you’re frustrated with your wife and your marriage, the solution lies in getting back into Jesus and His Word!

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  1. November 20, 2013    

    Great Series.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      November 20, 2013    

      Very glad you liked it, John. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.

  2. Larry's Gravatar Larry
    November 20, 2013    


  3. November 21, 2013    

    Thanks John and Larry. I just had to read this series and ask God to help me live consistently with it. My selfishness and careless words failed to truly care for and choose my wife just this morning. Initiating apology is always a way to be a leader. I sure have lots of self-created opportunities to lead. Press on guys and definitely reach out to younger guys.

  4. January 7, 2014    

    Your series is destructive evangelical feminism. Blaming men for their wives affair is a sign that you have truly fallen off the cliff of pedestalizing women, and the churchian meme of man bad woman good.
    Shaming me, even in your thoughts, is predictable and wrongheaded. I am not an overbearing bossy man who forces obedience from his wife, I am not a bitter divorced man, rather a long married father of 4 all with one wife. I am simply one whose eyes are open to the big picture, and painfully frustrated by things like this list.
    I must ask, do you believe this is a new approach? Things like this have been the frame for relational teaching for the better part of the last 50 years. By continuously telling men to step up, and then only gushing encouragement on women because of their past hurts, the pressure they feel from images of women they see, whatever, telling women no matter what they CAN BE the princess God made them to be, telling men they need to get out of the porn and serve more, serve harder…..there are only 2 possible underlying belief sets you can have.
    1. men are stupid, we have been told this for decades yet the growing familial destruction in our society (according to you caused by men, fix men, fix the marriage problem) shows men are not yet getting whats being said, even though its not rocket science


    2. men really ARE bad while women really ARE good……spiritually superior to men, given a head start in that race Paul describes, men are told we are able to reach what we should reach, that we have the potential if we’d just “step up”, but we’ve been told to step up now for decades.

    We are either innately “worse” than women, or we are flat stupid. You have no choice but those, you must own one of those positions. You cannot rush from buzzword seminar to buzzword seminar all saying the same thing in different ways, over the course of years and years and generations….see the results getting worse and worse in terms of divorce in church, and NOT believe one of those two things.

    There are 2 other points.

    1. You could be simply pandering to women, because men do like to please women generally, and men enjoy positive feedback from women, and because of the atmosphere youve created women are 65% of the average church, you get nice emails and comments from ladies as you tell men to step up.

    Most important

    2. You could recognize that the situation has shifted. That because you lay no accountability at women’s feet in the manner in which its done to men, you are creating the problem, not solving it. Women are initiating most divorces, in the church its nearly 80% female initiated. If you believe that the lions share of those are being addressed by telling men to step up, its not men in general that are missing things, its you.

    its not courageous to lecture men, though these thing sare always framed with how gutsy you are by tackling men head on. Its courageous to tell women that marriage is for life…that there are VERY limited reasons to divorce, in my opinion one reason, and stop expanding the menu of items for women to choose from.

    You have to consider how women read these things. Your offensive affront to men, holding them to account for a woman’s affair, is an enabler of divorce. You’ve devalued sex in marriage (though you’d deny this but the value comparison screams off the page as you say men are about SEX and women RELATIONSHIP ….bad/good….to the point where if a man neglects the RELATIONSHIP you label it abandonment and she has a divorce get out of jail card. If a woman with holds sex, not only would you rerererererere double your lecture at him to fix himself, you’d hold him accountable for divorcing, and that on top of the fact that the courts are going to skin him alive.

    Your ministry is doing far more harm than good.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 8, 2014    

      Thanks for your impassioned feedback, Empathologism. We would ask you to re-consider your assumptions about this article, blog, and ministry. In your comment, you only envision two possible interpretations of our message in this article. Actually, we have no delusions that men are more evil than women, nor women more noble than men. We aren’t pandering to women in Stepping Up because this is not a blog for women. Stepping Up blog is focused exclusively on men, and even more narrowly, on encouraging them to own their part in their relationships as husband and fathers.

      The best way I can think to explain our perspective is the way my wife and I have always taught our seven children to handle perceived wrongs against them. Even when we are 95% in the right, we should look for the 5% God wants us to see that we can impact. The Holy Spirit will reveal that to us as we humble ourselves as men who want to reflect the image of Christ to our wife, our children and our world.

      To get a broader exposure to FamilyLife’s heart and passion as a ministry, check out our thousands of articles at

      • January 8, 2014    

        Scott thank you for your response. I have read almost every single article at FL, and at FOTF, and other marriage minded ministries and they are all guilty of what I am suggesting. I will break it down better in awhile.

