by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of the best-selling book Love and Respect
One day as I worked in my office at home, it dawned on me to ask "What does the Bible say about how to motivate a husband to be more loving?" And as I sought the answer, I studied Ephesians, especially 5:22-33, a passage that contains the New Testament's best teaching on marriage, which concludes: "However each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (v. 33 NIV).
As I meditated on verse 33, I began to see a connection between love and respect. I asked myself, "What happens to a husband when his wife meets his need for respect?" The answer came to me: "He is energized." But energized to do what? It seemed to me that he would be motivated to meet his wife's need for love.
Next I asked myself, "What happens when a husband meets his wife's need for love?" And again came the answer: "She is energized." Energized to do what? Of course! She is motivated to meet his need for respect!
The more I thought about how wives and husbands can motivate and energize each other, the more I recognized that I was onto something unconventional, extraordinary, and electrifying that could help many marriages.
The Energizing Cycle
His love motivates her respect.
Her respect motivates his love.
Ideas were flooding my mind. Along with the positive, energizing cycle in Ephesians 5:33, I also recognized a negative, "de-energizing" cycle. I asked myself, "What happens to a husband when a wife does not meet his need for respect?" The answer seemed plain: he is not energized in the marriage, and he loses his motivation to meet her need for love. In fact, it seemed to me that, if a husband is disrespected by his wife, he loses his feelings of love and affection for her and is prone to react in ways that feel unloving to her just to "teach" her to be more respectful!
"And what about the wife?" I asked myself. "What happens when her husband does not meet her need for love?" Again, the answer was plain enough: an unloved wife is not energized in the marriage, and she loses her motivation to meet her husband's need for respect. She is prone to react in ways that are critical and disrespectful when she feels unloved!
At this point I knew I was onto something really huge that went a long way toward explaining why husbands and wives go back and forth with the crazy behavior I heard about in my counseling office—and also engage in from time to time with my wife Sarah!
The Crazy Cycle
Without his love, she reacts without respect.
Without her respect, he reacts without love.
I had worked out the Energizing Cycle and its counterpart the Crazy Cycle, but there was still one more crucial question to deal with: "Can either a husband or a wife justify treating each other unlovingly or disrespectfully?" My mind shifted into overdrive as I went back to study Ephesians 5:33 to see what the verse was not saying. What I realized is that the passage does not say, "Each husband must love his wife if and only if his wife first respects him." Nor does the verse say, "Every wife must respect her husband if and only if her husband first loves her in ways she deems meaningful."
The answer to my question was quite clear: both the husband's love for his wife and the wife's respect for her husband must be unconditional, an act of grace, of unmerited favor.
The Rewarded Cycle
His love blesses regardless of her respect.
Her respect blesses regardless of his love.
As a husband or wife unconditionally loves or respects, God blesses or rewards this person's faithfulness. Regardless of how your mate may act, your respect for your husband must be unconditional; your love for your wife must be unconditional. There is no justifying anything else. This is God's command to the husband and wife independent of a spouse deserving love or respect. One cannot argue with God, "My spouse must first earn my love or respect before I will obey Your command!" And this is, without question, a tough assignment. The husband is commanded to love his wife even when she is disrespectful, critical, and full of contempt. A husband must go the extra mile and meet his wife's deepest need for love while his own need for respect goes unmet and is even denounced because he "hasn't earned it" in her opinion. Even tougher, however, due to cultural conditioning, is that the wife must respect her husband even when he is unloving, cold, and inconsiderate.
Excerpt taken from The Language of Love and Respect. Copyright © 2009 by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Published by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.