Life is not fair!
Marriages that are bilateral (two people making a promise to each other) have “zero” foundation for the headship principles taught in Scripture. This is made apparent by Paul repeatedly instructing the Gentile women to obey their husband (1 Tim. 2:11-14, 1 Cor. 11:2-16, 1 Cor. 14:34, Titus 2:4-5). Gentile women were considered equal in all regards; both before the marriage and during.
Legally speaking, western marriages are considered similar to a business contract 50/50. But marriages were designed to be unilateral “only” and a young woman to be living under her father’s roof before marriage (Deut. 22, Numbers 20:2-16, Ex. 22:16-17). More than likely, Greco-Roman women were not given in “arranged marriages” but either acted independently of their parents or were married/divorce before (similar to our high divorce rate).
The Gentile women in the New Testament married similar to our culture. That means, no one paid a bride price or negotiated a deal to marry her. In their bilateral marriage the contract could be breached by any of the promises broken by either party. This was considered a conditional contract. So, legally speaking, unbelieving Gentile women enjoyed the same privileges as her husband in all regards and there was no foundation for headship.
In a unilateral marriage covenant, though, the woman was paid for or gifted by her father so, his authority was passed on to the young man (Nub. 30:15-16). Moses added the concession later on (sexual immorality by the one under authority Deut. 24:1). Unilateral covenants are unconditional by nature and this is why Jesus responded to the Pharisees and Scribes in saying that in the beginning divorce did not occur “was not so” (Matt. 19:8b).
In a Jewish marriage, the woman never makes a vow, or says “I do” in a wedding ceremony. Only the man traditionally makes all the promises. The Bride only accepts his proposal with a “cup of acceptance” at the betrothal. The bride never signs the marriage covenant but her father, the groom and two witnesses. Therefore, it was “unlawful” for a Jewish woman to initiate a divorce because she was under his complete authority by acquisition and not by vow.
So, yes, we practice marriages incorrectly and women should have a civil right to divorce a husband if he where to ever break any of the promises that he made to her: to cherish her, be faithful, provide for her, love her etc… Therefore, it is correctly understood that the husband is in breach of contract for neglect, abuse or infidelity in a bilateral marriage covenant. But since this is not what Paul, Jesus or the Bible taught it has caused much confusion.
God’s law (Gen. 3:16) and his principles (Adam and Eve) in Scripture supersedes all marriages covenants; either unilateral or bilateral. So although it is not fair for the type of covenant that a woman entered to be submissive to her husband, it is just. Paul made this clear by saying that a woman is bound to the “law under her husband” Rom. 7:1-2 and 1 Cor. 7:39.
Woman today initiate 75% to 80% of all divorces here in America.