Marriage is a sexual relationship in the context of a covenant. This is true 24/7. Thus, a husband is making love to his wife constantly. He is giving, and she is receiving. He is the lover, and she is the beloved. He is either a good lover or a poor lover. The marriage bed is only one manifestation of the kind of lover he is. When husbands fail to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, then the marriage (i.e., the sexual relationship) is damaged. The intimacy of the bed should be a picture of what is true in the rest of the relationship; in every other room of the house. If husbands are not true lovers of their wives in places other than the marriage bed, then the marriage bed becomes a form of hypocrisy. The symbol of physical intimacy, trust, respect, and affection becomes only form without substance.
A great husband—a great lover—accumulates love by the small and great acts of sacrifice over long periods of time. We love because God first loved us. Our wives love because we first loved them. The antithesis of this kind of giving is selfishness, and the world is full of selfish husbands—they are lovers of self. Lovers of wives are something else altogether. Brutish men imagine themselves to be great lovers. Indeed they are. But wives are not the objects of their love; they are only the objects to be used in service of the husband’s self-love.
Jesus Christ is the greatest lover; the greatest husband. He is the model. He is the model of self-sacrifice. He meets our needs exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Great lovers go first.