Love and Respect, but Mostly Respect

In last week’s article on obeying, I touched briefly on the concept of unconditional respect. Several people commented or emailed me asking for more on the subject. I don’t think I have much to add that will strike anyone as particularly profound, but I will try to flesh out the idea a bit more nonetheless.

I’ve been reading Love & Respect by Emmerson Eggerichs. The book is called Love and Respect and is written to husbands and wives. But I’ve snarked with other friends who’ve also read it that it needs the subtitle, But Mostly Respect. It’s aimed heavily at wives, which I sometimes resent. The book focuses on the unconditional love husbands are called to give their wives and the unconditional respect wives are called to give their husbands. Of course, unconditional love is a much more commonly accepted idea among the type of Christians reading such a book, so it makes sense that the author takes longer to convince the reader of the need for unconditional respect than he does for unconditional love. Once I got over my irritation with the unbalanced emphasis between love and respect, I was reminded of what I already know – respect is my husband’s love language. In other words, when I show him unconditional respect I am showing him unconditional love. There is no way that is more effective at communicating my love for him than this respect that God instructs me to show. And there is no more effective way at communicating a lack of love for him than treating him with contempt or sarcasm.

Most of us understand the concept of respect. But the idea of unconditional respect is a paradigm shift for many of us. Unconditional means without conditions or limitations. Respect is esteem or honor given someone; something that reflects the worth or excellence of a person. When you put the two together, we are talking about honoring someone in a way that reflects their worth and value without conditions based on their behavior. Ephesians 5 clearly instructs wives to respect their husbands just as it instructs husbands to love their wives. And both commands are given without condition. In fact, the entire point of the illustration of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5 is that this love that husbands extend to wives is a sacrificial love without respect to the recipient’s loveliness. While Christ is making His Church beautiful, she was not in that condition when He sought her. Likewise, the husband is to love even the unlovely wife. Whether she is externally or internally lovely, the husband is to love her without respect to her condition, just as Christ loves the Church. 

Eggerichs is correct that such unconditional love is way easier to understand than unconditional respect. But when you get the first, you are well down the path of understanding the second. I know how offended I would be if my husband put out the vibe that I need to earn his love. Being loved unconditionally is a blessing to the recipient that actually draws them toward the light. Could it be that way with respect as well? I believe strongly that it is. The key to the kind of respect that truly ministers to a man, the kind that doesn’t suck the life out of you as the wife, is that before you respect him, you love him. Paul in Ephesians 5 seems to assume such love from a wife for her husband. Some wives don’t love their husbands, and, frankly, I don’t know how to talk about respecting your husband if you don’t love him. Respect costs a wife at times, and without love for our God first and our husband second, the price will seem to high. The Greatest Command once again shows why it is indeed the most important thing.

I wrote the following in The Gospel-Centered Woman.

1 Peter 3 1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 

I observe several important things about these verses from I Peter 3. First, there is something winning about submission and respect. The Greek word for won, kerdaino, can also mean gain or profit. The context involves a husband who is disobeying the Word. This is a very serious issue. Peter is teaching that in this serious situation, respect is a powerful response that wins over your opponent. Note that he does not say it defeats him. The difference in defeating and winning over is profound.   

Some women may not want to win over their husband. Given enough hurt or anger, they may rather defeat and destroy, leaving scorched earth in place of their conflict. In that case, this Scripture will only chafe against that desire. But if you love your husband and do not want to see him destroyed even as he walks a disobedient path, then respect is God’s powerful weapon for winning him. There is gain and profit to be found in this respect, which is more powerful than words according to this passage. 

Note also that this chaste, respectful response in the face of disobedience is not the same as sweeping a husband’s sin under the carpet. This passage does not encourage a wife to ignore sin or pretend like it does not exist. That response does no one any good. The entire point of the passage is that this husband is clearly disobeying, and Peter’s instruction is not that the wife pretend he is not. There are two unhelpful reactions to a husband’s sin, and the first one is ignoring or minimizing it. Our culture calls it enabling. The second unhelpful reaction is one that relies on words over quiet character and strength. A wife may need to draw a line in the sand in light of her husband’s ungodly behavior, but Peter’s instruction indicates that fewer words are better.

In Love and Respect, Eggerichs emphasizes that respect for a man is like his air hose as he dives through the depths of the ocean. He needs it THAT MUCH. Speaking to him with respect and treating him with respect does not mean ignoring his sin, but it is KEY to speaking about his sins or shortcomings in a way that he can actually hear. If you truly love him and want to strongly help him, respect him. Without condition. I am of the firm conviction that this instruction in Ephesians 5 is a sweet gift to both husbands and wives in the midst of conflict – truly a light shining on a treacherous path that illuminates the way to respond.

59 Responses to Love and Respect, but Mostly Respect

  1. Susan July 31, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    Love this! and Submission can be understood as the unconditional respect of God's role for the husband to lead his wife.

  2. Anne Vyn July 31, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

    I haven't read this book but what you wrote raises a few questions for me:
    If we are to give our husbands 100% of our respect 100% of the time (which I totally agree with, by the way), then what is the implicit message of the author regarding how much respect we give to others, excluding our husbands? Do they only get 90% of our respect 50% of the time? Is there a biblical prerogative for us to selectively show disrespect to some people and not to others?

    You included this definition: “Respect is esteem or honor given someone; something that reflects the WORTH or excellence of a person”. My question is this: Doesn't every person created in the image of God deserve to receive a respectful response from us, 100% of the time?

  3. EMSoliDeoGloria July 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    I'm tracking with Anne's question, Wendy. As someone who has read portions of Love and Respect, my main objection isn't to showing respect or to encouraging women in respecting their husbands, but to placing an artificial gender divide between love and respect.

    Ephesians 5, if it stood alone in all of Scripture, might well be employed to reinforce such a gender divide, but it does not. Husbands are told to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7) and older women are to teach the younger ones what is good and so train the younger ones to love their husband's, etc (Titus 2:3-4). If you look at the broader counsel of Scripture on the subject of love and respect in marriage, it is to go both ways.

    Why? There is a respect that comes with being an image bearer and which we owe to other image-bearers out of reverence for God. This is regardless of behavior just as the neighbor love Christ commands is regardless of behavior.

    That's basic. It isn't gendered. And it's really based on the glory and worth of another – the One whose image we bear.

    Another challenge here is that not all men / women are alike. Far more important than treating one's spouse as a generic husband or wife is knowing them for who God made them to be as individual. Maybe my husband needs frequent assurances of my love. Maybe I need frequent reminders of his respect. There's nothing wrong with that. There's also nothing wrong with adding to the fundamental respect due a person because he or she bears the image of the living God, respect that is based on his or her character. I do respect my husband because he bears the image of the living God. For that reason alone, I refrain from expressing disdain to or about him, ridiculing him, gossiping about him, putting him down. But I also respect my husband because of his character. Because he is a kind and considerate man who takes responsibility for his actions, because of his integrity and honesty, because he works hard at whatever he finds to do and also because he teaches me so much about how to accept the gift of life with gratitude of enjoyment. I could go on, but you get the picture. Not everyone possesses these qualities in equal measure. I don't respect every person the way I do my husband because I know his character much better than I do other people's. At the same time, he also shows me more respect than other people do. He knows me best. He encourages me, has confidence in my abilities and seeks my wisdom in my areas of strength and experience. I am not a generic woman any more than he is a generic man and I would not thrive with all the love my husband could show if I did not know that he also greatly respects me.

