Does “Respect” Mean I Can’t Share When He Hurts Me?

The answer may surprise you.  And how you choose to go about this one thing can deeply impact your marriage for better or for worse.

020713_0204_GotAnAngryM1.jpgYes.  You absolutely can communicate your hurts to your husband.  And if he sins against you, definitely should ask God if it is time for confrontation Matthew 18 style.

But… You may want to hold off until you’ve communicated for a period of time that you have stopped committing the sin of judgment, and are instead, unconditionally respectful toward him. Hang in here with me for a while, and I’ll explain why.

I know.  “Easy for you to say.” Ladies, I’ve BEEN there.  I’ve sat, cringing, angry and confused while hurting, in church when a brave pastor or two have told us wives to respect because, “God says so.”  I’ve seethed with anger and hurt at the thought.  I’ve not spoken to my husband for a full week because I literally couldn’t say anything nice.  Respect was to be earned, right?  Why should I respect a man who doesn’t “deserve it?”  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I do ministry now because God has called me to share what I’ve learned (painfully, I might add) so perhaps you won’t make the same mistakes I have made.

Most women who ask questions about why they should respect their husbands are feeling unloved and are in PAIN and really want to know, “Why should I take the relational risk of respecting this man who doesn’t treat me with love like he’s supposed to?” or, “HE’S not following the Biblical commands, so why should I?”  We want him to be worthy of respect.  We feel that way because God actually wired us to desperately want the guy we married to be a man we can admire and respect.  But because we listen to the culture, we believe the lie that respect should be earned, instead of listening to God’s Truth:

Ephesians 5:32-35 

32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Imagine for a moment that it’s the other way around, and our husbands are waiting to feel respected before they will demonstrate love for us.  Would you be okay with that?

Of course not.

First of all, please know that we fully understand the depth of the pain you might be in within the context of your marriage.  Nothing wounds a woman like marriage difficulties.  We’ve seen wives who are abused, demeaned, degraded, married to husbands who turn away from God, never knew Him, or just aren’t very far in their walk.  Men who abuse their children, men who won’t get a job.  Men who make bad decisions that steal security or embarrass the whole family.  Men who pursue other women or are addicted to pornography.  Men who leave for days and no one knows where they are.  Men who ask their wives to do the wrong things, men who are absent emotionally.  Men who want nothing to do with their wives relationally.  Please know our Lord holds your tears and understands fully the depth of your pain.

You should also know that men generally don’t think, “I’ll treat my wife lovingly when she treats me with respect,” but women will think, “I’ll show him respect when he shows me some love,” because we are (generally speaking) more relational than men.  Our brains physically have more connections between the “feeling” side and the “thinking” side, than men do.  So, while men might sense something “not quite right” in their marriage, it generally doesn’t naturally occur to them that they should be more loving.  And because women are more relational than men and because God actually created us this way physically, I feel very strongly that it is our responsibility as mature, God-honoring women to take action in this area.

We assume here that you’ve worked out a few of the “basics of being a Christ-follower” and know that the goal is to be more Christ-like with your life.  This then assumes the simple Truth that if you have chosen to follow God, you would naturally also choose to obey God’s command in Ephesians 5:33b, “and the wife shall respect her husband.”  Doesn’t mean it is easy, but you would work hard to figure this out because God commands it.  You will experience a number of things in seeking to live out Ephesians 5:33b, all of which will bring you closer to God and your husband.  Here are a few things we know to be true, based on the thousands of women we have dealt with who choose to do The Respect Dare® book or E-Course:

