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Marriage
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Your Spouse Is Carrying the Same Weight as You

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Which is heavier, a pound of feathers or a pound of lead? 

Did you have to think about that one for a second? Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be alone if you did. Because for most of us, our immediate thought is, “A pound of lead, of course!” Until we pay closer attention and realize a pound is sixteen ounces no matter if it is a pound of lead or a pound of feathers. Both weigh the same—a pound is a pound.

But we could ask the same trick question concerning love and respect. What burden “weighs” more on a person—a pound of feeling unloved weighing on the wife’s shoulders or a pound of feeling disrespected burdening the husband? Sadly, many would be quick to conclude, as we did with the pound of lead, that a wife’s pound of feeling unloved weighs more than her husband’s pound of feeling disrespected. After all, culture does not hide the fact that it values love for a wife more than it does respect for a husband, so naturally this view bleeds into individual marriages as well, causing many wives to conclude the same.

Scripture

However, when we view Scripture, I believe it teaches us that love and respect are to be valued the same and weighed equally. Take a look at these three teachings on love and respect from the New Testament and consider the perfect balance being illustrated:

  • Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy. . . . However, each one of you [husbands] also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 33)
  • Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. (Colossians 3:18-19)
  • In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. . . . You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:1-2, 7)

Submission

Before we continue, allow me to share a quick note on the words “submit” and “submissive” in the above verses. The Greek word Paul and Peter use here is hupotasso, a compound word that means to rank under or place under. God is not giving husbands some kind of carte blanche level of being “superior,” or ordering their wives around; He has given them a tremendous responsibility, as Paul references when he instructs husbands to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” 

So a wife being called to submit or be subject to her husband is actually being called to place herself under her husband’s protection and provision. It’s a call to respect the responsibility God has entrusted her husband with, which is why Paul sums up the wife’s role in marriage in his Ephesians 5 treatise with “and the wife must respect her husband.”

Balance

Going back to the balance of the commands to love and respect, why is it that we typically do not weigh the respect side as equal to the love side? If it’s not because of an unbalanced view from Scripture, then what else is influencing our scales? Perhaps two factors.

One, it might be because of the different ways men and women typically express themselves in these times of feeling deprived of their spouse’s love or respect. When a woman feels unloved by her husband, she will often cry or become emotional in a sympathetic way. We are drawn to want to help her, to pray she receives the love she so badly desires. As well, she’ll move aggressively toward her husband for reassurance. She is taking action to restore the relationship, and we all want for this to happen.

However, when feeling disrespected by their wives, most men do not cry but instead show their emotions by getting angry. Most will not be sympathetic toward the angry person, but be drawn away from them, perhaps even fear them. He will also withdraw from his wife and say very little to her. Looking in from the outside, it does not appear that he is concerned with restoring the relationship. Some may conclude that he actually cares very little for it in the moment.

All this to say, the unloved wife appears better than the disrespected husband. Her deprivation seems more painful and weighty. His deprivation, to the pink culture of intimacy, appears egotistical and childish. Hence a pound of love weighs more than a pound of respect.

The second reason our scales for love and respect may be unbalanced has to do with culture, as mentioned already. I challenge anyone to go into a Hallmark store and find a card that says “I respect you” or “With all my respect.” It can’t be done! But as we all know, there will never be a shortage of cards about love.

Take a look also at the Billboard charts for the top songs of any given week, in any given year. Love, love, love, love. “Love Songs” is even the name of a station on SiriusXM radio and Amazon Music! But what about songs on respect? Nothing but static. You may be thinking of Aretha Franklin’s classic song “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.” right now. Ironically, Otis Redding wrote that tune originally for his wife, but then Aretha took it and the rest is history.

Consider movies, television, popular book series, even commercials. There’s just no comparison to the emphasis on love versus even the mere mentionings of respect. Again, a pound of love seems to weigh more than a pound of respect.

Our Own Concerns

But the truth is, we all—men and women—tend to see our own concerns as weightier than our spouse’s concerns. Our pound of lead seems heavier than our spouse’s pound of feathers, am I right? A husband thinks to himself, She has no idea how much I feel disrespected when she completely ignores our budget come Christmas time. In his opinion, he is justified in his livid reaction to the credit card bill and she only has herself to blame. 

Or a wife is aghast, believing, I can’t believe he just walked away from me like that! Doesn’t he know how unloved I feel when he refuses to talk things through? To her, she has no other option than to follow him and get to the bottom of this ASAP. Whatever he’s feeling in the moment does not compare to how unloved she feels. 

In the moment, their “pound” weighs more than their spouse’s. They see themselves as the bigger victim. Their spouse is the one who has more groveling to do.

Consider The Other

However, the Crazy Cycle they find themselves on has two factors on opposite sides providing equally strong spins. Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love. Neither weighs more than the other. Neither spins the cycle faster than the other. There are no “feathers” on the Crazy Cycle. Her disrespect for him weighs just as heavy on his heart as his unloving words and actions weigh on hers.

The next time you find yourself on the Crazy Cycle with your spouse, think about how heavy the weight of feeling unloved or disrespected in that moment feels on you, then consider that your spouse is likely feeling the same amount of weight on them as well. Then change your focus from being what they can do to lighten the burden on you to what you can do to lift the weight off of them.

Because your spouse is being weighed down by lead, not feathers.

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

Questions to Consider

  1. Emerson wrote, “many would be quick to conclude, as we did with the pound of lead, that a wife’s pound of feeling unloved weighs more than her husband’s pound of feeling disrespected.” Have you come to this conclusion before as well? Why?
  2. Why do you think culture does not weigh the respect side as equal to the love side?
  3. When was a time you were feeling unloved or disrespected but was not initially aware of how your spouse was feeling similarly? Did your mindset change when you learned of his or her burden? Why or why not?
  4. How can focusing on lifting the weight burdening your spouse actually help to also relieve the weight pressing down on you? (Hint: Think about the Energizing Cycle.)