What Flows Naturally from You Does Not from Your Spouse (And That’s Okay!)
I believe a husband is to act lovingly whether or not he feels it. God’s command in Ephesians 5:33 for a husband to love his wife is to be followed as an act of obedience, not as a conditional response toward her respect for him. He is to do the loving thing—always. He is to appear loving and sound loving—always. Even as he shares with her that she is treating him disrespectfully. Maybe his heart doesn’t feel love on the heels of her disrespect, but he can act lovingly—at all times. An honorable man obeys Christ independent of what he feels about his wife.
Women on the other hand tend to feel love. It is not something they have been commanded to do or have to become more intentional to do so unconditionally, as men must. Women love to love. So, when they hear us talk about a man doing the loving thing even if he feels little love in his heart, she wonders about the sincerity of his love. Doesn’t he love me already? Shouldn’t he feel this love for me already, without having to be so purposeful about it?
But perhaps a wife would empathize better with her husband if she considered his focus on respect.
I believe a wife is to act respectfully whether or not she feels it. This is important since many wives are quick to say that they love their husbands but many times they feel no respect for him. However, God’s command in Ephesians 5:33 for a wife to respect her husband is to be followed as an act of obedience, not as a conditional response toward his love for her. She is to do the respectful thing—always. She is to appear respectful and sound respectful—always. Even as she addresses his shortcomings in loving her. Maybe her heart doesn’t feel respect on the heels of his unloving attitude and words, but she can act respectfully—at all times. A loving woman obeys Christ independent of what she feels about her husband.
Men on the other hand tend to feel issues related to respect and honor. It is not something they have to become more aware of and intentional about, as women do. Honor and respect are attributes they already value highly. So, when they hear us talk about a woman doing the respectful thing even if she feels little respect for him, he wonders about the sincerity of her respect. Doesn’t she respect me already? Everybody else does. Shouldn’t she see who I am and feel respect?
But perhaps a husband would empathize better with his wife if he considered her focus on love, as told above.
God’s intention is not for love to finally become a natural expression of a man toward his wife, flowing as freely and abundantly as it has always done so from her. Neither is He highly disappointed that women have not evolved to the point of feeling issues of respect and honor as intimately as men have done all their lives. After all, if love from a man and respect from a woman was to ever become as natural as it is for the opposite sex, then Scripture’s command in Ephesians 5:33 would become obsolete. God is not in the business of commanding things of us that flow naturally already.
Instead, God intends for us to extend empathy to each other when it comes to showing love and respect. So she doesn’t understand why he must be so purposeful about loving her? Well, he doesn’t understand why she needs to remind herself to show him respect. Before you chastise your spouse for their struggles in obeying Scripture, remember yours too. Let’s not be too quick to throw stones when it comes to applying Ephesians 5:33. Lest we be reminded of all Scripture’s commands to us concerning our obedience to God that we struggle with daily, despite His unconditional love toward us, which He illustrated best when He sacrificed His perfect, sinless only Son for our sake.
Is God’s love for you expressed more naturally than yours for Him? If so, perhaps try empathizing more with your spouse and their intentionality in loving or respecting you better.
Questions To Consider:
Husbands and wives are to both love and respect each other. Yet God’s specific command in Ephesians 5 is for husbands to love and wives to respect. Why is that?
Wives, does knowing your husband has to be more intentional about showing love to you hurt you or confuse you in any way?
Husbands, does knowing your wife has to be more intentional about showing respect to you hurt you or confuse you in any way?
Why is it important to remain empathetic toward each other’s struggles to love or respect, instead of judging or criticizing? How does doing so help keep a couple off of the Crazy Cycle?