FamilyLife Today®

Understanding the Connection Between Love and Respect

with Emerson Eggerichs | October 22, 2007
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The Scriptures command husbands to love their wives and for wives to respect their husbands. Today on the broadcast, hear how these two commands are directly related to each other when Dennis Rainey talks with Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, the founder of Love and Respect Ministries and author of the book "Cracking the Communication Code.

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  • The Scriptures command husbands to love their wives and for wives to respect their husbands. Today on the broadcast, hear how these two commands are directly related to each other when Dennis Rainey talks with Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, the founder of Love and Respect Ministries and author of the book "Cracking the Communication Code.

The Scriptures command husbands to love their wives and for wives to respect their husbands.

Understanding the Connection Between Love and Respect

With Emerson Eggerichs
October 22, 2007
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Emerson: Martha and Mary were having a conflict at a certain moment when Jesus was in their home for dinner, and Martha was doing all the work while Mary was at the feet of Jesus.  And at one point, Martha comes to Jesus and says, "Do you not care?"  She looked at the Son of God, and if you looked into the eyes of Jesus Christ you would see God Incarnate, love itself, and she looked at Jesus, in effect, and said, "You don't care."

 And I point out something important here – may I make a suggestion that women can be wrong?

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 22nd.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Listen, men can be wrong, too.  We can both be wrong, and that's the point – we need to do a better job of communicating.  Stay tuned.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  If I described a book to you as an "Aha!" book, would you know what I'm talking about?

Dennis: I do.

Bob: It's one of those books that comes along every once in a while and somebody reads it, and they go, "Aha, okay, all right, that makes sense, I get it."

Dennis: And I think our listeners will know what that book is as soon as I read this passage from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 33 – "Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband."

Bob: Now, you kind of emphasized a couple of those words, there, didn't you?

Dennis: Well, our audience is pretty astute.  They know that Emerson Eggerichs joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Emerson, welcome back.

Emerson: Hey, thank you, Dennis, it's exciting for me to be here.

Dennis: And, of course, to those listeners who haven't yet had a chance to read his book, it's called "Love and Respect," it is going to be, I think, a classic as we move forward building marriages and families here in the 21st century, and God has granted favor upon that message, and we're thrilled about that.  It's biblical.  You have served the Scriptures for a number of years, Emerson, as a pastor, and you founded Love and Respect Ministries.  You and your wife, Sarah, have three adult children, live in Michigan, and now you've got a new book called "Cracking the Communication Code," and you really do hitchhike off a lot of the themes of your first book, "Love and Respect."

Bob: Some of our listeners may not have read "Love and Respect."  They may not be familiar with the premise of the book.  We've talked about Ephesians 5:33, and I describe this as an aha! book.  What was the aha?  You’ve been talking about this all around the country now.  What's causing people to go, "I hadn't heard that before.  That's revolutionary for me?"

Emerson: No, that's an excellent question.  I think the first part of that verse, "Husbands love," there isn't anything new about that in that sense.  I mean, we've been preaching that for the last 40 years, but this idea of respecting a husband, a gal who is listening might say, "Well, Dr. Emerson, I have to be honest with you, I don't feel any respect for him.  You know, he certainly isn't superior to me, I'm not inferior to him.  That's the dictionary of respect and then you shall responsibility your superiors, he certainly hasn't earned.  You know, I don't feel comfortable in feeding his ego, his arrogance.  I certainly don't want to subject myself to emotional abuse.  But other than these things, Dr. Emerson, I'll be open to hearing what you have to say about this."

 So it's a new idea almost.  It's a truth that's been hidden in plain sight for 2,000 years, but it hasn't really been looked at closely.  But the deeper point is we say this – "I saw a love and respect connection; that God commands the husband to love; the wife to respect," and that doesn't mean you love her evil behavior, it doesn't mean that you respect his evil behavior.  It's unconditional.  "I lovingly confront her bulimia," for instance.  "I respectfully confront his adultery."  It's a matter of how we present ourselves, it isn't that you endorse whatever respectfully, endorse whatever lovingly.  That would be absurd.

 It's how we come across as we confront issues.  But we saw a love and respect connection.  When a wife feels unloved, she tends to react in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband, and she doesn't see it.  And when a husband feels disrespected, he tends to react in ways that feel unloving to his wife, and he doesn't see it, and thus was born this revolutionary idea, we might say, the crazy cycle.  Without love she reacts without respect, without respect he reacts without love, and then without love she reacts without respect and without respect he reacts without love, and couples start to spin on it.

