Have you ever texted someone and expected a response within a minute or two? Ever get frustrated with how long it takes for them to get back to you?
Are you doing The RESPECT Dare with similar expectations for your husband’s behavior?
Or maybe you HAVE “done the dare” and he is still unloving, addicted to pornography or gaming, spending all his time with his buddies instead of working, not looking for a job and lazing around, screaming at your kids, being angry, etc., in other words, he’s still blatantly sinning against you.
What to do? Many of our teachers in the past have told us that we have to “submit” and “respect” and “God will take care of it.” And I have seen that happen. I’ve also seen wives do something else. Matthew 18. Confront. And I’ve seen God take care of it then, too. I’ve also seen both actions result in chaos and a lack of change.
What’s a Christian wife to do? If you’ll hang in here with me for a bit, we’ll shed a little light on this tough topic.
The RESPECT Dare was written to give women examples of practical applications of respecting their husbands while deepening their relationship with God. This is not something that simply happens overnight, or over the course of the three hours it might take to read the book in its entirety. It’s meant to be an experience, one done in 15-20 minutes, daily, for 40 days. It also was not written with the intention of changing a bunch of husbands, but rather, to help a bunch of willing and eager women change. God is in the transformation business, but not at our direction and timing, but His. There’s a huge difference.
The book was also not written as a suggestion of “How to change your husband into the man you’ve always dreamed he would be,” or “How to make your husband love you like he did when you were first married.” It is to teach practical applications of RESPECT – and if you are feeling unloved in your marriage, you may still be feeling unloved when you are done with the book. And if you are, well, I have a Scripture I’d like to share with you, but there are a few things God wants you to understand first. Hang with me here.
When I discovered our publisher had deemed the book, the way to “a long and happy marriage,” I grew a little concerned, even though the majority of women who take the dare end up with this as a result. For most women, learning to speak the language of respect to their husbands does have a dramatic impact on their marriages, however, for some others, it just does not. Regardless, that’s not why it was written. Again, I believe God created this book to give women practical applications and deepen their relationship with Him. It’s not a book of deep theology written in college-level vernacular. It’s a simple experience with a somewhat complicated topic.
Since 2005, when we started in ministry, the number one message God repeatedly sends me is simply this: Be still and know that I am God. In 2001, when I started heavily working on respecting my husband, I did not realize at the time that God would have His own timetable, and that mine would be different. I really believed that there was a formula, one that went, “wife + respect toward husband = husband communicates love toward wife.” I have even seen this taught by many Christian teachers, and there is some truth to it, for many people. What is unfortunate, however, is the inconvenient truth that for many wives, their respect does not inspire a loving response from their husband. And it seems the other inconvenient truth is that no one seems willing to communicate to wives that they may need to confront their husband about his sin – it seems to fly in the face of “submission,” but I am here to tell you that it does not.
The inconvenient truth is that you may “do the dare” and your husband will still sin against you. And even after decades of being a respectful, submissive wife and friend to him, you will also still sin against him. Welcome to humanity. It’s all of our nature. The other inconvenient truth is that if he does, you are not being “unsubmissive” if you are led by God to confront this brother in Christ about his sin against you. That confrontation might be more difficult for you than choosing to respect your husband. But God wants all of us to love Him and others with His love – and that takes real heart change, bravery and deep faith.
I know some of you may be freaking out right now. You’ve heard “submit,” and “respect,” and “love,” but not, “confront.” Hear me out. And be careful to listen to God in the midst of this. I do not claim to know the timing of anything in your marriage.
Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
James 5:19-20 (NIV)
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
The “you who are spiritual” means, “you who are godly,” in other words, God’s done a great work in your life purging sin – for the most part, you are respectful, a friend to your husband, you love well, you “have your act together” as a woman and are growing in your faith and you KNOW God – and you submit when your husband and you disagree. That “submit” word is a military term. You can check the Basic Info for Wives page for more on that. (Sorry it isn’t put together better – I haven’t had time to do that yet.)
