This semester I am teaching a Dating and Marriage course to high school students. As part of the curriculum, we talk about what men need most from their spouses, and what women need most from their husbands. Can you guess what these are?
According to research, men need to feel respected, and women need to feel loved. So, with that said, what do you do when your husband’s actions are anything but respectable? I wrestled with this for several years when Michael’s illness was at its worst. There were times when his mania sent him into rages, and the last thing I felt for him in those moments was respect. I kept quiet about his actions, because I didn’t want to disrespect him to others, but in my heart there was very little respect and he knew it.
The less respect I showed him, the less loving he became toward me. This seemed to create a cycle where we both felt alone and unloved — to put it in Gary Smalley’s language, our love tanks were running dry.
I had to learn that even if Michael’s actions were not worthy of respect, he as a person made in the image of God was valuable and worthy of respect. I began looking for things each day to praise him about (trust me, some days this was hard), and I worked hard to control my tongue. The result? The more I worked on my reactions, the more loving he became toward me. You know what else? The more loving his actions became toward me, the easier it became for me to show him respect.
So, how do you respect the unrespectable (granted, Michael was a great man of God, but his disorder often led him to make really poor choices)? You respect the fact that they are God’s creation. You look for the small things that are worthy of respect and focus on them, instead of the negative qualities. You bite your tongue and don’t share everything you think. You pray and ask God to help you. The Bible doesn’t suggest that wives love their husbands, it commands it. Ephesians 5:33 says, “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”