by the Night Writer
What do the current relationships in your life say about your capacity to be married? Do you understand the relationship between love and respect and how this may be different for men than for women? What will you bring from your parent’s marriage into your own? These were all covered in the second class;
How do you get along with your parents? Your boss? Your friends (you do have friends, right)? If your other relationships are volatile, it may be time to consider what (or more accurately, “who”) is the common denominator in each of those.
Why do you think a wife is going to understand you any better than these others do?
Also, ask yourself if you are a faithful person. Not so much in terms of whether you’d cheat on a wife or girlfriend, but in regards to whether you’re someone who shows diligence in other areas of your life.
Love is a decision, not a feeling, and so is diligence. Do you show up for work on-time, see projects through to the end, do your friends rely on you because they know they can count on you to show up when you say you’ll do something?
Getting a wife may help you develop in all these areas, but why inflict this learning curve on someone you said you’d love and cherish? It’s a HUGE head-start toward a happy marriage if you’ve refined these qualities in yourself.
Are you someone who will keep his word, even if it’s to your disadvantage?
Psa 15:1-4 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to slander others or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends. Those who despise persistent sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Do these other scriptures describe your life — Prov. 18:24; Rom 13:13-14; Prov. 3:3; Prov. 14:29; Prov. 15:1; Prov. 16:32; Prov. 21:24? If not today, when?
Are you someone who can be respected?
I’ve been to a lot of Couples Weekends and marriage groups where I’ve learned a lot about how to love my wife, but I found one teaching to be especially enlightening. This came from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. The book focuses on the Ephesians 5:33 — “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5 is a loaded chapter and scriptures are often quoted from it out of context. You need to read the whole thing to understand it properly, especially the part that begins in verse 21 where the couple are instructed to “submit to one another in the fear of the God.” Submit. To one another.
Keep that in mind as you read 22-24. These two verses may make up about 90% of some guys’ Bible knowledge, if they are the type of guys who like to quote “Woman, submmit” without pausing to reflect on whether they themselves are adhering to Biblical instruction. Anyone who wants to stand with any authority on verses 22-24 must first be sure he’s on solid ground with verse 21 and verses 25-31.
Whole books can (and have) been written on this, but the short answer begins in verse 21: “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Each is to look upon their spouse as they would God. To illustrate, in the first two verses Paul describes the example of the wife submitting to her husband in all things as she would to Jesus, who is head of the church. Sounds like a pretty good deal for the husband, eh?
Let’s look at the next seven verses, though, which conclude with the ones Dr. Eggerichs uses. Here the husband’s submitting is detailed much more thoroughly (remember, this is still all in reference to verse 21). He submits himself to his wife as Christ did for the church, giving himself up completely for her. Basically, you die. Now, if it comes right down to it, I think just about any guy would be willing to take a bullet for his wife. The more realistic question, however, is would you let her have the last doughnut? Would you put down your newspaper (or video game) to talk to her?
We are also told to love her as we love our own flesh; what would this kind of “headship” look like? Probably not what some “Woman, submit” Bubba would like. It’s also interesting to me that the woman gets her orders in two and a half verses, while guys get seven.
Is it easy — either to do or understand? No. That’s why Paul admits it is a mystery (verse 32). It is easier to understand, however, if you think of it in terms of verses 1, 8 and 9 of Ephesians 5: Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children…For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.
What I understood better after reading the “Love & Respect” book is that while women have a primary need to be loved, a man’s primary need is more likely to be respected. Men and women need both from their spouse in a relationship, but love edges respect for women and respect edges love for men. While a lot of teaching hammers on men to love their wives, wives may think they’re doing their part by unconditionally loving their husbands in return. That sounds like a good formula for success, but what the scripture says and what Dr. E recognized is that wives are to show unconditional respect to their husbands. Obvously, in context, this isn’t some “Woman, submit” power trip, but a realization that there’s something different that floats the boat for each sex.
Respect is the currency for men; we grow up with it culturally in sports, in business, in military models. Guys usually are pretty efficient at sorting out which way the respect flows in any situation. True, guys can sound horrific in their good-natured trash talk to each other — in words that would crush a woman’s esteem if they were directed at her — but it typically occurs among guys who have sorted things out and know they’re all at the same level. Trash talk doesn’t go uphill and usually doesn’t flow downhill except to make a point. Respect can almost be ritualized as in the mafia expression and practice of “men of respect”, and it can be seen in extremis in the gangbanger culture of young men who haven’t learned the rules and applications of respect but will kill each other for being “disrespected”.
If you asked a man, would you rather your wife showed you love or showed you respect (and the guy took a few minutes to think about it) most would say that respect is more important. Men are respect-oriented and its important to them to know that they measure up in the eyes of their wives, just as it is important that they behave in a manner worthy of respect.
That’s a challenging idea for women, who are love-oriented. Because love is more important to them they think love is what their husbands want (and we do, but again it’s #2). A wife can grasp the unconditional love idea and take pride in unconditionally loving her husband, but still not respect him “Of course I love the big lug, even if he’s an idiot, can’t hold a job, and can’t be trusted to dress himself without my help.” Asking her to unconditionally respect her husband, however, can be a big hurdle, especially if he’s been less than respectable. “I can love and forgive, but I can’t forget.”
Most men, meanwhile, have grown up knowing they’re supposed to respect women, especially their wives, and will confer that respect on them even if they’re not sure if they love them. “She’s great with the kids, I couldn’t function without her, I’d never deliberately hurt her, but I don’t know if I love her.” This can be especially true if she’s been less than loving and respectful in her actions toward him. “I can say ‘forget about it’, but I don’t forgive.”
Again, respecting one’s husband isn’t about being submissively obedient any more than a man loving his wife is about being mushy all the time. Differences in opinion and approach are fine when they can be discussed in ways that show he loves and cherishes his wife and wants the best for her and she shows she respects his ability and character. That can mean he is willing to give in on something in order to benefit her and that she doesn’t bring past failures or personal critiques into the discussion.
Or you could go to the Greek — “My Big, Fat Greek Wedding” that is — where it is noted: “The husband is the head, but the wife is the neck, and the neck can turn the head any which way it wants.”
Which brings us to asking, very respectfully, “What is the condition of your parents’ marriage?
This is important because you are likely to react to some stress or issue in your marriage in the same way you saw, or have seen, your parents react. (I shared an example of how my wife and I reacted — based on our experiences — to a situation that occurred the first time I came home from work late without calling first).
What are the things you admire in your parents’ lives? What things might you change if you had the chance? It couldn’t hurt to take the time now to actually write down the things in two columns, not to criticize and find fault, but to try to identify how the good and bad may have affected you. That way, when the pressure is on in your own marriage you’ll be less likely to respond instinctively in the same manner you saw your parents react to the same issues.
Thinking about this in advance won’t necessarily keep you from acting the same way, but it will make it easier to recognize the reaction for what it is when it comes and could give you the opportunity to take a step back and then step forward in a slightly different direction.
After you’ve made your first list, write down a second list of the things you’re prepared to do reinforce the good things you saw, and to prevent the bad things from recurring in your marriage. As a side benefit, you’ll likely gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for the challenges your parents faced.
If you didn’t have a father around as a model (good or bad), take the time to think about how that affected you and how it might play out in your marriage – especially in terms of reacting the way your parents did. It’s not enough to say, “I’d never want my kid to go through what I had to go through.” Start thinking now about how you’d change that, what things you need to do now.