What if He’s Not Worthy of Respect?
When a husband doesn't deserve respect, should his wife show it anyway? Shaunti Feldhahn describes what many women have discovered by doing just that. This isn't a naive pep talk. It's a presentation of transformational steps wives can take when their husband shows little respectability.
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When a husband doesn’t deserve respect, should his wife show it anyway? Shaunti Feldhahn presents steps wives can take when their husbands shows little respectability.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, September 13th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. Is there a hard-to-respect man in your home? We’re going to talk today about how you can show respect to your husband. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we’ve all heard, for years, about unconditional love and how important unconditional love is in a marriage relationship. I think it may have been 20 years into our marriage when I first heard the idea of unconditional respect in a marriage relationship. It’s like: “Huh? That’s a new idea,”—because we think love should be unconditional, but respect—that’s a different deal; right?
Ann: Yes; we used to say that, “Respect is earned.” Then I think it was, when Emerson Eggerichs wrote Love and Respect,—
Ann: —that’s when you really took a deeper look into Ephesians.
Dave: And as a man, when I hear unconditional respect, I’m like: “Yes; that sounds good to me. Why don’t you give me some unconditional respect?”; but there are times when it’s not warranted—
Dave: —the guy is not respectful.
Ann: He is not deserving of respect.
Dave: “Should I respect him?”
Bob: And that’s important; because a guy can’t hear unconditional respect and say: “Well, I’m off the hook, then. I don’t have to act respectable.
Dave: Right; right.
Bob: “I get respect whether I’m good or not.” No; we should strive to be worthy of love and strive to be worthy of respect; but we don’t turn off the spigot just because somebody stumbles.
We’re going to hear today a conversation that’s actually part of a podcast FamilyLife® has created called Married with Benefits. Brian Goins is the host of that podcast, and he and Shaunti Feldhahn had an extended conversation about this idea of unconditional respect.
I want to make sure to remind listeners—this week and next week, we’re encouraging you to show some love and respect to one another by getting away together for a weekend and attend one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. Here is how we’re encouraging you—if you sign up this week or next week, you’ll save
50 percent off the regular registration fee.
Ann: That is a great deal. If you women are trying to get your husbands to go to one of these, this is a great time to do it; because he’ll like that.
Dave: In fact, that’s respecting your husband right there—[Laughter]—giving him a break on the wallet.
Bob: And you could just say to your spouse, “You go free,” if you want to approach it that way. Anyway, we’re trying to do whatever we can to get you to be intentional and purposeful. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com; find a weekend that works for you/a location that works for you; mark that on your calendar; and register now; and get away for a weekend together this fall.
Look, there is no better investment you can make for your marriage than to have this weekend together—to spend time together, and to hear messages that will help strengthen your marriage, help you understand marriage better, help you understand one another better.
Ann: It really saved our marriage.
Bob: —the Weekend to Remember?
Ann: Yes; it did. I don’t think we’d be married had we not gone to that.
Dave: Boy, that’s a big statement—
Bob: That is a big statement.
Dave: —and it is true.
Bob: Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information or to register, or call us if you have any questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY; and plan to join us at a Weekend to Remember.
So, let’s listen to an excerpt from the Married with Benefits podcast. This is Brian Goins talking to Shaunti Feldhahn.
Brian: So, what does it look like to—this idea of respecting, unconditionally, as Paul talks about in Ephesians 5:33? What does that even look like, practically; because I mean, what if he is sinning?—what if he is acting like a jerk? Do you mean to respect in all those situations?
Shaunti: Well, here’s what we really have to confront. Some of you are like, “This is an occasional thing; and you need to know how to give respect in those occasional circumstances, when you don’t feel like it.” For some of you, this is a much bigger deal; right?
Let’s just acknowledge: “We are really sorry that you’re in that situation, and you’re having to come to this conversation with something that’s a real burden that you are carrying.” You need to hear us say, “I’m really sorry for your pain,” because that is a real pain. I’ve had many friends, who have been in that situation; and it’s hard.