        Again, thanks for posting my comment and for responding

        • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
          January 9, 2014    

          Emphathologism, we have read your blog as well, and it’s obvious we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  5. January 9, 2014    

    Now after spending time crafting this response you say you read my blog and agree to disagree.
    Please do me the courtesy of posting this response I spent lots of time writing.

    (EDITED: See Reply for explanation)

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 13, 2014    

      Emphathological, although you presented your perspective in a thoughtful and civil way, it was far too long as a comment – far longer than the blog post itself, in fact. Also, our desire is for the Stepping Up blog to be a place of ministry to men rather than a forum for debate. Since you have posted the text of your comment on your own personal blog, we would direct anyone interested in your response to read it there.

  6. Greg C's Gravatar Greg C
    January 11, 2014    

    Scott, I ask, why do you, FL, and The Church tolerate that woman Jezebel, and her “spirit of feminism”? By tolerating her, you are not only pandering to her, you are accommodating her and encouraging her. Jesus gave specific warning in Revelation. Please, pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you this “spirit of feminism/Jezebel” that has caused so much damage to marriage, families, and the Body of Christ.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 13, 2014    

      Greg, I’m not sure where you get the impression that FamilyLife is tolerating feminism. Here are our official positions on husbands and wives.


      We believe God has charged each husband to fulfill the responsibility of being the “head” (servant leader) of his wife. We believe God created a man incomplete, and as a husband, he needs his wife as his helper. We believe a husband will give account before God for how he has loved, served, and provided for his wife. We reject the notion that a husband is to dominate his wife. Likewise, we reject the notion that a husband is to abdicate his responsibilities to lead his wife. Rather, we believe his responsibility is to love his wife. This love is characterized by taking the initiative to serve her, care for her, and honor her as a gift from God. We believe his responsibility is to protect his wife and help provide for her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

      We also believe a husband is to seek after and highly regard his wife’s opinion and counsel and treat her as the equal partner she is in Christ. Therefore, we are committed to exhort and implore men not to abuse their God-given responsibilities as husbands, but rather to initiate a sacrificial love for their wives, in the same way Jesus Christ initiated sacrificial love and demonstrated it fully on the cross. (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:19; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Timothy 5:8)


      We believe God has charged each wife to fulfill the responsibility of being her husband’s “helper.” We believe a wife will give account to God for how she has loved, respected, and given support to her husband. We uphold the biblical truth that she is of equal value with her husband before God. We reject the notion that a wife should assume the leadership responsibilities of her husband. Likewise, we reject the notion that a wife should passively defer to the dominance of her husband. We believe that her responsibility is to willingly and intelligently affirm, respect, and submit to her husband as the leader in the relationship and in his vocational calling. Therefore, we are committed to exhorting a wife to be in support of her husband by accepting and excelling in her responsibility as his helper. (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1-6; Proverbs 31:10-12)

  7. Bee's Gravatar Bee
    January 12, 2014    

    Why has divorce among devout Christians continued to increase even as Christian marriage books, blog posts, and Family Life seminars also increase?

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 13, 2014    

      Actually, Bee, the increase in books, blog posts and seminars followed the increase in divorce, which has plateaued, but at a very high level. Unfortunately, our the culture continues to devolve God’s design for marriage. Our purpose as a ministry is to turn people’s attention away from these cultural norms and their own self-fulfillment and toward what God desires them to know and experience in the one-flesh relationship of marriage.

  8. Greg C's Gravatar Greg C
    January 13, 2014    

    Scott, the list is long, so I will have to keep it simple. First, though, your statement of beliefs for men and women in marriage would be of best value to the ministry if you made it 100% GOD’S WORD and commands for men and women in marriage, and not your MINISTRIES beliefs.
    Let’s put it this way. Your tolerance of the spirit of Jezebel/feminism is shown most when you and FL disobediently refuse to admonish women for the sin of using the ever expanding feminist version of the exceptions for divorce, and divorcing for any reason. You disobediently refuse to admonish the sin of women sending God’s families through the most evil, corrupt, and lawless secular courts ever devised. You disobediently refuse to admonish women for betraying the head of the family, and selling them off to slavery. You disobediently refuse to admonish women of the sin of stealing the children from the father and head of the family, creating more fatherless children. I could go on, but I’ll quit there. Again, I just pray that you will pray in earnest for the Holy Spirit to reveal to you, this spirit of feminism, that you have been blinded to.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 14, 2014    

      I think you might have just overlooked it, Greg, but the FamilyLife statement of beliefs ARE actually restatements of the scriptural passages that are listed below the statements themselves (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 31:10-12). I think if you re-read the ministry’s position statement on wives you will not find pandering there. FamilyLife seeks to balance biblical admonition with biblical encouragement to both husbands and wives. The primary focus of this blog, though, is encouraging and admonishing men to step up, as the blog’s name implies.

