Eleven Ways a Husband and Wife Can Show Love and Respect to Each Other
In Ephesians 5:33, the apostle Paul instructs husbands and wives with the what: love and respect. “Each one of you [husbands] also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Core Instructions For Marriage
In summing up the New Testament’s greatest treatise on marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33), Paul makes clear to the husband that in all things, no matter the conflict or situation, he is to be intentional about loving his wife unconditionally. Love is the way to her heart, and what she most needs to feel from him.
To the wife, Paul shares that respect is the key to the husband’s heart. In all matters, even during times when her husband is not acting very deserving of respect, she is to show unconditional respect toward his spirit as a man. He knows his wife loves her. But when he does not believe she likes him, or respects who he is, then he deflates and reacts in ways that she will interpret as unloving.
These two core instructions are what Paul is emphasizing for us in his letter. They are the what the husband and wife are to do. But what does it look like when a husband and wife love and respect each other unconditionally? Or put another way, how can a husband and wife love and respect each other in ways that lead to the other feeling loved and respected?
Eleven Ways To Demonstrate Love and Respect
Consider this bullet-point list of eleven ways a husband and wife can make sure the other feels loved and respected:
- They accept most misunderstandings and conflicts as normal.
- They see Christ beyond the shoulder of their spouse.
- They use pink and blue images to create mutual understanding.
- They trust each other’s goodwill.
- They learn to diffuse escalating situations by empathizing and being humbly honest about feelings ("that felt disrespectful/unloving").
- They remind each other not to overreact.
- They really hear and understand.
- They refuse to point fingers.
- They refuse to take part in kitchen-sinking.
- They find common ground when explaining what one needs.
- Blue learns to energize and accept pink. Pink learns to energize and accept blue.
A Testimony of Success
Can all this be done, though? Or are these pie-in-the-sky, unrealistic expectations that couples in the real world cannot truly meet? Well, hear what this husband had to write, and see if you notice what I did:
The crazy cycle is one I wish we could avoid, but I know it’s a fact of life. There will be misunderstandings in the way my wife and I see the world and its conflicts we come across from time to time. That throws us onto the crazy cycle whether we want to go there or not. [Accepting most misunderstandings and conflicts as normal] The key to not staying there has been recognition, understanding, and responding in a Christlike manner. The illustration you gave of looking past our spouse over the shoulder to Christ really helped us. It’s a word picture I have in my mind that I try to live out. [Seeing Christ beyond the shoulder of the spouse]
We have begun using phrases like: "It’s a blue thing, honey, just trust me on this one" or "It’s a pink thing, babe." [Using pink and blue images to create mutual understanding] Trusting the goodwill of your spouse helps us to let it go, to trust, that we really are on the same team. Dennis Rainey, years ago, gave an illustration to us we never forgot: He makes a closed fist and hits his forehead repeatedly saying, "My spouse is not the enemy, my spouse is not the enemy." A great reminder that while we may have issues, we are good-intentioned, good-hearted people who want only what is good for each other, our marriage, and our family. [Trusting each other’s goodwill]
As well, diffusing the situation before my spouse can misinterpret my actions has helped. Statements like "I know your heart and your character and that's not who you are but darn it, that felt disrespectful" (or unloving). I wish I can say I am farther along and I have it all figured out. I am not what I was, but neither am I who I am going to be, God willing. [Diffusing by empathizing and being humbly honest about feelings] My wife is an expressive-responsive person, and for good and bad she gets it. She is vocal about letting me know when I don't understand pink. Sometimes I have to express, "Hey, it feels like we are heading to the crazy wheel, let’s not overreact here. I understand where you are coming from." [Reminding each other not to overreact]
All she really wants is to make sure that I heard her concern and I responded. Too often I am on the computer or doing something and I hear her talking, but the whole spiderwebbing thing starts. I have learned recently I am not good at multitasking (like most guys). I have to stop and give her undivided attention. When I do that she feels as though she has connected with me and that I heard her. [Really hearing and understanding]
