The fundamentals of your relationship with your spouse or significant other boil down to these two words. At first glance, we think our needs as men and women are the same: we all just want to be loved. But truthfully, the needs we have as men and women are different.
It’s our differences as men and women that attract us, coupling in a way that moves us together with distinct form and unity. This is not only in our temperament and biology, but also part of God’s divine design.
My intent in this post isn’t to tell you you’ve been doing things wrong in your marriage, but rather I want to show you ways I’ve learned to do things right. There is wisdom to be gained through your own experiences and those of others. I hope this post breathes new life into your marriage and that you’re encouraged to make a positive change. If what you’ve been trying to do to improve your marriage isn’t working, it’s time for a new approach.
Back to love and respect… These are our deepest needs as men and women. When these needs aren’t being met, we get frustrated and that frustration can come out in ways we don’t truly mean. Maybe you’ve uttered a harsh word, given the silent treatment, withheld your love or intimacy from each other as a form of punishment. The bottom line is, none of those are effective ways to produce positive change within your marriage. Ephesians 5 details some specific instructions for Wives and Husbands. Verse 33: However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Dr. Emerson explains the concepts of Love & Respect on his website beautifully:
What is Love and Respect? We believe love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man. Research reveals that during marital conflict a husband most often reacts when feeling disrespected and a wife reacts when feeling unloved. We asked 7,000 people this question: when you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected? 83% of the men said “disrespected.” 72% of the women said, “unloved.” Though we all need love and respect equally, the felt need differs during conflict, and this difference is as different as pink is from blue! – Loveandrespect.com
You see, women have their own language and means of listening/interpreting. Females speak through pink megaphones and hear through pink headphones, while males speak through blue megaphones and hear through blue headphones.
Ever wonder why it’s so hard for your husband to understand you when what you’re saying is basic English? Perhaps your wife misunderstood what you were saying because she was trying to listen to what you said through her pink headphones. There’s bound to me some miscommunication when we are attempting to motivate each other through our own preferred way.
As a woman, if I’m not receiving love from my husband, the message is “I don’t love or accept you.” For men, the message is “I don’t respect or accept you.” Hopefully that’s not what you’re trying to convey to each other as husband and wife. Marriage is truly about putting the needs of your spouse above your own. If you operate with a “I am Second” mentality, both people can experience the true fulfillment that marriage has to offer.
Another principle Steve and I learned was when faced with an argument or conflict in your relationship was: the person who is most mature should act first. The logic is we both want to be perceived as mature; therefore, we’ll work together to come to a resolution. Rather than be stubborn, which can be hard for me, I’m going to put down my sword, come alongside my husband and word it out. Now we all know that it’s not always that’s simple. There will be days when you might ask yourself, Did I really choose him? or What was I thinking when I married her? I wouldn’t suggest uttering those words, but stepping back reminding yourself about why you fell in love in the first place.
There’s no doubt that you’ll face moments when you just want to scream, “You aren’t loving me!” or “You need to respect me!” But demanding either of these things from each other never goes well. It probably makes you want to do the opposite, especially if you’re stubborn.
Our pre-marriage counseling began to peel back the layers of marriage and then we were introduced to the crazy cycle. The Crazy Cycle looks like this:
The Crazy Cycle occurs when conflict arises. Instead of taking a moment to reflect on our own actions towards our spouse and making change, it’s common to act in ways that aren’t desirable when our greatest needs aren’t being met. For wives: without love, she reacts without respect. For husbands: without respect, he reacts without love.
Steve and I learned how to handle negative situations and how to prevent having negative actions and reactions towards each other. I learned that I will not only satisfy Steve’s needs by being respectful, but I can motivate him to meet my own needs by fulfilling his first. When his needs are met, he is motivated to meet my needs too, which is the energizing cycle. His love motivates my respect and my respect motivates his love.
Rather than demanding his love, I can show him how to love me by truly loving him through my respect. When I do so it’s as if a switch is activated. He feels honored, valued and affirmed and he in-turn wants to fill my cup with love.
We continued to learn more about how to make our marriage successful. We were able to use what we had learned and applied it to our relationship immediately. Pre-marriage counseling brought our relationship to another level. I felt loved and he felt respected… talk about a win win.
I highly encourage you to read the book with your spouse or fiancé, attend a conference and apply the Love & Respect principles. I can’t do your homework for you.You’ve got to get to work.
Knock the socks off your spouse and take initiative. Rather than complain about what’s wrong with your marriage, make a change and do something right. And guys, if you want to get your wife’s attention, take initiative. I guarantee she’ll be looking at you in a new way!
Remember, it’s not about being comfortable.
You cannot celebrate a marital championship unless you’re willing to work together on your fundamentals. Don’t ignore the things that are hard for you or that cause you to struggle. Address your weakness head on–as I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” You’ve got to set yourself and your marriage up for success.
It’s not about you; it’s about being selfless. You must willingly be second, so you can both experience what it’s like to be first.