  1. You might “get results” from your husband in 3 months, 3 years, or 3 decades.  Maybe longer.
  2. 1 Peter 3:1-6 tells us that men who don’t even know God at all can be saved by their wife’s treatment of them, so in the long run, your “respect efforts” are completely worth it.  If God can literally save these men, what else will He do for those wives who already love Him?  Remember, He’s a Father who wants good things for His children.  He wants your husband to be in heaven.  He wants him to turn from his ways and accept the gift of His son and all that entails.  You might be “the only Jesus your husband ever sees.” Salvation and the daily playing out of what Christ looks like are the opportunities you are presented with.
  3. If you measure your “respect efforts” by your husband’s “responses,” you will FREQUENTLY be disappointed. The culture influences our thinking and we’ll not see all the neat things he did, but rather focus on the thing he didn’t do, or vice versa, whatever’s most negative and hurtful to us.
  4. If you measure your “respect efforts” by whether or not you are pleasing to God, you will have a strength and dignity within ALL your relationships that other people won’t even be able to understand.  Living life for The Audience of One, fully knowing that you are doing the right thing builds confidence like nothing else does. 
  5. Wives who frequently lose their tempers and yell, frequently nag and complain, criticize their husbands in front of others or to them, or withhold sex, undo what progress they could be making with communicating respect.  These behaviors are not “winsome” and destroy trust. God wants us to be winsome, for His sake and ours.
  6. If the husband doesn’t trust his wife, this process takes much longer.  Meaning, if you’ve spent ten years (or two or thirty) treating him disrespectfully, you can’t expect him to completely trust this “new respectful you” in 40 days.
  7. Husbands who have been deeply wounded by their wives will sometimes “test” their wife’s “new respect efforts” by acting crummy to her.  On purpose, even.  They want to know if your new behavior is “legit” or if it’s going to wear off.  This isn’t a nice thing to say, but it happens.  Some of this is due to the fact (again, based on research in “For Women Only”) that men have fragile egos.  They want to be able to “be real” and crave intimacy with us, but are literally afraid to be hurt.  So they will keep their guard up if we are not a “safe place to fall,” meaning, “I feel accepted, encouraged, and respected by my wife, no matter what I have done.  I can come to her when I am happy, or when I am disappointed.  Her respect for me is unconditional.  I don’t have to perform and be perfect to meet her approval – it’s always there.”
  8. Wives who go through these “tests” well will greatly impact their husbands.  When are we more like Christ than when we are loving those who don’t deserve it?  Remember, husbands experience our love through our respect. Know also, that you might have an opportunity to be firmly dignified in your response.
  9. Wives typically don’t know enough about men to easily get respect correct in their relationships with the men in their lives – husbands, sons, coworkers, etc.  For example, most women don’t know that men find our asking them, “Why?” is disrespectful to them.  We think, “I don’t mean it that way, why would he take it like that?”  “Why?” is a challenge word to men.  It means we don’t trust them or the decision or course of action they’ve taken.  They take it personally.  Who would have thought that?  Yet research supports this.  We teach women to “speak the language of respect” to be more effective in these relationships.
  10.  There are little things we do every day that communicate, “I don’t respect you,” to our husbands.  MOST of these things are completely unintentional on our part, but intent is irrelevant if we’re trying to be effective.  Because we are more relational than they are, with more connections in all areas of our brains, it’s up to us to learn to speak their language, not the other way around.
  11. The culture teaches us that marriage is supposed to make us happy.  The Bible teaches us that marriage is supposed to make us holy – if we choose to follow God’s advice.  Marriage is the first organization designed by God, other than His own Trinity.  It’s really important to God.  Very specifically, marriage is designed to give the world a picture of Christ’s relationship with the church.  We wander around calling ourselves, “Christians.”  His reputation is on the line.  He’s going to grow us to help us get this right for His glory.  See Ephesians 5:32-33 above.
  12. After we have fully learned to die to our own selfish desires, after we have learned to treat our husbands the way God wants us to, we can continue our development as relationship architects and move our marriage toward “mutual respect.”  Look at this as a new phase, as though you have now passed “basic training” and have thus earned the right to teach your husband the way you want to be treated.  He needs your help in communicating relationally with you.  Because at this point our husband trusts us, because we have actually become good at speaking his language of respect, we are then (and only then) effective in our communication to him of how we experience love from him.  He will want to hear this.  Then they, because they feel safe and respected by us, typically eagerly pursue our happiness.  They want to delight us at this point.
  13. When you get to the place where “mutual respect” exists in your marriage, and you are wise in how you communicate with your husband, you can tell him difficult things about your relationship and he will appreciate hearing them.  He’ll then work harder to change because he is motivated by your unconditional respect of him.  If he doesn’t have this, the communication will likely be discouraging for him.
  14. Most women have the process reversed and try to teach their husband how to treat them first.  This never works.  Most men typically don’t pursue delighting wives who don’t respect them.  They figure, “What’s the point?”
  15. We have seen women who are physically, verbally, or emotionally, abused by their spouse separate from their husbands.  They felt led by God to do so.  We support them.  We have seen other women who are physically, verbally, or emotionally, abused by their husband choose to stay with him and endure it because they felt led by God.  We support them, too.
  16. Wives who really want to change their marriages CAN and DO learn to speak the language of respect to their husbands.  They see their new communication skills impact their relationships with ALL the men in their lives.  For example, if you are having trouble with your 6th grade boy, recognize he is looking for a little respect from mom! Men (and boys becoming men) don’t appreciate “mothering.” 
  17. Wives who say their husbands don’t do anything worthy of respect aren’t looking closely enough.  No one is a complete disaster in every single area of his or her life.  For us to say there’s nothing our husband does that we can respect is more a reflection of our poor attitude than of him.
  18. What looks like respect to one man, can look like disrespect to another, in the small nuances of communication in a relationship.  There are many “big” ways to communicate respect that will apply, generally speaking, to all men; but each man, and therefore each marriage, is going to be a little different in the small things.  What that means is if I say, “Never ever let your husband know he’s going to miss the exit,” that might work in one marriage, but it might feel like, “You aren’t my friend,” in another.
  19. “Help” looks different to each man, too.  For some, packing his suitcase for him before he travels might be a wonderful thing.  For another, it might make him frustrated.  That’s why we recommend each woman gets to know GOD better. That’s why we recommend learning how to communicate and ask more questions.  These will help you understand the men in your lives because God and your husband already knows him intimately!
  20. Wives who grow their relationship with God see Him working things out with their husbands in His time.  These women are discerning enough to actively choose to become more patient and are able to give their husbands the time they need to grow the way God wants to grow them.  They don’t try to change the man they married.  And these ladies recognize the difference between trying to change someone, and influencing those around them for the cause of Christ.