One principle we have to keep the crazy cycle from spinning out of control is to try and control the finger-pointing "You" statements or "You always." This has stopped us from dragging in and digging up issues of the past that were hurtful and that just brings the crazies to whole new levels. [Refusing to point fingers] We have learned to deal with the situation at hand. We used to bring old situations up, and the other person (mainly me) would shut down and say, "Here we go again, I heard it all before, she's getting up on her soapbox again, how long is this storm going to take to blow over?" Then I would wait, the storm would blow over and continue on never stopping to get the understanding of what was driving her only to revisit the issue somewhere down the road in the near future. We could have avoided so many wasted hours over the last three-plus decades on that darn "Crazy Wheel." Kind of like the one the kids’ hamsters ran on. They would run and run for hours and never get anywhere! [Not taking part in kitchen-sinking]
My wife has been better at expressing the motivation behind her "nagging." She doesn't really nag (too much). For instance, we have closed out a business we ran for many years while our kids were growing, which allowed my wife the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom. Though we made this decision over a year ago, I have had several projects that I have had to finish. This became a bone of contention because she saw it as something hanging over us and wanted it to be released. She communicated to me that she wants more time for us to play on the weekend when our work is done. She explained always feels guilty playing when we have outstanding commitments to our customers. I finally was motivated. She found my heart and the way to motivate me. [Finding common ground when explaining what one needs]
One more thing I wanted to share . . . We watched the Super Bowl yesterday and she sat shoulder to shoulder with me and actually rooted for my team! This was big! Anytime we had ever "watched" the Super Bowl the guys would gather in the room by the TV and the women would hang out in the kitchen and do lady things. They would run in to catch the funny commercials. I chose to overlook the fact she had been compelled to sew and hem two pairs of pants at the same time as watching the game. One of the other guys said, "Is this allowed? You can't watch the Super Bowl and sew at the same time, can you?" But we took the high road and watched the game shoulder to shoulder with needle in hand. I felt energized and I wish I could have passed this along to my team who ended up on the wrong side of the score. When all was said and done, this may have been the first Super Bowl in thirty-five years we did shoulder to shoulder. She now understands blue. We have both learned and grown through our years of marriage and look forward to growing old together. [Pink energizing blue and blue accepting pink]
Can It Be Done?
Yes! This couple has learned how to love and respect each other, according to how pink and blue each interpret and need to feel loved and respected! Of course, no one does this perfectly. Even this husband admitted to not being where he wants to be and not having it all figured out. But that is why perhaps the most important part of the list is what I mentioned first: accepting most misunderstandings and conflicts as normal.
Where To Begin
I trust in your goodwill and good intentions, just as your spouse does. I believe you want to love and respect your spouse unconditionally, according to Ephesians 5:33. Are you wondering where to begin, though? Start with the list modeled by the couple above. Will you:
- accept most misunderstandings and conflicts as normal?
- see Christ beyond the shoulder of your spouse?
- use pink and blue images to create mutual understanding?
- trust each other’s goodwill?
- learn to diffuse escalating situations by empathizing and being humbly honest about feelings ("that felt disrespectful/unloving")?
- remind each other not to overreact?
- really hear and understand?
- refuse to point fingers?
- refuse to take part in kitchen-sinking?
- find common ground when explaining what one needs?
Questions to Consider
- Do you agree that it is normal for a husband and wife to have disagreements and conflicts? Considering Ecclesiastes’ words that “there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9), would you agree that most of your disagreements and conflicts are normal? Why is this important to realize as true?
- Has there been a time when, though your spouse disagreed with you on a matter, they still trusted your goodwill and made sure you knew that? How did that make you feel? Did it energize you?
- What makes it difficult for you to be humbly honest about your feelings when in conflict with your spouse? What do you fear may happen if you are completely honest?
- Consider a recent conflict or disagreement you had with your spouse. What common ground did the two of you have in the situation? Did you use this common ground to help solve the conflict?