One day I received the following message from a husband that encouraged me greatly, as do so many letters I receive from people who have discovered the Love and respect message:
The reason we came to the conference was because my pastor found out that I had filed for divorce. And he asked if I would go see you. I was so bitter at this point, I told my pastor that I would apply it in my next marriage. He said, “Okay, I’ll pay for the weekend. Just go!” And I really thought nothing you would say could change my mind. It was the most eye-opening weekend of my life. [My wife] and I both wanted the divorce but we really had no good reason, just unhappy. Your conference turned on all kinds of light bulbs for both of us. And it saved our marriage. Emerson, God is using you in a big way. I just wanted to say thank you.
If only this couple had taken to heart Paul’s warning in 1 Corinthians 10:12, which says, “let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
Because quite sadly, several weeks later this couple got in a major conflict and divorced. After the divorce, he admitted how wrong and foolish he had been. Like this couple, people can receive the insights from the Love and Respect conference, and experience an incredible healing, but just that quickly, re-enter their destructive paths.
That is why I try to warn people that though optimism can surge when you apply the Love and Respect message, they should get ready for a period where things go flat.
A woman wrote, “We have met with some couples and personally shared the Love and Respect information. They grasp it marvelously, seem to do a turnaround, and then they fall flat.”
I told her to let them know that “they fall flat” because it was so easy the first time. In war, if troops are too victorious at first, it lulls them into a complacency that is deadly. The mind, body, and heart relax too much and the sense of well-being deceives them. As the troops proceed, they can be ill-prepared for the next battle.
In a similar manner, easy early success with the Love and Respect message unwisely relaxes us. We then get crushed when a new battle arises! One wife wrote, “Once we experience a little success, we are apt to ‘rest on our laurels’ and neglect the continued self-discipline needed for continued success.”
When applying the Energizing Cycle—his love motivates her respect, her respect motivates his love—success may come quickly and easily. So, one relaxes. “Oh, I did it. This worked. My spouse changed and is loving and respecting me now.” Then, one shifts back to expecting the other to simply meet their deepest value of love or respect without fail.
For example, a wife chooses to put on respect in the face of his lack of love. Her husband melts and puts on love. The wife then feels fantastic. “He loves me!” She then expects him to keep showing love. When he doesn’t, she returns to reacting without respect! Then, without respect, he reacts without love. The Crazy Cycle is back on! So, she needs to return to what she did at first: putting on respect in the face of un-love.
Oh, that we would take two steps forward, and not be in shock when we slide one step back. Or, we make it up over a couple huge hills, but get disheartened when sliding back down one of the hills.
Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.” The difference between couples with great marriages and those with bad marriages isn’t the absence of conflict. Successful couples rebound quickly, starting again. Poorer marriages get discouraged and angry and withdraw into stubbornness, refusing to start over. They close off to God and one another.
Satisfying and stable marriages see “failure” as part of success. Hall-of-Fame batters missed seven out of ten times! Babe Ruth struck out more than anybody. But, he didn’t quit. Successful couples do not let the loss of a battle drive them to the conclusion that they have lost the war. Nor do they let temporary victories lull them into a false sense of security.
But the most important thing that successful couples do is that they daily remember what I call the Rewarded Cycle: her respect regardless of his love, his love regardless of her respect. A wife is to respect her husband despite his failures to love her, because she is called to respect him “as unto Jesus.” And a husband is to love his wife despite her failures to respect him, because he is called to love her “as unto Jesus.”
And when we are loving and respecting Jesus, how can we fail?
Share what you are learning about patience as it pertains to respecting though you do not feel loved or loving though you do not feel respected. Are you getting in tune with the value of doing this unto Christ? If you take your eyes off the Lord, what happens? After you stumble, what are you doing to get back up and start again?