"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;"
Eph 5:25

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Marriage and Respect ...

Something has been on my heart for several weeks, and I need to share my viewpoint on the subject.

In the last few months, several women have come to me in tears to discuss a delicate subject.  You see, each of these wives have been left by their husbands.  Left ... for another woman.

Here's a caveat:  I am not, I repeat, NOT a marriage counselor or a psychologist. I'm simply a person who listens, reads, and prays.

In the midst of the inherent ugliness of these breakups, each one has a common theme.  Their husbands told them that they don't feel respected, and that the other women give them "what they need."

Soooo ... what do husbands need?

I've read and blogged significantly about marriage, and I have some experience being an actual husband.   I can tell you from experience as well as research, that husbands need respect above all else.  When a husband feels disrespected,  he feels frustrated and unloved in his marriage.

"What do you mean?" you might ask.  "I always show my husband respect."

You may be disrespecting him without even knowing it.

Do you ever:
  • Argue about decisions that he has made?
  • Place the house or the children above him in importance?
  • Dismiss his needs and wants as silly or unnecessary?
  • Question the way he disciplines the children?
  • Criticize him in front of the children (do your children disrespect him, too?)?
  • Disregard his need for intimacy (not sex)?
  • Dismiss his sexual requests and desires?
  • Complain about him to your family?
  • Nag or complain about things that he does / doesn't do?
  • Wish he would change (fill in the blank) about himself?
These are just a few ways women show disrespect to their husbands.  Some of these issues are much more important than others in the minds of many husbands, but the fact is that if he feels disrespected and unloved, then he will likely look to others to meet those needs.

Caveat #2:  I do not condone men having affairs.  

Also, I do not know both sides of the story. Rather, I know what these particular women have told me, and that they have come to the realization that disrespect on their part most likely played a role in their marital problems.
However, I do know that marriage was designed by God for several reasons:

  1. It was designed to be a model of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church.  Husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives are commanded to submit to their husbands, because the husband is the head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church.  
  2. It was designed to help men and women avoid temptation.  There is temptation all around.  A marriage in which both husband and wife are sexually satisfied is less likely to be vulnerable to temptation. When they deny each other sexually, they expose the relationship to temptation and possibly open an avenue for their spouse to look elsewhere to meet that need.
  3. It was designed as a means to multiply church of God.  Men and women get married, make babies, and teach those babies to follow Jesus.            

Please understand that I have not talked to any of the husbands involved in these troubled marriages, nor do I condone the behavior of a cheating husband, but, being a husband myself, and knowing many husbands who have felt the sting of disrespect, I have inside knowledge and experience with the temptations that exist every day and everywhere.  It is difficult to resist temptation with the eyes, the mind, and in some cases the flesh.

What happens when husbands are disrespected?  Some husbands seem to be fine with it, but I can tell you they are not okay.  Some husbands withdraw into themselves or into an activity (television, cars, computer games, etc.), some get angry, some have affairs, and some just go on living a life of quiet desperation, seemingly alright. Just because he acts fine doesn't mean he is fine.

Not all men fit into this mold.  There are many husbands who strive to be the biblical head of the house, and many wives who respect and submit to their husbands in all things.  To those married couples, I say "Hallelujah!"

To the others, I can only offer a sympathetic ear, a comforting word, and a heartfelt prayer that their relationships may be healed.

(I may soon write a series of in-depth posts on the subject of husbands and what they need.  I'm sorry, but I feel (for obvious reasons) horribly inadequate to address the needs of wives.  Someone else will have to tackle that subject.