Our Connect Group at Harborside Christian Church recently participated in a powerful series on marriage, called Love & Respect. Dr. Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs have authored a book and designed a full workshop around the simple but foundational concept that a wife’s deepest need is love, while a husband’s deepest need is respect. Even though we are a group made up entirely of parents of middle school kids, we still took time to focus on this topic; because a healthy marriage is the cornerstone of a happy home.
The basic assertion of this study is that love motivates a wife to show respect, and respect motivates a husband to be loving. Conversely, a wife who feels unloved will treat her husband disrespectfully, while a husband who doesn’t feel respected will find it difficult to treat his wife lovingly. It’s true that both parties in a relationship need love. It’s equally true that both need respect. The revelation comes in understanding the key practices that meet the most critical, driving need of each partner in the relationship.
We talk a lot about unconditional love in modern American society, but rarely about unconditional respect. Instead, we often hear the mantra that you have to earn respect. Marriage doesn’t play by those rules. In marriage, what we do unto each other, we do unto God. Regardless of how respectable my husband’s behavior is, as his wife I show him respect. And on my most unlovable days, my husband still has the tough job ahead of him to love me anyway.
The series has practical tips for meeting these needs. Some are as simple as telling your husband, “I respect you.” And some are more complicated, such as women need emotional intimacy through dialogue, loyalty and openness, while men need physical intimacy and to be appreciated for their provision and wisdom. There are universal nuggets of wisdom, like don’t buy your wife a diet book; and if you squeeze your husband’s bicep, he’ll flex. Participants come to realize that from a young age men feel it’s their role to protect the women in their life, even to the point of dying for them. We learned that women need face-to-face interaction, while men crave time spent shoulder-to-shoulder. This understanding drove subtle changes in our habits at home, and the impacts have lasted for a full year now.
As you prepare for your wedding, remember to prepare for the long haul of marriage. You can do work now that will help you fulfil your vision of a fruitful marriage. Start today, seeking to understand your partner’s needs so that you can meet them and reap the rewards of an energized marriage, full of love and respect. The skills we learn while building a strong marriage are skills we can use later to parent our children, engage with our coworkers, and contribute to our communities. Learning to be a loving husband or respectful wife is an investment that will pay off for a lifetime.
Photo by: Corey Conroy Photography