Understand that God created marriage to glorify Him.  When we get married, we choose to participate in this context.  It was never about making us happy.  Remember, He’s going to grow us.  He wants us to accurately reflect His glory.  If we choose to follow His advice in the Bible, we will have peace and joy during the journey and less pain.  The journey is hard, but we are not alone and we have strength if we follow God.  If marriage was easy, people wouldn’t get divorced.  Whether you choose God’s path, to follow Christ, or not, your marriage will be difficult.  But with Christ, you won’t walk alone, and you will have joy, comfort, and peace that surpasses all understanding.  And you’ll make an impact in your family and in the world that wouldn’t otherwise occur.

So should you choose to communicate respect to a man that doesn’t treat you right?

Yes.

Why?

Because God says so.

It never was and should not ever be about how deserving of respect your husband is or whether he is living his life the way he should be.  It IS now and always has been about whether or not you are going to trust God knows what He’s doing and obey what He’s telling YOU to do.

Take the Biblical journey of marriage as He intended.  It’s hard, bumpy, long and tiring.  It’s worth it.  Do it God’s way and you’ll experience joy, peace, comfort, and deep connection with the Father, and your husband.  And remember, it’s not about your husband’s response (although you’ll probably eventually get one if you can hang in there enough for him to truly trust you).

The bottom line about what respecting your husband is all about is pretty simple (not easy, but simple): It’s about your relationship with God.

Unconditional respect.

Dare ya.
:)

So two recommendations, in order:

1) Get The Respect Dare book and do it. You will grow your relationship with God and learn to speak your husband’s language of respect.