Because I grew up in the work world and had a small business owner for a father, I already deeply believed the work is done first, then one gets paid, not the other way around. For example, I can’t fathom not paying off credit cards every month. If you don’t have the money, you shouldn’t buy it. These thoughts, combined with other teaching I’ve received, and the Scriptures against judgment and reminding us of the “plank in our own eye,” play into much of how I thought things would go when I started paying my husband respect. We are clearly told to “remove our own plank” before we approach someone else.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
I needed to figure out how to respect him first and in doing so, I allowed him to have his own relationship with God and stopped trying to control him. I worked on myself and my responses, growing my relationship with God. I worked on my own obedience first. I kept working at it, too. There is no “arrival” point – the more you come to know God and understand His Word, the more you come to the conclusion that we will always be sinners (but saved by grace as long as we believe in Jesus, confess Him as Lord of our life and the Son of God).
We hear over and over again from women how their husbands are so inspired by what God has done in them, that they are highly motivated to be better men. They share how these men suddenly start bringing them flowers, sending love-texts, buying jewelry, touching them, paying them compliments, encouraging their wives to take some time for themselves, engaging more with their children, going to church, stepping up to leadership in his family, touching them without sexual motives, and start participating in the chores around the house, just to name a few.
We also occasionally hear from the frustrated, broken-hearted women who don’t understand how after six months to a year of being dramatically different, showing respect as a habit to this man she married, how he will still let doors slam in her face, criticize her cooking, leave his stuff laying everywhere and never lift a finger to take part in family life. He may still be addicted to pornography, gaming, alcohol, or abusing her. And having interacted with both sides of the equation, we have some learnings we want to pass along that might help you in your particular journey.
First, I want to share what some of the women in our community on Facebook have had to say. I posted the following and they responded:
So I believe God had me write the book to give wives practical examples of what respect looked like on a daily basis. For many women, this changes their husbands and marriages. For others, it does not. So then, what is the benefit, if any, of doing the Respect Dare if your husband and marriage don’t change?
Because God will use this to make us more like Him, even if our husband doesn’t change. ~Shawn
The benefit is an inner peace and freedom and the knowing, that I have done everything possible to save my family. And a new, happy, calm, steady and hopeful “me”. ~Caroline
Even if he doesn’t change, it will certainly change you as a woman of God and wife! ~Lisa
… and the goal going in shouldn’t be to change our husbands… 😉 ~Susan
Because it’s the right thing to do. ~Pamela
I believe that as a wife I can keep the changes, and keep praying and respecting. It is up to God to move my husband’s heart and his mind. Not me. My job is not to change him but to show him I can change for the better of our marriage, our family and to show him an example of prayer. The one thing my husband knows now, more than before I did the respect dare is that I pray for him. And that has helped us to pray together. My take home, in one line: Let God lead him and change him, keep praying, loving and living what God moves you to. ~Shanyn
It honors the gospel and puts God’s beautiful Word on display. See Titus 2! ~Gena
Yes!! It’s what the Bible says we are to do. I know that at first my hubby didn’t respond well but even though that hurt I still had a peace that I was in Gods will. I was growing closer to Him and was seeing my husband through His eyes and not my selfish desires and wrong expectations. ~Jen
Even though it didn’t change him or rescue our marriage, it certainly changed me, my thinking, and my behavior. For that I am thankful. ~Pamela
I didn’t do this to change him, I did it to change me and my attitudes and reactions. The fact that there have been changes is an added bonus. ~Gerri
Everything we do should be done for the Lord. Not for our husbands, not for ourselves, not for results. Just in obedience. His obedience/change is between him and God. 🙂 ~Melissa
One huge benefit is the change in US! I know that through this book, and through leading a small group, I’ve grown so much! I’m closer to my Heavenly Father, my husband and my earthly father. I’ve gained an inner peace and a better understanding of God’s will for me as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, etc. It’s a wonderful feeling? ~Andrea
This is about changing us! ~Susie
Well, Dr. Eggerichs talks about it in his book – we are faithful to what God has called us to do and set before us as our role. No matter what the outcome, if we are faithful, we will be blessed. ~Leah
^exactly what being faithful to God, with our lives, our marriages, not for an outcome, but to submit and our of devotion to the God we serve, our life doesn’t end here…Jesus understands our suffering. ~Kim
We aren’t going to be judged on how many people we changed. We are only going to be judged by God for submitting to Him to change US. ~Cindy
Entering The Respect Dare to change my husband…that sounds very manipulative and my husband is cleaver enough to recognize that. Who likes to be manipulated? I don’t, and neither does my hubby. I’m honest with myself, I started the Respect Dare b/c I knew I needed it. It’s an area that God has called me to and I need help. In the end, I want no regrets or “wishes that I had done more” before my Lord and Savior. I want to mature in respect as a way of saying Thanking you Jesus. I want evidence in my life that I’m yielded to the Holy Spirit’s leading- being respectful is part of that. ~Lisa
Being right with God. Thanks ladies for the reminder that this is what wives are called to. Husband’s response is icing on the cake if it materializes. If not, still have God’s favor resting upon me for obedience to Him. ~Michelle
Allowing God to shape and mold me … has been worth it … 😉 ~Linda
Because God commands wives to RESPECT their husbands, He never gave conditions. It’s about obedience to God. That is more important than whether our husbands obey their own command to LOVE their wives. Our spouse’s obedience to God in how they treat us is irrelevant. ~Jenny
It’s not about them changing, it’s about us changing! ~Tina
For the record, I will tell you that I agree with everything written above. Some of us are trying to “purchase” feeling loved again by our husband with our respect – and that simply doesn’t “work.” The goal instead should be to obey God – regardless of the outcome.
