Respect is often regarded as something that should be earned. People should act in a way worthy of respect: they should be honest, act with integrity, and be kind and thoughtful. That’s when we’ll respect them, right? Or, maybe they should impress us. They should be good at something we are not good at, or at least better than us at something. Once they’ve surpassed us, then they will have earned our respect, but not beforehand.
Love, however, seems different. We don’t always hold that people should act lovely before we are obligated to love them. Or maybe we do, but we don’t hold that standard for ourselves. Sometimes, when we are at our worst is the moment we are aware that we most need to feel loved. In our culture, we’ve told each other that love is not even real unless it is without pretense and condition. When there is an if/then scenario, (IF you are kind and thoughtful THEN I will love you) it is conditional love and that is just not acceptable.
The problem with believing that love should be unconditional and respect should only be offered once it is earned is that men and women, generally speaking, receive these messages differently. What if I told you that when a man feels disrespected, it is worse for him than when he feels unloved? Or, if I told you that your husband was under no more obligation to show you love than you are to show him respect? Would you be worried I was about to take away your shoes, hand you an apron, send you to the kitchen, and take your voting rights away? That’s how I felt the first time someone tried to explain this concept to me.
In his book, Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs shares this.
In one national study, four hundred men were given a choice between going through two different negative experiences. If they were forced to choose one of the following, which would they prefer to endure?
a) to be left alone and unloved in the world
b) to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone
Seventy-four percent of these men said that if they were forced to choose, they would prefer being alone and unloved in the world.
For these men, the greater negative experience for their souls to endure would be to feel inadequate and disrespected by all. I have had numerous men confirm this research by telling me, “I would rather live with a wife who respected me but did not love me than live with a wife who loved me but did not respect me.”
Men need respect.
Respect is not something men hope for. They don’t consider it a luxury, they actually need it. But, they wouldn’t dare tell you so directly for fear of causing their grandmothers and great grandmothers and the entire Women’s Suffrage movement to rise from their graves as angry women zombies reminding these men of all they already fought for along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. As a woman, I thank GOD for those zombies and all of the opportunities I have because of them. But, their legacy has caused men to hesitate in fear of retribution at the thought of expressing their own needs, lest they be considered chauvinists and exiled from their homes. Zombies aside, what I’m really trying to say is that men need respect the same way they need to breathe. They need respect even when, especially when, they don’t seem to have earned it.
Now, before you come and try to take my voting rights away, I want you to know I get it. I know just as many men who are jerks as I do men who are honorable. I also know that jerks have their shining honorable moments and decent men can act like jerks at times. I am not pardoning anyone’s selfish behavior and I am not suggesting that you pardon it either. Remember for a moment that I am hopeful about your marriage and I am not taking sides. I know this is tough to grasp, and I know some of you are standing on your soap box right now ready to wave your finger in my face and tell me, “Well, if he would act like a man, I would treat him with more respect.” Take a deep breath and step down from the box. This isn’t the Maury Povich show. I am not trying to pit you against each other. I just want to share something with you that has been crucial in the way Tony and I talk to and understand each other.
Which Cycle Are You On?
In Eggerichs’ book, it’s not all about what a man needs but about how men and women need different things. He says that a woman needs love the way a man needs respect, and that brings about some major challenges. With what he teaches in his book, he hopes to help us get off of The Crazy Cycle and onto The Energizing Cycle.
In the Crazy Cycle, he says that when the husband reacts without love, his wife reacts without respect. Then, when she reacts without respect, he reacts AGAIN without love. It’s CRAZY, and neither of them are willing to feel walked over, so neither begins to do what is needed to break the cycle.
He says the sure way to get off the Crazy Cycle is for just one person to recognize that they are on it and switch up their behavior. In the Energizing Cycle, Eggerichs says that the husband’s love for his wife motivates her to respect him. Her respect for him then motivates him to show her more love. Ahh, doesn’t that sound nice? I could enjoy my time on this kind of cycle.
While there are many facets of showing respect to our husbands and many ways which we hope to receive love from them, I couldn’t possibly give you all of them. So, I’ll just start with my side, the responsibility I have of showing my husband respect. The best way I know to tell you how to respect your husband is to share what it looks like to disrespect him.
Four Ways You Might Be Disrespecting Your Husband
1. Treating him like a baby
“Honey, it’s freezing out there. You definitely need a warm hat on that bald head of yours. And where’s your warmer coat? Do you want me to find your gloves for you?” Yes, that happened, in our kitchen, not that long ago. All it took was one look from my husband and I knew I was treating him like a child. He is an adult, and he wants me not only to treat him like one, but to be his partner in life, not his mommy.
2. Speaking on his behalf
When someone directs a question to your husband and you jump in to answer for him, you’re not being helpful. It would be rude to do that to anyone, and to your husband, it communicates disrespect. Same goes for signing him up for something without talking to him first (like weekly emails from a blogger you think he should be reading) and volunteering him to help your friends move or fix their computer. Your husband is an adult, he can speak for himself and make his own decisions. Talk to him and trust him to do that.
3. Cutting in on his parenting
Yes, you’re the one that probably gave birth to them, but those children have both a mother and a father. When their father – your husband – is working on disciplining them and you just have to step in because he is clearly doing it wrong, you are not just disrespecting your husband, but you are showing your kids that they should dismiss him also. Don’t do it. Unless he is being dangerous, there is no need for you to cut him off. Practice some self-discipline, hold your tongue, and be supportive. If you’re still not over it, bring it up with him in private away from the kids.
4. Undermining his decisions
So, you sat down and discussed your finances and agreed – no new clothes this month. Then, you get an email that Anthropologie is having a ridiculously huge sale! Prices will never be this low again! You buy yourself that cute dress and cardigan because, really, you are “saving” your family money by making your purchase now instead of later. Lady, you just completely disregarded your husband and disrespected him in the process. Skirting around decisions he’s made or decisions you’ve made together is not going to bring you closer together. It’s also a very bad idea to make major purchases, or spend outside of your agreed upon budget, without including him in your decision.
We hope you, as a couple, begin to talk about what love and respect mean to you. Ladies, talk to your husband about the list above. Ask him if it matters. Give him room to be a man without being offended and threatened that his needs in your relationship are different than yours. They are no less important. We hope, if you’re on it, that you can get yourselves off the Crazy Cycle and onto the Energizing Cycle for a much more fulfilling way to #staymarried.
Photo Credit: Lindsay Kaye Photography
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