2) When you finish the dares AND (this is key) your husband answers the question, “Do you feel respected by me most of the time?” with a resounding, “Yes!” THEN get Dr. Kevin Leman’s book, Have a New Husband by Friday  to learn how to develop “mutual respect” in your marriage.  It’s available at Amazon.com, too.  Today’s Christian Rep article might give you some more insight in this area: http://christianrep.com/blog/2013/04/03/how-love-respect-impact-our-marriage/

Glad to be on this journey with you!

~ Nina

Comments

  1. Sue says

    I loved Kevin Leman’s book. I read it even though there is nothing I would change about him. The book I Don’t want a divorce by David Clarke has helped several people I know who had marriages on the brink of divorce.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Agreed! :)
      You know people that have used David Clarke’s book? I’m curious about the “shunning” part – did they do that? What happened?

      David Clarke’s book has the process down, but his method is anything but loving. He encourages wives to get angry, and perhaps for the timid, this is good advice, but I can’t imagine choosing to be emotional and adding that to an already difficult situation. I’ve recommended it to a few wives, also, but with the caveat to BE CAREFUL – and his recommendation to “shun” is nearly impossible to execute. It’s better to separate for a time, perhaps, but again, up to God’s leading. Thank you for reminding us of that resource! :)

      I spoke with Clarke, and he said the “fix” rate when one is in the “shun” stage is really low. :( Frankly, I disagree with that aspect of the approach, but like other Christian doctrinal issues, there’s debate over whether “treat them like pagans and tax collectors” means “Know who you are dealing with and guard your heart and don’t be influenced,” or “don’t associate with them.” Given that Matthew was a tax collector and Jesus was speaking directly to the disciples, whose job it was to witness to the pagans and tax collectors, I disagree with the “shun” approach of the latter. But I’m human. :)
      Glad you are here, Sue!
      ~Nina

  2. says

    Nina:

    I can’t seem to get my “comments” to work via wordpress. So, I think I will give up on that for now. Just let Geena know that she would be wise to go to an Al-anon meeting to get help. Also, Focus on the Family has a good series on CD called: “Love must be tough”. She still needs to be respectfull in this. However, trusting an active alcoholic with money is not a wise idea. She needs to get educated re alcoholism. It is a sin. It can destroy families. She would be wise to get some help and information. Best regards. I like you website. I just think I will give up reading the comments, as I generally want to post. All the best. Mariajj

    • Nina Roesner says

      Agreed – both excellent resources. :)
      Sorry your WordPress responder isn’t working right. Weird. Glad you commented though.
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  3. Geena says

    So in my case is “respect” allowing him to make decisions even though everything inside me is screaming against it? Even though my instincts and logic say no? Do I respect him by allowing him to put our family at financial peril and risk losing our home? What does it look like?

    • Nina Roesner says

      Geena…
      So I started my response, then realized it was a whole blog post! LOL. I’m going to smith this up proper and post tomorrow. Thanks so much for the AWESOME question. Come back tomorrow. In the mean time, please read your Bible, pray, and prepare your heart. Practicality will rule the day tomorrow. And I can’t wait to hear what God reveals to you. Read a gospel or James – or whatever you feel led.
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  4. Tona says

