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Does Love and Respect Let My Spouse Off the Hook?

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Q:  Sometimes it seems like you are giving the other person an excuse for not being loving. You probably aren't, but why can't I expect my husband to be loving just out of unconditional love like God commands? How will it ever be unconditional if it is just a response to how I act?

Dr. E says:  What this wife is saying is pretty insightful. We take the position that a wife's respect motivates her husband's love. But we also teach that a wife ought to respect her husband unconditionally, even if he is unloving.

Are we letting her husband off the hook?


It could be natural for her to conclude, “You are giving him an excuse to be unloving! He can blame his lack of love on my disrespectful behavior. He can claim, ‘I don't have to be loving until you respect me!’"

Technically, a husband could debate this way.

Additionally, a wife could say, “I don’t have to be respectful until you love me!”

God Knows What Works

However, God's Word doesn't permit that, because God, in His wisdom, knew that wouldn’t work.

God calls a wife to be respectful unconditionally in obedience to Christ (Ephesians 5:331 Peter 3:2) just as he calls a husband to love unconditionally in obedience to Christ (Ephesians 5:33Hosea 3:1).

Whether or not a spouse responds or obeys God is secondary from a biblical perspective.

God’s Truth is Truth

If love and respect is being used as a way to manipulate a spouse, then this person is misapplying the Word of God. God's truth is God's truth. If people twist it, they will be responsible before their Creator.

None of us are off the hook! We will all be responsible before God one day.

I’m disappointed when I hear from wives who say their husbands angrily demand them to respect after hearing this message for the first time. These husbands have missed the point entirely! I tell these men, “You are not a man of honor if you club your wife with this.”

Likewise, I tell women, “You aren't a loving woman if you berate your husband for not loving you as you want to be loved.”

Excuses Always Backfire

Such methods always backfire and are dishonoring to the Lord.

So why do I even tell a spouse to love and respect in order to energize their spouse, rather than acting purely out of obedience to Christ?

Well first of all acting in obedience to God’s command is always the primary motive. But we've found over and over that when a husband loves unconditionally and a wife respects unconditionally, good things start happening among spouses who are good willed.

That is the quickest way to introduce significant change in the marriage.

Fearing that a husband will move into excuse making won't carry the day. Peter and Paul do not allow a wife to live in that fear. Both guide her to be respectful unto Christ, and if anything will motivate a husband to love, this will.

To complain that he is unloving won't motivate him to be loving.

Wives have been given power by God to touch the spirit of the male. If a husband makes excuses, that's his issue. Christ's favor comes to the wife.

And again, the same goes for husbands. To refuse to love a wife because she is disrespectful, or to demand that she be respectful will not move the marriage forward. It is not motivational to her and will only backfire.

Offering her unconditional love no matter what is a win-win.

Not only will Christ’s favor come to such a husband because of his obedience to God’s word, but it will also ultimately motivate a good willed wife to respond respectfully.

A Command for our Own Good

Obeying God’s word in matters of love and respect is not manipulation and it is not an excuse for bad behavior. It is a command that was given to us for our own good, so we can experience a godly marriage.

You will not be letting your spouse off the hook. You will ultimately receive God’s favor.


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

Questions to Consider

Have you been blaming your spouse for your unwillingness to love and respect unconditionally?

Will you renew your commitment to do marriage God’s way even if your spouse doesn’t?