Look Before You Leap

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Ephesians 5:31-33

Imagine this scenario – a husband calls his wife shortly after arriving at work to let her know how much he loves her and cherishes their relationship.  She is pleasantly surprised by the unexpected loving gesture and thanks him for his kind words.  This behavior continues throughout the day with text messages, phone calls, tags in his tweets, etc.  She feels fully enveloped in his love before lunch!  When he arrives home, he has a bouquet of her favorite flowers with a note saying “Just because I’m grateful you are mine.”  He insists on taking the family out to dinner so mom doesn’t have to cook or clean up after the meal.  When they arrive home after dinner, he makes her a cup of her favorite tea, sits down next to her and proceeds to engage her in conversation for the majority of the evening.  Suffice it to say, this man has connected significantly, showing love to his wife in numerous ways over the course of a day.

Evening comes and they adjourn to the bedroom.  As they are preparing for bed, a piece of paper falls out of hubby’s pocket, unnoticed by him.  He heads to the bathroom to get a glass of water and she picks it up. When she unfolds it and reads it, she is heartbroken.  At the top of the page is the title “To Make Sure The Wife is ‘In the Mood’ Tonight”.  What follows is a step by step agenda of the day she has just experienced.  She’s devastated.  His declarations of love, his thoughtful gestures, his tender words . . . they were all just a means to an end.

I know many females – myself included – who would be extremely hurt by such an experience (and yes, it’s completely fictional!). But if we set out to show respect to our husbands so that they will behave more lovingly towards us we are doing the exact same thing.

Let’s face it – the Beatles were not quite accurate where marriage is concerned when they sang “All You Need is Love”.  I am very aware that my greatest need in my marriage is love.  But my hubby’s greatest need is respect.  In fact, he can’t feel loved by me if he feels disrespected!  And he doesn’t want to be manipulated by my use of respectful behavior any more than I would want to be manipulated by his use of loving behavior.

Choosing to respect my husband – or trying to get better at it since I am still a work in progress! – is not a decision to make lightly.  I won’t lie – I have attempted such a behavior change in the past because I wanted to get something out of it.  So many books encourage women to be more respectful and hint that this behavior change will, almost without fail, get their hubby to behave more lovingly in return.  In fact, some books stop just shy of offering you an iron clad guarantee!

I’ve learned that there is no such guarantee and it’s wrong to look for one.  I am choosing to work on this respect “thing” because I want to be obedient.  Look at the Ephesians passage again.  “A wife must respect her husband.” Oh, how I wish there was a clause there – “so that her husband will be more loving.”  Or maybe “and then she gets to demand that her husband behave more lovingly”.  Nope.  It just tells me to respect my husband.  No clauses, no exceptions, no guarantees.

He may not respond lovingly.  In fact, if you’ve done well with the respect thing for a few days, your first slip up might earn you an explosive display of temper from your dear hubby.  But that doesn’t give you an out.

I am learning SOOOOO much from Nina Roesner’s book, The Respect Dare.  And the toughest lesson is this – hubby may not respond more lovingly just because I behave more respectfully and it’s not my job to make sure that he does.  I can offer him respect out of a desire to obey God’s plan for marriage but it ends there.  I don’t get to have any expectations of him or the overall tone of my marriage based on my conduct.

This post is not about my relationship specifically.  It’s about a very tough truth that wives need deal with if they are serious about living in a way that is obedient to the passage of scripture quoted at the beginning of this post.

Side note – lest you think this is all one-sided, husbands who choose to behave more lovingly to their spouses in obedience to this verse don’t get to make any demands of her either.  I’m just focusing on wives because . . . well, . . .  I am a wife!

I would highly recommend wives read “The Respect Dare”.  But only if you are serious about changing YOU and not looking for ways to use respect to change your husband.  All that does is make you manipulative and him resentful.

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