In Ephesians 5:21-25, Paul writes:
. . . submitting to one another out of reverence to Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . .
There is a snapshot of what a grace-driven marriage looks like. Its central theme is the Person of Jesus, and the dynamic of "mutual submission" to each other's needs is chiefly about reverence for him.
The wife shows reverence for Christ in her submission to her husband. Submission to his headship is an act of grace to him, reflective of the grace given to her by God. Wives can demonstrate this grace-driven submission in many ways, but here are three:
1. Respecting him verbally and publicly. Men are terrible mind-readers and context-clue-picker-uppers, not because they're stupid but just because of the way they're wired. They need to hear that they're respected, as well as shown. They need to be verbally encouraged, and even if a wife finds opportunities to publicly praise her husband difficult to come by, she can "settle" for not criticizing him in front of others or bringing disagreements/difficulties between the two of them into public conversations. This shames a husband and is a sabotage act of legalistic leverage, not grace.
2. Repenting of leveraging anything. This includes use of passive aggression, sexual intimacy as reward or withholding of same as punishment, "I told you so" when results meet your expectations but not his, tit for tat on anything. Women have long memories and great is their temptation to use them in winning arguments, wars of wills, etc. Don't do that. These are all reflections of the way Eve exploited Adam's passivity and usurped his headship to exert her own control. She was "quite deceived."
3. Defer on decisions. A wife who says or even merely thinks toward her husband, "I don't care what you say" has gone rogue. She may enjoy for the moment being free of her husband's authority, but she will not enjoy coming out from God's. It is sin to submit to sin, so never acquiesce to a husband's headship when doing so takes you out from under Christ's, but remember: it's not submission if you agree with the decision. In matters that are not sin, but merely disagreement, advise, counsel, pray, encourage. But defer.
By all means, don't do any of these things if you don't want a confident, happy, encouraged husband. Some ladies like the milquetoast types. I hear the pasty British vampire thing is "in" right now.
Husbands, your call to grace in your marriage to your wife is deeper and more demanding. It is nothing less than self-crucifixion in "reverencing" your wife as you would reverence yourself. Her call is to submission; your call is to sacrifice. Here are three practical ways husbands can love their wives as Christ loved the church.
1. Honor her by way of priority. Put her first. Above yourself, above your kids. Make her fulfillment the gauge of your success. Do not coast. There is no autopilot setting for husbanding. If you fail to take the initiative in loving and respecting -- verbally, actively, constantly -- you implicitly take responsibility for your marriage going over the cliff. Treat your wife as precious. She is not your employee. Do not exploit her submission, and do not abdicate your responsibility if she neglects hers. Do not grow weary in an effort to present her pure and spotless before the Lord. Passivity is masculinity at its most fallen.
2. Talk! Christ engaged the Church; he put skin on and communed with her. He dines with her, speaks with her, sings over her, delights in her. Open your mouth and talk to your wife. Ask her how she feels. Ask her what she needs/wants. Ask her what her dreams/struggles/fears/concerns/entertainments are. Be her friend.
3. Worship God. In all things, including the self-emptying in the obedience of the cross, the Son submitted to the Father. If your wife is pulling the spiritual weight in your family, repent and believe in the gospel. Then lead your family. Your authority comes from God's authority, so if you neglect his, you give up the grounds for expectation of submission to yours. Your wife longs in her heart to hear she is desired, approved, and accepted, so "evangelize" her often, and your children as well.
What Christians who claim to love the gospel should want is a marriage that makes as much of Jesus as possible.