  4. Anonymous July 31, 2013 at 2:16 pm #

    we know it’s true – giving preference to one another in honor – so then desiring to submit to God, being strengthened and striving with power through His Spirit for this work of faith.

  5. Wendy July 31, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    To answer both yours and Anne's comments, in many ways I heartily agree with you. But I also note that the Bible uses distinctly different words for the respect to husbands in Ephesians 5 and the honor to wives in I Peter 3. Those words overlap in ways – emphasizing the inherent dignity every image bearer of God deserves to receive. But there is a difference too. I think there is benefit to contemplating the differences and why God, knowing well the psychology of His created sons and daughters, might emphasize one over another with respect to gender in marriage.

  6. Ann July 31, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    You are spot-on with everything you've written. I have learned – not soon enough – that I cannot say “Thank You,” “I appreciate you,” etc. often enough to my husband. He thrives on it. There is so much that does not have to be said about negative things, and so much more that can be said about the positive things that he does, says, and is. It is one of the things that has revolutionized our marriage.

  7. upwithmarriage July 31, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    This WAS “spot-on” as Ann says. Something I've noticed about marriage advice, as it relates to The Love and Respect philosophy. No one ever talks about the Rewarded Cycle, yet I believe that a lot more marriages actually live in that spot than the other two.

    In the book there are 7 chapters devoted to the ever popular “Crazy Cycle” which we've all ridden a lot more often than we'd like to admit. Then in part 2, “The Energizing Cycle” a full 15 chapters!

    But the pitiful “Rewarded Cycle” gets 2 chapters. Yet it is the one that enable me the springboard to stay married. They were the chapters that gave me hope and breathed life into me.

    Realistically, no body wants to see that God has drafted them up for a tour on the Rewarded Cycle.

  8. Mara Reid July 31, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    I started a response but it got very long (Longer than your post) so I just made a blog post out of it at my blog out of respect for basic blogging courtesy.

    I both agree and disagree with parts of this post and comments.

    (note. the word used for respect in Ephesians is where we get the word for 'phobias' and would be better translated as fear, not respect. sometimes I think that we really don't know what the epistle writers were saying and put our own, modern-day spin on it. this is not included in my post, it is in response to the comment above concerning the Bible using different words for respect.)

  9. Wendy July 31, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    Mara, feel free to leave a link to your post here if you want. I talk about this meaning of respect in both By His Wounds You are Healed and The Gospel-Centered Woman. It's the same word translated reverence just a few verses before. Eph. 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. There is a lot of value to considering the weight of the use of this word, in my opinion.

  10. Mara Reid July 31, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    Here is the link for those interested.

    http://frombitterwaterstosweet.blogspot.com/2013/07/unconditional-respect.html

    Wendy, you may discuss the meaning and limitations of respect in your books, which I appreciate. I appreciate a lot of what you say.

    But from what I gather, Eggrichs doesn't define it well. While you are reading, you might pay attention to see if this is so or not.

    People who have a healthy, balanced understanding of respect would probably do okay reading books that don't define it well.
    People who are already messed up, well, they may not do so well and even do worse because of their own misconceptions.

    Unfortunately I have seen this a lot.

  11. MSAC English Joshua July 31, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

    I have heard it said that the reason why the Holy Spirit, in inspiring the writers to pen God's Word, focused on unconditional love for husbands and unconditional respect for wives was because these aspects of obedience are the most challenging for each, not exclusive to each. Love and respect in general are a given for God's people, but it may be particularly difficult for a husband to love his wife the way Christ loved the church; likewise, from the comments above and my own reaction to the concept, it is particularly difficult to respect husbands in a gracious, tender way, and in a similar fashion to that respect with which the church respects Christ as her head.
    This is a real challenge that the Holy Spirit is graciously walking me through. I came to realize, through a recent conversation with my husband, that I dismiss his perspective and impute malice to his disagreeing with me. I acknowledge this as disrespect; how might we otherwise “flesh out” the definitions of respect and the nuanced difference between general respect and the wife's call to respect her husband?

  12. David J. July 31, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    From the male perspective, here's an affirmation that Wendy and Eggerichs have it right. I suppose it's possible there are exceptions to the general rule that a wife's respect is even more important to the husband than her love (I'm not persuaded; I've never met a man for whom the exception would be true), but even if there are such exceptions that doesn't change the fact that this post, and Eggerichs' book, are spot-on for the overwhelming majority of husbands. Put it another way: survey the husbands you know on two questions — Does your wife love you? Does your wife like you? You will find a significant disparity in the number of positive answers to those two questions. Most, if not all, will agree that their wives love them. Only a (fortunate) minority will agree that their wives like them, and this is because of the way their wives treat them on a day to day basis. The conduct that causes most husbands to doubt that their wives like them is generally in the disrespectful category — criticism, argumentativeness, eye-rolling, contrariness, taking control, etc. — generally communicating that she knows better and he doesn't do it right.

    The revolutionary point of Eggerichs' book is that the command for wives to respect their husbands is just as unconditional as the command to husbands to love their wives. The negative comments here indicate how foreign that concept is to wives. This is not entirely their fault; the church has dropped the ball on this since forever. Until I heard a Focus on the Family interview with Eggerichs after his book came out, I had never heard any pastor or teacher make that point — and I graduated from a Christian college where I took several marriage and family classes, as had my wife. I wanted to immediately buy a copy of the book and ask my wife to read it, but I knew that wouldn't be well received. Years later, a counselor suggested that we both read it. I did. My wife refused. She expected/demanded that I love her unconditionally despite her sexual refusal and oft-expressed contempt for me, but I was obligated to earn her respect (an impossible task), and she was entitled to express her displeasure any time she disagreed with a decision or didn't like how I'd done something. At one point shortly before she unilaterally divorced me (after 29 years and 4 kids), I asked her how she could square her contemptuous treatment of me (both to my face and in front of the kids) with the 1 Peter directive that wives win even their unbelieving or disobedient husbands by their “respectful and pure conduct.” Her response? “Maybe it would be easier being married to a non-Christian.”

    The fact that she could say that with a straight face — as a Christian wife who had grown up in a Christian family, graduated from a conservative Christian college, and spent a lifetime in conservative Bible-teaching churches — is an evidence of the extent of the general misunderstanding of this issue on the part of Christian wives.

    I applaud Wendy's willingness to address this head on.

