Even though men and women are equal in the eyes of God, Scripture is clear that God has charged men with being the family’s spiritual leader (1 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Peter 3:1; Ephesians 5:22). I have found among most wives who follow Christ that not only do they not resist this biblical mandate but they actually hold a deep desire for their husbands to be the spiritual leader.
If you have attended or heard a Love and Respect Marriage Conference or read any of the books, more than likely you will recall some of my favorite terms, analogies, and acronyms, such as: Pink and Blue, C.O.U.P.L.E., C.H.A.I.R.S., the Crazy Cycle, the Energizing Cycle, and the Rewarded Cycle. While it certainly always brings a smile to my face to hear from readers and others that they, even many years later, still talk about “needing to get off the Crazy Cycle” or “their pink hearing aids didn’t hear what their blue husband was really saying,” what I most hope that people will remember is how all of this should be used to point them to Jesus. Let me explain.
Walk into any football stadium or sports bar on game day and you will find a sea of fans decked out in matching gear excited to cheer on their team that they have loved since birth. As long as their team is getting the first downs and touchdowns, these fans are ecstatic in their show of support.
But when things don’t go so well with their team . . . well, from the sound of their groans and the choice words coming from their mouths describing their so-called favorite teams, you may have a hard time believing that they love their team like they do. But in fact, no matter how bad it may get this week, they’ll be right back next week cheering them on again.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, the apostle Paul reminded the church in Thessalonica, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (5:18). This is one of four times in which Scripture clearly tells us what the will of God is. I call these the four universal wills of God, and I have written about them extensively in my book, The Four Wills of God, and how our following these four universal wills of God can lead to learning His unique will for us in our individual lives.
A wife longs for her husband to hear her heart. She becomes insecure when he does not. What can she do?
Given your husband has goodwill and wants to do God’s will, I suggest looking in four areas and trying to “H.E.A.R.” your husband.
H: Honor his desire to honor God. If there is any positive thing you see in his walk with God, say, “I want to honor your desire to honor God. I have noticed how you _____.” Fill in the blank. While most likely there are things you wish he did in his walk with God that he isn’t currently doing, don’t go there. This exercise is about addressing the positive—how you see your husband honoring God—because it is true, honorable, and right.
Can a wife be guilty of helping her husband too much? At first glance, that may sound preposterous, right? I mean, of all the burdensome things a wife deals with during the day in managing her home and feeding her marriage, do we really have to add “don’t help husband too much” to her list?
The events of Genesis 2 speak to this, actually. Take another look at these verses that you are probably more than familiar with already:
- God created man: “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (v. 7).
- God put man to work: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it” (v. 15).
- God recognized that man needed help: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him’” (v. 18).
- God created the animals, but none were what man needed: “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, . . . but for Adam there was not a helper suitable for him” (vv. 19, 20).
- Then in verses 21–23 we are given the creation of Eve out of Adam’s rib in order to be the perfect helper for him.
Did you catch that? Eve was created to be a “helper” for Adam in his work, not to do his work for him. So yes, if by “helping her husband too much” we mean she does it all, to the point in which he feels he is no longer contributing anything, though her heart is no doubt in the right place as she tries to love and serve her husband the best she knows how, she indeed can be guilty of helping her husband too much.
In a previous article, I wrote about some of the disheartening times when Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired words on sexual intimacy in 1 Corinthians 7 were spun so as to justify one-sided coercion rather than mutual consent.
Unfortunately, throughout history many husbands have taken a one-sided position to 1 Corinthians 7:4 and demanded fulfillment of their male conjugal rights. This is clearly contrary to Abba Father’s revelation to husbands and wives and ignores the second half of 1 Corinthians 7:4.
Equally depressing on the other end of the spectrum, are those husbands depriving their wives of sexual intimacy. How many wives have cried themselves to sleep at night as they repeatedly asked themselves, “What’s wrong with me? Why does he not want me? Why does he reject me?”
These unfortunate applications of 1 Corinthians 7 raise an important question. Is the message of 1 Corinthians 7 to be blamed for the abuse that some men have taken part in? Or, are the people who misapply 1 Corinthians 7 the abusive ones?
