Love & Respect in a Healthy Marriage

Love & Respect in a Healthy Marriage

Love & Respect is a book about how to have a healthy marriage, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. He proposes that what men need most is respect from their wives but what women desire most from their husbands is to feel loved.Eggerichs says that, although we all need both love and respect, men and women prioritize those differently. He bases his ideas on the work of several researchers and his successful work as a marriage counselor.Wedding ceremonies often include a scripture reading to encourage the new couple in their marriage.

[a husband] must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33

Why does the husband get respect while the wife gets love?  Ask any man if he’d rather be loved or respected, says Eggerich, and he will choose respect. A wife, however, hopes to be the object of her husband’s heartfelt love.After the wedding, couples might continue to need encouragement—because marriage is not for wimps!  Marriage is a place where we often encounter both friction and service opportunities. The work of serving our spouses helps us grow in both character and spiritual maturity.  This book gives ideas about how to be service-minded in our marriages--and how these two different needs affect our partners.

The Crazy Cycle

When a husband does not feel respected, he does not show love for his wife.  When a wife doesn’t feel loved, she can’t respect her husband.Eggerichs uses research and anecdotes to show that men feel loved when they feel respected.  Wives often nag or use words to try to get their husbands to show love and affection, which ultimately pushes husbands the other way.  At the same time, a man who is preoccupied with his work or other worries doesn’t talk to his wife or pay attention to her, and this can feel like a lack of love for a wife, and she complains.

The Energizing Cycle

The opposite of the crazy cycle is when a husband is loving and affectionate to his wife as a form of respect.  The wife absorbs this love, and it allows her to show him her more compliant side and speak her mind without complaining.  When fed correctly, this cycle is energizing to the couple, and the marriage is empowering to both of them.

Shoulder-to-Shoulder Time

I include this because it made a big difference in my own life and marriage.  The idea of shoulder-to-shoulder time is that men often want women beside them while they do something, but don’t want to talk.  Dr. Eggerichs says it’s how men relate to their buddies.  They hang out and "do things" more than talk.  You can choose times to settle into your husband's comfort zone with him.I've heard women complain about times their husbands want them to sit on the couch and binge Netflix without talking.  Wives say they feel fidgety about their long to-do list or confused about why they should sit there and watch a show they don’t like or can’t get into.  When I read about shoulder-to-shoulder time in the book, it clicked.  Eggerichs says that even though it doesn’t make sense to us, it’s a small thing men need to feel connected to their wives.  He backs this up with data from Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, For Women Only, What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men.I tried it.  All those times my husband says, “Hey, want to take a ride with me to the store?” used to feel like he didn’t care that I had things to do.  But now I look at times he just wants me near, and I realize it’s important to him.  So I balance the times when I really need to get stuff done with this investment in my marriage—and no longer resent it.  It’s made a huge difference.The flip side of this is…

Verbal Intercourse

This came from a whole different book, His Needs, Her Needs--Advice on Keeping Love in Marriage, by William F. Harley.This book shows how men and women have the same basic needs in marriage, but prioritize them differently.  And high on the list for women, but low on the list for men is… Conversation!If a man wants to reciprocate for the shoulder-to-shoulder time his wife is learning to give to him, he should try making time to relax, listen, and talk with his wife.Once I told my husband that women often think a good conversation is better than sex.  He laughed, but I persisted.  I said, “Why do you think we get mad when you have long conversations with other women?”  I saw his eyes open wide because it was an “aha moment” for him.  Now he plans times to listen and be a good conversationalist, just to make me happy, when he might rather be quiet and work on a project.

The Rewarded Cycle

The real reason to love and respect our spouses is to be more like Jesus.  What if you try to respect your husband, but he doesn’t show you more love?  What if you show your wife love and affection, but she doesn’t seem to respect you?  The answer is that the one who is most spiritually mature is the one who has to make the first and most heroic efforts to break the crazy cycle.   Maybe that begins with perusing a few books to find information.In the introduction, Eggerichs says, “This book is for anyone in marital crisis…” but I can also recommend reading it as an opportunity for proactive souls with the goal of having a healthy marriage.

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