  13. Wendy August 1, 2013 at 1:17 am #

    Thanks for commenting, David. I want to add a clarification to your comment. You said, “The negative comments here indicate how foreign that concept (unconditional respect) is to wives.” I actually disagree. I think the negative response is tied strongly to the abuse of wives and the concern that unconditional respect will encourage women to be doormats who accept abuse as their due.

    I think that abuse and respect are totally different paradigms. I don't believe that respect as God speaks of it contributes to abuse. But I do believe abuse happens and wives need to know when enough is enough and they need to remove themselves from a situation. That's a topic that I've dealt with in other posts.

  14. Laura Eder August 1, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    I'm glad you wrote about this. My husband and I have been leading a couples small group at our church for roughly ten years and of all the studies we've chosen on biblical marriage this one had the men most engaged. I had read Ephesians 5 many times but until this material I had never stopped to think that God commanded men to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands to emphasize what does not come naturally from our God given design. Women tend to have a default of love and men tend to have a default of respect so the idea isn't that men don't need to respect and women don't mean to love but that those things come naturally and so the command is given for what does not. I do not naturally gravitate to respect when I'm expressing my heartfelt devotion to my husband. And it's true that men in the church are constantly hearing about loving their wives when wives are seldom taught how to respect their husbands so this principal is very meaningful and hugely helpful. That all being said, there are better Gospel centered books on marriage. But I'd recommend this for those interested in building up their marriage. Also, if you want to take the edge off the obvious emphasis on respect over love, buy or rent the DVD series that recorded the material from the Eggerich's weekend conference. It's MUCH MORE engaging than the book and easy to use in a small group format.

  15. David J. August 1, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    I have no patience with or sympathy for abusive men. Or abusive women. I am bemused that I even have to say that. At first, I had no idea where the concern about abuse had been expressed in any of the negative comments above, but that's because I had not followed Mara Reid's link to her separate post. (I disagree with Mara's take, which seems to me to strip the Ephesians 5 passage of any real meaning for fear of the ogres out there, but that's a different issue.) Even so, none of the other comments taking issue with your post are based on fear of abuse. This seems to me to be a left turn in the conversation. My point was that Eggerichs' discussion of unconditional respect for husbands is (generally) a foreign concept to Christian wives (and Christian husbands too), while everyone is quite familiar with the concept of unconditional love for wives, even though they are both taught in the same passage. We can quibble about whether the negative comments here are further proof of that disparity, but it doesn't change my point. Introducing the specter of abuse in response to my comment seems misplaced.

  16. Wendy August 1, 2013 at 5:28 am #

    I'm not sure why you are responding defensively to my clarification, David. I know a bit about those who comment on my blog based on our previous interactions. I perceive that there is push back related to this post based on mutual concern they and I have about abuse in Christian marriages. There's nothing in that statement that requires any response. It's a simple fact.

  17. Mara Reid August 1, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

    I started another comment on here and it got long. So I'm making another blog post out of it. It won't publish until tomorrow since I've already published something else today.

    But I want to make the book recommendation here today ahead of time.

    IMHO the book “Boundaries in Marriage” by Cloud and Townsend runs circles around “Love and Respect”.

  18. Anonymous August 2, 2013 at 2:27 am #

    Lots of thought provoking posts.

    My one word response to the blog, make it a sentence. It is hard for me to respect
    my husband, but I would like to.

  19. Anonymous August 2, 2013 at 7:31 am #

    There are 93 instances of “phobeo” in the NT. Ninety of those are translated either “fear” or “be afraid (of).” In this one instance, “phobeo” in the KJV is translated as “reverence.” The KJV translators' use of “reverence” seems to be the better choice than “respect.” “Reverence” means an attitude of deep respect tinged with awe or fear. Also, “reverence” means a gesture of obeisance offered to a superior.

    “Respect” as you said is to esteem, honor, or hold in high value. I agree that these two words may overlap, but the former “reverence” carries with it respect tinged with awe or fear and obeisance which seems to align more closely with “phobeo.”

    I would expect and hope a marriage based on romantic love between peers in age and equals in status to express mutual love and mutual respect. It is not surprising a wife in an ancient culture in a marriage arranged far differently than mine and an inferior to her husband would be instructed to “phobeo” the paterfamilia, her husband, the owner of the estate: wife, children, & slaves . I think much of that part of the world today reflects in some ways the cultural climate that required the social dynamics of women and wives paying obeisance and respecting men and husbands with a tinge of awe or fear.

    I do not think these texts are speaking to the psychological needs of men. Though new Believers in Christ need a Christinized social ethic, I do not think God created men with an inherent *need* to have homage paid to them. I do believe because men and women are created in God's image they are both worthy of respect, and husbands and wives have a duty and privilege to show greater respect and preferential deference to each other.

    As far as respect, i.e. holding in high regard, honoring, esteeming, I think men and women are more (just) alike than different. The same respect that is key when speaking about his sins or shortcomings is just as critical for women to actually hear and receive. Further, if our opinions, ideas, dreams, interests, etc. are not valued we feel disrespected. Disrepect communicates a lack of love.

    As far as L & R, what I read seemed like semantics. The root of a wife's behavior Eggerich describes as disprespectful, but the same behavior would be equally disrespectful if done by a man, except Eggerich would say the behavior is unloving because it is done by a man. For example, if a wife is verbally short, she's being disrespectful. If a husband is verbally short, he's being unloving. I happen to think unloving behavior is disrespectful and disrespectful behavior is unloving. Eggerich manufactures a blue and pink differentiation where there isn't one. Also, Eggerich claims all men hear (and see) all the same things blue and all women hear (and see) all the same things pink. Because women see & speak pink and men see and speak blue there is miscommunication between the sexes. Right. Then how do you account for the miscommunication between two men or two women which happens everyday, all day long. It's just silly to me because this seems so obvious. It appears to me as marketing something to a base that wants to believe men and women are opposites, wholly other, and/or there is quick-fix formula that will make for a happy marriage. The formula: wife respect + husband loves = happy marriage.

    Angie

  20. Wendy August 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    I liked the original Boundaries — in fact the opening principle was key for me to move to a healthier place in my marriage (in direct correlation with a more robust conviction to respect my husband). The principle of only taking responsibility for the things that were my responsibility freed me from a lot of weight in my marriage relationship.

    The word boundaries sounds one way but means another, at least as I've worked through Cloud and Townsend. There's a sense in which boundaries in marriage are horrible — how can you live out the vision of being one flesh (beyond the literal sense) with harsh boundaries around yourself that keep your spouse out? But that isn't my perception of how Cloud and Townsend approach it at all. It's more knowing what is and what is not your responsibility and the freedom to allow someone else to own their own mistakes.

  21. Wendy August 2, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

    In reply to Angie's comment earlier and others, I think our presuppositions are really important for understanding this concept. Particularly — is Paul writing in light of the Fall of Man or in light of Redemption? From the context in Ephesians, it seems clear to me that this is wholly in the context of redemption. Ephesians 1-4 sets up a robust vision for our need of Jesus and His provision for us through His life, death, and resurrection. Then Ephesians 5 opens with the words, “Therefore be imitators of God …” These instructions are not in light of the horrible situation the fall of man brought about between men and women! These instructions are about marriages that are IN CHRIST between IMITATORS OF GOD. It really is quite beautiful in that context.

