What is Respect in Marriage and How Does It Work?

There is a whole masculine WORLD of respect that I was completely unaware of until 2008.  I had no clue that respect in marriage was one of the most important keys to a healthy, strong marriage until after over 14 years. Ugh! How I wish I had known in 1994!!!!

Men have their own unwritten and unspoken methods of communication and expectations – and because so many women are oblivious to the customs and norms of how men think, feel, process and see life.

Turns out, many of us come across very disrespectfully without even realizing it or intending to. I believe this is largely because our culture, sadly, has turned treating men poorly into a socially acceptable pass time.  Disrespect for men has been mainstream for decades.

We don’t even notice it anymore.

Could this lack of respect in marriage from wives be why, at least partially, we have such a famine of strong marriages today?

I believe it is very possible.

Women need love and men need respect in marriage

When I first began to study showing respect for my husband as a form of obedience to God’s command for me as a wife – I was SO CLUELESS!

I read the book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.  That is the book that opened my eyes to my sin and my husband’s legitimate masculine needs that I was unaware of.

Eggerichs has this amazing little diagram about marriage:


For the first time ever, I understood why God gave the commands He did for each spouse in marriage and that what God was doing was commanding each spouse to meet the other’s God-given legitimate need.

When a husband shows love in marriage for his wife >> that motivates her respect.

When a wife shows respect in marriage for her husband >> that motivates his love.


Most spouses are good-willed toward each other

This is a principle of marriage that is generally true across religious backgrounds and cultures.

Of course, there are some exceptions where one spouse is not good-willed towards the other, or where one or both are so wounded, that it takes a VERY long time to rebuild the trust.  (In these cases, you may need to reach out for trusted, outside help.)

But in general, MOST spouses are good-willed towards each other and want to please one another.

We are just built SO differently, that we often misunderstand and misinterpret the messages the other is sending.

Men tend to think in the realm of respect (blue – says Eggerichs). Women tend to think in the realm of love (pink).

Unfortunately – what men often do to be respectful, can feel unloving to their wives.  And what wives often do to be loving, can feel disrespectful to their husbands.

By learning to stretch and reach our spouse and meet his/her needs, we achieve God’s glory (royal purple).

Honestly, to be healthy, we all need both respect and love to flow both ways.

We are responsible to God to obey His commands for us as wives regardless of what our husbands do or do not do. And regardless of the “results” we see when we seek to show respect in marriage to our husbands. We can also cooperate with their appropriate use of God-given leadership.  

Sometimes, it takes time for a broken, hurting marriage to heal and become a strong marriage. It took over 3 years for my marriage to begin to heal after I began devouring everything I could about how to honor and respect my husband as a godly wife.

As we choose to make our highest priorities to honor God and obey Him – we leave the results and timing in His hands.

My husband’s favorite ways for me to show respect in marriage:

My husband explained  to me that what he really wants in marriage is pretty simple. For him, it is not a big to-do list. It is not about me being “the perfect wife.”

My husband likes for me to:

  • Genuinely smile and be happy.
  • Be truly peaceful and not stressed (because if I am stressed, he is stressed).
  • Treat him like a grown adult and equal.
  • Be his friend.
  • Be a safe, welcoming place for him.
  • Just sit with him in the evenings, cuddle with him, and enjoy being with him while he watches TV.
  • Not “try too hard.”
  • Not ask what I can do for him.
  • To appreciate the many things he does to show his love for me.
  • Not to ask how I can improve.
  • Give him time to think and process with decisions.
  • Honor his parenting.
  • Use a respectful, friendly tone of voice and friendly facial expression.
  • Make changes for the family slowly rather than to make sweeping changes all at once (he doesn’t like change very much).
  • Not pressure, push, or rush him.

Avoid Severe Disrespect

Some things are just blatantly disrespectful and completely unbecoming of a wife, especially a Christian wife:

  • Screaming, yelling
  • Cussing, name-calling, insults
  • Throwing things in anger
  • Threatening violence
  • Acting violently
  • Threatening divorce
  • Trying to turn the kids against your husband

Possible Ways to Show Respect for Your Husband

I think having a list of specific, concrete things that men find to be respectful and disrespectful is SO important for wives who are just beginning to learn to be godly wives and to obey Ephesians 5:22-33.

