Love and Respect Is Not a Weapon to “Use”
A wife wrote me:
Right now my husband and I are separated. I kicked him out of the house a month ago. He is now staying with a friend 45 minutes away from us and his work. Reading your book really gave me an insight into why he left so willingly. I had not given the king his "chair." I know I hurt his pride. No man wants to be kicked out of his castle.
He has baited me lots. A few times I have overreacted such as hanging up, angrily grabbing a piece of paper, and writing down lawyer referrals. However, most of the time I am very calm about the situation and I understand he is baiting me. I have done what you have suggested, praising his work and have used the terms respect, admire, and appreciate. Such simple words can have a tremendous impact. I use those words genuinely. My only regret is that I didn't know this sooner. My question is, he is very stubborn and says he will not come back for fear of getting hurt again. Do you have any suggestions on how I can use love and respect for him to swallow his pride?
So many positives to give credit to in the above testimonial, yet the negatives still stand out like a sore thumb! I applaud this wife for recognizing how she has hurt her husband’s pride, to the point of keeping him out of his “chair” and making him feel as though he has been ousted from his own castle.
The “chair” she is referring to has to do with the C.H.A.I.R.S. acronym I created for the Love and Respect message that describes the six ways a wife spells respect to her husband.
Conquest: Appreciate his desire to work and achieve
Hierarchy: Appreciate his desire to protect and provide
Authority: Appreciate his desire to serve and to lead
Insight: Appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel
Relationship: Appreciate his desire for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship
Sexuality: Appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy
The Danger of Using Love and Respect as Manipulation
Besides the biblically based insights into how a man was designed to feel respected, I like the acronym itself because, though it may not be politically correct, men see themselves as the ones who should “chair” the relationship. I wrote in my book Love & Respect, “In most cases, men see themselves in the driver’s seat. Whether they are any good at chairing the relationship and being in the driver’s seat can be debated. But in terms of a man’s self-image, he needs to be the chairman; he needs to drive. He needs to be first among equals, not to be superior or dominating but because this is how God has made him and he wants to take on that responsibility.”
So returning to the wife above, she realizes that she has taken away her husband’s “chair,” and as a result has hurt his pride—to the point that he has left home. This is an extremely difficult pill to swallow and understand. That is why I truly do applaud this wife and many others I have heard from for humbly recognizing how they have usurped their husband’s “chair”—some intentionally and some not.
Yet her closing question burdens me and tells me that the two of them are still miles apart—even more so than the 45-minute drive that currently separates them. “Do you have any suggestions on how I can use love and respect for him to swallow his pride?” she asked.
Let’s be clear: Love and respect is a command from Scripture that we are to obey unconditionally, simply because God gives it. It is not the latest “method” to implement in order to see if it can work better than previous efforts, as though it were a new diet plan. It is not a tool such as a monkey wrench that will hopefully loosen up the most stubborn of rusted bolts. Neither is love and respect a weapon to use so as to “win the war” and finally get the results you’ve been searching for.
The Challenge of Repairing
So when this wife asks for suggestions on how to use love and respect to get her husband to swallow his pride and return home, she’s missing the point completely.
First of all, one can’t help but wonder how many years of marriage she has spent taking away her husband’s “chair.” How long has she been squashing his pride and depriving him of the respect he seeks and desires? For how long has she been backseat-driving every part of the relationship, never allowing him or even trusting him to drive the relationship as first among equals?
Is it likely that it’s been so long that common sense should tell us that a few terms like respect, admire, and appreciate suddenly sprinkled into the conversation—as appreciative as they are, and for which I truly do commend her for—will not act as “magic words” that change his heart immediately and cause him to feel all is wonderful?
It’s been said that a mom-to-be who spends nine months slowly putting on baby weight should not expect to lose it in nine days, or even nine weeks after the baby is born. Perhaps she should be okay with it taking nine months to lose all the baby weight, just as long as it took to gain it. Similarly, how long has a wife been depriving her husband of the respect he so badly needs? If he has left the home, it is likely that it’s been quite a while, if not their entire marriage. Is it reasonable to expect him to be all okay again, just like that, after a couple of weeks of applying the respect test?
Obeying God’s Commands
What would this wife feel if the roles were reversed? What if he had kicked her out of the house? What if he felt she was baiting him with such things as lawyer referrals? What if he expected her to swallow her pride? What if she said she feared getting hurt again if she returned home only to have him dismiss that fear as evidence of stubbornness? If the tables were turned, would she be a-okay if after a decade of him squashing her emotional oxygen tank, depriving her of the love she so badly needs, he gives her a card and flowers and shares a few moments of emotional intimacy with her? I would not expect that to be the case.
I do not make this argument to justify leaving the relationship, or refusing to forgive someone, or remaining distant and not giving our spouse another chance. Just as the wife above is commanded to respect her husband, he is also commanded to love his wife unconditionally. God expects both of them to, with His help, persevere through the conflict, learn to forgive each other, and work harder than ever before to save their marriage.
That said, there are no quick fixes when it comes to repairing years of disrespect (or unloving actions). Some things are going to take a great deal of time, with many opportunities to show each other the love and respect that they have been remiss in doing for so long. For this particular relationship, it is likely going to take quite a long time for him to not be afraid of being hurt again. With many decisions and conflicts they have in the future, he will likely be concerned—with good reason—that she is going to “oust” him once again from his chair and “kick him out of his castle,” as she put it. She needs to be aware of this, she needs to have extra grace for it, and she needs to go above and beyond to assure him she respects him as first among equals.
Secondly, and what I need to make very clear, the love and respect message is not to be “used,” as she said, as some sort of manipulation tool to get what you want. Again, this wife misses the point. A husband is not to love his wife unconditionally in order to get her to finally show him the respect he’s been missing; he’s to love her like that because God commands him to! End of story. Just the same, she does not apply words of respect just to coerce him to come home, to get him to be less stubborn. She is to respect him simply because God commands her to!
The Real Reason to Love and Respect
Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Two separate commands, independent of each other. It does not read “each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself so that the wife will respect her husband.” That’s not how God loves us, thankfully, and it’s not how we are to love and respect our spouses either.
There is no guarantee that if this wife continues to show unconditional respect toward the spirit of her husband, speaking his language of respect, and filling his emotional oxygen tank, that he will trust her fully again and come home. We simply cannot make that promise.
But ladies, what I can tell you, though, is that when you speak his language of respect, when you not only use words like respect, admire, and appreciate but also put them into action—day after day—you are touching him at the core of his heart. You are not simply treating the symptoms of his hurting heart, but you are creating it anew!
What I can guarantee you, though, is that when you love your wife unconditionally, independent of her actions toward you . . . when you show unconditional respect toward the spirit of your husband, independent of his response, you are touching the heart of God. You are obeying His commands, and let me tell you, God rewards those who obey His commands! He is saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).
This is the real reason to love and respect. Not for our spouse’s response that we hope to get in return, but because of our heavenly Father’s reward that we can know He will give!
Questions to Consider
- Though it may not be politically correct, men see themselves as the ones who should “chair” the relationship. How do you feel about this? Why is that? Do you willingly allow your husband to “chair” the relationship? Why or why not?
- What messages does a husband receive when his wife continually “chairs” the relationship, taking over with every decision, and squashing all of his attempts to lead?
- Do you believe this wife should expect her husband to “stop being so stubborn” and trust her again? Why or why not? What might be keeping him from trusting her right now?
- Have you ever used love and respect in a manipulative way? How so? Even if not, how would doing so not truly fix the big picture?