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.