  9. jones's Gravatar jones
    January 14, 2014    

    “Usually a man breaks his vow to choose, love and protect her before a woman breaks her vow to be faithful.”
    -is this anecdotal or is there any empirical evidence for this statement? It is likely anecdotal and likely incorrect. He probably stopped being attractive to his wife and then she strayed.

    The problem with articles like this is they fail to state the most important thing a man needs to know about maintaining a marriage. The most important thing is a man needs to be attractive to his wife. If she is attracted to him she will follow him, she will not stray. These articles mention almost nothing about maintaining attraction.

    Find out what kind of man your wife is attracted to and be that man. That is how you love your wife.

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 14, 2014    

      Thanks for your insightful questions and comments, jones. The point Jeff makes here is I believe the same one you may be trying to make. A woman is attracted her man’s commitment to love and protect her. When she no longer sees that (which could be his actions or her attitude, but usually a combination of both), she entertains the idea of searching elsewhere for someone with those attractive qualities. We as guys need to remember that women are not as visually oriented as we are, so the things they find attractive are often actions.

      We recently ran a two-post series on “The Irresistible Man.” Here’s the link:

      • jones's Gravatar jones
        January 14, 2014    

        “A woman is attracted her man’s commitment to love and protect her.”

        And this is where you are completely wrong either because you are misguided, misinformed or intentionally misleading. A woman is not attracted to a man’s commitment to love and protect her, She wants commitment, love and protection from a man she is attracted to. Attraction is primarily biological (you can look it up) but I know you don’t believe me so try an experiment and let me know how it goes. Pick any woman in the world you are not currently in a relationship with and tell her you promise to do all the things in this article forever for her. How will she respond? She will call you a creep and tell you to leave her alone unless she is already attracted to you.

        “When she no longer sees that (which could be his actions or her attitude, but usually a combination of both), she entertains the idea of searching elsewhere for someone with those attractive qualities. We as guys need to remember that women are not as visually oriented as we are, so the things they find attractive are often actions.”

        Partially true but mostly false. Women may be less visual than men when it comes to attraction but that does not mean they are less shallow or entirely non-visual. Women are attracted to (in order) looks – visual matters to women too see people magazine for examples, athleticism – physical fitness matters to women almost as much as men, money – a woman does want to be provided for especially by someone she is physically attracted to, power – a woman does want to be protected especially by someone she is physically attracted to and status – social dominance is a key component for women especially if money and power are limited.

        Many of the things in this article and ones like it are helpful if the man is attractive to his wife they do not however, build attraction. Attraction is built thru looks, athleticism, money, power and status (LAMPS). Every woman will desire the items in this article from a man who has enough LAMPS to attract them based on the woman’s’ own relative value in the marriage marketplace.

        You may not understand the last sentence so if I may, a man’s natural (sinful) tendency is towards polygamy a woman’s natural (sinful) tendency is towards hypergamy (again look it up).

        • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
          January 15, 2014    

          Many women are attracted to many things for many different reasons. She may be allured by LAMPS, but these things are often substitutes that never will fulfill like a relationship with Christ. We want to call up men and women to understand and embrace how God designed them to be, so they don’t have to be constantly being overwhelmed by the influence of the culture or their self-focused desires. A godly man embraces who he was created to be, and helps his wife to also realize her design.

  10. Bee's Gravatar Bee
    January 14, 2014    

    @Scott Williams,

    “Actually, Bee, the increase in books, blog posts and seminars followed the increase in divorce, which has plateaued, but at a very high level.”

    Divorce in devout church goers has lagged behind the general culture but in growing to 38% is sadly too high.

    Do you have any statistical evidence to show us that proves that divorce among devout church goers has plateaued?

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 14, 2014    


      Great point. We agree that the numbers are unacceptably high in both the culture, but especially the church. The plateau I mention is for the overall culture. Glenn Stanton has a good evaluation of the research on divorce in the culture and the church.

      I personally believe the divorce rate in the church (not necessarily committed Christians) is probably INCREASING faster than the secular culture, which is marrying less (you can’t get divorced if you’re not getting married). For years, I puzzled that divorce rate was higher in states with high church attendance. I think reflects a culture that still believes in the idea of marriage, but men and women who are not personally committed to or prepared for the godliness it requires.

