Skip to main content

What is Respect in Marriage?

half man's face

There is a whole masculine WORLD of respect that I was completely unaware of until 4 years ago.  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 – many of us come across very disrespectfully without even realizing or intending to.

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 for his wife >> that motivates her respect.

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


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.  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).

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 can see when we respect our husbands and cooperate with their God-given leadership.  Our priorities must be to honor God and to obey Him – and we leave the results and timing in His hands.


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.” He likes things like for me:
– to genuinely smile and be happy
– to be truly peaceful and not stressed (because if I am stressed, he is stressed)
– to be his friend
– to be a safe, welcoming place for him
– to treat him like a grown adult and equal
– to just sit with him in the evenings, cuddle with him, and enjoy being with him while he watches TV
– not to “try too hard”
– not to ask what I can do for him
– not to ask how I can improve
– to appreciate the many things he does to show his love for me
– to give him time to think and process with decisions
– to honor his parenting
– to use a respectful, friendly tone of voice and friendly facial expression
– to make changes for the family slowly rather than to make sweeping changes all at once (he doesn’t like change very much)

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!

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

  • listen without interrupting
  • don’t think for me.
  • don’t use your “dumb guy” voice when repeating what I’ve said that you don’t agree with/think is stupid
  • refrain from explaining how to handle the children
  • do not correct my handling of the children or anything else in front of anyone, ever
  • talk me up in front of your family/my family
  • support my decisions, and if you disagree, do so in private
  • be my friend
  • tell me what kind of physical intimacy you like – it makes me feel more at ease and more purposeful in pleasing you
  • don’t over-talk things — try to use short sentence and direct words (I’m not dim, but I’m a guy … we don’t do big conversation)
  • let me know I’m enough, more than enough if you can — financially, emotionally, physically, mentally
  • When a big decision comes up and the husband says he needs time to think about it let him think about it. If you tell him, “Don’t bother. I’ll just do it my way,” then what’s the point of asking in the first place?
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Find out what his love language is and surprise him with something spontaneous that’s just for him.
  • Flirt with him in public, at a party, where other people (especially his friends/co-workers) can see it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Let him know when he does things that make you happy. Most husbands biggest goal in marriage is to make their wife happy.
  • She never ever speaks “bad” about me to anyone – not a best friend or a family member
  • 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.
  • Most of all, she allows me to be me.
  • 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.
  • She 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.
  • Put me, your husband, first and NOT the children.
  • Do not compare me with a pastor, a 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.
  • Try to have 100% faith in me! Try to 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 a insight that I’ve had with scripture.
  • Anticipate my needs, wants and desire. In the bedroom and out of the bedroom.
  • Don’t yell and argue with me in front of the children.
  • Just remember I love you , chose you, I know you have feelings, as hard as you think I am, I have deep feelings also.
  • Put me above your friends and extended family and ministry to others outside of our family.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Smile at me a lot – I love that!
  • Make sure that you have close friends who are godly wives, who show respect for their husbands 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.
  • 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.
  • Enjoy being with me.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Flirt with me and no one else!
  • 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.
  • 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:

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

Respect 101

What Does Respect Look Like to Husbands?

Could My Disrespect Contribute to My Husband’s Depression?

Husbands Share What is Disrespectful to Them (AWESOME  and EYE- OPENING LIST!)

Hear a Disrespected Husband’s Heart

One Husband’s Wish List

How Do I Respect My Husband if He Won’t Go to Church/Isn’t a Christian?

Respecting My Husband’s Parenting

My Husband Doesn’t Deserve MY Respect! (Peacefulwife Youtube video 7 minutes)

Avoiding Nonverbal Disrespect is VERY Important! (Peacefulwife Youtube video 7 minutes)

Ways Husbands Can Be Unloving to Their Wives  – on my husband’s site

57 thoughts on “What is Respect in Marriage?

  1. Abby,

    This is the stuff I WISH I had understood 19 years ago when we got married. I had NO CLUE!!!! I’m so pleased to meet you. I believe this is a divine appointment. I am really excited about what God is about to do in your heart and in your marriage. 🙂

  2. Truthsayer,

    God commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it (Ephesians 5:22-33). God does not permit husbands to be harsh with their wives (I Peter 3:7). God commands husbands and wives and all believers to love all people with God’s love (I Corinthians 13:4-8a).

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. I Corinthians 13:4-8a

    God never condones any kind of sin against anyone for any reason.

    Wives may confront their husbands about sin, just like husbands may confront their wives about sin in a way that honors God.

    Women are just as sensitive about feeling unloved – I am sure many husbands may feel that wives are unreasonable about what makes them feel unloved, as well. I have a post about that on my husband’s blog for men. But, on this blog, my focus is on how wives can work on our end of the marriage.

    Some of the things on this list, like the one about a wife not doing something before a husband has a chance to do it – there are details that I didn’t address. What I am talking about is when a wife asks her husband to do something, and when he doesn’t do it within 5 minutes, she does it herself even though he said he would do it. Obviously, if something goes on for months, that would be a different situation.