    Here's the thing to note about the translation of phobeo. Every word with multiple meanings in Scripture is translated with a focus on its context. We do the exact same thing every day in English for thousands of different words. “I sent my resume to the company in hopes they would hire me, and I could resume working.”

    The context in Ephesians 5 is not one of fear of retribution. Paul used the same word in Ephesians 5: 21 — submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Again, there is no fear of retribution in that relationship. In fact, Paul has spent the previous 4 chapters of Ephesians explaining the lavish grace God has poured out on us through Christ. There is truly NO way Paul is indication in Eph. 5:21 we are supposed to have a cowering fear of Jesus. I think reverence and respect are really good ways to translate phobeo in this context, which is why the vast majority of English translations by way smarter people than me have translated it exactly that way for hundreds of years.

  22. Anonymous August 2, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    I am just reading the other comments. The claim that these types of books (sermons, blogs, etc.) make that women are set to a default to desire love more than respect and men are set to a default to desire respect over love is conjecture. The scripture does not reflect that explicitly or implicitly. Likewise, it is conjecture women have a harder time expressing respect but not love and men have a more difficult time expressing love but not phoebo [Eph5]), so God sets them up for a challenge by having Paul give instructions for which each are inherently ill-equipped. Do men really naturally express phoebo (reverence; respect with a tinge of fear or awe or obeisance) to women while having a more difficult time expressing agape? The historical relationship between the sexes does not reflect that men more naturally phoebo women. Women historically have been considered inferior in status and rank, so men would not phoebo or give obeisance to them which is directed to a superior.

    Lastly, it's possible I have misread, but I don't think what is perceived as negative comments are indictments against Wendy and Eggerich's idea that respect is unconditional because it's such a foreign concept. The comments diverging from Wendy and Eggerich's ideas actually affirm unconditional respect (i.e. esteeming, valuing) for BOTH husbands and wives.

    Angie

  23. Henna Maria August 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Wendy, I love the way you take the Gospel into the gender discussions, like in your book (TGCW) that I just finished reading.

    My husband thrives on respect and sometimes my actions, gestures and words that feel disrespectful for him are the hardest for him. There is a command to respect your husband and I think many wives would do well to remember it. The examples of wives openly disrespecting their husbands are so painful to see.

    I just bought a new book called Fully Alive – A Biblical Vision of Gender That Frees Men and Women to Live Beyond Stereotypes. It's written by Dr. Larry Crabb. So far I am enjoying it a lot. I'm interested to hear your opinions or analysis of this book. You seem to think through issues and I'd like to pick your brain about this book 🙂

  24. Wendy August 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    I need to add that book to my To Read pile!

  25. Wendy August 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    I agree that it is conjecture. Based on trying to understand why Paul would emphasize the two in different ways aimed at gender. Certainly, no one is arguing here that wives aren't due honor and respect. Mara's post on her website emphasized the inherent dignity of every human as an image bearer of God, and it's impossible to emphasize that enough. I've spent several chapters in my books and many blog posts here on that subject.

    I'm curious the resistance to the idea that maybe, just maybe, Paul emphasizes the two, love and respect, in different ways between husbands and wives because there is some possible difference in how husbands and wives receive and give each. I value giving respect in my home — treating my husband like I value him even when I'm frustrated with him and so forth. And I feel convicted to treat him with a respect I wouldn't extend to the mailman or some other generic man in my life. That's the key. I think my husband deserves an intentional manifestation of value/worth/reverence/respect from me.

    One thing I thought was helpful in Love and Respect is the emphasis on coming toward your spouse with an attitude that they are a good-willed person. I appreciated the emphasis of assuming the best, not worst, of someone in a questionable situation (which is distinctly different than ignoring the truth in an obviously sinful, destructive situation).

    As for Abigail, which was brought up on Mara's thread, there is no suggestion that she did not treat her husband in respectful ways. He was obviously hell bent on self-destruction, and she did what was needed to seek reconciliation with God's king. Her example neither reinforces nor undermines the idea of respect in marriage, in my opinion.

  26. Anonymous August 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    I didn't suggest “phobeo” in the Eph 5 context insisted on a fear of retribution and actually in my first comment stated I suspect “reverence” more closely aligns with it because of its nuance of obeisance or revering a superior. Even if Paul is writing in light of redemption, he is writing to real people in real contexts that we do not share which included men as superior in all things to wives. In an effort to extract the true meaning or import of the text, I think it is imperative to try as best we can to set aside our cultural and other contexts and read as best we can the text in light of theirs which existed even “in redemption.” This is why I think Paul is Christianizing a social ethic which to me makes more sense that a subtle attempt at psychology i.e. a covert way to say men need respect more than women which seems to be a presupposition taken to the text only in recent years.

    Thanks for interacting. I appreciate that you dialogue and help us all to think more critically about scripture.

    Angie
    Angie

  27. Anonymous August 2, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    Wendy,

    I am equally curious the resistance to the idea that maybe, just maybe, especially given what we know historically about the Greco-Roman culture that Paul is using agape and phobeo to intentionally address real people in a real social context one with actual state and culturally sanctioned authority to govern and the other a subordinate in the hierarchy.

    People are so diverse. I mean: men are so diverse from each other and women are so diverse from each other. I cannot imagine there is a way in which all men receive and give respect and there is a another way that is completely other in which all women receive and give respect.

    I think we all, male and female, will agree name-calling, put-downs, condescension, neglect, and the like are disrespectful. I think we all, male and female, will agree that valuing ideas, interests, considering opinions, making time for the other, treating with dignity, active listening, etc. communicates respect. Not every man will perceive an action, tone, or mannerism as disrespect. Neither will every woman perceive an action, tone, or mannerism as disrespect. There are many things that go into our perceptions. We should strive to attain emotional, spiritual maturity to express something to our mate that communicates disrespect which displeases us. We should also strive to attain emotional, spiritual maturity to meet the needs of our spouse when expressed.

    I don't believe it is incumbent upon all wives for all times to phobeo, or treat their husbands as their superior. That doesn't mean I don't value giving respect in my home. I do. I value him more than any other man. I, too, feel convicted (love that old-fashioned word) to treat my husband with profound respect, and I have no doubt that he knows I think the sun rises and sets in him. I, too, think my husband deserves an intentional manifestation of value/worth/reverence/respect from me. It has been my struggle to put my husband in the place where only Christ should sit. I absolutely adore him and everyone of our friends and family, and most importantly, our sons, know it. However, just as a husband deserves an intentional manifestation of value/worth/reverence/respect, a wife deserves an intentional manifestation of value/worth/reverence/respect especially from her husband who names the name of Christ.

    Thanks again for interacting with our comments. I appreciate the welcome mat you put out here.