The thing that we also have to confront, though, is that God gave this command because, ultimately, if you can walk through this/if you can do what the Lord asks you to do when you don’t feel like it—and you cannot possibly see how anything good can come from it—that this is where that paradox—that Jesus paradox—comes into play. You’ll start seeing changes in most cases.
Shaunti: Now, there is no magic wand that you’re going to wave—
Shaunti: —and that you can guarantee that everything is always going to turn out hunky-dory/puppies and rose petals—it’s all going to be awesome; but in most cases, we have found—and this is statistical; right?—we have found that the vast majority/it’s usually about nine out of ten marriages—there is a transformation.
Shaunti: That’s the hope that comes through it.
Brian: So, if you want to change—what I hear you saying is that—listen, all of us probably out there want to change some aspect of our marriage or about the person we are married to—
Brian: —“I’d love to change their behavior. I don’t know how to do it. So, I try all of these different ways, from nagging…”
Every time I hear women talk—because I counsel a lot of marriages, as well—and it’s like I hear them talking about, “This is what I do…” I tell them this over, and over, and over again—I go: “Well, how is that working?
Shaunti: Dr. Phil: “How’s that working for you?”
Brian: “You know, if we keep doing that over and over, they are not going to change.”
Shaunti: So, every woman listening to this is going: “Okay; I’m really not happy with what I’m hearing, but tell me what to do.
Shaunti: “What do I do differently?”
Shaunti: So, here is the starting point. Step back and go: “Okay; in the Bible, my husband is called to love me as Christ loved the church; and I am called to respect my husband, no matter what. So, that means that, when my husband is doing something that I am mad about/that I do not agree with, how are you saying that I need to show him respect?”
That’s a hard thing; but think about it as—okay, let’s say that you have been really grouchy—you’re bitter; you’re mad; you’re not being very loveable that day—it’s been a hard day.
Shaunti: You’ve been running around after the kids. Is he allowed to not show you love just because you are not particularly loveable that day?—No, he is called to reach out in love—
Brian: And do you think—
Shaunti: —to you.
Brian: —do you think every wife listening would go, “Well, yes; he should love me, because that’s when I’m most vulnerable,” or “…that’s when I need it the most.”
Shaunti: Correct; that is exactly what happens with our men. When we are mad that he made that decision with the kids, and we’re thinking: “That is—that is dangerous,” “That’s damaging. You hurt our son’s feelings,”—or whatever—“and I am so upset with you,” or “I told you I needed you home at 7 o’clock for the start of the dinner party, and you waltzed in—
Shaunti: —“at 7:30. I’m embarrassed,”—or whatever it is—“and you do this all the time.”
Brian: —or “I see him taking that second glance.”
Shaunti: —or “I see him taking that second glance”; and it’s like there is an issue here of: “You can respect the person for who they are, even while you are not endorsing poor behavior.” It’s the same thing when we are basically grouchy, and miserable, and crying out to be loved; loving us isn’t endorsing the grouchiness; right?
Shaunti: And think about this, ladies—put yourself in that position of—you’re that grouchy woman, who has just had a terrible day, and you’re lashing out. If your husband shows grace and mercy and loves on you anyway, what does it do to us? For me, it softens my heart; right? It convicts me.
Shaunti: And it makes me want to be loveable. It makes me want to be the person he’s already treating me as.
Shaunti: It’s the same thing for him—is that, if he made a decision I completely disagree with—or “He came in late, and I am so mad,”—and yet, I go up; and I’m like—“I know you didn’t want to be late. Thanks so much for working so hard for the family. Listen, we need to talk about the timing and—
Shaunti: —“all this at some other point; but thanks for getting here for the dinner party.” It’s not excusing poor behavior. It’s going to convict him—
Shaunti: —because he’s expecting you to be all over him.
Brian: Well, that’s what I liked about softening—like if Jeff does that for you, when you’re being grouchy, it does soften your heart.
Brian: Every guy that I know has—including me—we condemn ourselves enough already.