It is dangerous to suggest Scripture itself is to blame. Yet, there are those who have accused the Apostle Paul of being a misogynist. Others blame the Pastor who preaches on this text, wrongly accusing him of being one-sided even when he has preached accurately from 1 Corinthians 7 on mutual sexual needs and equal authority regarding sexual intimacy. In these situations, the problem is with the reader and listener, not with the message or the messenger who is “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
We as listeners, can be guilty of “selective listening:” only hearing part of the message, closing our ears and hearts to the part we fear. And, because one message, one blog or one book does not cover fully every detail in a single writing or message, does not mean the author fails to teach the truth. To ignore the entirety of the author’s teaching, within context, is damaging and deceitful.
In the near future, I will be going deeper on the topic of sex in marriage for all of our Love and Respect friends.
The title? Love and Respect (and Sex): Coming Together as Husband and Wife.
Interested in learning more? Would you like to add your stories to the content? Read on, and I’ll show you how.
For over forty years as a pastor-teacher and pastoral counselor, I have exposited 1 Corinthians 7:3–5 with great excitement. In that passage are nuggets of gold for husbands and wives concerning human sexuality. There we learn four beautiful truths that all married believers need to believe, prize, and follow. God calls husbands and wives to honor their:
- mutual sexual needs
- equal sexual responsibilities
- equal sexual say
- mutual sexual agreement
One, each of us in marriage must value and validate the way God designed the other with sexual desires, needs, and vulnerabilities (1 Corinthians 7:1–2).
Two, each of us must fulfill our God-given responsibility to meet the other’s sexual need as a reflection of our general concern and devotion to please the other as God calls us to do each day (1 Corinthians 7:3, 33, 34).
Three, we have equal sexual authority given to us by God and have both the right to request more sexual intimacy and the right to ask less, with neither being wrong, just different (1 Corinthians 7:4).
Four, because we have equal say and equal responsibility in meeting mutual sexual needs that differ, God intends for us to find a win-win agreement (7:5).
For this reason, based on Ephesians 5:33, I teach that husbands are to love their wives so much that they seek to respect these mutual sexual needs, equal sexual responsibilities, and equal sexual say, and then find a mutual sexual agreement about sexual intimacy. The same applies to the wife. She is to respect her husband’s inner heart, based on Ephesians 5:33, which means loving him so much that she too recognizes their mutual sexual needs, equal sexual responsibilities, and equal say in order to find mutual sexual agreement.
Thank you Connie Cavanaugh for sharing your experience at a Love and Respect conference.
In the weeks leading up to the Love and Respect marriage conference at church last week, the women were excited, but the men were tentative. Women buzzed around the registration table, eager to sign up, hoping we’d get our money’s worth once our husbands heard all the things they were doing wrong, smartened up, and became more like us. We had been to marriage conferences before and, typically, it was the men who needed to do most of the changing. I was smugly convinced this was going to be more of the same.
Boy was I in for a big surprise.
The conference facilitators were Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. I had seen their video clips and had already picked up on Emerson’s humor as a speaker. I was pretty sure Emerson would disarm us with laughter, and then he’d swoop in for the kill—arrows straight to the heart. Oh I wasn’t worried about my heart. I was woman. Hear me roar.
Based on scripture’s command in Ephesians 5:33 for the husband to love his wife and for the wife to respect her husband, Sarah and I have found two challenges.
One, to follow this command unconditionally means we are to love and respect each other even during our male and female differences.
Two, not only are we to love each other when these male and female differences between us are highlighted, but we are to also love and respect these male and female differences themselves as part of God’s beautiful design. I would like for you to comment on this from your own experience. But let me provide a fuller explanation.
As for the first challenge, if you are like Sarah and me, who have been married since 1973, you don’t always recognize the male and female difference at the moment of conflict. For example, according to a wealth of research, generally speaking a wife and mother is more risk-averse than the husband and father. Specifically when it comes to the children, a woman would rather be safe than sorry. Thus, she informs her husband that the dirt-bike ramp he is building for their son isn’t a good idea. Of course, this husband’s first impulse is to feel she is saying, “You are putting our son in harm’s way. You are a bad dad. You are wrong.”
