We talk a lot about love, and for good reason. The Bible talks a lot about love, in fact the Bible says, “God is love.” We especially talk about love in relationships—particularly in marriage. But there is another word the Bible uses when dealing with the marriage relationship and that is, “Respect.” And this is something that has been generally over looked in so many marriage seminars and books. Even Dr. James Dobson has said it’s a great oversight in that much is taught about love and little about respect. Why talk about respect? In the church, a lot of pressure is put upon men to love their wives and be more romantic and Christ like in the marriage. At the same time, little instructions are directed toward the wife. Most of the blame is put upon men for the failure of marriages in today’s society. Husbands, and especially fathers, are made to look fools in today’s sitcoms. The Women’s Liberation movement strongly suggest that men have not evolved as far as women and urge that young boys be drugged in school to make them act more like girls.
RESPECT: Respect denotes both a positive feeling and conduct of esteem for a person or other entity. How do you esteem your spouse? Do you speak and act in a loving and respectful manner?
In writing this, I’m assuming that no Nabals or Jezebels reading. If you are, then you need this more than any.
1Sa 25:3 The name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. And she was a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance; but the man was harsh and evil in his doings.
Nabal was a Neanderthal of a husband. He was a drunken and stupid man, whom David would have killed (because of Nabal’s selfishness) if Abigail had not intervened for him. Jezebel introduced false gods to Israel, ruled over her husband (King Ahab) and basically ruined the country. These two represent a man who deserved no respect yet received it from his gracious wife, and an evil woman who respected no one, not even her husband.
The Bible tells the husband to love his wife and the wife to respect her husband:
Ephesians 5:33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, (that part has been preached a kazillon times). (The second part almost never gets preached) and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
I’ve read that verse probably a dozen times to men in jail, and they always agree whole heartily with the second part, but that half of the verse is really written to women—wives. It’s interesting that the Bible commands the husband to love his wife, the wife to respect her husband. Why is that? Because those are the two greatest needs of the husband and of the wife. She needs love and affection and he needs respect and honor. The man and the woman are different and have different needs.
I recently spoke to a group of men and women where I asked, “Men, would it bother you much if your wife bought a diet book for your birthday or anniversary? You know a book telling you how to get into shape in 60 days, change that keg into a six-pack?” They all answered, “No, not really.” But I only needed to look toward the ladies with the same question and got stern, “Don’t even think about it!” Now, if the husband buys his wife a marriage book on how to increase romance, she would like that. She’d call her friends and tell them how her husband wants to be more romantic. If she bought him the same, he’d probably think, Great, now what have I done wrong? and lay it on top of the last three he never read.
The problem is that men and women speak in a different language and in different codes. We have to break down those codes and interpret that language. I’ve heard it put like this: “Women see through pink glasses, hear through pink hearing aids and speak though a pink microphone. Men have all blue. One is not better than the other, just different. We need to understand those differences, for if not we’ve going to wrongly judge our spouse. We will misinterpret what our spouse is trying to communicate.” (Eggerichs 2004)
So often the spouse is not bad natured or with bad intentions, just misunderstood. She sees, speaks and hears through pink and he through blue. It’s like an Oreo with pink for one half and blue for the other half and that really doesn’t sound very good. God made it that way, because He’s the good stuff in the middle that makes the cookie good. And with God in the middle, marriage is a good cookie indeed.
Why does the Bible tell the husband to love his wife? Because he doesn’t (without God’s help) know how—for one reason—but also because that is her greatest need. She needs to be shown love and affection, and that’s really not natural for most men. But we Christians are not to live a natural life, but a supernatural live in Christ.
Why does the Bible tell the wife to respect her husband? For the same reason, it’s just not in her [her fallen nature] to do so without God’s help and it’s the man’s greatest need. We must learn to meet each other’s needs. But in order for us to do that we must decode the secret language the other is speaking and hearing in. The husband may say something that sounds unloving (even hurtful) when he is really crying out for respect. He needs to be respected for who he is—apart from performance. The wife may say something that sounds disrespectful when she is only crying out for love. She needs to be loved and receive affection for who she is apart from performance.
I went into a jail where a man saw us carrying our Bibles and asked, “Are you all preachers?” “Yeah.” “I need your help!” and he started crying like a little boy. He had beaten his wife. He could not win in a verbal fight with his wife so he won the fist fight. You know what they were fighting about? In her screaming at him, she was crying out for love and he was crying out for respect. We spoke for fifteen-minutes about the different needs of a husband and wife and he said, “Sir you just changed my life.” Well no, I didn’t change his life, but I helped him understand husbands and wives have different needs and communicate those needs differently.
He did not know for sure what his greatest need was, much less how to express that need to his wife. He sure didn’t understand his wife’s need to be loved. They so totally misunderstood each other’s communications that they never came close to understanding each other’s needs.
Instead of understanding what the other was crying out for, they both fervently sought to win the argument. She was not trying to tell him she disrespected him, but that she needed love. He wasn’t trying to tell her he didn’t love her, but that he needed respect. They are different, not one better than the other, just different. He was bringing home the bread and protecting the family, and thought that was all she needed in order know that she is loved. Husbands, that’s not enough. She loved him and thought that was all he needed, but wives, that is not enough.
(I love my wife’s new hair do. I tell her I love her new hair do and play with it to go beyond just words. We were lying side by side talking about our lives and how old we’re getting.