Brian: I know, when I’m coming to that dinner party late, what I’m putting her through, right when I walk in the door; so I am expecting her to come after me. If there’s a change in posture or tone, boy, it does soften my heart.
Shaunti: Well, what I hear from a lot of guys, actually—and I’ve heard story, after story, after story of this—that, for example, if they walk in the door and they are expecting the “I can’t believe you did this!” and instead, she comes up and she’s like: “I’m so glad you’re here. I know it must have been a really hard day that you couldn’t get away from the client. I know you wanted to be here. Come on, everybody is in here.” The guy usually tells me he feels this intense conviction—
Shaunti: —like: “Oh, I failed my wife by being late, and she’s being so sweet to me. She’s such an amazing woman,” and “How did I get so lucky?”
Shaunti: There’s this conviction; he doesn’t want to do that to her again. He may still, because we’re all imperfect people; but one of the things that I have found with this whole, sort of, male/female dynamic is that, if we will do what God tells us to do, it really is actually a source of conviction which is, then, a source for change, hopefully.
Shaunti: Now, there are going to be women, listening to this, though, who are like, “But he hasn’t changed.”
Brian: Right; “He hasn’t changed.”
Shaunti: Right; “He still waltzes in half-an-hour late. It drives me nuts.”
Brian: “He’s done it over and over.”
Shaunti: So, there is a second step—
Brian: Okay; yes, what is that?
Shaunti: —that I think—and this is going to be hard for some women to hear if they are in a position of a real hurt. Maybe, coming home late is an annoyance.
Shaunti: But there is hurt; right?—he is looking at porn or whatever—that’s hurt. So, what does that look like? How can you honor the spirit of what God has asked you to do?
What we have seen—and this is all over the research, not just my research, but all that has been done by sociologists, etc.—have found that, if you will say: “Okay, this is a very real issue; but actually, it’s not the sum total of what my husband is. There are so many other things that are really wonderful about him that I’m just not seeing—
Shaunti: —“right now/that I’m not giving him credit for—
Shaunti: —“because I’m so focused on these frustrations/these real frustrations,” or “…these real sins in his life,” or “…these real hurts against me”; and that if I will say, “It’s not the sum total…” Okay; so what does it look like? How can I notice those? How can I maybe pull my eyes off the nasty stuff and put it on the stuff that is worthy of respect?”
Shaunti: One of the tools that we actually tested—and this is one of the recent books I did—it’s called The Kindness Challenge.
Shaunti: So, we actually tested this; we call it The 30-Day Kindness Challenge. The 30-Day Kindness Challenge is actually a way that you can change your mindset and change your actions so that you’re looking for and seeing those things that are worthy of attention and affirmation. What you do with your husband is—you do three things for thirty days.
Shaunti: First, you don’t say anything negative about him—either to him or about him to somebody else.
Shaunti: The second thing—every day for 30 days—is to find that one thing that is positive/that is praiseworthy—something you can affirm—and tell him and tell somebody else.
The third thing you do every day for 30 days is you just do a small action of kindness or generosity for him. You may not feel like it at all.
Shaunti: But maybe, it’s a peace offering to make him coffee—get up early in the morning when you don’t otherwise have to and make coffee. He sees and notices you’re doing this to be kind to him—whatever that looks like.
Something, actually, you and I were talking about not long ago, where I was at a convention of women two years ago. This woman came up to me in tears. I was talking about The 30-Day Kindness Challenge, and I was talking about some of these things. She came up afterwards; and she said, “My husband has cheated on me—porn addiction.”
He was very much getting his back up about: “No, porn has nothing to do with you. It says nothing about my love for you,”—kind of—“Get over it”; right?
Shaunti: She was in tears; and she said, “So”—and she had consulted a counselor on her own because he wouldn’t go to one—she said: “You know, our story is that I felt like, instead of doing The 30-Day Kindness Challenge, my choice has been”—she said—“I just told my husband”—I think just a couple days before—“that I am called to respect you; and I respect you too much to let you continue to destroy our marriage and to continue to destroy yourself. This is destroying you, not just us. This is going to destroy our children. I respect you too much to let that happen; and I’m going to respect myself and our family enough to say, ‘We’re going to have to separate.’ This is going to be a managed separation.”
