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?”
Let’s say you and your spouse were faced with an unexpected expenditure that needed to be paid, like a $5,000 car expense due to a major problem with the engine.
This expense overwhelmed and shocked both of you, becoming a problem you had to deal with together, as the two of you decided long ago that decisions on major expenses would best be handled together.
Finding $5,000 to fix the car would mean rearranging some assets, almost like you had to rob Peter to pay Paul. For instance, one obvious possible solution would be to take $5,000 from a savings account that you had established to pay for Christian schooling the following year when your daughter would excitedly enter first grade. But using this money to pay for the unexpected car expenses would put Christian schooling in jeopardy.
As a conscientious and responsible husband and wife with goodwill, how would you initially come at this problem you both had?