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Health for Your Marriage: Love and Respect

We are in the middle of a multi week series answering the question: “How can I find health in my marriage.” Last week we talked about creating margin in your life so that you actually can enjoy your spouse rather than simply run past your spouse while slapping five (or snapping at them). Please consider going back and reading last week’s column on the Herald’s website, on Revolve’s website or in the Revolve Church NJ App.

Today’s pointer: Learn to love and respect.

In his book Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs provides some phenomenal insight into marriage and how the Bible informs our relationships. It is a worthwhile read for anyone desiring to improve their relationship with their spouse.

At the core of the book is the biblical idea from Ephesians 5 that men are commanded to love their wives and wives are commanded to respect their husbands. Why the difference? Why not simply encourage both to love and respect one another?

The reason this command exists in the scripture is because men and women - by design - crave different things. Wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect.

But often this is not what we see in the relationships around us (maybe even in our own)! More common than we’d like to admit is this pattern: without love from her husband, a wife is prone to react without respect; without respect from her, the husband reacts without love.

This begins a vicious cycle that seems to know no end! Day in and day out people do the same things with the same ill-effect, and tomorrow they will try again hoping for a different result (this is the definition of insanity, by the way!).

Were you to talk with each spouse separately, you would learn that no husband feels affection toward a wife who appears to have contempt for who he is as a human being. When a husband feels disrespected, when he feels like a constant failure or let down, it will be hard for him to love his wife. When men hear negative criticism, they don’t hear constructive feedback - they hear “you’re a failure and I don’t respect you.” If, as a woman, that sounds bonkers to you - that’s the point! Men and women communicate differently.

The key to creating fond feelings of love in a husband toward his wife is through showing him unconditional respect. As Dr. Eggerichs says, “The way to fully love a husband is to respect him in ways that are meaningful to him.” Think about that - if you want to love your husband, you should respect him. For him, that is love!

The same is true for woman as it relates to love. Love should be unconditional - not just when you feel like it or when your wife does the right things. You need to show her that she is loved and valued at all times. Men are called to love their wives, striving to see what is in the deep recesses of her heart, pursuing her, being captivated by her all of your days.

Men, how can you know if your wife feels unloved? How does she view herself? Does she love herself? The way she views herself is often a reflection of how you view her. How does she treat you? When a wife feels unloved, her natural tendency is to react in ways that feel disrespectful to her husband.

If you are to ever break this vicious cycle, you must step back and refocus. Often we look at our own desires and don’t even begin to consider theirs, but this is exactly what we need to do! Someone needs to take the first step towards humility. What does humility look like in this situation?

For women, it means respecting your husband when you don’t think he deserves it. It means realizing that chances are your husband knows he messed up when he forgot that thing or dropped the ball with that promise. Your body language, berating or nagging isn’t doing anything positive to him. Instead, it is going to reflect back upon you in the form of an unloving spouse.

For men, it means loving your wife even when you don’t think she deserves it. It means pursuing her to apologize for that item that you feel was 15% your fault and 85% her fault because it will build a bridge and she hears that you care. It means being affectionate, attentive and present every day and not just when you want to make love. It means reminding her of why she is special to you and why you fell in love in the first place.

This isn’t rocket science, but working for health in your marriage does take time, discipline, and - perhaps most importantly - humility. You need to set your spouse’s needs before your own. Set the pace and watch things begin to slowly change. Start today!