The husband says: “When we got married, my wife and I had different views on what it meant to show respect. Not that one view was right and the other was wrong—they were just different. I often felt that my wife should have been more respectful in the way she spoke to me.”
The wife says: “Part of the culture in which I was raised included speaking loudly, using dramatic facial expressions, and interrupting when others were speaking. We didn’t view that as disrespectful. But that’s a completely different atmosphere from the one in which my husband was raised.”
Respect in marriage is not a luxury; it is a necessity. How can you show that you respect your mate?
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Men have a particular need for respect. The Bible tells husbands: “Each one of you must love his wife as he does himself.” But then it adds: “The wife should have deep respect for her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33) While both wives and husbands need to feel loved and respected, husbands especially thrive on respect. “Men need to feel that they can handle situations, solve problems, and take care of the family,” says a husband named Carlos.* When a wife respects her husband for such capabilities, she benefits not only her husband but also herself. “My husband actually shows his love for me more when I show that I respect him,” says a wife named Corrine.
Of course, wives need respect too. That makes sense because a husband cannot truly love a wife whom he does not respect. “I need to respect my wife’s opinions and suggestions,” says Daniel. “I also need to respect her emotions. My not understanding why she feels a certain way does not mean I can dismiss how she feels.”
Respect is in the eye of the beholder. The issue is, not whether you think you show respect, but whether your mate feels respected. This is a lesson learned by the wife quoted at the outset under the heading “The Challenge.” “Even if I didn’t think I was being disrespectful, if I made my husband feel that I was, then I was the one who needed to change.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Write down three things that you admire about your husband or wife. The admirable traits that you identify can be the foundation upon which to build respect.
For one week, track your conduct (not that of your spouse) in the following areas.
Your words. One study of couples found that “spouses in happy, stable marriages made five positive remarks for every one negative remark when they were discussing conflict. In contrast, couples headed for divorce offered less than one (0.8) positive remark for every single negative remark.”*—Bible principle: Proverbs 12:18.
Ask yourself: ‘Do I speak respectfully to my mate? How often do I criticize compared with how often I give a compliment? What is the tone of my voice when I have an observation or a complaint?’ Would your spouse agree with your answers?—Bible principle: Colossians 3:13.
Try this: Set a goal to give your husband or wife at least one compliment per day. Suggestion: Look back at the admirable traits you identified earlier. Get into the habit of telling your mate what you admire about him or her.—Bible principle: 1 Corinthians 8:1.
Your actions. A wife named Alicia says: “I spend a lot of time doing housework, and when my husband respects my efforts by picking up after himself or washing his own dishes, I feel that my efforts are worthwhile and that I am important to our marriage.”
Ask yourself: ‘Does the way I treat my spouse clearly convey my respect? Do I give my spouse adequate time and attention?’ Would your spouse agree with your answers?
Try this: Write down three ways that you would like to be shown respect. Have your mate do the same. Then exchange lists so that each of you can work on showing respect in the areas that were specified. Focus on your own need to show respect. When one takes the lead, the other is likely to follow.
Some names in this article have been changed.
From the book Ten Lessons to Transform Your Marriage.