This leads him to become defensive. Because he is not recognizing that his wife’s fear stems not out of disrespect for him but out of a motherly protective love for their son, his first impulse is not, “Oh, how can I be a loving and respectful husband as my wife tells me I don’t care about the safety of my son?”
Have you ever told someone the oft-used phrase that “two wrongs don’t make a right”? If you have kids you no doubt have. When big brother pushes little sister and she charges at him in response, knocking him over backward, both get in trouble with mom and dad because “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
And it’s true: Never in the history of sibling rivalries, sports, war, politics, or any other area have conflicts been appropriately resolved after the initial victim retaliated with his or her own dose of medicine.
Yet in marriage we attempt to right wrongs with additional wrongs all the time.
And it never works. Ever.
In Ephesians 5:33, God’s Word commands husbands that “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Notice the double usage of the word must, and the complete absence of the word if. . . as in “if he loves you first,” or “if he is respectable,” or “if she respects you first,” or “if she is lovable.”
In my writings and conferences on Love and Respect, I like to use the analogy that men and women are as different as pink is from blue. Women look at the world through pink sunglasses, hear through pink hearing aids, and speak through a pink megaphone; while men do it all with blue.
Which basically means a man and a woman can hear the exact same sentence and interpret it in completely different ways, or even say the exact same thing but mean completely different things with their words.
For example, when a pink woman says she has nothing to wear, she means she has nothing new to wear. But when her husband says he has nothing to wear, he means he has nothing clean to wear. “I have nothing to wear”—the same five words, yet with two completely different meanings. As different as pink is from blue.
And these differences are okay! As I like to also say, they’re not wrong, just different. Because in Genesis, the Scriptures say that God created us “male and female” (5:2), not as one unisex being with little to no differences.
One of the questions I hear the most is some variation of, “Are you telling me I have to unconditionally respect my husband’s bad behavior and become a door mat? Everyone knows respect must be earned!”
Interestingly, in our culture we don’t have a problem understanding unconditional love… in fact, we see unconditional love as the right of every human being. Imagine expecting our children to “earn” our love! We would disapprove of such parenting. Most of us have no problem separating the person from their behavior when it comes to love. Love the person, hate the sin. Right?
But mention unconditional respect and some women go through the roof! Immediately, visions of weak, dependent women flood their minds – along with the inevitable label – DOOR MAT. Or, they must enter the room with a cheerleading outfit on, waving their pompoms in worshipful adoration of their husbands who are watching Sports Center.
So is this what Christ had in mind for married women? Not at all! Let’s take a look at what the Word of God has to say about unconditional respect.
If there were ever an issue that isn’t really the issue, it is sex. But boy can it become an issue, can’t it? And yet, it’s rarely, if ever, the issue. Allow me to explain.
Sex is a shared act, between husband and wife, as an expression of love to each other. God created sex not only as the means for multiplication but as a gift of pleasure to enjoy within the boundaries of marriage. Sex was meant to be a wonderful experience for both husband and wife.
And yet, as I explain in Love & Respect, sexuality does not show up in C.O.U.P.L.E., the six ways a husband shows love to his wife: Closeness, Openness, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyalty, and Esteem. All of those expressions of love certainly can result in sexual intimacy, but for her they do not have to. She most desires from her husband his emotional closeness, his honest openness, his willingness to simply listen and understand her . . . and so forth. But sex isn’t on the list of her deepest needs from her husband. Having said this, when a husband acts on C.O.U.P.L.E. in an authentic way, a wife desires sex with him! To arouse her sexually, his focus must not be sexual, if you get what I mean.
A wife emails, “We began to have our usual discussion about his mom when the subject of priorities came up. This time it was linked to how each of us prioritized life. In short, he prioritizes on a scale of several things: task at hand, commitments, immediacy or emergency, etc. I prioritize based on relationships: a pecking order or hierarchy. This seemed odd to him, as his way seemed odd to me. But the more we talked, the more I thought this might be an instance of “pink” versus “blue”—neither one is wrong, just different.”
She then asks, “How does each one prioritize things/relationships in life, and how do each work within that structure, if you will? And how do those views affect the marriage relationship?”