Shaunti: It wasn’t something she did in anger;—
Shaunti: —because let me tell you—if you do this on your own, without the guidance of a church or a pastor, that’s like—you’re going down a really dangerous road. Don’t ever do that; but she spoke with a pastor: “How should I do this?” They did it under the authority of the church and under the guidance of the church, and she had just moved out. She said, “We just separated.” She was crying, and this was an act of real faith.
You know, I fly away; I don’t know what happens.
Shaunti: This was in Indianapolis or somewhere. I live in Atlanta. I never hear the end of these stories.
Well, I went to the same convention just recently/just a couple of months ago, in a different city; and this woman comes up to me with this like huge smile on her face—
Shaunti: —and she says: “You’re not going to remember me, but I saw you at this conference two years ago. I had just left my husband and separated.” She started crying. She’s like, “It changed everything.”
Shaunti: She’s like, “Thank you so much for the encouragement to believe the best of him and do these things.” She said, “We’re back together—
Shaunti: —“and we have an amazing marriage now.” I mean, I want to cry as I’m talking about this; you know?
Brian: Yes, that’s incredible.
Shaunti: Because she took that step of strength under the authority of the church, her husband’s heart was broken—
Shaunti: —because he lost his wife; he lost his kids; he had to confront what was actually happening in his life; but it was done with a heart of desire to honor what God tells us to do as women.
Brian: I think that’s the big deal. And what I’m hearing so much—especially as a guy—the small change is so much in posture and tone.
Brian: It is a posture of: “I’m not against you. I’m for you.” It’s a posture and tone of: “Even though I disagree with how you are doing, I’m going to have a tone of: ‘You know what? I respect you. I love you. I’m for you. I don’t agree with this’”; but just that posture and tone makes a world of difference, where I think it really does put it back on the husband—who most husbands, I would say, know when they mess up. They know—it’s like, if they are looking at porn, or taking that second or third glance, or doing something totally disrespectful, they know; and they hate it!
Brian: So, to have a wife that recognizes: “You know what? I’m going to believe the best about you, and I’m going to respect you.”
Then, I think what you just did was a real difference between: “Okay; first step, have your tone and posture right.”
The second step, depending on which direction the husband goes—if it goes down the way of going, “No, I’m going to still do what I want to do,”—there might be a different action that takes place: “I’ll still respect you in my tone and my posture, but I might need to talk to a counselor,” “…separate,’”—whatever it might be.
Shaunti: Whatever it is: “I respect you too much to let you continue to destroy yourself,”—
Brian: Yes; yes.
Shaunti: —“and our marriage, and our family.”
Brian: Exactly; and that’s real love; but for the vast majority, I think, of wives—once you have—
Brian: —that posture and tone, and you see: “Oh, my husband is starting to soften.” I like this kindness challenge idea of, “Okay; now, how do I now continue to show respect in real practical ways?” What I heard you say was: “Number one, just never talk—never talk—
Brian: —“disrespectfully in front of him and in front of others.”
Now, I could hear one wife going: “Well, who do I talk to honestly about my feelings, then? If I can’t say anything bad about my husband for 30 days, is there—I do have something to share.”
Shaunti: Yes; so perfect example of this was a girlfriend of mine was doing this. There were some very real issues that she was in an actual support group for. This wasn’t just a group of friends, like we tend to sit around and have coffee and go, “Okay; here’s what happened…”; right?
Shaunti: That was not her. She’s like: “This support group is my lifeline. What am I supposed to say for 30 days?”
She felt like she suddenly—as she sat there one day and she was wanting to say something, she realized: “Oh my word! I can still say something as long as I say it very factually, and matter-of-factly, and calmly, like: ‘Okay, here’s what’s going on…Would love your prayer for this,’”—and in that kind of tone as opposed to what she said she realized she had been doing is—saying these things for the pleasure of going, “You would not believe what happened in my house yesterday.”