 And many couples say, "You know, that captures our experience day in and day out."  And I say yes, when the issue isn't the issue, when you see the spirit of your spouse deflate, you're on the crazy cycle, and that's the thing that seems to make so much sense to so many of us.  It certainly does to Sarah and me, and we still get on the crazy cycle.

Dennis: And it's interesting that the fruit of the spirit begins with the word "love" – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness.  You know, men need help, they need tutoring, and the spirit of God does bring about that tutoring, but for the man who is listening right now who is saying, "Yeah, you're right, Emerson, I don't know how to love.  How do I break this crazy cycle?  Where does he start?

Emerson: Well, one of the things I'm saying to men across the country – Focus on the Family sponsors our marriage conferences, the Love and Respect conferences.  I challenge men with this – you are a man of honor.  I'm not asking you to put on a pink apron, I'm not asking you to become a woman.  This idea that you've got to get in tune with your effeminate side is not a biblical idea.  If it was, why are we not telling women to get in tune with their masculine side?  That's a psychological view of things, and it's not fair to you.  God did not make you female, he made you male, but as a man of honor, he commands you to do the loving thing.

 So the first and foremost idea I say to the man because you're a man of honor, you can do this.  It will never be natural, and that's okay.  It's okay.  You don't have to become effeminate.  You don't have to somehow feel about things in the same way your wife does.  God doesn't expect that of you.

 But He does expect you to do the loving thing – to speak lovingly, to come across with a loving demeanor, to seek forgiveness for having been unloving, and as a man of honor you will do that.  But I will tell you, it's never easy for me, and I don't expect it to ever be easy for you, and that's okay, and that means this – that there is nothing wrong with you, it just means that you have to stand to the – get up to the plate and do this in obedience to Jesus Christ who loves you and is instructing you to do that.

Dennis: And I think for men who are listening who want to begin this process, I think love, in its essence, is a commitment.  Another word that will click for a man as he expresses this commitment to his wife is the word "loyalty."  A woman wants to know that her man is going to be loyal to her regardless.  Above all others, he chooses her.

 And I think what we're actually trying to do here is put a vocabulary together to help men speak love to their wives and women to speak respect back to their husbands.

Bob: Can you use the metaphor of pink and blue in love and respect?  You use it in the new book "Cracking the Communication Code," but you're saying it's possible for a guy to express love in blue and for a pink woman to receive that in pink?  How do we do that?

Emerson: Well, as – we give an acronym that's based on the Scripture again – c-o-u-p-l-e, which spells the word couple, c-o-u-p-l-e, and each of those concepts are rooted in Scripture, a salient passage.  I had the privilege of studying the Bible 30 hours a week for nearly 20 years, and so I went through the New and Old Testament looking at every passage that related to marriage, and then I worked really hard at taking those salient passages to husbands from the Lord, from Abba, Father, and I put it in this acronym.

 So, for instance, you've been talking about loyalty there – couple, c-o-u-p-l-e – loyalty is based on that Scripture in Malachi that the husband broke the covenant, and the Lord was telling that husband not to break that covenant.  This was the wife of his youth that he was to remain true to that covenant, and we put that in the word "loyalty."

 Another word is "esteem," 1 Peter 3 that the husbands are to honor their wives.  In other words, treasure her above all else.  So when a man says to his wife, "Because I'm a man of honor, I want to be, and because I love the Lord, and because I am true to my vows, I do want you to know that I am loyal to you.  I am not breaking the covenant, I am not going to watch other women."

 Job made a covenant with his eyes not to gaze upon a virgin.  "I want you to know I'm committed to that.  I have my temptations but I'm committed to that, and I am going to esteem you.  I am going to treasure you above all else.  You are my – we used to say to our kids, "Sarah is my girlfriend, and you kids are going to grow and be out of this home.  Don't you treat my girlfriend this way.  This is my woman, this is my woman." 

 And I always let the kids know, and I let Sarah know she is number one.  And I think if men made that kind of commitment, that brings it down to the street level of how you do this, it makes perfect sense, and women will respond to that.  Women are elated by that, they're energized by that.

 C-o-u-p-l-e, which is closeness, openness, understanding, peacemaking, loyalty, and esteem, and we've given men a track to run on.  If you do these six things, your wife will feel love because God designed her to respond to that, and as a man of honor, you can do that, even though, at times, you don't want to necessarily be open, you know, but as you, as a man of honor, move in that direction, you are pleasing Jesus Christ, and your wife's spirit will soften around you.

