Love & Respect
Gregg and I were listening to a Focus on the Family podcast the other night where Dr. Emerson Eggerrichs discussed the role that love and respect play in marriage. Eggerichs is the author of Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs.
Gregg and I read this book years ago and loved the simplicity of it. It just basically takes on Ephesians 5:33:
Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
The book is wonderful and very black and white. I’d recommend it to any married couple – especially if you are facing conflicts and problems within your marriage. We read books like this together – so that we can discuss what we encounter, what we learn, what we discover – and what we each learn about the other. Reading these kinds of books this way really strengthens our marriage and interpersonal relationship.
While listening to this podcast, Gregg and I started cracking up, then replayed a particular segment. It was such a typical modern-wife reaction to the concept of respecting a husband unconditionally that I had to type it out and share it with you.
This is Eggerichs speaking, and his reference is in the verse above:
There is no debate on that first part. Agape is the Greek word. Husband’s must love. Wives come up to me all the time and and say, “Dr. Emerson, I have to be honest with you, I really don’t feel any respect for him and it would be hypocritical for me to show respect when I don’t feel it and, he’s not superior to me, and everybody knows you show respect to your superiors. He’s not superior. I’m not inferior. I’m not going to be treated like a doormat. You know, everybody knows you’ve got to earn the respect and he hasn’t really earned it. He doesn’t deserve it. And I know where you’re really going on this and that is that I must fear his dominance. I’m not going to do that nor feed the narcissim or ego. But, but other than these things, Dr. Emerson, I’m really open to hearing what you have to say on it.”
The above quote very effectively sums up what I hear most often when addressing the idea of wives respecting their husbands the same way that husbands are to love their wives. I don’t know why we accept the fact that they must unconditionally love us, but a wall goes up when considering an unconditional respect.
In this podcast, Eggerichs give an interesting statistic. 7000 people were asked the question: in marital conflict, do you feel a lack of love or a lack of respect? 83% of the men said they felt disrespected; 72% of the women said they felt unloved. I think that points directly to a base need – love and respect. Even though both men and women each need to be loved and respected, at the end of the day, a man really needs to feel respected, and a woman really needs to feel loved.
If you’re a wife and you feel a bristling reaction to the concept of respecting your husband, I’d really recommend studying the subject. You can read this book or any others on the subject. I’ve taken on wifely respect a couple of times on the blog here. Once in in a the study of Feminine Appeal, Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother by Carolyn Mahaney when we looked at The Beauty of Submission, and once when I relayed a marital situation I’d come across in a post I’d titled Love & Marriage. Both times I break down the instructions of loving and respecting and offer different resources in them. Or just start digging in your Bible and let the Word of God speak to you.
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Matt and I read this and it didn’t work for us. I am the type of person who wants to be respected and Matt desires most to be loved. I can’t stand to be cuddled and loved on all the time. It drives me crazy. And he’s not terribly concerned about being respected. He lets the kids walk all over him. It just didn’t suit our personalities.
Having come from an awful marriage, where there was little love or respect, I can’t imagine going into marriage without respecting my husband. If I don’t respect him, then how can I love him?
Very thought provoking, Hallee. Thanks for sharing.
Honest question: If something is very important to me, but my husband doesn’t want me to do it, is it disrespectful to try to persuade him otherwise? Not by means of fighting, withholding sex, or any other means of manipulating, but by having a rational discussion on the topic?
I don’t see why a rational discussion as you have described could be disrespectful.
I don’t think that having a dissenting opinion, and the resulting discussion, equates to a lack of respect. I think that the fact that you discuss your differing opinion with him demonstrates your respect.
Well said, Sara.
I feel the same way, Sara. In speaking with other women, I have been told that it would be very disrespectful. “When the husband says, ‘No,’ it’s final and any further discussion is out of the question.” That view may be where the “doormat” connotation comes from. Thanks for the input, ladies.
I think that sounds more like a parent/child relationship than a husband/wife relationship. In the same chapter of Ephesians, we’re told to submit one to another. The marriage relationship is a partnership, not a dictatorship.
Why is there so much out there about women respecting their husbands, but so little about men learning to love their wives as God loves the church? THAT seems like a MUCH bigger command. I have read and seen so much about submission, but nothing about how men can work on loving us. Is this a topic Greg could discuss on his Sunday posts?
I think it must be because so much of the blogging world is women writing to women. My audience is not men, so I’m not likely to address them. I think Gregg writing an article like that would be a great idea. A lot more men read my blog on Sundays than any other day.
My husband and I would LOVE to hear Gregg’s perspective on the subject! He does such a great job on the Sunday posts!
“Why is there so much out there about women respecting their husbands, but so little about men learning to love their wives as God loves the church? ”
Well, in my opinion, it is much like Dr. Eggerich stated when he said, “There is no debate on that first part. Agape is the Greek word. Husband’s must love.” There really isn’t any debate on that part. Husbands must love their wives unconditionally and sacrificially. Everybody knows what that means and there aren’t a lot of husbands looking for loopholes.
