After being married for about 30 years, I asked my husband, Jim, what might seem to be a simple question: “What would you want more—love or respect?”While both are important, his answer surprised me: “Respect.” I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose respect over love. My question to Jim was prompted by a FamilyLife Today®broadcast with Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of the book Love and Respect. Eggerichs bases the book on Ephesians 5:33, which says, “Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Eggerichs’ premise is that, though every person needs both love and respect, God gave men a special, deep need for respect, and He gave women this same deep need for love. That’s why I didn’t understand Jim’s need for respect. In the radio interview, Eggerichs said that among church members, there’s a consensus that husbands should love their wives. “But the idea of respecting a man, some women gag … because they don’t feel that.” He said when a wife feels unloved she usually reacts in ways that are disrespectful to her husband. And that when he feels disrespected, he tends to react in ways that don’t express love to her. As Jim and I talked, and after I read Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect, I understood that the respect my husband longs for should not be based on his performance. Instead, I should honor him because it pleases God and because I know that Jim’s actions are motivated by his love for Jesus Christ and me. My husband wants me to respect him for who he is, not for what he does.
Why your respect is important to your husbandI asked some men to help me understand why respect is so important to a husband. Here are some of their responses:
- Respect expresses a wife’s trust.One friend wrote, “Respect won’t exist unless trust exists first.”
- Respect gives a husband the belief that he can do hard things.One husband said that receiving respect from his most intimate friend, his wife, reduces his fear of failure and of being inadequate. Another explained respect this way: “It is like wind in my sails. No one knows me like my wife does. Her level of respect for me is a very accurate barometer on how I am doing, and my confidence to do hard things is very much connected to that.”
- Respect acknowledges his leadership and discourages passivity.Giving respect shows the husband that he can be a leader in the relationship (Ephesians 5:25-30). One husband said if wives would express love to their husbands through respect, “I am convinced that men would be better leaders and passivity would be less commonplace.”
- Respect provides encouragement and makes him want to love her even more.One man said that when a wife does not respect her husband enough to listen to him, he feels defeated. Another said that when his wife respects him, it makes him want to love her even more.
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