That is the philosophy of women in our culture today. Most of us have never even questioned it. And I have to completely agree that in the workplace – YES, respect must be earned by both men and women. My issue is that we have taken what is necessary in the workplace and adapted it to marriage in some detrimental ways.
WE ARE ALL ABOUT UNCONDITIONAL LOVE IN MARRIAGE
I find it fascinating that we as women are completely fine with expecting our men to love us unconditionally. We will stand for nothing less than being loved all the time – even when we don’t deserve it. But we (myself in the past included) choke on the idea of giving unconditional respect to our husbands. This is UNFAIR, ladies!
I guess we think they need love the same way we do and that marriage is all about love and not as much about respect. I was sure wrong on that one!
What if men decided across our entire culture that they would only love us if we earn their love. What if they said we had to always be in a good mood, never cry, never be upset, always look nice, always have the house perfectly clean, bring home a certain paycheck every month, have the children completely well-behaved at all times, be enthusiastic about sex every day, always have a gourmet dinner on the table at a certain time, dress a certain way, talk a certain way - always give them exactly what they want every minute of every day - and THEN they would love us.
We would be OUTRAGED! We would say, “He should ALWAYS love me no matter what!! He’s my HUSBAND! He is SUPPOSED to love me!”
We want love even when (maybe ESPECIALLY WHEN) we are tired, grumpy, hormonal, irritable, hostile, hateful, sinful, pregnant, sick, menopausal, mean, accusatory, disrespectful and unloving. We want our men to fall at our feet and cater to our every desire and love, adore and cherish us every minute.
How would women react if men tried to erase the concept of love from our society and marriages? I’m thinking there would be RIOTS in the streets! We would NOT stand for that! We NEED love! What is marriage for if not for us to feel loved?
Our husbands NEED respect. What is marriage for (in their view) if they don’t feel respected? What must it be like for men to have a deep God-created masculine need for respect in marriage and yet live in a society where respect has been almost wiped out of our collective consciousness?
I think God designed marriage to be very nicely balanced. Obviously men and women would both prefer to have both love AND respect from a spouse. That is how things should be. But, women tend to be great at giving love and not always as good with respect. Men tend to be great at giving respect and not always as good at giving love. God made women to need love. God made men to need respect. It’s very fair and balanced. We both have to stretch and grow beyond our own comfort zone to meet the needs of the other. This causes men and women to have to become more holy, to have to depend on God and have the help of His Spirit to make marriage work.
LET’S EVEN THINGS UP, LADIES!
The truth is that even though it’s not politically correct to say this - our husbands NEED our respect even when they don’t deserve it. They may even need it most when they least deserve it. Many of them will never ask for it. Some of them might try to demand it. Our respect is electric to them – it is what motivates them to love us and it is what motivates them to become better men in every area of life. If we withhold our respect, they are going to have a VERY hard time loving us – unless they are Spirit-filled, extremely mature believers. (Of course, if they are that godly, they’ll be pretty easy to respect!) Our respect and admiration is what turns ordinary guys into amazing heroes. Our faith and belief in our husbands, despite their failures, is what inspires them to soar and become more than they ever imagined they could be.
Our husbands do things that do not deserve respect. Yes. That is always true. And God does not call us to respect sin. Just like God does not call our husbands to love our sin. They are sinners, and they mess up daily. We also do things as wives that do not deserve love. We are sinners and we mess up daily, too.
We can look for what IS good in them and praise that. We can stop focusing on the negative things. (Yes there are times we must firmly, lovingly confront sin – but hopefully that is a fairly rare occurence.) We can build up the things we see that are godly. Every man has some good qualities in him. We can choose to focus on the good and affirm and build up our men or we can completely destroy them with our contempt, disdain and judgmental, critical spirits.
I DON’T WANT TO!
We may not like the fact that God commands us to respect our husbands and to follow their leadership (Ephesians 5:22-33), but that is how marriage works – it is God’s wise design.
If I decide I prefer to use apple juice as fuel for my mini-van, I am going to get some pretty miserable results when I try to start the car. The manufacturer made my car to need gasoline. When I obey the manufacturer’s instructions, things work beautifully. I turn the key and the car starts. I press the gas and the car goes.
If I decide I prefer to motivate my husband to love me with nagging, complaining, demanding, arguing, or something instead of respect – I am going to get some pretty miserable results, too. Husbands do not feel loved if they feel disrespected. And there are many things we do that smack of disrespect that we don’t even notice! Much of it is unintentional, but it still hurts and wounds our husbands. They may never say anything about it – they may just pull away and unplug and not open up to us anymore, or they might get very angry.
When I obey God’s instructions for me as a wife – my marriage purrs and roars to life the way God designed it to – even if I don’t understand why.
THE TIME FOR DISRESPECT
The main time to consider whether you can TRULY respect a guy and live with him even if he never changed at all is BEFORE you marry him. PLEASE understand that your love won’t change a man. You cannot change anyone but yourself. BEFORE marriage, you should have eyes wide open to this guy’s character, godliness, his walk with Christ, his habits, his faults, his weaknesses, his idols, his sin - you should see the negatives before you commit to him. Marriage will magnify his sin and yours. And parenting will magnify it even more. God can use this refining process to cleanse us and make us more like Christ if we let Him.
Once you are married - it is your God-ordained job to show respect to this guy, to build him up, to treat him well, to find the good in him, to forgive him, to be a godly wife to him even when he fails you. You are going to be held accountable by God for this!
Humbly ask your husband some things this week and be ready to prayerfully consider his answers – see if there are things God wants to change in you:
- What makes you feel very respected in our marriage?
- What makes you feel disrespected?
- How respected have you been feeling lately at home?