How A Wife Can Feel Loved But Disrespected

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Years ago, the topic of Love and Respect and all it has led to stemmed from this one question to 7,000 people: When you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved at that moment or disrespected? In response, 83 percent of the men said they feel disrespected and 72 percent of the women said they feel unloved. However, I am always quick to point out two caveats regarding these statistics. One, we are always talking about a bell curve here. Certainly, every man and woman is different and do not necessarily respond to conflict in the exact same ways. Two, both men and women need love and respect equally.

Despite what the numbers overwhelmingly say about the felt needs of men and women when in conflict, God has designed everyone to need both love and respect, especially from their spouse.

Yes, Ephesians 5:33 does say, “Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” But we must be careful to not infer that this instruction to love your wife and respect your husband negates our needs to also respect our wives and love our husbands.

In 1 Peter 3:7, the apostle wrote, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way . . . and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life.” God’s instruction here to us coincides with his word in Ephesians 5. Men are to both love their wives and honor them as equals. Unfortunately, while many men do indeed love their wives—and their wives even recognize and feel his love—they do so in a way similar to how they would love and lecture their teenage daughter.

When this happens, the wife who knows she is loved can feel dishonored and disrespected, as though her opinions are ignored and degraded, much like one woman who wrote me recently:

I feel more connected with your statement in the "feel disrespected" area. In my case I'd say I feel like a teenage daughter to a super-strict father. It may sound weird but it does feel like that sometimes. The "I'm always right, you are wrong; I have the life experience and situations to prove it, you don't" attitude. The moment I see that my intelligence and my judgment are being questioned, I feel disrespected. He may not mean it and he doesn't use insulting words, but the moment those two are questioned all I hear is "you are dumb and ignorant." However, I know how much he loves me. I've never felt lack of love oddly enough, so to me that hits in the "disrespect" side. That being said, I fall on the 28% who responded "disrespected" to your research.

Bottom line is, we both have to work on how we talk to each other. We are madly in love and we love the Lord. Our imperfections push us to, at times, use words that makes us feel disrespected. We are two powerhouses in one home; it gets intense.

Too often, goodwilled, loving husbands like the one written about here view their role as leader and protector in their marriages in a similar way that they view their leader and protector role over their children or perhaps even their employees. As a result, their wife feels belittled, talked-down-to, and disrespected, as though they are his immature teenage daughter and not the helper God created women to be for their husbands.

Proverbs 31:11 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her,” and King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:9, “Enjoy life with the woman whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given to you under the sun; for this is your reward in life.”

Though a husband must be intentional to always show love to his wife, he should not mistake this to mean she does not also need to feel his respect and honor as a wise and “helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:18).

-Dr. E

Discussion Questions

  1. Husbands, has your wife ever either shut down or responded disrespectfully to you, despite you honestly believing you were being loving? Could it have been because she felt disrespected? How so?

  2. Wives, can you relate to the woman who wrote Emerson saying while she knew her husband loved her, she felt he disparaged her and talked down to her disrespectfully, as though she was their teenage daughter? How do you respond when this happens? How could you respectfully talk to him about this?

  3. What does Peter mean when he says for husbands to “show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life”? Does your marriage illustrate this?

  4. The wife who e-mailed wrote, “Our imperfections push us to, at times, use words that makes us feel disrespected.” What do you think she meant by this? If some of your not-so-loving conversations with your spouse were recorded and played back for you, what words of disrespect do you think you would hear?