    Angie

  28. Al August 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    While I really don't think that there is a hard and fast gender divide in any of this, I know for a fact that respect is considerably more important for me than love. I suspect that part of the difference might lie in the ways that people's identity relates to their person and their agency respectively.

    For the person whose identity is more closely bound up with their agency, many forms of unconditional love can actually be counter-productive in making us feel valued. We don't want to be loved irrespective of our agency, because our agency is such an essential dimension of our identity. It is crucially important for us that our agency is affirmed and valued.

    An example of how this can play out in practice is in the situation of a personal crisis. In such a situation, what I typically need is not someone to assure me that they accept and love me whatever, but their confidence in and support of my recovery of my agency. I don't want hugs and commiseration so much as a solution and a hand up to get me back on my feet.

    Obviously men and women should both respect each other as agents. This is imperative. However, in my experience at least, the need for the affirmation of agency is far more of a primary existential concern for men than a sense of belonging. For many men, our gendered identity is typically heavily wrapped up with our agency (one of the reasons why boys love toys that empower or facilitate their agency – sticks, guns, cars, building toys, etc.), and when something goes wrong, it is this that we most want to recover.

    If women are more likely to be sensitive to statements about their appearance, for instance, can be profoundly hurt by harsh judgments in this area, but can thrive when they are made to feel comfortable, confident, loved, and valued in this respect, agency might be the corresponding area for men. A man whose agency is stifled, who feels powerless, or who is constantly criticized or nagged by his wife feels a deep existential threat to his identity. He feels as emasculated much as a woman who is ridiculed for her appearance by the other sex might feel that her femininity is under attack.

    Your point about the way that unconditional respect actually draws people towards the light is such an important one. Unconditional respect needn't mean being a yes-person, or never expressing any form of disagreement. Rather, it is a matter of wanting to uphold, empower, and encourage the agency of another person. And this is a very different thing from affirming all of their particular choices. Respecting their agency is quite distinct from validating everything that they chooses to do with it.

    Unconditional love and respect do tend to bring out the best in people. When we unconditionally love or respect someone, we seek to become the cheerleaders of their best selves. We become attentive to ways in which they are particularly lovely, or ways that we respect, appreciate, and admire them and are eager to tell them. The more that we feed the positive qualities of others in such a manner, the more confident they will become in their identity, the more they will value us, and the more that they will conform to the sort of behaviour that is worthy of praise and honour or the more delight they will take in delighting us. I have been surprised to see that these notions are controversial in some quarters: they seem to be the ABCs of all human relationships.

  29. Marilyn August 3, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    I’m a wife who benefited significantly from reading and applying the Crazy Cycle material in Love and Respect. Research shows that in times of conflict, wives are prone to move towards their husbands with criticism and contempt, while husbands are prone to withdraw and stonewall. These behavior patterns are destructive of marital intimacy. By introducing evangelicals to John Gottman’s research, Eggerichs makes a valuable contribution to the evangelical literature.

    However, I cannot endorse the Love and Respect book. I say that for several reasons. First, I find Eggerichs' definition of what it means to love a wife to be very patronizing. The COUPLE teaching says that a husband needs to listen with empathy to his wife’s concerns for a few minutes a day – he needs to be close, open, understanding, peacemaking, loyal, and esteeming. Nowhere in the teaching to husbands, is there any notion of the wife as ezer – that wives have lots to contribute and that in a well-functioning marriage, decisions will reflect that. There isn’t a single example in the teaching to husbands of a wife making a substantive contribution apart from mothering the children, caring for the house and affirming her husband. Against the backdrop of contemporary society, COUPLE is a beneficial addition. But without that context, it’s dangerous radical fundamentalism. Wendy, I encourage you to compare and contrast Eggerichs’ definition of love with the much more expansive definition of love offered by Keller in The Meaning of Marriage.

    Second, the book bounds a husband’s love, but does little to bound a wife’s respect. Eggerichs is quick to point out that a husband should not be expected to COUPLE with his wife as much as his wife desires. 15-20 minutes a day of conversation should be sufficient time to allow a wife to communicate for the purposes that women need to communicate: talking to realize emotions, talking to share the report of the day, and talking to release emotions. There is no analogous bound on a wife’s respect.

    What is the result of this? Driscoll’s Real Marriage! Wendy, in your earlier review of Real Marriage, you point out that the book contains a catalog of Grace’s sin, but is silent about Mark’s sin. It’s worth asking why that occurred. A case can be made that it is a direct result of contemporary teaching on respect. Early in the book, Driscoll says it is problematic for a pastor to disclose his sin to members of the congregation because of the loss of respect the pastor would feel. Later in the book, Grace Driscoll says that it is disrespectful for a wife to publicly discuss her husband's sin. The result? “Respect” precludes a discussion of a husband’s sin with any degree of specificity, but “love” does not imply a similar constraint on discussion of a wife’s sin.

    Third, I want to endorse earlier comments that personality is very important when discussing respect. If a husband by nature is a loyalist who values feeling supported by others, Eggerichs’ respect teaching can encourage true courage and positive leadership. In contrast, if a husband is self-reliant and is motivated to have an impact on the environment and mprevail over others, Eggerichs’ respect teaching may do little more than feed the beast.

  30. Abril August 3, 2013 at 4:22 am #

    I'm also ways a little bemused to hear this topic as well, probably got the same reasons Wendy mentions about how there is finger pointing…. And mostly at women. One of the things I have discovered dating is that women are also in need of respect just as much as their husbands. I want to be respected for my mind, theology, faith and opinion. The respect that I read about in most of these study books is more like obedience. The love I read about receiving is fluff; date nights and holding hands.
    Don't get me wrong. I am a woman. I like chocolate. I like phone calls. But more than something fading like flowers is the fact that to love is to respect. And sometimes what was expected of me as a date was to be opinionless and to never disagree with the decisions or especially the theology of my boyfriend.

  31. Marilyn August 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm #

    Let me start with what I think would be the Love and Respect response to your comment. Eggerichs does say that both men and women need love and respect equally. His assumption is that in times of conflict, husbands are unloving and wives are disrespectful. This is supported by Gottman's research.

    Eggerichs then assumes that, in general, men more naturally show respect, and women more naturally show love. So the focus of his counsel in the book is on what is difficult for each spouse to do, i.e., for husbands to show love and for wives to show respect.

    But, does history really show that men (women) naturally show respect (love) for women (men), so only need to be counseled on how to show love (respect)? Related to this, the Bible stops with the words “love” and “respect”. The definitions of those terms come from Eggerichs, not the Bible.

    And, is the whole counsel of the book consistent with the assumption that both men and women need both love and respect? I don't think so.

  32. Anonymous August 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    I'd so appreciate some real life examples of what this looks like when done well, and what it looks like when not done well.

    Your focus on the behavior is spot on. When my husband does something wrong, or in a way that disappoints me he regularly asks “do you still respect me”. Maybe it's as easy as reminding him after his mistakes that I respect him, but I'd love to see some clear examples of how this might be done as well.

