Sunday, January 6, 2008

Considering Marriage? Can You Respect Him?

Ephesians 5 contains one of the most oft-referenced sections on marriage in the Bible. Verse 33 in particular is a verse that we wives in particular need to pay better attention to:

"Let each one of you love his wife as himself,
and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

We in our culture, particularly as women, are fed an incomplete picture of marriage: that it is all about love. We want to be "in love"... we want to feel "madly, deeply" in love. And we, frankly, have a wrong picture and idea of what true love really is. But that's a subject for another day.

But when a young woman is considering marrying a young man, she (most typically) wants to be "swept off her feet" and feel butterflies in her stomach. This is what our culture has geared us to desire-- the feelings-- the swoon-- the weak knees. But there's a much more important issue that ought to be considered:

Can you respect him? DO you respect him?

When we focus solely on love, we too often miss this more important biblical command... that we, as wives, are to respect our husbands. [We are to show love one to another, but husbands are the ones with the specific command to love their wives, while the wives' command is to respect her husband.]

Shaunti Feldhahn's book, "For Women Only", shed some great light on this subject-- essentially, proving that the greatest need men feel (and the greatest lack most men are feeling) is that they are not respected by their wives. When a husband feels disrespected by the one person in life whose opinion (at least at one time) mattered most to him, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to feel successful in other areas of life (work, ministry, friendships, parenting, etc.).

Oftentimes, what will end up happening is that if there is an area where a man feels more respected (perhaps at work, perhaps with a particular person, perhaps in a certain role), he begins to invest more in that place, person, or role because there is the reward of respect from that investment of his time. This is how affairs often start. This is how workaholics are fueled. This is how a dad spends more time coaching others on a team than actual time spent one-on-one with his own child (because he perhaps receives respect and feels rewarded by the "position" of coach).

When men don't feel respected, particularly by their wives, all sorts of problems arise. And God knew this. Which is why He wrote it into His plan for marriage... instructing wives to respect their husbands.

It can be tough. Particularly if you married an unbeliever. Perhaps you married a Christian, but he has backslidden. Perhaps you married someone who has radically changed since your early days of dating. Maybe your husband has made poor financial decisions or career moves. Regardless, our responsibility, as wives, is to "respect".

Think of at least one way that you can begin showing greater respect for your husband. Have you ever written him a letter telling him how much you respect him and a few (or many) reasons why? Perhaps you could spend 1 minute each day this week hugging him and telling him something in particular that you respect him for. (It can be as simple as, "I respect you for getting up each morning and going to work to provide for us", or as detailed and involved as you want it to be.) You may remember that one of my New Year's goals is to begin more intentionally giving verbal respect to Doug-- encouraging him and praising him for the man that he is- not only to him, but to others. We all can (and should) find ways to show greater respect to our husbands, particularly in this culture which tells us to seek- rather than to give- respect. Our husbands need and greatly desire our respect.

There's nothing wrong with feelings. They are fine and good, and do help to knit our hearts together. But more urgently, you need to ask yourself, as a Christian woman, "CAN I RESPECT THIS MAN?" If there is a man you are dating, engaged to, or considering marrying, or if there's a man that you've been eying, before you make the commitment, and before you let things go farther, ask: "will I be able to respect him?"

Consider some of these things:
- Can I respect the work that he does?
-Can I respect the relationship he has with God?
- Will I respect him as the spiritual leader of our home?

- Can I give him verbal respect in the presence of others?
- Can I respect his leadership on moral issues
(how to raise any children God may give, how many children to have, what kind of church to attend, etc.)?
- Will I respect him in social situations and his interactions with others (with my family, with his family, at get-togethers, etc.)?
- Can I respect his personality style (i.e., Will I resent it when he's not the first one in line for a promotion? Will I resent it if he IS the first one in line for a promotion? Will his sense of humor grate on me and make me resent him? Will I be frustrated by his seriousness?)?
- Can I respect his financial position and continue respecting him if it changes for the worse?
- Can I respect him in sickness and in health
(his or mine)? For richer or for poorer? For better or for worse? For the rest of my life?

- Am I really aware that by marrying this man, in order to obey God, I am choosing to respect this man for the rest of our lives?

Tough questions. But they are much better asked on the front end than on the back end. I'll admit, I didn't think in terms of "respect" when I got married. I thought in terms of love, communication, compatibility, and friendship. I DID think in terms of mutual respect, but I confess that I was more concerned about making sure that I was receiving "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" than making sure from my heart that I could give it. (Incidentally, though sung by the soulful Aretha Franklin, that song, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T", was written by a man--which certainly enforces the idea of how critical respect is to men.)

If you are married, I would encourage you to consider these things- and make a change or two in how you may interact with your husband. If you aren't yet married, I would urge you to consider these things as you look at potential spouses, and as you frame the issue of marriage in your mind.


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