By Bev and Phil Haas
Research reveals that during marital conflict a husband most often reacts negatively when feeling disrespected and a wife reacts negatively when feeling unloved. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and his team of researchers asked 7,000 people this question: “When you are in conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved, or disrespected?” Eighty-three percent of the men said “disrespected.” Seventy-two percent of the women said “unloved.”
The survey substantiated what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:33—that a husband must love his wife and a wife must respect her husband. The hard part is that respect comes more easily to men, and love comes easier to women. We believe understanding and meeting your spouse’s deepest need (love for you and respect for your husband) is the key to becoming more positive and less negative.
Basics of Love and Respect
Most of us have heard the biblical teaching that a woman needs to be loved by her husband and a man needs to be respected by his wife. However, if you’re like the average man or woman, you’re wondering what love and respect look like when practiced at home. Men often define love differently than their wives, while women often define respect differently than their husbands. When couples fail to understand one another’s need for love and respect, there’s not much hope of meeting these basic needs. That’s where Dr. Eggerichs can help. He has written a best-selling book titled, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs (Thomas Nelson, 2004), and offers more helpful resources through his website at www.loveandrespect.com.
Eggerichs points out, “Once you and your spouse understand what it means to love and respect, relational landmines can be avoided.” The message that Emerson and his wife, Sarah, are sharing with thousands of couples across the country every year is that love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man. They teach that the key to long-term marriages is the attitude and action of these two biblical principles. We want to share some of the basics of the Eggerichs’ teaching on love and respect to help you understand how you can slow down and end your cycle of negativity by applying Ephesians 5:33 in your marriage.
The Crazy Cycle
Dr. Eggerichs’s teaching addresses three major questions. The first one is, “Why do husbands and wives negatively react to each other?” The second asks, “How can we encourage our spouses to respond more positively?” And three, “What can we do when our spouse continues to be negative while we are trying to be loving and respectful?” To get you headed in the right direction, we want to focus on the first question. We encourage you to consult the resources avail-able from Dr. Eggerichs to keep moving in a positive direction. To help couples understand the impact of negativity in their marriage, Eggerichs describes what he likes to call the “crazy cycle.” Marital craziness occurs when we do the same thing over and over with the same negative results. All married couples go through this cycle. The topics may change and the intensity may vary, but the crazy cycle continues. One day the argument may be about the budget, the next day the argument may be about sex. Eggerichs points out that this happens among good people and that some couples think they have a horrible marriage because of this craziness.
Stopping the Crazy Cycle
Eggerichs believes the key is to look beneath the craziness to the heart of a spouse. Because a wife needs love, a husband would be wise to assume his wife’s negative reaction stems from feeling unloved. On the other hand, because a hus-band needs respect, a wife would be wise to assume her husband’s negative reaction stems from feeling disrespected.
A simple adjustment that has helped us stop the craziness is to agree to always believe the best about the other, especially when things get crazy.
Is it time for you to apply God’s truth? It takes effort, but it works. A respectful or loving demeanor will keep you from getting trapped in the crazy cycle.
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, firstname.lastname@example.org.We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have one grandson.