    Thank you Wendy for continuing this topic.

    Julie

  33. Anna August 3, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Wow – feel like I was ring-side for a great (fairly friendly) debate as I read down through the comments! I've always been impressed by your ability to host a thoughtful discussion where genuinely differing points of view are represented. Well done!

    This respect/love juxtaposition has always frustrated me – mainly because I identify much more on the respect side. I'm someone who prefers to have my ideas respected than my feelings understood. (I mean, if I can have both… great!) But I can accept the idea that I may be in the minority.

    I currently live in the MidEast. In my observation, Paul's statements would be much more radical to men than to women in this context. Respect happens more “by default” than it seems to in the West, while love is not necessarily an expectation in a marriage. That could be one reason why the soap operas love to feature 2 married people who respect each other, moving towards romance.

    Of course, that prompts a discussion of what we mean when we use the words love and respect. Is love chocolate boxes, or providing for someone financially? Does respect look like an intelligent dialog between equals, or taking care to saying only positive things about your spouse in public? I imagine our context frames much more of this for us than we realize…

  34. K. Martin August 3, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    @ Wendy

    I really enjoy your blog and your writing. In many ways, I think your research has been profound and groundbreaking.

    When Paul talked about marriage in the NT, there are times when he referenced the relationship between Christ and the church. Other times, he referenced God and Old Testament law. “There is no fear of retribution in that relationship.” I gather that you are talking about our relationship with Christ. While the NT doesn't introduce or describe Christ as this figure that we should fear, the God of the OT is one to be feared. Trinity – God in three persons. In his teaching, Paul refers to all three at times: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    I'm reminded of the incident between Ananias and Sapphira. In their case, there should have been “fear of retribution.”

    At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great FEAR seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (Acts 5:10-11).

    This would indicate that there is and should be a certain amount of fear in our relationship with Christ. Someone might argue that they lied to the Holy Spirit and not Christ. The marriage relationship is symbolic of Christ's relationship with the church – not the Holy Spirit and the church. However, the Trinity is God in three persons. It's difficult to try and separate or differentiate one personality from the other because they are just ONE God. I said all that to say that “fear of retribution” is still relevant in the NT. At least it was for Ananias and Sapphira.

    No doubt, the English translators are more educated than me. However, the English translations of the Bible are different from the Hebrew and Greek. Unfortunately, the English translations don't do the Hebrew and Greek the justice they deserve. However, we can't all be proficient in Hebrew and Greek. We just glean what we can from the lexicon and concordance. With that being said, I believe the English translators chose the words reverence and respect rather than fear in a effort to “sanitize” the idea of respect and the imagery of the relationship between husband and wife.

  35. Wendy August 4, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    Julie, I haven't read far enough in Love and Respect to fully endorse it, but I did feel like it fleshed out some ways that this could look in a healthy relationship.

  36. Wendy August 4, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    I definitely think this only works with deeply Biblical definitions of love and respect. Respect has been hashed out here, but I always go to I Cor. 13 for love. Love is patient, kind, doesn't keep an account of wrongs suffered, is not rude, and so forth.

  37. Wendy August 4, 2013 at 12:15 am #

    Marilyn, from first hand personal experience, I think Real Marriage developed from much more serious issues than a misunderstanding of respect a la Love and Respect. However, I think you bring up a great point — basically that we need to read everything with discernment and prayerfully and wisely apply it in ways that are healthy and appropriate, not ways that feed already unhealthy issues in our heart.

  38. Wendy August 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Abril, you said, “The respect that I read about in most of these study books is more like obedience. The love I read about receiving is fluff; date nights and holding hands.” I think we are not reading the same books. Though I will say that few books from beginning to end are consistent in how they treat either of these words. Second, for some authors (be they husband or wife) their illustrations often represent how THEY receive things as love or respect, where you or I may perceive it as only condescension.

    If you had a boyfriend that expected you to be opinionless and to never disagree with them, then I think they have character issues that have nothing to do with Paul's instructions in Ephesians 5.

  39. Anonymous August 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm #

    I too would like to see this fleshed out in examples. It is not my experience that husbands generally are more inclined to respect their wives than vice versa. It would be helpful to hear examples of ways in which a wife ought to respect her husband that wouldn't also be expected of the husband toward his wife. I've loved reading all the responses here. Thanks!

  40. Anonymous August 5, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    Thank you for the great post and engaging discussion. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through the comments – virtual edification!

    Although I have not read Love & Respect, I have read a thoughtful Biblically interpretive review of the book. It does take a pretty critical stand on the book but seems to address some of the concerns mentioned in the comments. Here's the link if anyone is interested.

    http://www.hopeforlifeonline.com/2012/07/17/love-and-respect-biblical-or-deceptive/

  41. Wendy August 5, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    I don't have examples that wouldn't also be expected of the husband. I think that wording moves toward an extra biblical (saying more than the Bible says or requires) instruction. Instead, I think to myself, “how can I intentionally treat my husband with respect” (without consideration for whether or not he will do the same for me — in general, my husband is pretty accommodating and honoring of me as a person). One example I found helpful in Love and Respect was of a Drill Sergeant motivating those under his command by reminding them of what their character is in a positive way and what he had seen them accomplish before (do Drill Sergeant's really do that?!). That may sound like a weird example, but it hadn't occurred to me that a healthy way to express concern or criticism is to remind my spouse of the strength of character I've seen him display before–the things that he has done in the past that have truly earned my respect.

  42. Anonymous August 6, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    I am a Christian woman married to a Christian man. I met him a year after becoming a Christian, in medical school. The above is of interest to me because I believed it, and suffered 29 years of abuse because of it.

    My husband seemed fine before we married, though in retrospect there were red flags (but well hidden). His behavior after we married was very childish. But I wanted to be a godly wife. I thought he would mature and gain confidence if I loved, unquestioningly respected, and obeyed him, so I was patient, loving and supportive of his godly behaviors but honest with him when he hurt me. Apologies were not forthcoming. In obedience to him, we lived far, far, far below our means because of his penury. He put me on a strict allowance while we amassed a fortune in the bank (he did not give more than 10%). On vacations, we slept in a tent and WMCAs. He would ask me what I would like to do, and then ignore my suggestions. It was always about him. And I waited. And waited. And prayed a lot. And wondered what I was doing wrong, and would redouble my efforts to honor him.

    Whenever we fought (usually because my feelings were hurt), according to him it was always my fault. According to him, my life was good, and I certainly had nothing to complain about. And he loved me, he said. But he didn't act like it.

    We had children. Though we would discuss how to parent them, he didn't follow through, though we both believed it was critical for him to do so. As with me, he didn't hear them when they spoke. We were on our own. They were not as understanding as I was of his behaviors, and balked. I constantly asked them to treat him with respect, as was his due, and as they were commanded by the fourth commandment. And I did all the parenting while he did whatever interested him. And when they did not show him respect, he blamed it on me. Everything that went wrong was always my fault.

