So, if the crazy cycle starts because he reacted without love and she reacted without respect, how does the energizing cycle begin? The energizing cycle is a blessing for couples and it begins when he shows her love or she shows him respect. It may not always feel natural to begin the energizing cycle, but the results are worth the effort required to take that first step!
Consider this scenario… John comes home from work feeling completely wiped out. He knows he’s not in the greatest mood so he takes a few minutes and prays for God to calm his nerves and give him a peaceful attitude. He walks in the house and sees that Mary still hasn’t put away the Christmas decorations she promised to take down days earlier. His first instinct is to find her and fuss at her for not following through on her promise; however, he finds her, kisses her on the cheek, and says, “I know you’ve had a long week, honey. Why don’t you relax a little while and I’ll put up the decorations.” She may relax or she may help him, but what he did was stop a potential crazy cycle fight before it could start.
Did he want to put up Christmas decorations after working hard all week? Of course not… but he wanted to show love to his wife and start his evening out on a good note. Mary is deeply appreciative of his willingness to put up the Christmas decorations, a chore she detests, and it makes John look like a big hero in her eyes. Before she knows it, she’s doing chores around the house simply because she knows he would appreciate it; and, instead of fighting with him over which movie to see, she suggests they go to see the action-packed thriller he’s been mentioning. Him simply refusing to get on the crazy cycle started a new cycle – a cycle that breathed energy and life into their marriage. Because of his loving attitude and gestures, she was energized to treat him with adoration and respect. Chances are that no voices were raised that evening and neither of them went to bed angry.
Bridling the Tongue
There is so much power in bridling the tongue (James 1:26). Keeping your tongue in check may sound easy, but as a woman who’s been married several years, I can attest to the fact that without the Holy Spirit’s help, it’s almost impossible to keep that small piece of flesh under control. Sure, I can keep my mouth shut most of the time, but I need the Holy Spirit to check me, convict me, and remind me to speak blessings all the time. James 3:5 says, “… the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” We may think that a small, snarky remark won’t do much damage, but blurting it out may just cause a forest fire in our relationship!
Handled with Grace
So let’s backtrack. Let’s say John didn’t take those few minutes to pray, he burst into the house, and immediately started fussing at Mary for not keeping her promise. Would that have immediately begun a crazy cycle fight? Perhaps it may have, but not necessarily. What if Mary, upon hearing his frustrated tone, took a deep breath and asked God to give her the grace to forgive his mean spirit and the compassion to understand his perspective? She may have responded by saying, “John, I’m sorry. You’re right. I did promise to put those decorations away. I’ll have them put away before dinner.”
Notably, that answer is not natural. What’s natural is for a woman to rise up and say, “Excuse me?!? You’re seriously going to walk into this house and start with me tonight? How dare you talk to me that way?” She could’ve said that, but would that have motivated him to love her in return?
Choosing the Response
What is hard to grasp in our me-centered culture is that our reactions don’t have to come as a result of other’s actions. We can choose a different path. We don’t have to let someone else’s anger fuel our own. Choosing to react with love or respect is a way of redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:15-17). You are declaring that giving into your pride is not worth losing hours of your lives being angry with each other. You are choosing to let your love or your respect turn the tides. Even if John had been furious, her reaction was like pouring cool water on his flame. Had she spewed forth an aggressive comeback, it would be as if she’d squirted him with gasoline.
In short, the energizing cycle says: “His love / motivates / her respect / motivates”. This should be read: His love motivates her respect. Her respect motivates his love.
Emerson Eggerichs’ book Love and Respect is full of interesting stories about how showing love and respect has deeply impacted couples’ relationships. It’s such an easy, insightful read! We hope your relationship gets as much out of it as our relationship did!
Have you ever had a good evening with your sweetheart turn bad because of just one unloving or disrespectful remark?