By far, one of the most rewarding aspects of being a part of Love and Respect is hearing from others about their relationships. Whether it is in person, at a conference or in an e-mail exchange, it is always a blessing to learn how others are trying to strengthen their marriage and work through tough issues that unfortunately many in this world simply allow to divide them further from their spouse.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do you believe that if you have natural talents and passions in a specific area then your development of that gifting and pursuits of that interest should be a piece of cake?
Or, do you believe that even though you have God-given abilities and deep-seated curiosities, you must exert time and effort because it won’t all be easy street?
For example, Michael Phelps and LeBron James had within their DNA, traits the rest of us envy. Are these superstars world renowned because what they did was a piece of cake for them, as a result of their God-given abilities? Or, though genetically they might be considered freaks of nature, did they work hard at developing their talents?
Put another way, could there be dozens of Michael Phelpses and LeBron Jameses out there (freaks of nature), with a similar genetic makeup, but they crawled out of the pool never to return or left the gym for good because it demanded too much work?
Many people have the mindset that if you are a science geek then doing science will be easy. Others believe that if you have natural talent as an artist, then painting will be a breeze. For the naturally gifted, according to many, there will be no obstacles or exhaustion when they set out to develop what God has already given them a propensity for.
I once stayed in the home of Bernhard Langer, two-time winner of the Masters, one of the PGA Tour’s four major tournaments. As a result of the positive effect my Love and Respect ministry had on their marriage, he and his wife, Vikki, asked me to spend several days at their home, and during that time, he shared his personal story with me.
In 1985 when he won the Masters for the first time at Augusta, Georgia, the announcers ushered him into the infamous cabin where one of them asked him, “Did you look at the leaderboard?” Bernhard replied, “I was trying not to look, but I saw it for the first time at the ninth; and I thought, ‘Jesus Christ, I am playing well, and I am four shots behind!’”
Using the Lord’s name in vain prompted hundreds of people to write him letters complaining to him about such language. At that time, he had no idea what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. To him using Christ’s name was a mere expression, not a curse. Though he considered himself a believer, because he was raised in church and had served as an altar boy, he admits he didn’t understand the message of the New Testament.
Years ago, the topic of Love and Respect and all it has led to stemmed from this one question to 7,000 people: When you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved at that moment or disrespected? In response, 83 percent of the men said they feel disrespected and 72 percent of the women said they feel unloved.
However, I am always quick to point out two caveats regarding these statistics. One, we are always talking about a bell curve here. Certainly, every man and woman is different and do not necessarily respond to conflict in the exact same ways. Two, both men and women need love and respect equally.
Despite what the numbers overwhelmingly say about the felt needs of men and women when in conflict, God has designed everyone to need both love and respect, especially from their spouse.
Yes, Ephesians 5:33 does say, “Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” But we must be careful to not infer that this instruction to love your wife and respect your husband negates our needs to also respect our wives and love our husbands.
When we surveyed a 1,000 people who had had premarital sex with the partner they eventually married, we found that the degree of sexual involvement directly correlated with dissatisfaction in communication.
The more sexually involved the couple was prior to marriage, the more they now feel:
- disregarded in their views and opinion by their spouse.
- judged by their spouse.
- controlled by the spouse.
- interrupted when talking to their spouse.
- dishonesty in the marriage.
Likewise, the more sexually involved they were before marriage, the less they feel:
- their spouse makes time for them and cherishes them.
- they can calmly discuss something in the marriage.
- they can share anything with each other.
- they share a deep sense of trust and understanding in the relationship.
- they always encourage each other.
- they guard themselves from bitterness and anger in the relationship.
- they resolve their problems quickly.
Why would premarital sex correlate with the above?
Let’s address this controversial topic of submission in marriage.
In Ephesians 5:21 we read of mutual submission: “be subject to one another.” Paul then goes on to instruct wives to submit to their husbands (5:22-24) and husbands to love their wives (5:25-29). He then summarizes the passage on marriage in 5:33 with the command for husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands.
If a wife’s submission is central, why does Paul say nothing of submission in his summary verse, calling wives instead to respect their husbands? Simple. A wife submits by meeting her husband’s need for respect. A husband submits to—or is “subject to”—his wife’s need for love.
Don’t worry, ladies. In part 2, we will deal directly with husbands and God’s call on them to submit as well. But right here, let’s address the controversial and sometimes uncomfortable topic of the wife’s submission.
In marriage one spouse tends to assign blame to the other for starting the marital troubles.
For example, in courtship the husband was very talkative but after marriage he talked less, even withdrawing and stonewalling during conflict.
From the wife’s perspective, this was a bait-and-switch trick. He tricked her into thinking he was a communicative person but after marriage refused to meet her emotional need to connect via sharing hearts and feelings.
Looked at another way, however, could it be that his “closing down” after marriage is simply because of him not fully understanding how to love properly? Even as a goodwilled husband, could it be that he was unaware (though willing to learn) that his wife needed this emotional connection through talking?
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!
In part 1 we discussed many of the different gender traits in men and women, proven by science and recognized by most, including Hollywood. These differences are the core reasons why men and women approach problems differently, in the way they tend and mend others.
But is it possible that these differences can actually complement each other, rather than conflict with each other, when it comes to men and women approaching problems together?
When Men and Women Get Together
It has been said, when women get together with women, they talk about things important to them as women.
When men get together they talk about things important to them as men.
But when men and women get together as couples they talk about things that are of interest to neither! Though a joke, there is truth here because usually before the evening is over the three women are chatting in their huddle and the three men are interacting in theirs.
In marriage, most wives wish to connect with their husbands to give the report to build rapport, and that report consists of communicating her concerns about the people in her life. She enjoys doing this regularly with her husband. How many husbands can hardly wait to get home to give the report to build rapport? Fewer than women desire.