We came up with a new slogan for a t-shirt. We’re not old; we’re Advanced Life Forms (ALFs). We were telling our teenage son about “ALFs” and he asked what did that make him? I said, “You’re a LLF, lower life form.”)
Ladies, it’s not so much what you say, but how you say it and the expression on your face that causes him to read you as being disrespectful. Two ten year old boys on the playground know better than sticking one’s finger in the face of another and certain looks or gestures will invoke a fight. He grows up with that code of honor and respect, then marries a woman who knows nothing of the code men live by. He gets respect at work, or the gym, but disrespect from his wife. Why? Because she doesn’t know how to give respect—most likely because she doesn’t feel loved.
How does all this work?
Arguments are going to happen. Don’t think your marriage is never going to work just because you have fight every once in a while. Good marriages have good fights, but they must be good fights within the rules of engagement. You understand that marriage is not about fighting all the time, though many seem that way. Your arguments will, by applying godly principles, become loving and respectful communication.
You’re arguing away, when you remember—she needs love—he needs respect. So what do you do? You say, “I know that sounded unloving and I didn’t mean for it come across that way. I do love you and I confess I haven’t been good at expressing my love. I haven’t been affectionate as I should be. Please help me express my love for you.” And you know what? All the sudden she feels loved and she’ll say something like, “I was kind of disrespectful, but I do respect you. I respect what you do, how you treat the kids, and how you love me. I admire you as much as I love you.” That’s the kind of talk the husband looks forward to coming home to. All the sudden he starts loving her more and the more he loves her, the more she respects him. When he receives respect, it’s easier it is for him to be affectionate to her and a wonderful cycle starts that can go on for the rest of you lives.
I believe it was in L.A. that a group of students were sent out with two questions to ask married men and women. The men were first asked if they felt like their wives loved then as he thought she should. Ninety percent answered, “Yes.” Then the same was asked if he felt that his wife respected him like she should and the same percentage said, “No.” The women were asked if they believed that their husband respected her like he should and ninety percent said, “Yes, my husband respects me.” When asked if they felt loved by their husbands in the way they needed, ninety percent answered, “No.” That survey demonstrates that the husband and wife both need respect and love, but in reversed proportions. That difference in proportionate needs doesn’t make one better or worse, right or wrong, only different.
Respect is big deal among men, like at the gym or at the job. Ladies, you’ve got to understand this. You have to know his dreams, his desires to provide, protect and be the high priest of the family. That’s all built within him—God put it there. The husband will die for his wife, just as a matter of honor.
The thing “men haters” hate to hear
1Pe 3:5 For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,
1Pe 3:6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.
1Pe 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
They hate the Bible because it says the wife is to submit to her husband and that she is the weaker vessel. They misunderstand what the Bible is talking about here. Submitting to her husband doesn’t make her a slave or a lesser human being. She is like the church and he is like Christ. Christ loves the church so much that he gave his life for her. There’s nothing more important to the Lord than His wife the church. The church is, we are, joint heirs with Christ. The wife is equal with her husband when she, in a godly manner submits to her husband.
The “weaker vessel” speaks of her femininity. Her body is different, her person is different. She is to be more gentle, more helpful, more caring and loving. Sure her body is weaker, because she’s not to be the fighter, but like the Holy Spirit, the helper giving strength to her stronger bodied husband. Each helps the others’ weaknesses and lean upon the others’ strengths.
The women libbers also overlook that it says, “The husband is to dwell with his wife with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life…” The same Bible that tells the wife to submit, tells the husband to understand and give honor to her. They are to work together, because they are both heirs of the grace of life. Being able to live together and help each other for a lifetime is the grace of God, a wonderful gift given to us when we live according to His word.
Most men, Christian men who live according to the word of God, do not want to be boss for the sake of being boss. But wants to be the head because he feels a responsibility. The husband feels responsible to be the savior of the wife and protect her in every way.
Be aware of each other’s needs
A man is aware of his dark side—the temptations that he faces—that women are often clueless to. We all know of the Genesis story of Eve eating from the tree and giving the fruit of it to Adam. But we might be less aware of this:
1Ti 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Eve unaware of what she was getting into, but Adam was aware. His sin was a matter of disobedience.
One of the first books I read on counseling was, Competent Christian Counseling by Tim Clinton and George Ohlschlager 2002. They told the story of a man who had an affair. It was a one-time thing and he confessed his sin to his wife and his church. After time and his wife had not forgiven him they sought counseling. It was the counselor’s very first case as a licensed counselor and he just wasn’t helping the couple at all. Finally, out of desperation, suggested that they go to the city and do some shopping and see a museum or something together, and put their past behind them. They did and one of the first places they stopped was an art museum. There was a statue of two joined naked figures: a man on all four and a woman lying supine across his back. The man’s face was full of agony and the woman was exerting a weight on him he could not bear. He suffered while she was exotic, erotic and luxuriant.
The husband stood looking at this while the wife went about. Later she returned to find her husband weeping next to the statue. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him the injury he had afflicted upon his wife with his unfaithfulness. Then she saw the agony in the face of the male figure and the delight of the woman. The Holy Spirit revealed to her the struggle of her husband and she began to weep with him. The Holy Spirit helped them understand [and meet] each other’s needs. He gave her the love and affection she needed and she gave him the honor and respect he needed.
Thanks for reading and may God bless your marriage.