Giving respect without condition – and why it will save your marriage.

When I wrote my post about 10 Marriage Tips every WIFE Needs to Hear, I realized quickly how hungry people were for advice about how to keep their marriages from failing. I should know, I’ve been in that boat – twice. Divorce is devastating, but it’s also an epidemic in our society. My post has had over six million views and we’ve received almost a thousand comments. Many of the comments were from people who are navigating some pretty tough situations within their current marriage and were asking for me to elaborate on several of the tips, in hopes that my response would help them gain a better understand of how to deal with their particular issue. I’ve done my best to respond to them all, but thought it would be a good idea to do a series where I talk a little more in-depth about each tip. Initially, they were written to be directed towards the women, but most can be applied to both. Hopefully, if you’re dealing with any of these issues in your marriage, I can shed some light on how I have learned a little better about each of these things for myself.

  1. Respect your husband.  – Notice how it doesn’t say “Respect your husband if he has earned it”. A man’s greatest need in this world is to be respected, and the person he desires that respect from the most is his wife.  The trap that we’ve all been ensnared by is that they only deserve our respect when they earn it. Yes, we want our husbands to make decisions that will ultimately garner our respect, but the truth is that your husband is a human being. A human being who makes mistakes. This is the man that YOU have chosen to walk alongside you for the rest of your life, and to lead your family and he needs to be respected for that quality alone. Take it from me – when respect is given even when he doesn’t deserve it, it will motivate him to earn it. That doesn’t mean you pretend that his choices are good ones when they aren’t. Things like that still need to be communicated, but you can flesh out your differences WITH RESPECT. It makes all the difference in the world to him.

This was a tough one, and one that was met with more than a fair share of snide remarks from some readers. The general consensus is that respect must be earned, specifically regarding a loved one. Before we get any further into that, I want to share the definition of the word “respect”, as it pertains to this discussion:

Respect: To show consideration for; treat courteously or kindly.

When I read this, I began to think about what it truly means to show consideration for someone. How do we do this in our daily lives, with regards to everyone BUT our spouse? If you are in the workplace, then chances are you show respect to your boss, supervisor, or manager. By the mere fact that they hold a position of authority, there is a reverence that is shown to them, regardless of whether your boss always makes the right decision. They are human and they falter. I’ve had many jobs where those in a position of authority did very little to actually “warrant my respect”. Nevertheless, I treated them courteously. Why? Because if I didn’t, there was a high probability that I would have been fired for insubordination. There is an order to every company structure that exists to help that business operate successfully. Showing respect to those who make important decisions is part of what makes a business thrive.

Who else do you show consideration to every day? The cashier at the grocery store who is rude? I’d be willing to bet that while most of us don’t necessarily enjoy dealing with a bad attitude, our response is to be polite anyway. What about our kids? I have five children of my own, and every day there are at least three of them who are testing my limits to the bitter end. While I make every effort to train and discipline them accordingly, I still show them kindness, because reproof without love is fruitless. They will only feel my wrath and not my direction. Am I always successful at this? No. I’m human and I’m often impatient, but it is my heart to always try and show kindness and mercy when I have to correct my children.

Respect

So I think by now you get my point. In the everyday dealings that we have with a multitude of strangers, acquaintances, and loved ones – most of us do our duty to extend consideration to those that we come into contact with. So why, then, are our spouses the only people that have to EARN our respect? It is freely given to our bosses, our coworkers, and the ornery neighbor, but condition is so often applied to the one person that we share the most intimacy with in the world. I’m sad to say that I used to subscribe to this way of life. My former husband was subject to an array of verbal bashings if he didn’t perform the way I expected him to. Bitterness is not a pretty color on me (or anyone, for that matter), and my disrespect did nothing to curtail his poor decisions.

And therein lies the problem – EXPECTATIONS. We don’t have unreasonable expectations of ordinary relationships, but we have them of our spouse. The very root of the marriage relationship is love. When our spouse doesn’t perform the way we want, then our expectation of love is not met. Our relationship with our spouse has now become performance based, all because we have refused to extend them CONSIDERATION. No person, including our husband/wife, can ever get it right all of the time. It’s a vicious cycle and it’s completely unfair. Now let me clarify that this does not apply to an abusive situation. If you are being abused – physically, emotionally, or verbally, then there is no reason for you to stay around and just take it. Get help, or get out. But for those of us where abuse is not an issue, I think we need to revisit the practice of showing consideration to our spouse, even if he/she has done wrong.

OK, now that we have identified the problem, how can we learn how to better show respect to our spouse? Well…when I’m struggling in a specific area of character, I always like to see what the Bible says about it.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.  -Romans 12:10

I love this. Some other ways that “preference” can be translated is advantage; leeway; blessing. Ahh…blessing. Bless your spouse. Bless them on good days and on bad ones.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.  -Philippians 2:3

This one is my favorite, but probably the toughest to put into practice, for the simple fact that it is in our nature (our sin nature) to put ourselves first. Some of the best marriage advice I’ve ever received, however, is to “out-serve one another”. If you spend all of your time trying to “out serve” your spouse, you will spend far less time worrying about your own unmet expectations.

I know this is a lot of information to digest on one topic, but learning to respect your spouse is worth the investment of your time. I promise.

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3 thoughts on “Giving respect without condition – and why it will save your marriage.

    • I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I know it expounds much further on this concept, yes. In fact, my husband and I plan on leading a Love and Respect small group this year. Can’t wait! From what I understand, it’s a life changer!

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