      Many churches have not done a good job teaching about God’s blueprints for marriage, or committed to helping couples maintain strong marriages. Most pastors are overloaded with other responsibilities and don’t have the time or the training it takes to build strong marriages and families. FamilyLife’s desire has always been to come alongside pastors with the tools to help them, or better yet, to identify and equip couples in their congregations passionate about building godly families.

      If you have any statistics on the issue of divorce in the church, we’d love to see them. Even though God doesn’t change and His Word lasts forever, ministering to people in the culture is a moving target. Recognizing cultural trends helps us know how to help others.

  11. Greg C's Gravatar Greg C
    January 14, 2014    

    Since, in your response to Bee, saying that receiving any info that may help recognize cultural trends, I must ask you, do you and Family Life in fact recognize how feminism has creeped into every aspect of our culture today, including the Church, which is on the verge of being totally useless, due to the infiltration of feminism and the feminist doctrine?

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 15, 2014    

      Thanks, Greg. We’re very aware. As I mentioned in my comment to Bee, God never changes, nor does His Word, including what He says about marriage, man and woman, etc. In a culture that runs contrary to His design, though, we have to meet people at the point where they’ve been influenced by the culture. The starting point for leading them back to an understanding of God’s design and intent is often far from where we’d prefer to engage them, but that’s the nature of ministry. The Apostle Paul recognized that the Corinthian believers (not to mention the unbelievers) could only handle the milk of the Word when he wanted to feed them its meat.

      Within our culture today, it’s a shorter road to call men to understand the emotional nature of their wives and to lead them in an understanding way; it’s a longer, more tortuous one getting women to recognize that God’s principle of submission isn’t laden with all the ugly baggage that our culture claims it is. FamilyLife has never shied away from either road, though. Through the years, we have created a body of articles, broadcasts and products for ministering to people where they are-some can only handle milk, others are able to handle more meat. Stepping Up is more specifically focused on men’s responsibility before God to their wives, their families, and their world.

  12. Bee's Gravatar Bee
    January 14, 2014    

    @Scott Williams,

    Focus on the Family has been helping Christian marriages for the last 37 years. Family Life has been publicly helping Christian marriages for the last 36 years.

    Why have the books, web posts, seminars, emails, and radio shows/podcasts your organization distributes not stopped the rapid rise of divorce among devout Christians?

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 15, 2014    

      Bee. You’re right. You’d actually be surprised by how few people (including church-goers) are exposed to the ministry of FamilyLife, FOTF or ANY marriage/family group. Thankfully, though, God does not call any of us to change the culture, but to impact individual hearts with the life-changing power of Christ (and in our case, with God’s blueprints for marriage and family). These days, people are less influenced by institutions and more influenced by people they know personally. That’s why we’ve turned our attention toward impacting individuals with resources, articles, blog and social media posts, etc. that they can pass along to their friends and family members who otherwise might never have had any exposure to God’s truth. We want to be faithful to do what He’s called us to do, knowing that it’s He who draws individual hearts to Himself.

  13. Bee's Gravatar Bee
    January 18, 2014    

    @Scott Williams,

    1. Divorce is very destructive to Christian children, Christian marriages, Christian families, and churches. Divorce among devout Christians is negative evangelism; it reduces the percent of children that will follow in the faith when they become adults. Christian divorce harms the testimony of the local church.

    2. Benchmarking. Comparing the efforts of an organization to an outside metric in order to measure true effectiveness.

    Would the senior leadership of FamilyLife be willing to change their messages, and change which messages they emphasize, in order to halt the rise of divorce among devout Christian families?

    • Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
      January 21, 2014    

      @Bee, every divorce is the death of a small civilization, and our divorce culture has more than decimated our civilization, and shaken the stability of the church and its effectiveness in impacting our culture. FamilyLife will never compromise on the principles of God’s word, but we’re always looking for how we can effectively reach a culture that doesn’t always have ears to hear. While the cultural health of marriage is bleak, we hear constantly of the individual marriages we have been blessed to impact through the life-changing power of Christ. Needless to say, though, there are many people we are not reaching. If you have ideas, we’d love to hear them. How have you been able to effectively minister to couples to halt the rise of divorce?

  14. Scott Williams's Gravatar Scott Williams
    January 13, 2014    

    Loving in the Ruins, we’re glad this issue caused you to reflect. Rather than see it “jumping through hoops,” consider it as a reminder of a husband’s God-given charge to love and lead his wife as Christ does the church, regardless what she or the culture are doing. Christ went well beyond meeting us halfway. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:7-8.

  1. I interrupt my regularly scheduled blogging to admonish women to grow up. | Loving in the Ruins on January 10, 2014 at 2:14 pm

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