    Saying much more would bore most of you, so I'll try to be brief. Even while clinging to Scripture, I became depressed. I went into therapy to 'fix me'. Eventually I asked him to enter into marriage counseling. Three Christian counselors told him the same thing: he was emotionally abusive. He would not accept it. He thought he was a godly, nice guy. He didn't even see his penury as idolatrous. He saw it as virtuous.

    When I finally told him I felt suicidal, and I wanted to separate for a while, he said, “I would rather you were dead than that you leave me.” That was it for me. I was done honoring him.

    Once we separated, his abuse was increased a hundredfold. The police were no strangers to my house, where he would scream at me through locked doors. Once, my now grown son had to physically restrain him from choking me. He literally picked up my screaming husband and carried him out of the house, locking the door behind him. My husband called the police and told them I was threatening to kill my son, and he waited in the car until they came. They told me to take out a PFA.

    We didn't divorce because I don't believe in it. He eventually stopped harassing me. Although he would withhold support payments on whims, money was no problem, as we had amassed a significant cash fortune.

    My children have had to work hard at having a relationship with him. In counseling, he learned that he had a narcissistic personality disorder.

    I just want every man and woman reading this that I believe with all my heart that the complimentarian view of marriage is unbiblical and a set-up for abuse of the woman.

  43. Wendy August 6, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    Anonymous, I am so sorry to hear what you and your children experienced. From your description, it was clearly narcissistic personality disorder as you say. I imagine your husband subverted numerous Scriptural teachings to feed his self absorption. I strongly disagree with repudiating a doctrine because of how a mentally ill person misuses it.

  44. Anonymous August 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    Ah, but that's precisely the point: no one would have known my husband had a mental illness by his day to day behavior. He is “godly” in appearance, knows Scripture and theology, appears very kind and respectful. No one in his extended family or society thinks he has a mental illness, because his narcissism focuses itself on “I'm a nice guy”.

    Narcissism is much more common than one would think. They aren't all obnoxious, overbearing know-it-alls. I don't know what this doctrine looks like in a healthy home, but because all people are sinful, all can misapply it.

  45. Wendy August 6, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    I've seen a lot of men with narcissistic personality disorder run wild in Christian circles. I was just talking a few days ago with a friend who had his own interactions with a horrible man who masked it as good in similar ways. Little tyrants on their little thrones. I hope your husband (you are still married?) gets help from someone he trusts and acknowledges his sin and unhealthy mental processes that are harming those around him.

  46. Anonymous August 6, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    My husband has been in therapy for about five years. For most of those years, he denied he had any problem at all (he stayed in therapy to help him deal with my rejection of him (how could this happen to a nice guy?) He has come to see his behavior through other people's eyes as “unhealthy” (He has trouble admitting he has a personality disorder.) We have gotten back together again, but with my knowledge that he will never really understand 'love'. And I do not allow him to abuse me. My children are worried that they may have inherited a mental illness from him, but they are fine. They have just suffered so much.

    Thanks for hearing my story. It does help.

  47. Wendy August 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Thank you for sharing!

  48. Anonymous August 7, 2013 at 1:50 am #

    What is it with Christian men and Narcissistic Personality Disorder? My husband has this as well, yet he is widely regarded as a godly Christian man. I married him as a young Christian because I was so impressed with his “godliness”. Twenty-nine years later I am just beginning to understand what has been going on. I strongly urge singles to become very familiar with the traits of this personality disorder and run the other way if you encounter someone with it. I and many of my friends wish we had done so.

  49. Wendy August 7, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    All this talk is inspiring another blog post — NPD and the Christian Man. I think the big issue is that we often don't value the quiet gifts as God does. What woman in Big Star Christian Church or Godly Men Christian College notices the guy cleaning the bathroom or holding the crying baby in the children's ministry? No, we're attracted to the showmen over the humble, servant leader 90% of the time. I thank God daily for all the men at Christian college He kept me from that I had misguided desires for. The Big Men on Campus, we called them. But then a quiet kid fixed my computer one day, and I fell in love. Thank God!

  50. Anonymous August 7, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    I look forward to reading that blog post, and I am thankful that you found the real deal, Wendy. One of the things that impressed me about my future husband was that he helped take care of a quadriplegic lady without pay. You really do have to know the NPD traits well and have a substantive relationship with someone to know their real self vs the self they want you to see.

  51. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    I personally gave up reading Love and Respect half way through (although I intend to finish it one day), because in our marriage, the problem is my husband obviously loves me but shows me no respect. And without respect, love is meaningless whether it comes from a man or a woman.

    Like anonmous, I feel there is a unjustified distinction between men and women. Both men and women need both love and respect. When either person is missing one, there is an unhappy marriage.

    My husband doesn't mean to be disrespectful, but he is, and it hurts greatly. I always show respect for him, submit to him always, but it hurts when he disregards any opinion I have without consideration. Yes is he extremely intelligent (right into the genius range), but if we're talking about IQ, mine is higher, if we're talking about education, I have three university degrees to his one – none of which makes me a better person in any way at all (it wouldn't matter if he hadn't even finished school and had an IQ of 80 – that's not what determines the quality of a person – it's character that matter). But I am constantly hurt by his arrogance.

    For instance, he is a genius in his career field but my career is health, and it crushes me when I can see he blatantly has a medical problem and refuses to get it treated – not because he knows his own body better (which I could accept as some people know their bodies better than even the best specialist) but because according to him he is smarter than me and therefore automatically knows more about healthcare than me (despite my many years of experience and he has no experience or training in healthcare, not even as a hobby), and just puts me down as stupid and knowing nothing.

    He is a great guy otherwise, but his one great weakness is arrogance – and hey, I'm not condemning him. I can be prone to arrogance too, just not to the point of putting down others like he does.

    I am really struggling at the moment because we are having a serious marriage problem due to his untreated medical problem and it is not something I can ignore. If it was just the physical side of marriage it was destroying, I could sacrifice my needs in that area, but it's his health too. I don't want him dead or very ill by the time he's 40.

    It crushes me that he doesn't respect my intelligence, he doesn't respect my hard work in my career field to get educated and knowledgable, he doesn't respect my years of experience, he doesn't respect my need to have a physical relations in our marriage, and he can't respect my deep concern for the serious consequences of leaving this health condition untreated. He just doesn't respect me at all.

    If he said to me “I've looked into this and I've decided it's my body and I don't want to get it treated”, I'd happily to submit to his decision. But simply dismissing me as “you're stupid and have no clue what you're talking about” crushes me.

    I know he loves me but he has no respect for my opinions, my knowledge, and more importantly, no respect for my genuine needs.

    An author can artificially divide it into love and respect but it's a false dichotomy.

