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Love and Respect – Don’t Men and Women Need Both Equally?

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Because I say that during conflict a woman’s deepest need is to feel loved whereas a man’s deepest need is to feel respected, people often think I’m saying a woman doesn’t need respect and a man doesn’t need love.

That’s NOT what I’m saying.

Men and women need both love and respect equally.  Period.

So why do I talk so much about a man’s need for respect and a woman’s need for love?  Why don’t I just talk about the fact that men and women need both?

Furthermore, why do I keep talking about gender?

Good questions.  Let me explain.

First of all, Ephesians 5:33 clearly states that husbands are to love their wives and wives are to respect their husbands.

For some reason, the writer of this passage, the apostle Paul, thought it was important to make a distinction here.  He doesn’t say husbands are to respect their wives and wives are to love their husbands.  Nor does he simply say, “Husband and wives, love and respect one another.”

Have you ever wondered why?

Let’s break it down a bit. In saying that a wife’s greatest felt need is love we are not saying that a wife needs only love and not respect.  And in saying a husband’s greatest felt need is respect, we are not saying he needs only respect and not love.

We don’t think Paul is saying that either. For instance, we look at all the biblical commands to husbands toward their wives, such as when Peter says to “show her honor” in 1 Peter 3:7, and Paul says a husband is to “cherish” his wife (Ephesians 5:29).  And of course there are numerous verses in Proverbs 31 that refer to the noble woman who received the praises of her husband.  She needs respect and esteem.

Also, we quote Titus 2:4 where the older women are to encourage the younger women to phileo love their husbands, which is Greek for the brotherly kind of love.  However, we point out the nuances in the Greek language.  For instance, only husbands are commanded to agape-love their wives, and nowhere in the domestic passages are wives commanded to agape-love their husbands.

Interestingly, we asked 7000 people this question: When you're in a conflict with your spouse do you feel unloved or disrespected?  83% of the men said they feel disrespected and 72% of the women said they felt unloved.  

Which brings me to the gender issue. These percentages are significant, and are a reminder that, as it says in Genesis, we were created male and female.  There are differences.  The purpose in highlighting these differences, however, is to help couples understand why during conflict men and women act differently.  For example, in most cases (remember we are talking about the Bell Curve) he shuts down, but not because he feels unloved.  He is feeling disrespected. And most often a wife (Bell Curve) will confront in order to connect because she is feeling unloved during conflict.

So what we are finding is that over time in a marriage the felt need with most couples is that he leans on the respect side, and most wives lean on the love side.  The research supports this and we believe the Bible does too.  Why else are husbands told to love their wives, while wives are told to respect their husbands?

And even though women need respect, if he keeps showing her disrespect week after week and month after month, she will eventually say, "How can you say that you love me and treat me disrespectfully?"  When a man is shown disrespect week after week and month after month, he says "I don't deserve this disrespect.  Everybody respects me but you."  He does not land on love, unless she says that she does not love him - then he will feel unloved.   And if a woman is truly feeling loved, she will also feel esteemed and respected.


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

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