Written by: Amy Dalke
Call me dense, but in the first (many) years of our marriage, I did not understand why criticizing Larry did not motivate him to change.
I tried and tried to convince him that if he would only do a few things differently, our life together would be peaceful, serene, and full of happiness.
It went something like this:
Amy: “If you would just be romantic sometimes…or plan a date night…or if you would just act like you love me…then I might be more excited to do the things you want to do.”
Amy: “No, you don’t get it. I’m serious. If you would, like, try to be sweet to me or something, or take initiative, then….and blah, blah, blah.”
Amy: “I am being for real here. Because you never just call me to tell me you love me. You don’t ever plan a date night. When you do, it’s like last minute. You know I can’t just be spontaneous. It needs to be on the calendar.
Amy: “Why aren’t you listening to me? You don’t even care. Why don’t you love me anymore?”
Amy: “I’m just saying, my mind is going two hundred directions all day long, but when it’s time for bed, you expect me to be all like, ‘yes, let’s do it. I can’t wait.’
And so on, and so forth: I would nag. He would shut down.
He heard my “encouragements” as nagging criticisms on all the ways he falls short as a husband.
My method completely erroneous. I had no clue what Larry (as a man, as a husband) really needed from his wife.
I assumed he needed the same thing I needed: to be loved.
What men need and want more than anything (more than love) is to be unconditionally respected.
(Ha. You thought I was referring to that.)
God hard-wired men to be heroes and protectors, who risk their lives for the sake of others. They are driven by the need to provide for their families; and they have a need to respected for their protective-provider role.
His actions may not deserve respect – but marriage is not a conditional transaction. And…well…we don’t always deserve the love we want as wives, either.
Love & Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, discusses the importance of understanding what our spouses need, and how they think. He uses Ephesians 5:33 (“Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”) to lay the foundation for healthy communication in marriage.
When we don’t operate based on the principle of love & respect, then we get caught up in the Crazy Cycle, which Eggerichs describes as:
“…when she feels unloved by her husband, she acts with disrespect towards him; when he feels disrespected, he acts unlovingly towards his wife.”
Respect does not mean the wife is her husband’s doormat.
Showing respect to our husbands does not imply that we are weak-willed damsels in distress.
(I realize that hearing the word “respect” used in the context of marriage may cause your nerves to stand on edge. If that is the case, please assume that I have big-time failed to adequately portray my thoughts (and the author’s), and go check the book out for yourself.)
It’s actually quite freeing to let go of the responsibility of fixing him. (My naiveté. Humorous, indeed.)
Respect does not look like…
- Reminding him often of the little things he does wrong.
- Talking to him like you talk to your children (same tone of voice and everything).
- Never asking about his thoughts or preferences before signing up for 153 events, programs, and dinner parties.
- Complaining to him about how he always makes you feel unloved.
- Failing to give him a chance to state his opinion. (Tell him what it is instead.)
- Greeting him in the evening with a list of things he needs to get done before bed.
- Getting angry when he doesn’t start on them immediately.
(Take it from me: these behaviors will produce the exact opposite of your desired result.)
We asked the husbands in our Sunday school class for examples of how we could respect them. Here’s what they said:
- Stop what you are doing when he gets home after work, to acknowledge he’s home.
- Laugh at his jokes. (Regardless of their comedic value.)
- Brag about him to others.
- Don’t contradict him in front of others; instead say something about what he does well.
- Thank him for what he does for you and your family. (Don’t assume he knows how grateful you are.)
- Encouragement and praise wins points…lots of points.
I’m not promising miracles, and I know all too well how difficult it is to keep your mouth shut…when all you want to do is rant and rail about The Things That Need to Change.
But – Larry and I are real-life examples of how the love and respect principle works. I have begun to purposefully honor him; and show deference to him; and admire his good qualities, and he has responded by treating me lovingly.
I mean, really…out of the blue, he sends “I love you” texts.
Not normal, folks. It has to be the respect kool-aid.
Hold on, though…
Before you see too much perfect in this picture — I should mention That Moment on Saturday when I told Larry, “…his sh#@ apparently does not stink.”
Rest assured, friends, there is no such thing as perfect.
See you next Monday…