  52. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

    My experience in christian circles has been the opposite. Women who have grown up in churches are raised with the concept of submitting to their husbands, and men who have grown up in churches are taught to respect their wives. Hence a lot of the marriage problems I have seen in couples who have grown up in churches is that the men love their wives but little respect for them because they know their wives will generally submit in silence. On the other hand, women struggle with the opposite – they have been raised to always submit (often in an unhealthy way) so they always show great respect for their husbands, but become so hurt by the lack of respect their husbands have for them, that even though they respect their husbands, they can grow to lose love for them.

    My struggle right now is I can't even voice an opinion on anything just for the slim possibility hubby has a different opinion in which case he imputes malice to me having a different opinion to him (even when I didn't know his opinion was different, especially when I thought he actually shared my opinion) and he instantly dismisses my opinion as stupid and uninformed without allowing me to even explain fully what my opinion is.

    Usually he'll come back hours later and let me explain, and usually he'll realise that either 1. our opinions aren't different, he just misunderstood what I was saying or 2. they are different but that it's ok to have different likes and dislikes or 3. they are different but my opinion was thought out better and is actually better for not only us, but especially for him.

    We've had to get marriage counselling on this issue, particularly over a financial decision I suggested (didn't push at all), that he acted like he agreed with it. I don't have a lot of gifts, but finances is one I do have. I thought he liked my idea because it saved us tens of thousands of dollars when we're struggling to make ends meet. I had no idea he hated my idea, until after it was already done and he constantly got bitter every time something reminded him of it.

    It wasn't until several counselling sessions later, that he admitted he hated my idea, that he didn't want to do it, he hated me voicing an opinion on our finances, that he saw my idea as somehow disagreeing with his opinion of how our finances should be run (even though he had never mentioned any plans for our finances) and therefore I was somehow “attacking” him for having an idea that he hadn't thought of. And what made it worse is after some discussion he admitted it was a good idea, and to be honest, when he eventually came clean about our bad our financial situation was a few months later, there is a good chance we'd have lost our home if I hadn't made the suggestion I did.

    But that's the problem in our marriage – my husband sees me offering an idea, even a great idea, that he hadn't thought of, as somehow disagreeing with him, and attacking him and wherever he can, he dismisses it outright, even if all of us (include our kids) suffer as a consequences, except in very rare cases where he knows it's the only option, such as the financial decision that could have cost us our home if he'd ignored it.

    I don't know how to deal with it anymore as I'm tired of being treated like I'm stupid, uneducated and that my opinion is worthless. I know he loves me, but he wants a wife who is arm candy, not someone who is helpmeet.

  53. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    “Only a (fortunate) minority will agree that their wives like them, and this is because of the way their wives treat them on a day to day basis. The conduct that causes most husbands to doubt that their wives like them is generally in the disrespectful category — criticism, argumentativeness, eye-rolling, contrariness, taking control, etc. — generally communicating that she knows better and he doesn't do it right.”

    I would beg to differ in your interpretation. First up, most guys seem to think their wives DO like them, even when if you ask their wives, the wives will admit that even though they love their husbands AND respect them, they really don't like their husbands.

    But secondly, I would say most guys who do know their wives don't like them, it is not because of what the wife does but rather what the husband does, and the husband, when he is being honest, knows this. Rather it is the husband constantly using behaviour generally in the disrespectful category — criticism, argumentativeness, eye-rolling, contrariness, being controlling, etc. — generally communicating that he knows better and she doesn't do it right, and that even the most loving, respectful suggestion by his wife is unwanted and that she should just shut her mouth and not have an opinion ever.

    It goes both ways – I have seen some really destructive wives, and some really destructive husbands. It doesn't matter who is being arrogant and disrespectful, both men and women can do it to their spouse and either way it destroys the person copping it and destroys the marriage. It's not just something women do to men – disrespect can and does occur by both men and women.

  54. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    I think it depends on the church you grow up in. Most of the churches around me constantly teach that women need to both love and respect their husbands, especially to respect, but only a little is taught on men loving their wives and nothing at all is taught about men respecting their wives – the only respect men are taught is to not sexually pursue a woman before they are married. There is zero taught on respecting a woman in any other way, whereas woman are constantly being taught to respect their husbands, to the point where they are basically taught to be doormats, even when their husbands are sinning, and even when their husbands are abusive.

    I'll definitely hunt down the DVD series as I am very curious, but I still think the huge gap in teaching in churches isn't teaching women to respect their husbands but rather of teaching men to respect their wives, that submission doesn't mean their wife is a doormat who should only ever be seen and not heard and that she is not allowed to have an opinion – rather submission means following him, and treating his respectfully, but that he needs to respect his wife is a human being too and has valid thoughts and opinions, and even though she should defer to her husband, it doesn't mean she can't have different thoughts and opinions.

  55. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

    I think the problem I have is the terms “love and respect” aren't the way I'd interpret the bible passages being used. Women are told to submit to their husbands, and men to love their wives like Jesus loves the church. Submission is not the same as respect. Nor is loving like Jesus not inclusive of “respect”. Submission requires both love and respect, and loving like Jesus requires both love and respect.

    I understand where the author of Love and Respect is coming from and a lot of his advice is fantastic advice, don't get me wrong on that, I just think focussing on splitting up “love” and “respect” is a misinterpretation of the bible passages it is based on.

  56. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Marilyn I can't say I've read Driscoll's book, so I can't comment on anything about it (although I am curious to read it now), but I do agree totally with everything you've written about the book Love and Respect. The issues you raised are the exact issues I had with it, but much more well written than I could have written at 3am and falling asleep.

  57. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

    Wendy that is exactly what I struggle with my husband. As soon as we got married, he expected me to be opinionless, and that having a difference of opinion (even when I was simply sharing my opinion to encourage him to share his opinion with me and had really thought he would agree with myh opinion) is somehow an “argument” and to avoided at all costs – usually him shutting me down and refusing to let me talk.

    He wasn't list this before we were married. He does have a streak of arrogance (and perhaps it is because he is genuinely more intelligent and educated than most people so when he says he knows more/better, with most people he generally correct), but before we were married, he always put me in the “just as smart as him” category and praised me as having a mind equal to him that he could talk about things like theology and politics and other things about. But after we got married, all of a sudden he started treated me like I knew nothing and didn't want to hear my opinion on anything unless it was 100% match for his.

    I'm so lost as to what to do.

  58. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Anonymous, please reassure your children that narcissism is not a genetic mental illness. It can run in families, but it is from nurture rather than nature (ie the environment they are exposed to rather than anything genetic).

    Sadly it is common for children of abusers to either end up abusers themselves, or to marry abusers and repeat the victimisation cycle. But it sounds like you have a good relationship with your children and you have taught them to be emotionally healthy people, and the fact that they worry is a sign that they care about what type of people they are.

    Please reassure them that they'll be fine. *hugs*

  59. Amber I August 17, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

    Wendy that is something I've always wondered about the majority of women. I've always been attracted to the quiet, nice guys, and completely put off by the BMOC types. Yet most women are attracted to the BMOC type. Why? I don't get it. It's the same as why so many women choose “bad boys” over nice guys. To me that seems illogical, but so many women do it.