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Can How We Were Nurtured Actually Mask Over Our Deep Felt Needs?

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In my book Love & Respect, I conclude that wives are made to love, want to love, and expect love. Alternatively, their husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect.  However, I am always quick to point out that, though these conclusions have been based on years of research, studies, and polls with thousands of subjects, we must still view them as on a bell curve—there is certainly room for women to lean less on love and more on respect than other women do, and for men to place more importance on love than they do on respect.

But while these exceptions certainly occur, could they actually occur less than we initially believed? Could some of the examples we hold up to serve as exceptions to the “wives need love, husbands need respect” rule, when examined more closely, actually prove even further the arguments made in Love & Respect?

I’ll let this wife’s email to me explain what I mean:

I think that my upbringing valued respect more than love—in the terms that most people understand. Where I think most people get confused, myself included, is in what we are taught to most highly value instead of what comes naturally to us as men and women.

For instance, when I was growing up, the characteristics that were valued in my household (spoken or unspoken) were: strength, pride, lack of emotion, intelligence, education, etc. All "rules" taught by how my father related to the world and expected us to relate to him (my mom included). As I grew up, I saw my mother pushing aside what was her true nature (to love and be loved unconditionally) and forcing herself to become what my dad expected. I saw her constantly battle between what worked in our house and what felt true to her. I remember her getting angry during one of her and my dad's disagreements and clenching her fists and crying, saying, "Damn it! I didn't want to cry!"  As if what she had to say or what she was feeling was worthless when her "pink" emotions surfaced.

Subsequently, as I grew into a woman, I thought that to be loved (the kind of love that would touch the core of my being) I had to seek recognition for all the things that came naturally to "blue" instead of "pink."

Then there is Steve, who had a drastically different childhood. His parents divorced when he was eight and there were several different demonstrations of love and security during the next several years of his life. His stepfather was, as you would say, not a goodwilled person; and of course, as wrong as it may be, his mother chose a life with him instead of her children.

Thankfully, his biological father remarried and his stepmother was a gift from the very hand of God! In their household, she was generally honored for her "pink" tendencies (went to every game, spent time in meaningful conversation, celebrated Steve for who he was, "warts and all"). So naturally, Steve grew up with a high regard for those very "pink" tendencies that made him feel so complete and unconditionally loved. Therefore, they came more naturally for him than they do most "blue" men.

So here is my theory . . . Based on the values taught in one's household, a "pink" may think she regards respect higher than unconditional love (as I did), but it’s all in the definitions presented by that environment. She will do the things that look like "respectful" actions and seek the response that is called "respect" in the "blue" dictionary she was given as a child, but she is doing all of this in the quest for unconditional love. I believe if she's truly honest with herself (willing to surface her unfamiliar and terrifying "true nature") she will realize that her need for love and acceptance is what motivates her.

Likewise, the opposite is true for men if raised in a supportive environment to "pink." He will do the "pink" thing in seeking respect from loved ones or peers (not always, but enough to confuse him on what his real intentions are). When Steve shows love in "pink" terms, he wants to be respected and even recognized for understanding what I need and meeting that need (service)—not just to get a warm, satisfied feeling (which would meet a very core need for me).

My fear is that many may not see the golden truths in what you teach due to this misunderstanding. I was almost one of them . . .

Obviously what this woman writes intrigues me. Why do some women land on respect as the felt need and why do some men land on love as the felt need?

Alongside your own experiences, would you think about what I and this woman have written above as you answer the below questions?

-Dr. E

Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

Questions to Consider

  1. In a deep felt quest for unconditional love, this wife exhibited “blue” in her words and actions; on the other hand, out of his natural, hidden desire for respect as a man, her husband showed more “pink” tendencies than perhaps most men do. Do you believe these were exceptions to the male/female pink and blue differences, or do they actually confirm even further these God-designed natural differences between men and women that culture seems to do all it can to deny or dispute?
  2. How about you? How has your upbringing influenced your emphasis on either love or respect? How has your parents’ nurturing of you influenced your own marriage? Has nurture conflicted with nature in your life? How so?
  3. As a wife, have you said you want your husband’s respect? If so, could it be that your primary need from him is still his unconditional love? Do you deeply desire love but feel he doesn’t respect you or that need like he should? In other words, do you feel that if he really loved you, he'd respect the way you need to feel his love? Thus, you are crying out, "Why doesn't he respect me!?" Have you confused yourself, thinking respect was your deepest need?
  4. As a husband, have you said you want your wife’s love? If so, could it be that your primary need from her is still her unconditional respect for who you are as a man? Do you deeply desire respect but feel she doesn’t love you enough to meet that need? In your thinking, if she loved you, she’d respect you and because she doesn’t respect you then does she really love you? Thus, you are crying out, "Why doesn't she love me!?" Have you confused yourself, thinking love was your deepest need?