Sunday, July 22, 2012

Love Alone is Not Enough

In 2009, Brian and I were still trying to wrap our arms around what it meant to have a "good" marriage.  It seemed much harder than it looked to be for other newlyweds.  In early 2010, my dad was teaching a marriage class at church and he gave me a copy of the book he was using for the series.  I had low expectations for it and it sat on the nightstand for a few weeks before a page was cracked.  One afternoon, after a disagreement, I retreated to the bedroom and laid on the bed staring at the ceiling.  I didn't know what to do.  I reached for my cell phone ready to get lost in a text message conversation with my sister.  My eye just barely caught the edge of the book that had accumulated dust and taken up residence on the nightstand.  I reluctantly opened it to the Introduction, prepared to be unimpressed and uninterested, and I read the title:

"Love Alone is Not Enough"

My interest was peaked.  I knew enough from the 1+ year we had been married to know that there is more to making a marriage work than solely loving each other -- finances, family, children, etc.  But to see the words in writing just made it seem more real.  I read on, expecting a lesson like many I had heard before.

I almost think that you could read the Introduction and Chapters 1-4 and it could change the way you approach your marriage.  I think this because I didn't make it to chapter 5 until a few months later.  I read the first 23 pages that rainy afternoon and took a deep breath.  I walked out of the room and I sat beside Brian and I told him that I respect him and who he is.  He looked at me like I had lost it.  Who just sits down and says "I respect you"?  Those are random words to hear, especially out of the blue and after an argument.  He paused a moment and said an awkward "thank you."  That's it.  Nothing else was said, and I headed into the kitchen to pour a drink.  A few days passed and then one night Brian rolled over and said that it really meant a lot to hear me say that I respected him.  That he knew I did deep down but that he didn't feel like I always showed it and hearing the words meant more to him than anything I had said in a long time.  

Plain and simply put: Men need respect the way that women need love.  We can tell our husbands that we love them all day long until the cows come home, and it will not mean as much to them as hearing the words "I respect you."  

When men don't feel respected by their wives, they react in unloving ways.  And when they react in unloving ways, women don't show their husbands respect.  And when women don't show their husbands respect, men react in unloving ways, continues and continues and continues.  And likely will spiral out of control at some point.  The author writes in the book that when he counsels couples, the wife will many times say, "I don't think my husband loves me as much as I love him."  When the husband is asked if he thinks his wife loves him, he says "of course...but I don't think she likes me."  In many cases the wife's dislike is interpreted by the husband as disrespect and often contempt.  She no longer admires him and looks at him with adoring eyes.  Instead he feels like she doesn't like who he is and wants to change him.

Ephesians 5.33:

The husband must love his wife as he loves himself, 
and the wife must respect her husband.  

This means that even if the husband isn't showing his wife love, she must respect him.  And even when she isn't showing him respect, he must love her.  It isn't a request, it is a command from God.  Whether you are an independent-free thinking-women's rights advocate, or an old school-southern baptist wife, you are called to show your husband unconditional respect, whether he has "earned it" in your eyes or not.  Because that is God's design for marriage.  And our primary needs as men and women are just different.

So there you have it.  I told you it was simple.  I want to take this opportunity to put a plug in for the book.  Maybe you aren't in a place where you think you need it.  Maybe you feel you already practice love and respect in your relationship the way it is meant to be expressed.  But in case you don't, take a few minutes to remind your husband that you respect him.  Don't stare at him after and expect a glowing response.  He will be caught off guard and he needs time to process it.  But watch and see how his actions towards you transform over time.  At his new confidence from knowing that in your eyes, he is great.  

And husbands, take the time to tell your wife tonight that you love her.  Not the usual "Love you, goodnight," but a heartfelt "I love you" and follow it up with a loving action.  Watch her heart open up to you and burst with respect for the wonderful husband you are.  

Over time, things will improve.  If they are terrible, they will become not as bad.  If they are bad, they will become better.  Better will become good.  And good will become great.  No matter what spectrum you fall on today, I can promise you, from experience, a better tomorrow.

Love & Respect
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs


Jess said...

Hey Sara! I was on Facebook and saw this post! I have read this book, and agree with you wholeheartedly! This concept seems so easy...but it took the book to "get it." Thank you for writing on this and giving me the reminder that I need to respect my husband daily =-)

-Jess Hicks

dkirkward said...

Good stuff Sara. Liz and I did a lot of counseling prior to getting married, and although we thought some of it was overboard and at times cheesy, we have been incredibly happy through the first 9 months of marriage. I think this book falls in line with the workbooks we used through our church.

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