Dennis: We miss each other a lot.  In fact, you admit that in your book.  I kind of took some heart in that.  You said, "Here is an expert who doesn't always crack the code.  He doesn't always get the point," and you and Sarah have had your own struggles around this whole communication process.  Where does a woman start as she wants to respect her husband?

Emerson: Well, on that one point, though, we talk about this being negative encouragement.  I don't know if you're like me, but when I hear that Jim Dobson and Shirley have a fight, I am so encouraged, you know what I mean?


Dennis: I'm sorry for them if they have the fight, but there's a realness to that.

Emerson: That's right, it gives people …

Dennis: Oh, they are real people, after all.

Emerson: Well, and it gives me hope, it gives Sarah and me hope, and we believe the same thing – that when we communicate to people in the book that, "Hey, we still struggle."  We talk about the tiff in the terminal, and all the different things that we go through – the time she swallowed my contact, you know, in Peoria, Illinois, an eye contact that I had.  These are real situations, and we all go through them, and we get on, what I referred to earlier, is this crazy cycle – without love she reacts without respect and without respect he reacts without love, and this thing spins out of control.

 But in answer to the question, "How can we mentor or coach women?"  Well, first of all, women say, this is so foreign to me.  Why hasn't anybody pointed this out to me?  And then these women who love the Lord and love Scripture, look at Ephesians 5:33, and then we do a parallel passage, 1 Peter 3, verses 1 and 2 where Peter instructs the women that you can win your disobedient husband through respectful behavior.

 So one of the things that I coach women on, I said, "Trust me.  In many conflicts with your husband, he is not shutting down on you because of what you're saying to him."  Men banter and debate with one another all day long, but we do so with a twinkle in our eye.

 I ask women after you've had a doozy of a fight, if they would do this – go into the bathroom, floor length mirror, and reenact how you came across to your husband.  Don't hold back – come across in the mirror to yourself in the way that you just came across to him, and then ask this question – is there any man in his life or any person in his life who talks to him this way?  And if the answer to that is no, then he's not hearing what you're saying, he's reacting to how you're saying it. 

 So I give them the simple little suggestion, "Tone it down.  You're not going to lose your sense of power here, you're not going to lose your sense of self.  Tone it down."  In other words, as you confront him, let the truth carry its own weight, but come across respectfully.  Ask yourself, is that which I am about to say or do going to feel respectful to him or not?  And if you don't know say even this, "Honey, I want to say this respectfully, I am so upset right now, I don't want to dishonor you, I know you would die for me, but I am so angry right now."  He'll hear that because you used his mother tongue in the same way that a husband might say, "I don't know how to do this love thing, I'm trying to be more loving but, doggone it, this is the third time you've backed into the garage door.  How do I do this loving thing?"

 She'll hear you, and she'll receive that, because you prefaced it with her mother tongue of love.  We've got to trust what God is saying in His Word that there is a vocabulary that each speaks – a mother tongue.  And a wife, if she tones that down, softens her demeanor, uses the respect language, watch what happens in the spirit of her husband.

Bob: You know, I have to – I think it's okay to say this – after 28 years of marriage, Mary Ann is discovering some of this and, like you said, it doesn't come natural, I'm not trying to put her down, but in recent days we've had, in communication, I've found her saying things like "Would you do this" – and then she'll say – "If you think that's the right thing to do."

Emerson: Oooooh, wow.

Bob: And I've come back around, and I've said, "You're adding things like that more, and I know it's conscious, and I know it's deliberate, I know it doesn't come natural for you to say it, but you just need to know that is so much different than "Would you do that" without "If you think it's the right thing to do."  Because it's so much – it's affirming, it's now …

Emerson: Well, doesn't this feed your ego, though?  Isn't this really making you into a chauvinist?  Tell us what's going on in your soul.  It's hard for women to hear.  "You just gave him the complete power.  You're just bowing to him when you say that?"

Bob: No, what that did for me was that called me to fresh responsibility.  I'm responsible here.  What do I think is the right thing to do?

Dennis: And what do you think is best for Mary Ann? 

Bob: That's right, and I've got to consider that, and it shows that she's not trying to order my life, she's trying to be a helper, and it's a wonderful dynamic that, again, I think she would say, "This doesn't come naturally.  It's a learned discipline," but I'm watching it happen with her, and it has an impact on just how we get along with one another.

Emerson: That's a great story.

Dennis: It is a great story.  I want to go back, Emerson, because there is a man listening right now, undoubtedly, whose wife does react to him with contempt, and instead of doing what Mary Ann does in terms of gently saying, "You know, this really is your responsibility, and I'm looking to you for leadership," instead she uses both her countenance and her words to just erode that responsibility, jab at that responsibility.  You know what I'm talking about here.