“Well, I want all the benefits of a godly marriage, but I really don’t have to love my wife. Do I really have to love her? She isn’t very lovable sometimes, after all.” You really don’t hear that.
What you hear is, “Do I really have to respect my husband unconditionally? And what does that MEAN, really, to respect him?”
So I think that’s why the conversation seems so one-sided. It is because the debate seems to only be on that side of the command.
Of course husbands could love their wives better (more skillfully) just as women could respect their husbands better.
But wives must also communicate those needs to their husbands — give them the opportunity — and respect EVERY effort made to love you.
It is an easy thing to short circuit. A wife complains, “My husband just isn’t romantic.” But a few years earlier, he had prepared an intimate candlelight dinner for just the two of them and she criticized his efforts and made little jokes about his choices of what is and isn’t romantic that night. Just a few little jibes and jabs to keep him on his toes. The mentality of some wives is, “He’s a little full of himself right now and it’s my job to take him down a notch or two. Let some of the air out of him with a few little pinpricks to his ego.”
Huge mistake. If that husband ever decides to risk like that along those lines again in the course of the rest of their entire marriage, I will be very surprised.
It is the job of every other person in the world to try to bring your husband down and every other person in the rest of the world are very good at their profession in this regard. You, his wife, are his comfort and his strength — his best friend. He needs you in his corner in a big — BIG — way. If you disrespect him in these little ways, you are emotionally no differently than anyone else in the world — even his enemies.
How can he actively show love to an enemy who is only looking for a little chink in his emotional armor? Even if he loves his enemies in his heart, and prays for them, he likely isn’t going to put their kids through college.
Some ways that I actively demonstrate my love for Hallee are by speaking Gary Chapman’s 5 love languages. I offer her words of affirmation. I never criticize her for any weaknesses. I love her for them and am honored to compensate for them. (After all, you cannot BUILD anything on weakness.) I try to always praise her successes. I offer her words of affirmation pertaining to her appearance because to me she is the most beautiful woman on the planet and her appearance is important to her.
We spend quality time: Reading the same books or watching the same DVD seminars or listening to the same podcasts and then discussing them. Recent examples: Francis Chan’s the Forgotten God; Focus on the Family or Ravi Zacharias podcasts; The Truth Project DVD seminar.
I constantly give her gifts.
I hold her hand or run my fingers through her hair or gently touch her to let her know how important her physical touch is to me.
I perform acts of service — all kinds of work to honor her behind the scenes. I update the blog or add content. I make little home repairs. I change light bulbs. I mend the back fence. I perform maintenance on our vehicles. I dry the dishes or load the dish washer or do some heavy lifting or fix the bed or install window unit ACs or whatever.
Like I said, these are skills which I employ to actively demonstrate the love that I feel for my wife. They are only outward signs. A gift is not love. An act of service is not love. Telling my wife she looks amazing is not love. They are just signs of the love that I feel. Husbands could probably learn some skills that would help them show the love they have for their wives more actively. But even if they do, the signs of love are not themselves the love.
AND if that husband has ever been disrespected emotionally by his wife, that disrespect will have to be addressed first. If not, there will be no trust and no possibility of building or establishing trust.
That’s my take,
I just came across this, and it really kind of bothers me the way so many women find it such a terrible thing to respect their husbands. Can anyone explain to me why this is such a horrible thing?
Respecting your husbands doesn’t mean that one would submit to slavery and degradation. It just means that you recognize him as the most important person in your life and appreciate him for everything he does and is ….isn’t that the reason you married him in the first place?
I also think many women have unrealistic expectations when it comes to their men showing them that they love them. I think a lot of this can be blamed on Hollywood and/or romantic novels. My husband and I are best friends, it is very easy for me to respect him and he has no trouble showing me that he loves me, so long as I know where to look.
It’s the way he sacrifices things he needs for the things I want. It’s the way he talks to anyone who will listen about my quilts/crafts. It’s the way he will run over me just to get to a door before me so he can open it. It’s the way he tries to suprise me with a clean house when I return home from a weekend trip. It’s the way he confides in me the things he would never tell another soul, not because he has to, but because he wants to. These are the things that tell me that I am precious to him.
However, if I ever were to expect to come home to a candlelit dinner with some little bald guy wearing a tuxedo and playing a violin while a 5 star chef prepares dinner for the two of us and red rose petals are spread abundantly through out the room……forget it. That’s not going to happen. It’s just not in his character….nor mine! But the point is, if I were to expect scenarios like that in order to confirm to myself his love for me, I would be highly disappointed because it really is an unrealistic expectation. Besides, if I had the chance to trade for such a chiche’ for the moment when he comes home from work hot, smelly and sweaty, and the first thing he does is to make a b-line to me so he can kiss me and ask me about my day…..well, that would never happen. Because my kissing my smelly husband after a hard day’s work to provide for me and our children is by far a greater feeling of love than any fancy dinner could ever provide.