And we are given guidance to confront a brother when he sins against us (which our husband’s unloving behavior IS) – but more on that momentarily.
James chapter 4 addresses this whole concept of “giving to receive” in this way:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
Remembering that your husband is our closest neighbor, we have to be careful of judging our husbands. And we cannot try to purchase their love. That said, however, when they behave unloving towards us, we can also either follow the advice in Proverbs 19:11, which reads, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense,” or we can practice Matthew 18, by confronting this brother who has sinned against us. Know this is a tough love situation, and few women are brave enough to deal with their husband’s sin in this way, but God’s advice is pretty clear:
15“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Do you hear that? Respectfully, patiently, kindly, and humbly, tell your husband how unloved you feel and the specific reasons why. Tell him specifically what hurts you and what you want instead. If he apologizes, forgive him. Give him a chance to change, and repeat this process if you have to. 70 times 7 times while he is working on it. Remember he is a sinner, just like you, and new behaviors are hard. He’s going to fail sometimes. You can look at this as an opportunity to extend grace, which you would also want from him when you mess up!
Just like you will never be perfect, you can’t expect him to be. You didn’t marry Jesus Christ, and neither did he.
However, if he refuses to listen, confront again, kindly, lovingly, patiently and humbly. He will probably apologize, and tell you he will try to do better. You need to forgive him. 70 X 7 times, if he apologizes. If he refuses to hear you, find a good counselor and tell him you have made an appointment and you expect him to go – and have a counselor (preferably male, as many immature men can only learn from other men) facilitate your discussions and help you confront. If he has male friends, instead of taking him to a counselor, you can have this conversation with one of these other people present to witness the communication. And again, if he apologizes, forgive, allowing him opportunity to change.
If none of the above results in changed behavior (and it takes people time to change, so be patient and persevere) then it is time to take it to the church leadership. That means an elder or pastor. You may then end up having to separate – but only under God’s direction – for a time of praying and restoration work to begin.
1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NIV)
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
The above Scripture communicates that we are not to leave our husbands, but that God knows some women might do that anyway, and if they do,they should be reconciled. In the original language, the word, “separate” means to “divorce.” The Bible doesn’t actually mention “separating” as we have come to understand it in today’s day and age.
And before you jump on the bandwagon of, “Oh! That’s it! I will go and do this!” remember that the verses beforehand warn of how precious our brother is to God, and how it is better to cut off various limbs before harming someone precious to God.
Check the entirety of Matthew 18 here.
And our husbands are just as precious to God as we are. That chapter also begins with the disciples wondering who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus had heard this discussion before, when they were arguing about which of THEM would be greatest – and again He puts them all in their place, accurately pointing out that their pursuit of prestige is a sin.
So check your motives – and get your part right first, so you are blameless before God in this area. I don’t feel we have the right to confront someone else’s sins against us when we are knowingly sinning against them. So wives, we need to respect. We need to get it right first, then we have earned the right to confront – IF LED BY GOD – otherwise we have a large “plank in our own eye,” and have NO BUSINESS correcting someone else’s behavior.