    Nina – This is a hard subject. It is a hard subject because all of us have hardness in our hearts about the respect issue. Women are to respect (reverence, honor, submit, yes, like Sarah did even though Abraham’s motive was dead wrong) but trust is in the Lord alone, not our husband – because our faith is in Jesus Christ, not a man. The pressure is then off me and on the Lord to work in me and my husband both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). I tire of hearing all about making exceptions for our husband’s shortcomings and weaknesses when the Word doesn’t say to. Easier said than done, I know. I know each ladies’ pain oh too well and I am saying ouch too (Nina you already know this about me). Let’s get back to the simplicity that is in Christ – asking the Lord for the old ways and the old paths (and that includes Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5 &6 discipline by the appropriate folks designated in God’s order) – because the Lord chasens only those who are His … Love you bunches Nina. Hope the weather is getting better in your parts (it’s sunny here in California). Grace and Blessings.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Oh Amen, Tona! And I’m at a new place, one where I’m thankful that I can respect and submit without expectations – which frankly, is a freeing thing, instead of a disappointing thing. And the more time I spend with Him, the more I realize the bazillion opportunities I have, and I experience His grace, His love, and His blessings at a deeper level, so I’m not wrapping my identity up in what ANY human thinks of me. In that place, I can boldly walk into confrontation and things that look like disagreements on the surface such that others see Him instead of me… Oh, that I were like this all the time! :) More of Him, less of me, all the day long, Oh, Lord. :)
      Glad you are here, Tona!
      ~Nina

  5. Geena says

    What if you are not sure whether or not to trust your husband any longer? What if he’s cheated, lied, crashed cars and gone on 3 days drinking binges and now swears he’s “changing.”…sure there may be little changes, but when do you know how to trust again? Does respect come before trust? The other day I may a decision that implicated our entire family, entirely on my own. Did I want to? No. But was he adult enough to have a discussion? No. The slightest worry I brought to his attention was refuted with anger – worries that aren’t unfounded. This isn’t to implicate that he drinks all the time, on the contrary. However, his behavior over the last several years has left me reeling and aching for control.

    How can I show respect when I’ve lost all trust? Of course he feels disrespected when I make decisions that should be made by both of us – but I can’t trust that he’ll actually DO what he claims he will (or won’t).

    • Leah says

      Geena,

      I don’t have much advice to offer. I just want you to know that my heart aches for you. I will be praying for you. Know that God is your best counsel. Tune into Him as often as you can… He is good and faithful.. and will not lead you astray, ever.

      I have my own set of unique circumstances.. things that some women never have to deal with… things that I believe wives and children, in general, should NEVER have to deal with. TRD has changed my life… not necessarily my husband… but it has changed me. If you haven’t taken it yet, I encourage you to.

      Hugs and prayers.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Geena -
      Yes, respect comes before trust.
      Trust means the person demonstrates reliable, safe, sound decision making. The Bible says to guard your heart – it also does not tell you to trust your husband, but rather to trust God. You can’t trust people fully because we’re all a bunch of sinners – we will let you down. You CAN, however trust God. He will be with you and guide you regardless. I have seen God use women and children’s suffering to grow His men. I have seen Him use strong women submitting and respecting, and finally confronting Matthew 18 style to grow His men. None of us here can tell you specifically what God will do – but He is always speaking. Refine your listening to a daily ongoing occurrence and you’ll be even wiser. Our hearts ache for you, Beloved, and we are praying.
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  6. Leah says

    Nina,

    I always enjoy reading what you write. I have found a lot of these truths become a reality in my own life and marriage. You said something that stuck out to me… I have found that, since taking TRD for the first time, I am more prone to saying nothing rather than flying off in anger. It’s almost like my words get caught up in my mouth and I’m just handicapped – I can’t speak at all. There are many things in my heart that I have been holding in because I just don’t know how or whether it’s the right time to confront. With each day/occurrence, I feel more like a time will come when it is time to confront but I don’t want to do this without God leading me.

    It seems disrespectful to not respond/not speak to my husband… but it’s also seems unfair to put on a “fake front” and make conversation when it doesn’t feel real. Is this a time where you just ignore your emotions and do what’s right anyway as an act of obedience to God? Or is really okay to just not speak to my husband at all?

