Hubby and I recently celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary! I thank God for my journey beyond the aisle, I've grown so much, learnt a lot, matured a lot and gained wisdom in the past four years. And I'm still learning something everyday. I'm so full of joy and I'm looking forward to spending the rest of my life with hubby cos it's shaping up to be a great adventure! (The beauty of walking with God is that He is present in every area of your life, so you can be sure He will guide you in every step of the way).
Okay, on to the topic of today: RESPECT. For our anniversary present, my sister gave us this book: Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs and told us it was highly recommended reading for married couples. So a few days later, I thought I should glance through it to see if it was any good. And wow! Before I knew it I had read the whole book from cover to cover. And I can definitely say that it opened my eyes in a way that I hadn't imagined before.
Basically the book is based on the premise of this scripture in Ephesians 5 v 22 - 33 where Paul was talking to married couples in the church. The main focus is on verse 33 where Paul said: "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." The author talks about why Paul had to ask husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. Shouldn't love and respect come naturally to us? The answer is: not really. Let's face it, it's quite easy to take someone for granted and stop appreciating them when they are no longer new to you. Soon, a crazy cycle develops in the relationship where wives don't feel loved, so they stop respecting their husbands, and husbands don't feel respected so they stop showing their wives love! This vicious cycle goes on and on until someone consciously breaks the cycle by stepping up and deciding to sow what the other person really needs.
The major eye-opener for me in the book was how much men desire respect from their wives. I remember during our marriage prep classes, I was told over and over again, the importance of respect and submission. Even on our wedding day, the preacher mentioned it again that respect way the way to get my husband to love me more. But somehow it didn't really click to me how and why respect was such a big deal to men. I used to wonder why, how come when the guy was toasting me back in the day, respect was not an issue, but once we get married it becomes an important ingredient. Now I know it's much more important to men than it is to women.
According to the book, men derive their sense of value from how much people (especially their spouse) shows them respect. Showing a man respect conveys the message that you cherish him, value him, honour him and esteem him above everything else. Paul gave that command to the church because women need love from their husbands just as much as men need respect from their wives. When a woman receives love from her husband, she is happy and she will do anything to please him. In the same way, when a man receives respect from his wife, he is happy and he will do anything to please her. And it flows in a circle, if a woman respects her husband unconditionally, her husband will love her too unconditionally. Note that Paul did not command women to love their husbands. He knew that it is easy for a woman to love a man, but it is a lot harder to show him respect. In fact, a woman can be so loving to her husband, that she does not realise she is being disrespectful to him!
That's all well and good, in theory. In reality, things can be a bit more complicated. I think there is a basic fear in me (and most wives) that men might take advantage of this principle of submission and respect. We worry: if I submit and respect this man unconditionally, will he not abuse that power? If he knows that I will not argue with him, will he not see that as an opportunity to bully me? Will he not start looking down on me? Can I completely trust him to make wise decisions if I allow him to always have the final say? Will I not lose some of my personality and turn into a weakling who doesn't have a mind of her own? And by the way nowadays is there not a notion of 50-50 and we are both equal before God? The bible and some chapters of the book provided my answers. In a Christian marriage wives are called to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord, trusting God to guide the man to lead wisely. And men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Men have a far greater responsibility to provide, protect and even die for their wives if need be. Wives just have to submit to their headship and respect them in return. If wives can take the first step of submitting, we can win over our husbands without a struggle. You can get what you want (love) by giving him what he wants (respect).
As I read, I thought to myself a few times: have I been unknowingly disrespectful to hubby? I would have rated myself as quite a respectful wife because I don't think I'm rude to anybody, talk less of my husband. I recognise him as the head of our home, even though we don't always agree on everything. So how can I be even more respectful? Perhaps I just wasn't showing it enough? Thankfully there were illustrations in the book that I could relate to and adapt. For example, I could be unaware that my facial expressions and tone of voice when I'm talking to him is disrespectful, even when I don't mean to be. I can be dismissive of his requests and opinions sometimes, and if he doesn't complain, I don't take them seriously. I can choose to ignore his advice and do things my own way, but expect him to bail me out when I get into trouble. Perhaps I'm too quick to judge when he does something I feel is out of line. Or I can be well-meaning in my quest to correct him when we disagree, but it comes across as harsh criticism, etc etc. (There are many more subtle or subconscious ways women disrespect their husbands but these are some I recognised in myself).
By the time I finished reading the book, I thought it was very eye-opening and I was inclined to try out some of the advice in it, but I was still not too sure if it was true how men felt about respect. So I decided to ask a friend of mine some questions. He is the most laid-back guy I know, who would never try to bully his partner. So I figured that if the respect thing works for him, then it could work for every guy. I told him about the book I had just read and asked him if it was true that men desired respect a lot more than love. Surprisingly he said yes! He explained that most men feel that they he can get love from almost any woman if they say and do the right things she wants. But a man knows that not every woman can respect him, so he is particularly drawn to the woman who shows him the most respect. (I was quite shocked at this, to be honest!). I also asked him if a man had to choose between love and respect, which one would he go for: and he said he would definitely choose respect all the way. It doesn't mean love is not important to a man, but men tend to take a woman's love for granted once they are married (cos after all, she must have loved him to agree to marry him), but he cannot take respect for granted.
After that interesting conversation, I decided to take the plunge and go the extra mile to show my husband respect. I figured, I didn't have anything to lose - if it works, great and if it doesn't, I will discard the book, no harm done. So I took on one of the recommended steps for wives in the book, which is - ask yourself before you take any action: is what I'm about to say or do going to come across as disrespectful to my husband?
I tried this for three weeks and I was thrilled at the results! Will continue this gist in my next post.
PS: I would like to ask any guys reading this post to please add their views and comments. Is respect really at the top of the list of what men want?