In our marriage counseling practice, we incorporate principles from a wonderful book by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs called “Love & Respect”. I strongly encourage every married couple to pick up a copy of this book even if you perceive your marriage to be healthy and strong. In this first of a three part blog series, I want to highlight the needs in this area and then address the specific needs for husbands and wives in parts two and three.
During our counseling sessions with couples, there is a common theme that we typically hear from each partner. Wives, almost invariably, will question whether or not their husbands really love them. The husbands, on the other hand, will circle their wagons about the issue of not feeling respected. There are some specific directions in scripture about how wives and husbands should treat each other. As a counselor, and as a husband of thirty-plus years myself, I have come to realize that men and women are different and have different needs in so many areas (you are probably saying, “wow, really?!”) and that we can try to meet each other’s needs out of our own perceived need.
Husbands want to be loved and respected and so do wives so let’s be clear about that. However, one of the fundamental differences between the “must have” needs of the two. Look at Ephesians 5:33. Paul writes, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” There is a connection between love and respect that is easily missed: wives need love and husband needs respect. That is why Paul commands his readers (and us) in this regard.
As couples work to meet each other’s needs in this area, the marriage is strengthened and invigorated (Eggerichs calls it the “Energizing Cycle”). The key aspect of a cycle is that each need is met in a healthy way; the marriage is strengthened as each partner is fed. On the other hand, there can be a “Crazy Cycle” in which the disrespected husband decides to withhold love from his wife and thus brings on more disrespect (at least in his mind) upon himself and so it goes. The crazy cycle continues.
The key for rebuilding marriages is to quit the crazy cycle and embark upon the energizing cycle. Easier said than done, you say? Of course; but it can done if both are willing. Also, even one willing partner can begin to meet the other spouse’s needs and see turnaround begin to happen. Impossible you say? Not at all. We’ve seen it many times in our counseling practice. Hard? Absolutely! How important is your marriage? Are you willing to more than your share to make it work and trust the promises and power of God to do a work in restoration and renewal even to a better place than when you were first married?
We’ love to have your comments on this article! Could you unconditionally love (agape) your spouse enough to focus on meeting his or her needs? In the next two parts, we’re going to look at the specific needs for wives and husbands so you can learn what your spouse needs.