Emerson: Oh, yes, yes.

Dennis: And maybe that man has talked to his wife about that contemptuous attitude, and she stood in front of a mirror, and she doesn't see it.  She doesn't get it.  But, to the man, that's what he's feeling.  What would you say both to the man and to the wife in that situation?

Emerson: Well, beginning with the man, that's why we wrote both books, "Cracking the Communication Code," in this instance that, again, the crazy cycle says without love, she reacts without respect and then without respect he reacts without love.  We point out that without love defensively she reacts offensively without respect. 

 And there are many guys saying, "Finally, somebody's preaching it.  That's right.  This woman is disrespectful, she's offensive, she's negative, I'm going to get her a broom and watch that witch fly across the horizon."

Dennis: Yeah.

Emerson: And so, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, time out.  You're a man of honor.  Now, listen to me.  There isn't any man in your life who would talk to you this way, I understand that, and so it would be very natural for you to be offended.  We all feel your pain there.

Dennis: Right.

Emerson: But here is the question.  Is your wife intending to emasculate you, to get you to sing high tenor in the boys' choir?  Is that her mission?  Or is she trying to get a message through to you the best way she knows how?

 She knows that disrespect gets to you, but she does not understand.  To her it's just a noodle in the face.  In our world, it's a brick in the face.  So as a man of honor go back.  Did you say or do something that felt unloving to her?  I'm not justifying her reaction, but go back.  I believe that she's coming at you, she's confronting ultimately to connect.  She's not confronting to control.  She is moving toward you because she thinks you should be able to decode this and figure this out.  In effect, she's saying, "You matter to me more than anybody alive, and I'm hurting right now, and I can't believe that you said and did that, and I'm reacting to you because you should know."

 And the question on the table is, can you, as a man of honor, take that hit and then soften your spirit, and this is not easy.  It's easier to die for your wife than to live with her while she's killing you in that way.  I understand that.

Dennis: Well, and it's easier to die for your wife than to decode the message because what I hear you saying for that man is, if his wife continues to speak contemptuously toward him …

Emerson: That's right.

Dennis: … he needs to ask the question, "How is it I'm not communicating love to my wife?  She must be feeling something from me, or I must have missed her, and I need to go back to c-o-u-p-l-e …

Emerson: Exactly.

Dennis: … and find out how I can communicate my love for her in a way that connects with her soul.  Is that right?

Emerson: Well, yeah, he can say something like this – "You know, honey, I'll tell you, you're really coming across disrespectfully right now, but I've been thinking about it – did I do or say something that felt very unloving to you?"

Dennis: So ask her the question?

Emerson: Oh, huge.  Watch what happens – if this woman has goodwill.  Now, you and I both know that there are evil-willed people out there, but I think many of us are profiling as evil-willed when they're not.  We're saying, "You know, I'm married to Hitler's distant cousin," but we're not.

Dennis: Now, let's turn to the wife, and let's talk about how she can better respect her husband even at the points when she's not being loved by her husband the way she feels like she should be loved by him.

Emerson: That's right, and she gets a lot of reinforcement from the culture that he ought to do this, he ought to do that and, again, without respect, he reacts without love.  In other words, without respect defensively, he reacts offensively without love. 

 If you, let's say, buy the third marriage book for the two of you to read, or you even buy "Love and Respect" or the "Crack in the Communication Code," and this is two books in a year.  You feel that should increase the love between us.  I want to deal with my stuff, I want him to deal with his stuff.  I value the marriage, why doesn't he value the marriage?

 But he hears a message through your pink megaphones that you're speaking, he thinks, into his blue hearing aids, and that message is this through the second, if not third, marriage book.  "I don't accept you, I don't approve of you, and I don't respect who you are, buster, unless you change right now."

 I'm not justifying that hearing, I'm just saying that's his male nature, and that's what he hears.  And when he hears a message of disrespect, he tends to withdraw, he tends to stonewall, he shuts down, he won't read the book.  It would be so easy for you to label him as unloving then and get together with your girlfriends and say, "He won't read the book."  And they go, "Ahhhh!  He won't?  He said that? He didn't aahahahaaaaah.  Divorce him!"

 Hey, wait, time out.  You're a loving woman so do the loving thing and ask this question – did I say or do something prior to this behavior that felt disrespectful to him.  I'm not saying you intended to be disrespectful.  Many women say I didn't even know I was coming across disrespectfully.  That's right, I understand that. But ask the question – did that feel disrespectful to him?  And if it did, my prediction is you're going to get on the crazy cycle, he's going to shut down, and then you're going to interpret him as unloving.

