In their book The Meaning of Marriage Tim and Kathy Keller suggest what obeying the pattern of male headship set out in Ephesians 5:21-33 might look like:
The husband’s authority (like the Son’s over us) is never used to please himself but only to serve the interests of his wife. Headship does not mean that the husband simply ‘makes all the decisions,’ nor does it mean he gets his way in every disagreement. Why? Jesus never did anything to please himself (Romans 15:2-3). A servant-leader must sacrifice his wants and needs to please and build up his partner (Ephesians 5:21ff).
A wife is never to be merely compliant but is to use her resources to empower. She is to be her husband’s most trusted friend and counsellor, as he is hers (Proverbs 2:17). The ‘completion’ that embracing the other entails involves a lot of give and take. To complement each other means husband and wife need to hear each other out, make their arguments. Completion is hard work and involves loving contention (Proverbs 27:17), with affection (1 Peter 3:3-5) until you sharpen-enrich and enhance each other. She must bring every gift and resource that she has to the discussion, and he must, as any wise manager, know when to allow her expertise to trump his own, less well-informed, opinion.
A wife is not to give her husband unconditional obedience. No human being should give any other human being unconditional obedience. As Peter said, ‘We must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29). In other words, a wife should not obey or aid a husband in doing things that God forbids, such as selling drugs or physically abusing her. If, for example, he beats her, the ‘strong help’ that a wife should exercise is to love and forgive him in her heart but have him arrested. It is never kind or loving to anyone to make it easy for them to do wrong.
Assuming the role of headship is only done for purposes of ministering to your wife and family. Some say, ’In the Biblical view, both husband and wife are to minister to each other unselfishly, so then what is the difference?’ It is clear that the Son obeys his head, the Father, and that we obey our head, the Christ. But how does this authority work out in the context of mutually serving persons equal in dignity and being? The answer is that a head can only overrule his spouse if he is sure that her choice would be destructive to her and to the family. He does not use his headship selfishly to get his own way about the color of the car they buy, who gets to hold the remote control, and whether he has a ‘night out with boys’ or stays home to help with the kids when his wife asks him.