As I mentioned in my previous article, Husband #2 and I are improving our relationship in a non-traditional, non-marriage counseling way. So what am I doing to encourage healing between us and possibly lay the groundwork for a better marriage? My first post on the process was all about looking for the exceptions. My second article covered the idea of temporarily putting our problems aside and rediscovering what we like about each other.
Today’s topic is about Love… no, Respect… no, Love… no, Respect!
To be honest, I’ve started writing this article about six different times and always ended up trashing my draft. No matter how I approach this topic it comes off in one big way:
My good friend recommended a book to me last summer. She stopped by one warm summer night and after a glass of wine, she took me by the hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “I know this will be a tough read but it will be enlightening.” And then she left me, standing in the driveway, book in hand, with a confused look on my face.
I looked down in my hand and in the dim light of the setting sun, the words floated up at me Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Did I mention the tantalizing subtitle? The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs.
The basis of the book is a simple bible verse. The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 5:33, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Dr. Eggerichs goes on to describe what he calls the Crazy Cycle, where the wife holds back respect until the husband shows love. But he holds back the love until she shows him respect. Another downward spiral!
This is hard for me to understand, as I am a woman…a woman who wants love. It turns out that most men would rather be respected than loved. And conversely, a majority of women would prefer love to respect.
Respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements
Love: an intense feeling of deep affection
I will confess that I am deeply invested in the quality of my relationships. I want to show love, be loved, profess love, and share love. Given the chance, I would sing love songs from the grassy high valleys of the Alps, much like Julie Andrews crooning about the hills being alive while happy little sheep looked on with adoration. I can tell Husband #2 all day and all night that I love him, but it probably won’t mean as much to him as it does to me. I love hearing him say that magical phrase, “I love you”, whether he’s whispering in my ear as I curl my hair or muttering it under his breath somewhat exasperated as I give him KP duty directions during Thanksgiving dinner preparations.
- You did a fantastic job on insulating the house
- I appreciate the way you provide for the family
- You make the best hamburgers ever (and he really does!)
- I am proud of you
I’m not even sure if Husband #2 notices me saying these types of things. But what will it hurt?
As you well know, I’ve been branching out. And speaking respect is harder than expected. It’s not because I don’t respect Husband #2, I do…a lot. It’s because there are so many things that I innocently say, as a woman, that a man would perceive as disrespectful. Like offering up help while he’s driving by telling him the lane he’s merging into is clear. If I said this to one of my female friends, I’d get a cheery “Thanks!” and they would consider it an added safety feature. But I can’t think like myself, a woman. I have to think like a man in this regard. I have to get into the mindset of help = disrespect.
I think that explains why so many men refuse to stop and ask for directions. Just saying.
The second major point of the book is to get in the habit of believing the other person comes from a place of goodwill, even when a spouse is acting unloving or disrespectful. It’s highly unlikely that Husband #2 is truly evil and pushes my buttons to purposely hurt me, so I’ve approached his rather uninhibited comments with the belief that he is basically goodwilled in his heart. He may not realize how hurtful his words are, but it has helped my disposition towards him if I keep in mind that he’s not being purposely mean.
Each of the tactics I’ve adopted has taken some time to practice, but I want to be the best person I can be in all aspects of my life, and that included being a better spouse…even if this marriage doesn’t work out.