It’s all about attitude. And I had to learn it over a period of years. I have been listening to Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I hear him talking about how a woman needs love and a man needs respect. I should have listened to this many years ago. I read other books, but I don’t remember anyone putting it so succinctly that love doesn’t mean as much to a man as respect does. That seems bizarre to me, but I’m convinced that it’s true. Why do so many men write those sappy love songs then?!!
I hate to admit it, but when my husband and I first got together, I had a tad bit of a superior attitude. I never would have admitted it then, but I had this pride problem that was huge. But I was blind to it. I thought I could judge his actions and words and decide if he was right or seeing things right or whatever. Sometimes when he told me about something that happened at work, I would wonder if he was just seeing things wrong. I wondered if he caused his own problems. I know now that I needed to be on his side no matter what. But back then, I judged him. I would tell him what he should have done. Oh, I cringe when I think about how I used to think and act toward him. I didn’t know him as well as I do now, but if I had followed the biblical order of how wives are to treat their husbands, I would have honored and respected him instead of reserving judgment or out and out criticizing him. I don’t think I came right out and criticized him openly, but I would ask him questions about the matter, and he could tell that I was questioning his handling of the matter. No wonder he didn’t feel respected by me. Like Dr. Eggerichs says in his book, I should have given him unconditional respect.
Another thing I didn’t understand was how important it was to him to be able to provide well for his family. I wanted to get married as soon as possible, and he wanted to become more financially secure first. I was already teaching. I thought that I could earn enough for us at first and then he could take over the breadwinner role later. I had no idea how hard that was on his self-image. I pushed until we did get married before he was established in a career, but I think his self-respect took a beating. It worked out in the end, but he had some wounds from my attitudes that pushed him to do things that lowered his self-respect. If I had respected him, I wouldn’t have pushed for my own agenda against his better judgment.
The Bible tells us the correct way to think of our husbands. In Eph. 5:33, Paul says, “The wife must respect her husband.” I thought I knew that. I just didn’t realize that I wasn’t doing it. I didn’t know how unconditional my respect had to be.
In the Love and Respect teaching, Dr. Eggerichs tells about a survey of men that asked two questions: If you were forced to choose, would you rather be alone in the world and unloved, or would you rather feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone? More than 70% of the men surveyed said they would rather be alone and unloved than to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone.
I saw my husband live this out. It was SO hard on him. While we were living by faith, he was okay because he knew that God told him not to get a job. So when people asked what he was doing, he could tell them that God had called him to pray and to do whatever ministry the Lord brought to him. Not many people asked him to his face, but a lot of people talked behind his back. And he knew it. But he was able to handle it, because he knew he was obeying God. When the time of living by faith was coming to an end, he knew he was supposed to get a job again after four years without a job. So he started trying to find a job, and it seemed like he couldn’t get a job anywhere. Nobody would hire him. Even jobs that were below his skill level were closed to him. Our fountain of provision had stopped, but he couldn’t do anything to make any money for us. He felt so useless, helpless, and purposeless. It almost killed him! He was a bear to live with. He was so angry all the time. The kids were afraid of him. He was not himself. He finally got a job at Walmart, of all places. It didn’t pay enough to even cover our rent. But it was something for him to do, and he started coming back to his senses. He had a purpose in witnessing to people he worked with and customers. He had people coming to him asking him questions. He was getting a bit of respect from someone. It was enough to help him through the rest of our transition back into the marketplace.
I believe that I was respectful to him during that time, but that wasn’t enough. He felt disrespected by everybody else. But I wonder if he would have made it through it at all, if I had disrespected him, too. I stood by him and loved him the best I could. I never treated him like he wasn’t trying hard enough. I never questioned anything he did or said. At times, I felt like I had to do spiritual warfare for him. I had to take some leadership of finding a house for us and some other things because he was too distraught to do anything like that at the time. But I didn’t get angry at him for leaving the headship to me. I knew he just wasn’t capable right then. I gave him some time and space. If he had made a decision during that time, I would have gone along with it. He was too agitated to even make a decision. But I had learned through our years of living by faith to respect him unconditionally. So when the time came that he was acting in a way that didn’t deserve respect I was able to keep treating him with respect. I believe that it helped him to retain his sanity and kept our marriage from falling apart.
So I believe that our submission to our husbands is wrapped up in our unconditional respect for him. I have a husband who loves the Lord. If my husband wasn’t seeking God with all his heart, I know it would be very hard to show him unconditional respect. But it seems as if that is what God would have us do. So I would have to submit to his decisions if I wanted to obey God. I trust God to take care of me no matter what happens in life. I have heard testimonies of husbands who really have been won by their wives’ loving, submissive, respectful attitudes. If we don’t show respect to him, then we are not giving God anything to work with.
I have known women who were abused emotionally by their husbands. I would advise them to keep a submissive attitude, except in cases of physical abuse. Then I would tell them to leave and go to a place of safety. But in the case of emotional abuse, if the husband ever tried to leave, I would tell the wife to let him go and not try to get him back. It really all comes down to trusting God. Leaving it all to Him means not trying to make things happen our way. If we truly allow God to work in our husband’s heart, God will make all things work out for our good. If we truly trust God, we will let God have his way in everything that concerns us, including our husband’s heart.