We are to be like Christ, regardless – and the only way you will know what God wants you to do, is to be in daily communion with Him, listening, dwelling in His presence, worshiping, confessing your sins, repenting from sin (changing your behavior), and sharing your troubles with Him.
God may very well use you to impact your husband. He also may not. Having been privy to innumerable stories from wives, I’ve seen God use poverty, imprisonment, loss of employment, public humiliation, family estrangement, and injuries of children to get a husband’s attention. I’ve seen wives suffer permanent disability, become oppressed by the enemy, and endure physical and mental illnesses, which God then uses to get their husband’s attention and transform him. I’ve seen women take their children, having been led by God, to another place to live while their husband deals with the consequences of his choices alone. I’ve seen others, again, led by God, endure extremely difficult situations while God works things out with their husbands. The point is, I could list off a ton of “suggestions” and “actions” to take, but none of them will impact your husband if your efforts are outside of God’s will. I have heard countless stories, including my own, of wives who have tried to get their husbands to change – only to lay down their efforts, throw up their hands, and watch in amazement to see God step in and do His thing effortlessly now that we were out of His way.
This is different from “respecting yourself” as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, however. God may want you to martyr yourself in your own home, or He may want you to take care of yourself and your emotional needs by surrounding yourself with rich female and family relationships, physical fitness, and/or a hobby or interest that you absolutely love. He may very well use Matthew 18 in a loving, firm, but powerful way. If we take a look at the men and women of the Bible, they had various circumstances, but most of them were willing to do whatever it was that God wanted from them. That’s the point. We will never know how to change your marriage – but God does. So The RESPECT Dare helps you get close to Him, and teaches you some practical applications of respect…so be close to God, obey Him, and that includes respecting your husband. Matthew 18 is not executed by hysterical women, but rather with patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control and humbleness. Is that you?
Or must you have your way in your timing?
Dare you to ask God to give you His heart, His will, and His help in aligning your thoughts to His.
It will change the way you walk through all of your relationships, not just your marriage. And in doing so, you will know, with full confidence, that each step you take within His will, has the outcome it was supposed to have – regardless of our worldly judgment of it.
There are, however, some things you can do while you are in the middle of this journey:
- Be still and know that He is God. In other words, stop trying to change your husband. Accept him for who he is, and love him the way he is. Yes, love and respect unconditionally, knowing he is fully human, meaning a sinful creature, and that if he is sinning against you, then it might be time to confront that sin, but without judgment. Know that Jesus died for him, too, and that none of us are to judge another. Christ didn’t even do that. Know that God loves him just the way he is. Shouldn’t you?
- ASK for what you need. “Submission” does NOT mean not confronting your husband when he sins against you or being silent and not asking to have your needs filled. Even if you have to ask every single day. Forgive him when he apologizes. Do it for a decade. If you feel loved when you are touched, affirmed, bought a gift, helped with a task, whatever, ASK for it. And be sweet when you do. Yes, even if you have to ask more than once, be sweet.
- Initiate what you are looking for from your husband. Even if you have to do it every day for the rest of your lives. He’s not your girlfriend – stop expecting him to behave like one. And if you have to ask three or four times, ask him how he’d like you to handle it if he forgets. Then do that.
- Do something radically different (at God’s leading) if you need to. If your approach is not getting your needs met, try a different one – this is so important! Foolishness lies in doing things the same way and expecting different results.
- Respect him anyway – because God says to. Your obedience delights your heavenly Father – and He rewards your obedience. Work on your trust issues by asking Him to help you in this area, but obey anyway.
- Revisit the things you did early in your marriage – even if you have to instigate them. Make a list of these things and start doing them.
- Don’t evaluate your progress by his reactions. Many husbands behave badly when we start working on things because our respect often causes them to face their own sin. I don’t understand why this is, but I’ve seen it happen a lot.
- Persevere. It’s what mature faith is made of.
- Remember that whatever you pay attention to GROWS. If you are emotionally reacting to him and how he treats you (and I’m not sure why this is, but it seems to go this way) understand you are paying attention to this negative behavior and you will get more of it. In the same way, if he takes a baby step in the right direction and you ignore it, he probably won’t repeat it nor will he take a bigger risk later.
- Remember the goal is to live as Christ, finding His peace and joy in the midst of difficulties. Remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
So thankful that you are on this journey with me. You are not alone.