Saturday, August 27, 2011

Growing in Love for Our Husbands: R-E-S-P-E-C-T--Find Out What It Means to Him

This week marks our third in the series on "Growing in Love for Our Husbands." So far we have discussed two ways to grow in love for our spouses: "Submitting to His Authority" and "Captivating Him with Our Love".

Loving our husbands comes fairly natural, wouldn't you say? Yes, I love my husband, even though he's messy and a tad disgusting at times. I would say my love for him is unconditional: I love him regardless of his faults and quirks. Even when he annoys me, I still love him.

But what about respecting our husbands? That is a tougher question to answer. You might say, "Yes, I respect my husband when he sits down and talks to me or if he shows me the affection I need." But that respect is conditional upon him fulfilling certain expectations I have. To have unconditional respect for our husbands is pretty tough at times. Sometimes we just don't feel respect for our spouses, especially when we are feeling unloved by them.

Yet, the apostle Paul, carrying out God's commands, instructs us specifically in how we are to treat our husbands:
"Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband."

Ephesians 5:33
Clearly, Paul tells us that wives need love and husbands need respect. The Greek word for "love" in this passage is agape, which is "unconditional love." Husbands are commanded to love their wives without condition.

As women we need love, don't we? How do you feel when your husband doesn't show you the care and affection you crave? Personally, I become resentful and huffy. Instead of communicating my feelings, though,I will clam up and stomp around until he asks me what's wrong. Sometimes I don't know what is bothering me, but I just want my husband's attention, his comfort or encouragement. Often when I'm in one of these states, I become disrespectful to him--I nag, complain, criticize, find fault, etc.--as a form of retaliation for his failure to meet my need for love. But not only is my disrespectful behavior contrary to God's Word, but it does nothing to encourage my husband to love me more.

In Love & Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs says that "[w]hen a husband feels disrespected, he has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel unloving to his wife...[and] [w]hen a wife feels unloved, she has a natural tendency to react in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband" (16). This is what Eggerichs calls "the Crazy Cycle":

Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love.

According to Eggerichs, while the husband is expected to show unconditional love to his wife, the wording of the rest of the passage strongly suggests that the husband should receive unconditional respect from his wife (18). There are no conditions in Paul's statement, no if or unless clauses so our husbands can elect to opt out of loving us when they feel disrespected or so we can choose to stop respecting them when we don't feel loved.

Respect is not conditional on love.
Love is not conditional on respect.

We must commit to respecting our husbands even when they are not loving to us. Our husbands need to know we're their biggest fans. When we support them and show them the appreciation they need, they will feel respected, and, in turn, they will begin to give us the love and affection we crave. It's like the Golden Rule:

"Show him respect; he will show you love."

Of course this is not always the case. Unfortunately, there are men out there who, no matter how much you show them respect, will continue to be unloving and unmoved to change. How do we deal with a husband like this?

Consider 1 Peter 3:1-2:
"In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior."
Here, the "husbands" Peter is referring to are either unbelievers or errant Christians. These men are not pleasing to God and certainly do not deserve their wives' respect. Yet, Peter states that a wife's pure and respectful behavior towards her husband may actually win him to the Lord. Even if your spouse is not a faithful Christian, as his wife, you are instructed to treat him with respect unconditionally.

If you want your husband to have feelings of love for you, then show him unconditional respect.
Many times I have heard people say, "You have to earn my respect." As Christian wives, we cannot say that of our husbands. Even if my husband frustrates or angers me, even if he is hurtful or unloving to me, I must respect him as the head of the home as ordained by God.

Sometimes it is only by the grace of God that we respect our husbands.
Certainly, there are many women in marriages whose husbands do not deserve their respect. Maybe their husbands are negligent, preoccupied with work or extracurricular activities, even abusive to them. In those situations, it is imperative to ask God for wisdom and direction and to seek Godly counsel, but also to trust that He is faithful in keeping His promises. When we obey God's Word and treat our husbands with respect--even if they don't deserve it--we are displaying trust in God and spiritual maturity.

In what ways can we show our husbands respect? How can we apply this lesson to our own lives?

  • By watching our facial expressions. Are you an eye-roller or a smirker? Do you give your husband "the look" when you're upset or questioning his decision? Think about the faces you make and make a conscious effort to stop making them.
  • By watching our tone. Sarcasm conveys a questioning of authority that is not respectful to your husband. Also, avoid snide remarks that so quickly roll off the tongue and cause a world of problems.
  • Hold off on the nagging and criticism. When I tell my husband something repeatedly, he hears, "She doesn't respect me." If you are at home all day with small children, you may find, like I have, that I scold my husband like I do the kids. Not only does this annoy him, but he feels disrespected by it.
  • Avoid "instructing" him. After I became a mommy, I was instantly the "baby expert" and Daddy the student. I have to remember though that he is a grown man and doesn't need step-by-step instructions for every little thing. That belittles him.
  • Compliment him. Leave a note in his lunch or on the bathroom mirror thanking him for his hard work for you and the family. Show you appreciate him and his achievements.
  • My husband's suggestion for me: Give him your undivided attention when he's hugging or kissing you or trying to talk to you, even when you're in the middle of something. There's nothing more disrespectful than ignoring his attempts at love and affection.
What about you? How do you show your husband the respect he needs, and in what ways can you improve?
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  1. Wow this hits close to home! I know all too well the things I do that are disrespectful to my husband. Eye rolling, the look, stomping and slamming cupboards and such, flippant remarks. Yah, I'm a child.

    We've been blessed to go through the Eggerichs seminar videos and recognize those things in ourselves and each other. Even with the right tools, it's hard work to love and respect each other! But it's worth it.

    I asked my husband to pause his movie and tell me if there was anything lately that I was doing that stood out to him as disrespectful. He said "you mean other than making me pause my movie?" To which we both burst into laughter! :-D He's not like that.

    He did say that my big, pointed sighs come across as disrespectful. He's right, and I've even seen my kids mimicking that behavior. Thanks for sparking the discussion!

  2. I do the same things, especially the flippant remarks! And you're right; kids pick up on everything we say and do, so we have to be really careful. :)

    That is hilarious about what your husband said about pausing the movie; it sounds exactly like what mine would say too! Glad this post helped get you talking. I have learned a lot from my husband about what disrespects him. It's amazing what just having a little conversation can do.

    Blessings to you!