(While on vacation…I’m posting some of my most popular posts. Here’s one about the crazy cycle…are you in it?)
Which one are you feeling? If you’re married and you’re struggling it’s probably one of the two. During marital conflict, men most often feel disrespected while women most often feel unloved. A few years ago, my husband and I did a book study with friends based on the national best-seller, Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. The foundational principles in the book are absolutely enlightening.
A friend emailed me last week asking me some questions about showing respect to your spouse and I immediately thought of the Love & Respect book. So I thought I’d outline the principles in a post and I highly recommend the book if you want more details. (Caveat here: As an author I’m embarrassed to say that I’m a terrible non-fiction reader. I rarely finish non-fiction books and I’m more likely to skim them than read them word for word. So, that being said, I skimmed the book and absolutely loved the principles outlined. But I have no recollection of the writing style or ease of reading the book. Still…whether it’s an easy or hard read, it’s worth learning what he has to say.) Now I’m going from skimming memory, so bear with me. The basic idea is that while we all need both love and respect, women feel the need for love more strongly and men feel the need for respect more strongly.
This becomes a problem because, in general, women show love to their husband more naturally than they show respect, and the opposite is generally true for men. So in a marriage relationship we often get caught up in what Eggerichs calls “The Crazy Cycle.” When a woman feels unloved, she responds by disrespecting her husband (making him feel unimportant or unworthy and not appreciating him for who he is). And when a man feels disrespected, he responds by being unloving (silent treatment, lack of response to emotion, etc.). And now we’re back to where we started with the woman feeling unloved and therefore acting like she doesn’t respect her husband, etc., etc,. etc. Does this sound familiar? It really doesn’t matter if the chicken or the egg came first (did he act unloving first or did she act disrespectful first?). The point is that someone has to stop the cycle.
Here’s how: If it’s the wife, she has to show respect to her husband (even if she doesn’t feel it yet) even if his behavior doesn’t inspire her to do so. This is hard. No question. But it works. And if it’s the husband, he needs to be loving toward his wife, even if she makes him feel disrespected. Someone has to get them off the crazy unloving/disrespecting merry-go-round they are caught on or they will likely spiral into a national statistic.
Eggerichs bases his ideas on Ephesians 5:33- “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Until I read his book I had never noticed the distinction in that verse. If you’d asked me to quote it from memory I would have told you I thought it said that we should love each other like we love ourselves. Nope! It tells the husbands to love and the wives to respect. Now does that mean that wives don’t need to love and husbands don’t need to respect? No. It’s just that women, in general, tend to be nurturers so loving comes more naturally and men tend to have an inborn sense of honor so respecting can come more naturally. This verse is addressing us in our respective weaknesses.
Don’t believe it? Think about it. How many times have you seen a wife publicly dis her husband? When I was a young wife I used to feel awkward when I’d go out with a group of women because it seemed that the topics often turned husband bashing and I didn’t want to do that. I would just stay quiet cuz I didn’t want to be like, “Well, I don’t know about you but my husband is awesome.” (Although it would have been a nice thing to do for my husband, I didn’t have the courage and was worried I’d lose friends!)
Think about TV commercials…how often are husbands painted as complete idiots that couldn’t find the front door without their superior wife’s help? And on the flip side, how often are women painted as objects of lust, not love? It’s not popular to cherish a woman. It’s popular to judge her merits based on her cup size. Not loving.
So the scripture is aimed at getting us to do that which doesn’t come naturally. And it’s not easy. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure it’s possible without God’s help. But He’s willing to help us and it is so worth it. Doing what this verse says breaks the crazy cycle and creates a positive cycle that goes something like this. He starts acting loving to her even though she’s been belittling him. She may not trust it at first, but the more he shows her love, the more she begins to show him respect. She appreciates him and even begins to tell him so. This makes him feel respected which makes him more determined to be loving to his wife, etc., etc., etc.
The other thing that practicing this way of communicating does is it automatically shifts our focus from ourselves (“He’s not treating me right, she’s doesn’t appreciate me.”) onto the other person. This goes against our natural instincts. We want to protect ourselves and not be vulnerable. But the irony is that the more we focus on our spouse, the more they usually respond and act the way we’ve wanted them to all along. Now, there are exceptions to this and I must include that if you are in an abusive relationship, this is not for you. You need to get out and get help. But if you are in a marriage where both people truly want to make it work but don’t know how, reading this book and putting the principles into practice could be life changing.
How about you? Are you stuck in the crazy cycle or have you found your way out of it? If you have any suggestions about how a husband can be more loving or a wife can show her husband she respects him, please share in the comments section below or on Facebook. If enough of you share, I may do a follow-up post giving people concrete ideas of how to put the Love & Respect principles into play. Thanks!
Oh, and after I wrote this I saw a beautiful little video posted on Facebook that highlights an amazing selfless love. If you’d like to see it you can click here.
Love & Respect is available on Amazon.com here. (I am not on commission, btw ;))
To access the Love & Respect website click here.