Some things are disrespectful to all husbands across the board.  And some things are respectful to just about all husbands.

But each husband is unique and there will be some things that would drive one husband crazy but would make another husband feel super respected.

My suggestion to wives is to read the list, and think about implementing some of the ideas.  But if you aren’t sure about one, ask your husband sometime if he would find that behavior or attitude to be respectful or disrespectful.

Then go with what he thinks!  His opinion is what matters most here!

My long “respect in marriage” list

Some husbands helped me with this new list – it is not exhaustive. THANK YOU to all who contributed!

Respectful communication

  • Listen without interrupting.
  • Please don’t use your “dumb guy” voice when repeating what I’ve said that you don’t agree with/think is stupid.
  • Break things down into short bullet points rather than a long essay.
  • If your husband comes to talk to you (about anything) put down the phone/tablet/computer with facebook/texting and give him your full attention. It’s no different than when you want him to pause/turn off the TV when you want to talk to him.
  • Keep emails BRIEF and to the point.  We hear your message more clearly with less words and a lower intensity of negative emotions.  Too many words and emotions makes us feel like we are drowning – it is too much to process all at once sometimes.
  • Talk to me with a friendly tone of voice when possible.  I usually know for sure that you love me.  But sometimes I wonder if you actually still like me or not.

Understand what makes him tick

  • Smile at me a lot – I love that!
  • Don’t think for me.
  • When a big decision comes up and the husband says he needs time to think about it let him think about it.
  • Let him know when he does things that make you happy. Most husbands biggest goal in marriage is to make their wife happy.
  • Try to have faith in me! Build me up – with work, Bible study, my involvement with church. I believe God put you in my life to be a helpmate, not a tear down. I really don’t need you telling me to get a better job, or that I’m way off on my when I share an insight that I’ve had with scripture.
  • Just remember I love you and chose you. I know you have feelings. As hard as you think I am, I have deep feelings also.
  • Listen to my advice sometimes.  I actually have some important wisdom and a different perspective to share that just might make your life better and less stressful!
  • Dress nicely and fix your hair and makeup the way I like it sometimes.  That actually makes me feel like  you respect yourself and like you respect me.
  • Act like you are happy to see me when I get home!
  • Give me that adoring look that says you trust me and have faith in me.  That means more to me than any words.
  • Tell me when you like what I am doing.
  • Tell me that you are proud of me.

Avoid undermining his authority as the leader of the home and as a parent

  • Refrain from explaining how to handle the children.
  • Do not correct my handling of the children or anything else in front of anyone.
  • Support my decisions, and if you disagree, do so in private.
  • She yields to me when I am at home when it comes to our children’s discipline.
  • My wife also seeks me out if there is a “big” decision to be made about the home, children or finances, even if it is something she knows I trust her with and don’t have an opinion either way, she realizes that I may see things from a different angle and wants to affirm the decision.
  • She respects me by involving me.
  • My wife realizes that I am ultimately responsible to God for the family she also knows that I trust her to make great decisions and that I support her doing so.
  • Don’t yell and argue with me in front of the children.

Speak well of him to him and others

  • Talk me up in front of your family/my family.
  • Find out what your husband takes as his most important responsibility and praise him for it.. (being a great father, being a great provider, being a great husband, etc).
  • She never ever speaks “bad” about me to anyone – not a best friend or a family member.

Be a safe place and a teammate

  • Be my friend.
  • Enjoy being with me.
  • Most of all, she allows me to be me.
  • Do not compare me with a pastor, an elder, another husband, or a woman’s advice. I’ve already prayed and gone over it in my mind, it’s my decision. I don’t want it to be someone else’s.

Honor him sexually as part of respect in marriage

  • Tell me what kind of physical intimacy you like – it makes me feel more at ease and more purposeful in pleasing you.
  • Let me know I’m enough, more than enough, if you can — financially, emotionally, physically, mentally.
  • When you tell your husband not now or not tonight how about tomorrow (about any topic) then keep your word and re-arrange whatever you are doing to make sure you keep your word.
  • Flirt with him in public, at a party, where other people (especially his friends/co-workers) can see it, if he likes public displays of affection.
  • Anticipate my needs, wants and desire. In the bedroom and out of the bedroom.
  • Flirt with me and no one else!