    No one ever deserves to be sinned against. God hates all sin. I do not condone sin against husbands or wives or anyone else.

    Thanks so much for sharing your concerns! I hope that my response might clarify that it is not at all ok for husbands to hurt wives. Abuse is NEVER ok toward anyone.

  3. Truthsayer,

    No, we don’t beat our children!!! 🙂

    I don’t ever endorse oppression, sin, or disrespect toward women. Of course, God doesn’t either! Men and women are of equal value in God’s eyes (Gal. 3:28). We are all image bearers of God (Genesis 2). We have different roles, given by God. But we have equal value.

    I invite you to read some more and pray about things. What I say doesn’t matter at all if it doesn’t line up with God’s Word.

    The post I would invite you to read next is “Godly Femininity.”

    Much love to you!

  4. Truthsayer,

    One of the things you said made me curious: What did you mean when you said, “…then we can go about having them understand that it’s much more about their perceptions than actually being disrespected…”?

    I have been raised in a very feminist environment, and when I read your statement, I interpreted it as, “Their feelings don’t matter, and now I can show them that.” I have felt the very same way in the past. However, can you see how unfair that is? How would you feel if you were in a relationship with a man and he didn’t care when you got hurt by his unloving behavior? If he thought you were overreacting, merely because you’re different than he is?

    If I loved someone (truly love someone), I would think I’d be considerate of their feelings, even if I can’t understand why they feel that way. I read a quote earlier that said, “The way we love people we disagree with is the best evidence of what we really believe.”

    I used to expect my husband to behave exactly as I do… to be just like me in how he processes information, speaks to me, and shows me his love. But I didn’t marry myself, nor would I ever want to! My husband has insights that I would never think of, just as I have insights he wouldn’t think of. We complement each other, and we can’t do that by being carbon copies of one another.

    My husband has never laid a hand on me for any reason either than to comfort/caress me. He is an amazing man and I’m very grateful to have him in my life. Is he a typical husband? In a lot of ways, probably not. However, I’m also striving not to be a typical wife. You mentioned abuse toward women, and that’s true. Some women do suffer abuse, and of course, that’s never OK. However, men are suffering on a continual basis as well, but don’t even feel like they’re able to express it. We poison our husbands with our words and sour looks. We cut their hearts out with our complete disdain for them and the way God created them. We wield our weapons far more than they wield theirs, because it’s socially acceptable to do so.

    Even children’s shows make light of a husband’s role as head of the household. I couldn’t watch “Fairly Odd Parents” the other day, because Wanda was constantly calling her husband an idiot.

    Of course, I can’t speak for everyone. I know there are women who are being abused and I know that’s not their fault. God needs to work on the man in that situation while healing the woman of the hurt she’s experienced. She needs godly, experienced help, and if kids are involved, it is certainly her responsibility as their caregiver to move them out of the dangerous situation. My heart breaks for women in those situations and I pray that they will get the help they need.

    I’m not speaking from that point of view, though: I’m speaking as a woman who has a wonderful husband and didn’t fully appreciate him in the beginning of our marriage. I’m speaking as a woman who was being influenced by the world, even when I thought I was honoring God. I finally learned I need to accept the whole truth of God’s Word, and that means respecting my husband no matter what. (1 Peter 3:1-2 “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”) I can respectfully disagree, of course, but I needn’t make him understand by being rude or hurtful in my tone and expression. That phrase “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” has a lot of truth to it. I don’t know about you, but when a man is being unloving toward me, it’s certainly never makes me want to be respectful to him. It’s the same way with men: Our disrespect will not motivate him to love us, or “show him how much he hurt us”. It will only lead him farther away from us… and then, (perhaps when it’s too late), we’ll wonder what happened to what used to be a beautiful relationship.

    I have been practicing being respectful to my husband, and let me assure you: I don’t feel oppressed in the least. I feel freer than I’ve ever felt in my life. I feel like my husband and I now have a deeper understanding because I’ve come to realize that his desires are important as well as mine. I find our relationship much more fulfilling now, and the ugly feelings I used to have of jealousy, comparison, unmet expectations, having to “know it all” and “do it all” are all but gone. There’s a reason April chose “PeacefulWife” as her blog name… there truly is a ton of peace that goes into this. My husband didn’t point this blog out to me; I looked for it of my own accord. I read “Love and Respect” of my own accord: he didn’t even know what I was doing!

    Showing respect is actually pretty awesome, and I’ve found that the opposite of your scenario happened with me: He was MORE loving with me after I started showing respect, not less loving. In response to another one of the things you said, yes, the male ego is very fragile… just as fragile as our sense of how loved we are is. We desire that need to be handled with care, so it’s not unreasonable for us to also treat their needs with care. 🙂

    The truth is, no one can force a woman to respect her husband, in the same way that no one can force him to love her. It has to be of our own free will.

  5. Pingback: The Respect Knob |

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: