What’s the Alternative to Love and Respect?
A critic states, "Love and respect is too simplistic for couples who have more serious problems."
Yes, many couples have serious problems beyond love and respect. However, those serious problems do not justify neglecting love and respect in favor of the alternative: hate and contempt. Not only is hostility and disdain destructive of intimacy, such behavior opposes God's command to love and respect in marriage (Ephesians 5:33).
By way of analogy, a person may have a life-threatening cancer and needs to undergo radiation and chemotherapy. This person has a grave situation. However, the medical profession does not foolishly say, "Giving this person food and water is too simplistic since food and water do not directly solve this person's problem with a life-threatening cancer." We all know that food and water do not directly remove the cancer threat. However, telling the patient that they can ignore eating and drinking UNTIL AFTER they get the life-threatening cancer under control is to kill the patient! Neglecting food and water is not a good idea when healing a patient, nor is neglecting love and respect in healing a marriage.
When two people do not “eat” love and “drink” respect – but spew hate, contempt or even indifference– they will kill the marriage quicker than “more serious” problems will. In order for a couple to address and solve addictions, affairs, and abuse they will need to develop a degree of discipline in coming across with a loving and respectful demeanor - the fundamental attitudes necessary to solve serious issues.
No one claims that showing love and respect in the midst of overwhelming obstacles is easy, nor is it an absolute shield against threatening conditions. But evidencing the alternatives – hate and contempt - serve as deathblows to the stability, satisfaction, and survival of the marriage.
When she feels his hostility and when he feels her contempt, this becomes the most serious of all problems. Let’s illustrate this. A husband and wife are having serious financial difficulties. If through the budgeting process to get out of financial debt, a husband habitually shows hostility and a wife continually shows contempt, they will end up with more serious marriage problems even when the debt is resolved. Who among us grows intimate with someone we think has nothing but hate and contempt for who we are as human beings even though we succeed together at solving a financial crisis? Once we get through the crisis, the relationship ends.
Not only does the word of God command a husband to love and a wife to respect in Ephesians 5:33, research and common sense tell us that love and respect are like food and water. Consequently, if we hold off on applying love and respect because it is too simplistic in light of more serious problems are we bringing death to the marriage by yanking the life-support? Remember the alternatives!