I think we can all agree that it’s easy to show others love and respect when they are showing us love and respect; however, there are times when it seems impossible to love and respect. We generally don’t get the urge to be nasty to someone who is complementing us and showing us affection. As well, when we’re getting our needs for love and respect met, we often innately feel compelled to show appreciation back to the person. However, what about when we feel starved of love or are utterly disrespected?
This is a tough topic within relationships. There are few people on Earth that will ever hurt and infuriate you more than your spouse. Not only that, but very few people will know what makes you tick like your spouse. In happy times, your spouse will probably refrain from pushing those buttons that encourage your anger; yet, in a moment of weakness during an argument, if he or she is not walking in the Spirit (i.e., his or her mind so saturated with the things of God and living so intentionally in His presence that his or her words and actions are continually pleasing to the Lord), those buttons are usually the first thing your spouse, or future spouse, will go to push.
Some people cannot stand sarcasm and if they hurt or upset their spouse, chances are their spouse will whip out a few sarcastic remarks as a defense. Some people cannot stand to have words put in their mouths or to have every word they speak contradicted with hyper-logic – and if these folks upset their spouse, they are likely to get a dose of it. Some people lash out with hurtful rhetoric; whereas, others shut down and refuse to speak. Some people pretend to bow out, but are really setting up the other to be harmed by a form of passive aggressive behavior.
Ladies, we are sinful beings by nature. As early as Genesis 3, we started a power grab – his position of authority – that has never ceased. The most submissive wife in the world will have moments, especially when she’s hurt or doesn’t feel heard or appreciated, when she desires to usurp her husband’s role of leadership in the family. There are few married women alive who have not thought, at one point or another, “I could SO lead this family better than him!”
After an argument, especially when you feel like you have not been heard or that your husband doesn’t care, it is very difficult to show biblical love and respect in marriage. When Eric and I are happy with each other, I have an easy time doing what I know he wants me to do. There are always certain things that I don’t think are necessary, but I do them because he’s asked me to do them. Yet, after I’ve been emotionally hurt, the temptation automatically rises up in me to intentionally do my own thing, regardless of what he wants or thinks. During those times, I want to puff up and say, “I can do whatever I want. He has no control over me!” – and it’s true! My husband, made of flesh and bones, has absolutely no control over me; however, God, my Creator, has given him the authority to lead our home. Therefore, angry or not, I am to still follow him. This can feel utterly unfair, especially when I’m sure I’m right; but, what I find amazing, and so freeing, is that I am not doing it to glorify my husband, or to put him on a pedestal… rather, I am following my husband’s lead because I’m being obedient to Christ by obeying his command to be submissive to my husband (Ephesians 5:22). Believe it or not, being in submission to your husband is the safest place to be because it’s the will of God (unless your husband is telling you to do things that are explicitly against God’s righteous standards of living – e.g., stealing, lying, murder, etc.)
I’ve just shared a lot with the ladies, so let me address the men: Women can be venomous with their words and actions. Somewhere in the last several decades, in America, culture began glorifying women (a paradigm of men must always meet a woman’s needs and love her no matter how she treats him) and devaluing men (“I’m a woman, hear me roar… and if he can’t take what I’m saying, he’s not much of a man… he has to EARN my respect”). After having a bitter woman tell you everything in the world that’s wrong with you is not the time you will feel compelled to give her a sincere hug and to tell her that she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. However, just as it’s freeing for women to follow our husbands because Christ commanded it, it is honorable for men to love your wives in those moments because Christ commanded it (and laid down His life for the Church as an example).
When your woman leaves you with a twitch, red face, and/or bulging vein in your neck, you can take comfort in knowing that Christ, who has never hurt you, used you, or abused you, is being glorified when you love that seemingly unlovable woman. I wonder how many jewels some men will receive in their heavenly crown simply for loving a woman that continually disrespects him with their cruel accusations and obstinate actions….
The Bible is clear when it tells us to be kind one to another (Ephesians 4:32). This is something that only comes with practice. We have to make a point of saturating our minds with God’s word and staying in fellowship with Him before we have a chance of fulfilling this command. Without His help, we will completely fail to put others before ourselves. This is especially true when we are expected to constantly put someone else before ourselves, as we are in marriage. The next time you feel unloved or disrespected, take a cue from Christ’s model with the Church and purposefully choose to love and/or respect him or her back and extend grace to your partner. Continue to practice the kind of love and respect that God has told us to lavish on our spouses (and future spouses).
Why is it so difficult to love and respect someone who is not loving or respecting you?