    • Nina Roesner says

      Leah -
      The answer varies with each circumstance and what God would have you do – I tend to encourage women to pursue the following in order:
      1. Thankfulness for the circumstance, because we are to have joy in all things. (I don’t claim to be good at this, but when I try, and I pray for His help in being thankful, He reveals something powerful that helps me)
      2. Prayer for vision – seeing things the way He does. Often times, I am wrong. Relationships are fraught with misunderstanding and miscommunication – so God always brings me back to my husband’s good intentions, and both of our sinful nature. This usually leaves me in a place where my emotions have become manageable.
      3. Regarding emotions – no, don’t trust them. See #2. Don’t ignore them, but rather see them as “cues for learning” versus absolute truth. They are often great at carrying us away incorrectly.
      4. Pray for discernment.
      5. Be in the Word.
      6. If God has yet to bring an answer, I work through my feelings with the Lord, if necessary, then ask a question, usually, “When xyz happened, it hurt my feelings. A lot. It’s my perception that you thought abc. Is that what you meant to communicate?” That often solves everything – but attempting this without being in a mature position of emotional control derails everything.
      7. If I am not close to God, I can’t hear Him – that’s not His issue, but mine. And one time, I didn’t speak to my husband for a week because I was so angry and hurt and crippled by lack of knowledge of what to do. When my husband asked me about it, I said, “I have nothing I can say right now.” Not real mature, but yeah, I kept from wounding him more.
      Hope that helps. :)
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

  7. Ariel says

    This has really spoken to me in a time that I am struggling with an aspect of this blog.

    Like you had said earlier, sometimes women are further along in their walk with Christ than our husbands and we are here to “lead by example” for them.

    My struggle comes here. I understand that everything we have is given to us by His will and I am very compelled to give. My husband has a problem with this. He feels that he has earned everything and there are better things we could be doing with our money. Which I completely understand. I want to be respectful toward him and not tell him that it is my money and I will do what I want, but I still want to give to the Lord. Has anyone encountered this?

    • ethangusvmom says

      Ariel,

      For years, I pushed back in this area… and even gave behind my husband’s back… until I was convicted.

      I finally stopped. I started asking him before giving.. Even when I knew he’d say no, I asked. Sometimes he surprised me and said yes, other times he said no. This year, he came to me and said he wants to give a set amount to the Church and after filing our taxes, he said he wanted to discuss together where we would give to other organizations because he wasn’t so comfortable with some of the ones that that I had given to. He agreed it would be the same amount, just to different ones. We haven’t made our donation to the Church (we are supposed to this weekend) and we haven’t reorganized our donations yet. It won’t be as much as I’m wanting to give because we aren’t at the same place in our walk but it is twice the amount he was willing to give before. I know more than anything this is HUGE growth for him. Just seeing it in his heart to give so much more than he has ever before brings joy to my heart. I know this is God moving in him and I am so grateful to be able to witness it.

      I believe that God sees our hearts… He knows what we want to give and He recognizes that we aren’t because we are being respectful to our husbands, which is also being obedient to Him. I will say a prayer for you and your husband in this area of your life. I know firsthand that it isn’t easy, especially when we know the rewards that come from giving and our husbands just aren’t there yet.

    • Nina Roesner says

      Ariel -
      This is a tough question – you don’t want to arouse resentment by being separate from him, but you do want to honor God. I fully agree with the above scenario, by the way – seen it happen tons of times! :) What I have seen others do also is to tell your husband that you feel led to tithe 10% off the first fruits according to the Bible. Be sure you are praising your husband’s work ethic and his contribution, how much he provides, etc., on a regular basis, but also be thankful to God for what He has given you. Whether or not your husband recognizes that God has blessed you does not changed the fact that He has! :) If your husband disagrees with the tithe, it’s okay to let him know you feel you are not obeying God (as long as that is true) by not doing so, and that it grieves you a lot. Be careful not to be manipulative, and make sure your motives are pure. I have found that men who feel like their wife’s champion and feel deeply respected by her will go out of their way to make her happy – God uses this natural wiring to help them do the right thing. Sometimes actions follow feelings, sometimes vice versa.
      Focus on your own obedience, instead of your husband’s, however, having said all of that. :) You obey God first, then man, but are called to submit to your husband – and Sarah is our example of doing so even when her husband did the wrong thing! (Not saying God will call you to the same thing, but you are covered if He does!)
      Love to you,
      ~Nina

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