He loves to be pampered in his own ways, too

  • Figure out what his love language is and surprise him with something spontaneous that’s just for him.
  • Offer up a back rub. Even if physical touch is not his love language most men carry a large burden (physically, spiritually, emotionally) on their shoulders and to offer up a back rub without being prompted is a wonderful release.
  • I have a passion for the out of doors and she has come along side me in these endeavors. She may not always think it is “fun” to hike when it’s muddy and cold but she goes along for the ride.
  • She also encourages me to have time with the children one on one and also have time just by myself or with a friend standing in a river fly-fishing.

Show him he is your highest human priority

  • Put me above your friends and extended family and ministry to others outside of our family.
  • Put me, your husband, first, not the children.
  • Care about things that matter to me.
  • When I ask you to do something, show me you really do respect me by making it a priority for your to-do list.

Show faith in him

  • If I’m driving, let me drive in peace (don’t tell me what lane to take or what road to take or ask me why I’m going the way I am going because your way is 30 seconds faster).  If I ask for help, then you can help me.  Having your trust and faith in my ability to drive around town is much more valuable to me than saving a few seconds or minutes in traffic.
  • Men don’t offer unsolicited advice or help to other men.  Show me that you trust me by allowing me to figure things out without feeling like you have to rescue me or do things for me.

Choose your friends wisely

  • Make sure that you have close friends who are godly wives, who show their husbands respect in marriage and who will show respect for me as your husband.
  • Don’t let your girlfriends’ advice tear down our marriage.  Notice what kind of marriage your friend has before assuming she has wisdom to share about marriage. Make my opinions and feelings much more important in your life than the opinions and feelings of your friends.  You are in a covenant with me, not them.

Let him think and love differently from a woman

  • Realize that I may take longer to process ideas, decisions, emotions and feelings.  If I do not have answers for you in 30 seconds, that does not mean you need to take over or that I won’t lead.  I just means I operate on a slower time table and need a little understanding and patience from you.  If you are able to wait patiently and be supportive, I am plenty capable of leading and making wise decisions.  (If there is physical violence, and untreated mental disorder, a drug/alcohol addiction – please find godly, experienced help ASAP!)
  • I may not show love with words as much as you would like, but stop and notice all the things I DO to show you my love for you. To me, my actions speak much more loudly than my words.  And to me, your actions speak much more loudly than your words, too.
  • Realize that I am not a woman.  Make sure that it is safe for me to be a man – that I am not punished for being masculine.  I am different from you. I think and feel differently – but that doesn’t mean I am wrong.

Avoid trying to push or pressure him about spiritual things

  • Don’t verbally push God, the Bible, and church on me.  Nagging, preaching, and lecturing make me want to run away just because of your approach.  It is your ability to be silent about the things of God  coupled with your gentle, peaceful, respectful spirit that is not anxious and worried that will help me better hear God’s voice.  I need to SEE you live out your faith, not hear about it.  Words don’t impact men the way they do women.
  • Accept that I am human.  Accept that you are human, too.  Have grace for me when I make mistakes.  Your ability to forgive me and see the best in me can sometimes make the difference between me becoming paralyzed or between me learning and moving forward as a better man.
  • Look at me as an equal in God’s sight.  Realize that we are both sinners in need of Jesus.  Don’t look down on me.

Additional resources:

The Peaceful Wife book

This is the resource I wish I had when I was trying to figure out what on earth it meant to genuinely respect and honor my husband and be a godly wife. It contains all the baby steps that took me YEARS to figure out.

Save yourself a lot of frustration and let me make all the mistakes and do the research for you!

How to Encourage Your Husband to Value Your Influence

Why It May Be Wise to Keep This Respect Thing a Secret from Your Husband

Influencing an Unbelieving Husband for Christ

Respecting Our Husbands As Fathers

I’m Tired of Being the Leader in Our Marriage

What Is Disrespect in Marriage?


Covenant Eyes (affiliate link)—resources and tools to help men, women, and children prevent or overcome porn use