 But here's the deal, he's not trying to be unloving.  He's saying, "I have a need that only you can meet, and I'm reacting this way because I assumed you understand why I'm reacting this way, and I'm telling you, I'm dying, I'm losing energy.  I can't be around a woman who says "I love you but don't like you."  I can't be around a woman that says "I love you but I don't respect you any further than I can throw you, Bozo."  And he shuts down, but he's not trying to be unloving.

Dennis: Okay, you've got a chair for the women to sit in – c-h-a-i-r …

Emerson: And then "S."

Dennis: Okay, plural.

Emerson: Don't forget the "S" because that's …

Dennis: I can't believe I left that off.

Emerson: I know.

Dennis: But, seriously, you gave the men coaching in terms of how they can communicate love, communicate, real quickly, how you communicate respect to a husband.

Emerson: Well, CHAIRS is the acronym that represents the biblical passages that are instructions to the wife, and those six concepts help a wife understand her husband, and when you meet this need related to these six concepts, these are desires that God has placed within him, and when you go toward that desire respectfully, he softens, he softens, and that's why we wrote "Love and Respect," to explain CHAIRS as well as "Cracking the Communication Code." 

 And this gives her a track to run on, and if she says something that's disrespectful toward those things, he'll shut down, and he's not trying to be unloving, but he's losing energy.  And so that acronym gives them a guide as well.

Dennis: Well, I think we've sufficiently gone back to Ephesians, chapter 5:33, Bob.  We have driven it home here.

Bob: I think we got the big themes – love and respect.

Dennis: Husbands, love your wives.  Wives, respect your husbands.  If you do, you're not going to be in the crazy cycle, you're going to build each other up, and you will build a successful marriage.

Bob: Well, and it's not enough just to have love and respect for one another, we have to know how to communicate love and respect to one another, and that's the reason that you wrote this second book, Dr. Eggerichs, which is called "Cracking the Communication Code," and we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center. 

 You can go to our website at, and on the home page you will see a red button that says "Go," about the middle of the page.  If you click that button, it will take you to the area of the site where you can get more information about "Cracking the Communication Code," by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, and his first book, which is called "Love and Respect," and, in fact, if you're interested in getting both of those books, we can send along, at no additional cost, the CD of our conversation this week with Dr. Eggerichs. 

 So, again, there's more information about this on our website at  Click the red button you see in the middle of the screen that says "Go."  You can order these books online, or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team will make the arrangements to have these books sent out to you.

 While we're talking about books, your brand-new book, which is called "Moments With You," a book you and your wife, Barbara, have written.  It's a daily devotional for couples, a follow-up to the bestselling book, "Moments Together for Couples."  It's now available.  It's in stores all across the country and also available from our FamilyLife Resource Center. 

 It gives husbands and wives an opportunity to practice each day what we've been talking about – healthy communication and communication that gets a little bit below the surface and has you talking and thinking about the kinds of things that most of us just wouldn't get to on our own.

 Again, there's more information about the new book, "Moments With You," on our website,  When you go to our home page, click that red "Go" button, or you can find it in a Christian bookstore near where you live.

 And then this month, if you are able to help FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount, we would also like to send you a thank you gift.  It's the audiobook of your wife, Barbara's, "Thanksgiving, a Time to Remember."  We took the story, the Thanksgiving story that she retells in her book, and we turned it into a dramatic retelling of that story that a lot of families have found is a wonderful thing to listen to during the Thanksgiving season, in the week leading up to Thanksgiving. 

 There are homeschooling families that have used this CD as a part of their instruction for history during the Thanksgiving season, and we'd like to make the CD available to you this month if you're able to help with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  If you're making a donation online at, when you come to the keycode box on your donation form, just type in the word "Remember," and we'll remember to send you the audiobook or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone, and just mention that you'd like the audiobook about Thanksgiving.  We're happy to send it out to you, and we do appreciate your partnership with us financially in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Your donations are vital for the ongoing work of this ministry, and we appreciate you.

 Now, tomorrow we want to talk more about how husbands and wives miss each other in communication and what we can do to more effectively express what's on our heart to one another.  Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is going to be back with us tomorrow.  I hope you can be back as well.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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Episodes in this Series

Communication Day 3
The Jesus Way of Talking
with Emerson Eggerichs October 24, 2007
Did you ever wish you had a decoder ring to understand what your spouse was saying?
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Communication Day 2
Communication Principles to Live By
with Emerson Eggerichs October 23, 2007
Why do men and women so often misunderstand one another?
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