There seems to be a lot of confusion nowadays about what a traditional marriage is and the consequent duties of husbands and wives towards each other. Some people seem to think that if we want to correct the excesses of feminism, we should go the other extreme and effectively state that the husband has an unrestricted authority over his wife and can command her to commit a sin, for instance, or what happens much more often, to earn an income. On the other hand, there are those who think that the woman can stay home and still expect her husband to do the cooking, cleaning etc, not occasionally when she is sick, but on a regular basis.
Considering all this, I thought it would be a good idea to post extracts from a Dutch wedding ceremony which is still used in our church. Written in the times of the Reformation, it presents a clear picture of what was expected in the traditional marriage from both spouses. It's very long, so I decided to translate some parts of it which deal with the subjects mentioned above:
...First, you Man will know that God placed you as the head of the woman, so that according to your capacity you will lead her with understanding, educate her, support and protect, like the head rules the body...Also you will love your housewife as your own body...live with her according to understanding and give her her honour as the weaker vessel because she shares in the inheritance of grace, so that your prayers are not hindered. And since it is God's command that the man will eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, so you shall work faithfully in your Godly profession so that you can support your family with God and honour and will have above that enough to give to the needy.
Second, you Woman will know how you according to the God's Word, will behave towards your husband. You will love your lawful husband, honour and reverence him, and also obey him in all things which are right and honest, as your Lord, in the same manner as the body submits to the head and the church to Christ...You also shall help your husband in all good and honest things, take a good care of your housekeeping, and walk in all modesty...without worldly luxuries so that you will give others a good example of decency.
The preacher addresses first the bridegroom:
N, do you acknowledge here before God and this his holy church that you have taken and take N present here as your lawful housewife, promising to her that you will never leave her, that you will love her and faithfully support as a true and God fearing man has an obligation towards his lawful wife, that you also will live with her in a holy manner, being true to her and believing her in all things, according to the Holy Gospel...
And then the bride:
N, do you acknowledge here before God and this his holy church that you have taken and take N present here as your lawful husband and promise to obey him, to serve and to help, never to leave him, live with him in a holy manner, to keep faith with him in all things, as a religious and faihtful housewife has an obligation to do towards her lawful husband, according to the Holy Gospel...
As you can see, both husband and wife have certain duties towards each other. The husband is expected to support his wife and family "with God and honour". I see nothing about stay-at-home dads in this passage, or even about wives contributing to making a living, but they are expected to take a good care of their housekeeping, which unfortunately, a lot of women are not doing nowadays. The text above also clearly shows that the wife is not obliged to obey in all things, but only in "right and honest" things, so if the husband asks her to help him rob the bank, she is not supposed to follow this type of a command.
In my opinion, biblical commands to husbands and wives, such as Titus 2 are pretty clear on their own, and yet so many people disregard them or get confused about the issue, so I hope that this post will be of some help.