1998 February 4th: One of My First Email Exchanges With a Wife About Respect
Sarah, my wife, had started a MOPS group at our church. This refers to Mothers of PreSchoolers! The leadership invited me to speak two times to the group about what I had announced at the church were some discoveries I had made about marriage. In 1998 my discovery revolved around wives respecting their husbands. With most that flew like a lead balloon. I had no ideas about the land-mines I would step on. For instance, I did not finish in two sessions so offered to return for a third session.
However, the leadership and group voted that I not return. Instead, they invited a female friend of mine, who had attended the two sessions, to talk on this topic, “How to Love Your Husband.”
This gal wrote me a letter and said that they had completely missed what I was saying: The best way to love your husband is to meet his need for respect.
Well, as they ushered me out, so to speak, I invited anyone who wished to participate in doing what I called the Respect Test. That test asked the wife to say to her husband, “I was thinking about you today and all the things about you that I respect. I want you to know I respect you.” Then, the wife was to say no more in a note, and if she were there in person she was to exit the room.
Several gals asked to be part of the blind study.
One of the first wives to apply the teaching immediately emailed me. Again, this was in 1998, three days after I spoke at MOPS.
Sat, 7 Feb 1998
Just wanted to let you know that I truly enjoyed your talk at Mops last Wed… My husband has been traveling a lot lately, so I had to resort to leaving him a voicemail telling him how much I respected him for several reasons, and I just thought I'd call and let him know. Within 2 hours he had called me back from out of state and wondered what he had done to deserve such a nice message, and he wanted to know why I respected him. I then told him the three reasons and he was very flattered. I often leave him voicemails telling him that I'm thinking about him and that I love him, however I don't always get a call back. You were right, this definitely hit a cord. Thank you.
My reply is below:
What a tremendous blessing to get your e-mail. You did it perfectly! What you did for (your husband), as you can see, goes deep into his male spirit. You harpooned his heart with words that capture the longing of his mind and emotions as a man.
Can you believe it? He called back! Though he will do that periodically when you leave the message of love, as you said, this message is different to a man: "Oh, by the way, I was thinking again of something I really respect about you but got to go so will talk to you soon.”
Having said this, I am not suggesting you bait him each time. I am only showing that he will respond to this in a way he will respond to few things. You can simply leave the message of respect on the voicemail. Same impact.
Over time the messages of respect can be less frequent. And you can send them, let's say, on a notecard in his suitcase. This will continue to create in him that deeper feeling of assurance that you respect him. Said another way, it deepens in him the feeling that you respect him more than he thought you respected him.
Let me reiterate that last point. Your respect was there all the time but in many instances men don't have full assurance of this. As you do this on a regular basis, even if you have been "crabby" on other occasions, I predict he will start moving toward you verbally and then emotionally. But we'll look at that later.
Also, what is so fascinating here is that he called within two hours to ask "why?" As with him, this happens almost every time with other men. I am still a bit stunned myself. But I know what he feels as a male so I shouldn't be surprised. Isn't this encouraging? This can make a good marriage even better.
Do you feel women need to know this? How can I best impart this to them?
Let me say thanks again for volunteering on this blind study. What I am seeking to do is learn from women like you about this dynamic. Before I start telling others, or you do, let's try to figure out more fully what is happening here. I don't want to misuse anybody. This can be used inappropriately by other women to manipulate husbands short-term. So, thanks for joining this blind study so I can better serve women out there. I personally believe healing can come to many couples.
The comments I received from a wife like this affirmed to me that I was onto something. Eighteen years later, the Love and Respect book, that I went on to write and which came out in 2004, has sold 1.6 million and made the New York Times twice.
If you are new to this message, I hope this backstory encouraged you and if you have not read the Love and Respect book, please consider taking the time to engage this message.
Too, my son Jonathan, a clinical psychologist, and I have a podcast. If you listen to the first podcast, we address the Crazy Cycle which goes in greater depth about this respect dynamic with your husband. This podcast is free to you.
Remember, the best way to love your husband is to meet his need for respect.