Wednesday, December 9, 2009

...Respect

Respect Image by amee@work via Flickr

To sum up, each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:33 (HCSB)

It is a sad thing when a wife begins down the road of contempt and dishonor toward her husband.  In some ways husbands are unworthy of respect when we act in hurtful ways.  However in the same way that I would tell a husband to love his wife even when she is acting in an unworthy manner I would also tell a wife to respect and honor her husband even when he is acting in an unworthy matter.  This will no doubt cause some to bristle at the thought.  However consider this, if I were to say to the husband "Shape up and maybe she will start treating you with more respect."  I would (in order to be consistent) say to the wife "Shape up and maybe he will start loving you." 

Love and Respect are two essential elements in a healthy marriage relationship.  If both or either are in short supply then the relationship will not be mutually satisfying or rewarding.  Generally speaking women struggle in the relationship to show respect.  Just as men generally struggle with showing love.  A husband may have no doubt that his wife loves him, but there may be times when he seriously doubts whether she likes him.  This is a dangerous place for a marriage.  Without honor in the marriage a husband will look to other places to get this need met.  For many men this is found in career at the expense of the family.  Worse yet some men will be drawn to a kind word or attention from another woman leading to false intimacy.  This is not to excuse unfaithfulness on the part of a man.  Unfaithfulness is a sin that the unfaithful bears the guilt for.  However why put your spouse at risk by neglecting the very thing he needs. 

Interestingly most men will stay in an unloving marriage if he believes that his spouse respects him.  The reverse is also true.  Women will stay in a disrespectful marriage (sometimes to extreme) if she believes that her husband loves her. 

So what is involved in honoring your husband?

Submission is an ugly word in our culture.  We do not like it one bit.  Yet submission is what is needed (commanded really) in the marriage relationship.  For the most part there should be mutual agreement in matters otherwise the marriage would be unhealthy in my estimation.  However in the areas of disagreement there needs to be a person that makes the decision (and bears the responsibility for the outcome).  This willingness to put cooperation ahead of personal opinions is vital to a husband feeling connected to his wife.  It is the way that God designed men and women to live together. 

In our modern culture men have been told that this part of them is wrong and evil.  It is a part of a misogynistic past that served to keep women oppressed for millennia.  In some respects this concept has been abused by male privilege to keep women from pursuing their dreams and potential.  If submission is used by men to keep their wives under his control then I would suggest that this is a subtle form of spiritual abuse (more on this in a future post).  On the other hand if submission is used by women to honor and build up their husbands it becomes a tool of blessing for their marriage. 

Men have a deep need for a since of accomplishment and esteem.  God designed women to meet this need in the same manner that God created men to meet a woman's need for compassion and understanding.  Sometimes it seems that this is childish to say that men need to be told "good job" to feel good about themselves, but unless you think that is a selfish attitude consider this:

His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master's joy!'
Matthew 25:21 (HCSB)

These words resonate in the soul of a man.  To hear someone say "Well done" touches a man's heart like no other statement in my mind.  Honoring your husband in this way will give him a boost that will result in a return back to you in ways that you cannot imagine. 

Men also like to fix things.  We tend to look at problems with a desire to resolve them more than understand them.  We will start a project without having a clear idea of the end, but with the knowledge that we can make adjustments along the way.  This is a source of great frustration for women who desire to have a deep understanding before taking the first or the next step.  Recognizing this difference in men and women if a wife calls upon her husband to fix something, follows successes with recognition, and responds to mistakes or failures with support (not criticism) it is very energizing to a man. 

Men also like activities that are side by side.  This is another way that men and women are different.  A man will enjoy and feel close with his wife if they are able to go to some activity together (sporting event, movie, etc); on the other hand a woman may enjoy the activity, but not feel close unless there is a face to face conversation at some point.  Men don't need to have a deep conversation to feel close to their wives. 

Communication is not men's strong point.  Conversation is actually terrifying to most men.   We are good at faking it when we our trying to find our future mate, but when the real intimate conversation starts (ie with the feelings of infatuation wear off and we have to share our deepest feelings) we are terrified of talking.  Some men are better at communicating about feelings and intimate subjects than others, but the reality is that we are always feeling inadequate in respect to your superior skill in the area of communication.  

Sex is another area that men often feel inadequate.  When we experience shame in this area it shuts us down emotionally.  It is a catch 22 for most men in that they cannot overcome this feeling of inadequacy without talking, but talking  serves to remind them of how inadequate they feel.  This can play itself out in many ways some healthy and some destructive.  We can have the greatest sexual intimacy if we believe that our wives desire us and respond positively to advances.   Also when problems come up we respond better if there is a response of support and encouragement over defensiveness, shame, or blame.   Men will avoid sex all together (which is saying something) if they believe it will lead to feeling inadequate. 

To sum it up then honoring your husband will be the spark that your marriage needs.  It will engage your man in a deep level and will motivate him to love you in greater and more intimate ways.  May God Bless You!