A man writes to me:
I wanted to share with you the note I just sent my mom, sending her links to your most recent book, Mother and Son: The Respect Effect. She raised three boys, all of whom are walking with God, raising godly families, and making a big difference for the Kingdom. Her legacy is amazing….
This is far too rare of a note to say “Thank you” for all you did to invest in your sons.
One thing you did very well over the years, is you offered your ongoing gift of RESPECT to your three boys.
I know for me, I always had the sense that “you believed in me.” You allowed me to grow at the right time. You gave me freedoms that other moms would have never considered. The more you trusted and respected me, the further I was able to fly.
Some husbands watch the drama and emotional craziness in their wives and label their wives insane.
But is his wife truly insane, an emotional and unpredictable whirlwind who has become a headache to live with, or could it be that the wife who loves him more than life itself is merely reacting out of pain to circumstances that cause her heart to yearn for the love and marriage that once was?
For instance, he pays no attention to the fact that he’s on the road 280 days a year for his job. Because of this, he has neglected her emotionally. She feels disconnected from his heart, and very isolated and alone. So, when he tells her unexpectedly he must leave on business tomorrow, she goes nuts.
Many couples seem to spend most of their time on the Crazy Cycle, which is summed up like this:
Without love she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love.
Years ago as I reflected on God’s clear command (which is not a suggestion that we can take or leave) in Ephesians 5:33, I unearthed what I came to call the ‘Love and Respect Connection.’
In that verse, I am commanded as a husband to love Sarah. Why? I assume because she needs my love. In fact, she speaks love as her mother-tongue. Love is the language she understands.
In fact, she is continually saying to family and friends, “Love you!” But when I speak to her in unloving ways, appearing harsh, angry, or insensitive, this crushes her spirit and she deflates. At that juncture, she defensively reacts in ways that sound disrespectful to me. We jump on the Crazy Cycle and spin!
Emerson writes, “Husbands tell us they have learned what can happen when they use loving words to communicate with wives, and wives tell us they have been astounded at the difference it makes when they use respectful words to communicate with their husbands.”
I often challenge couples by saying, “The mature one goes first.”
It is much easier to sit back and say, “Well Emerson, I would be more loving if my wife was more respectful!” Or, “Why should I show my husband respect when he is treating me in an unloving way?”
Of course it is easier to be obedient to God in our marriage when our husband or wife is also being obedient. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
So who goes first?
My answer: the mature one.
The Bible says, “The tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Loving and respectful words not only have the power to create healthy communication but also to bring healing to the marriage.
A wife says, “I start with an apology for my lack of respect.” Men, share why this apology for being disrespectful can heal the heart of a husband.
A husband says, “I am beginning to see how what I say and how I say it can feel hurtful to her.” Women, share why this husband’s willingness to speak loving words can bring healing to her heart.
In a survey conducted by Focus on the Family for the Love and Respect Ministries, respondents were asked, “What was (and possibly still is) the biggest problem affecting your marriage?” For men and women the biggest problem by far was lack of good communication.
Why do you think communication problems in marriage surface as such a gigantic problem?
In your opinion, what is the number one thing a couple should do to improve communication?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!