Brian: Yes, with the head wag.
Shaunti: —with the head wag; yes. You can’t see in the studio; I’ve got the head wag on—on that one—“You know, you would not believe it.”
She said, “I realized I was saying it and sharing a lot of this stuff for the pleasure of sharing this [gasps in shock] moment.”
Brian: Shock value.
Shaunti: The shock value and this: “You would not believe what I’m going through.” She said, “Once I had to start stating it just very matter-of-factly”—she said—“suddenly, I realized, ‘It’s changing my heart.’
Shaunti: “And I’m really, truly getting the support that I need, but I’m not entering into that,”—there is that little bit of release of serotonin, like: “This feels good to talk about this [negatively],”—so then it basically incentivizes me to do this way again.
Shaunti: And instead—and that is something that we, as women, fall into without even realizing we’re falling into it—so, as we withhold that and as we look for very real positives, suddenly that’s when our hearts—
Shaunti: —start to change.
Bob: Well, again, we’ve heard just a portion of a podcast—Brian Goins talking with Shaunti Feldhahn on the Married with Benefits podcast. If you’d like to hear the entire conversation or subscribe to the podcast, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to get more information.
I’m just curious. In those times—and Mary Ann has these times as well—when you don’t see a lot of respectable behavior—
Dave: That’s never happened to my wife. [Laughter]
Bob: Yes; well, we’ll let you—you can leave now, and we’ll have a conversation with her.
Dave: I’m going to walk out, and you can have a personal conversation.
Bob: When that happens, how do you find it in yourself to demonstrate respect for him?
Ann: Honestly, I feel like it’s very easy for us, as women, to get in patterns of seeing things that are negative; and it really—for me, it has taken my walk with Jesus to go to Him and ask Him: “Father, God, show me what You’ve put in Dave that is good.” Sometimes, it was hard for me to see it; but it is true that God will give me eyes to see Dave the way He created him—and then, to take the next step: to observe, and talk about, and thank him for those things.
Ann: That is a whole new thing.
Dave: How sad is it that my wife has to pray and ask God to give her eyes to see something good in me? [Laughter]
Bob: Here’s the reality—and you know this—it is human nature for us—
Bob: —to minimize what we see that’s good and kind of take that for granted.
Ann: That’s the key; we take it for granted. We don’t even notice after a while.
Bob: I remember Elisabeth Elliot, years ago, saying, “If somebody walks into a room, and they have a shirt that is a white shirt and there is an ink stain at the pocket”—she said, “That shirt is 99 percent white, but what do you stare at?
Bob: “You stare at the ink stain.”
Ann: It’s true.
Bob: We look at the flaw and just can’t let it go.
Ann: We think we can fix that—
Bob: That’s right.
Ann: —by pointing it out: “Change the shirt.” [Laughter]
Bob: Well, again, you can listen to the entire podcast with Brian and Shaunti. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me also encourage you, while you’re on our website, make plans to join us this fall at one of our upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. This is a great opportunity for you, as a couple, to get some time away together to focus on each other; focus on your marriage; strengthen the bond between you; maybe, deal with some of the rough edges that need to be dealt with; find some opportunities to talk about how your marriage can be what God intends for it to be.
You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, for information about when a Weekend to Remember is coming to a city near where you live. If you register today or throughout next week, you will save 50 percent off the regular registration fee as a FamilyLife Today listener. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information. If you have any questions, call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can also get you registered over the phone, if you’d like. The number, again, is 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” But do it this fall. Get away for a Weekend to Remember, and save some money by registering now.
With that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for joining us. I hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend.
On Monday, we’re going to talk about what it means to have a fierce marriage—to put Jesus right at the center of your marriage and to measure everything you do and say to each other against what Christ has done for you. Ryan and Selena Frederick join us for that, and I hope you can be here with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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