Referring to Ephesians 5:25-33, Lewis observes the following:
The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the Church—read on -and gave his life for her (Ephesians 5:25). This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is—in her own mere nature—least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence.
Lewis, C.S. (1984-07-05). The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C. S. Lewis (pp. 169-170). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
When we look at marriage and insist that it must be on equal terms we have erred. Clearly the husband is to model his life on Christ, extending to his wife the same grace that Christ extends to us.
Lewis goes on to add that while we are not to seek a broken marriage, nor martyrdom, nor persecution,
it is, none the less, the persecuted or martyred Christian in whom the pattern of the Master is most unambiguously realized. (p. 170)
This aligns with other passages of scripture which tell us that we are destined for afflictions (1 Thess 3:3) and that when they come they come to make us stronger in the Lord (2 Cor 12:7-9) and brings about character (1 Pet 1:6-7, James 1:2-4). Even a godless, hostile wife is an opportunity to grow into Christlikeness. In fact, if you believe in the sovereignty of God, it is a sure bet that she is your wife by God’s sovereign appointment, quite possibly for this reason.
He completes this thought considering the feminist opposition to male headship saying,
The sternest feminist need not grudge my sex the crown offered to it either in the Pagan or in the Christian mystery. For the one is of paper and the other of thorns. The real danger is not that husbands may grasp the latter too eagerly; but that they will allow or compel their wives to usurp it.(p. 170)
Why would a feminist want to take on such a burden? Lewis’s final point is that men are all too willing to give the suffering to their wives, expecting instead to be waited on and loved and appreciated.
This is convicting to me, and I hope it encourages other husbands to love their wives sacrificially.