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He Needs Respect And She Needs Love, Or Is It?

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

When people hear that I promote the idea that a wife needs love and a husband needs respect, these people react to me as though I belong to the Neanderthal period. Immediately they softly scream, “But a wife needs respect and a husband needs love!"

I want to sarcastically retort, "Wow, you are so brilliant, I have never heard such a thing that a wife needs respect and a husband needs love. Thank you. I will have to rethink my whole position and rewrite my whole book because of your novel insight. I never heard this before. Thank you for being such a genius." Truth be told, I have to refrain from saying to them, "Hey, idiot, your village is calling. They want you to come back." Of course, I refrain from such words because I really don't believe the person is an idiot, and such words would be unloving and disrespectful.

But, let's be clear. We all need love and respect. However, we feel the need for love and respect differently. Though we all have a true need for love and respect, a husband has a greater FELT NEED for respect and a wife has a greater FELT NEED for love. Put it this way, a husband needs food and water, food being love and water being respect. His wife is giving him food but he feels she is not giving him water. So, in saying that a husband needs water/respect, we are not saying he does not need food/ love.

For example, though a wife needs respect, there's not one card in the whole card industry from a husband to his wife that says, "Baby, I really respect you." She wants to hear love because this is her dominant felt need. The card industry has recognized this. People spend money on what they deeply value. If she had a felt need from her husband for respect to the extent that she has a felt need from her husband for love, there would be an equal number of cards in the card section expressing respect to wives. But these cards do not exist not because the card industry has refused to try to sell such cards but that wives did not want to receive these cards from their husbands. These wives had a felt need to hear the word LOVE, even though Aretha Franklin sang R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

In thinking of husbands, during marital conflict when the spirit of a husband deflates, rarely does his spirit deflate because he feels unloved. His felt need is for respect. When Decision Analysts, Inc., did a national survey on male-female relationships, I had the opportunity to contribute a question that was asked of a large representative sampling of men in America. The question read: Even the best relationships sometimes have conflicts on day-to-day issues. In the middle of a conflict with my wife/significant other, I am more likely to be feeling:

(a) that my wife/significant other doesn’t respect me right now.
(b) that my wife/significant other doesn’t love me right now.

Not surprisingly, 81.5 percent chose “(a) that my wife . . . doesn’t respect me right now.” Did you catch that? Almost 82% of all husbands feel disrespected during conflict. They do not say to their wives, "You don't love me!" This secular group, decision analysts, stood back in shock at these replies. In this day of political correctness, this cross sampling of the American male shows that men significantly filter their world through the respect grid, what I call their blue sunglasses. We can argue all day long that the men ought not to feel that way, but they do. Respect is a felt need, especially during conflict.

The same 400 men were given a choice between going through two different negative experiences. If they were forced to choose one of the following, which would they prefer to endure? a) to be left alone and unloved in the world b) to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone. Seventy-four percent of these men said that if they were forced to choose, they would prefer being alone and unloved in the world.

Many women gasp at this answer. These women cannot identify with these men. They respond to these findings with, "What?! You have to be kidding. These men would rather be left alone and unloved?" Shaunti Feldhahn who did this research shared with me that she herself was in disbelief by what 74% of these men voiced. Many women have told me that they could not handle the idea of being left alone and unloved in the world. Furthermore, though these wives can feel disrespected during conflicts with their husbands, if their husbands continue to show disrespect during the conflict these wives eventually say, "How can you treat me disrespectfully week after week yet tell me that you love me? You don't even love me!" Whereas, the husbands when treated disrespectfully week after week will exclaim, "I don't deserve this disrespect. Everybody respects me but you."

She lands on love and he lands on respect. We cannot escape these FELT NEEDS. So, when we say that a husband needs respect we are saying in most marriages that he has a felt need for respect (especially during conflict), and when we say that a wife needs love we are saying in most marriages that she has a felt need for love ("Tell me that you love me!").

Said another way, a wife does herself a huge favor during conflict if she asks herself, "Is that which I'm about to say going to feel disrespectful to my husband?" If she can soften her negative reaction and try to come across more respectfully, her husband will probably move toward her emotionally to connect. And a husband does himself a huge favor when he senses his wife is feeling insecure about his love by doing something positive, even surprising, that sends a message that she is special to him.

We can argue all day long that a husband ought not to feel disrespected during a conflict and a wife ought not to feel insecure about her husband's love. But if we pay attention to research and common sense, not to suggest Ephesians 5:33, we can prevent ourselves from experiencing a lot of headaches and heartaches.

Questions to Consider