Building a thriving marriage with love and respect
What we want more than anything is to have a strong marriage that weathers the difficulties in life and provides the joy and satisfaction we crave. That is why it is critical to go back to the basics of what God says about marriage. For he thought of it, created it and knows what each of us needs and wants in a relationship.
Ephesians 5:31-33 offers a look into what God knows to be the deepest needs of a husband and a wife and gives us direction to meet those needs within each other: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
The underlying principles for all behavior and communication between husband and wife is love and respect. We all—men and women—want to be loved and want to be respected. In this passage, God assigns primary responsibility specifically to husband and wife. Knowing both the greatest need of men and women and the greatest weakness of each, he focuses individually on both.
Husbands, this speaks to the thing your wife needs most from you and is probably the hardest thing for you to give. The need is to know they are loved by you, and to feel loved. This is possibly hard for you because you don’t identify with this need. This means telling her you love her and being thoughtful. However, love is demonstrated and communicated best when it reflects God’s love for us.
Ephesians 5:25-31 says, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; that He might sanctify her…So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.
This love is aware of and sensitive to a wife’s needs and wants. No one has to tell you when to eat—you know. Does she have to tell you when she needs something? Being sensitive to her needs tells her you love her.
Love is being focused on a growing relationship with God for both of you. I may naturally focus on meeting my wife’s practical needs but may fail to think about her spiritual needs. When was the last time you stopped and prayed for her—out loud and with her? She will know you love her when she sees that you are trying to be a spiritual leader for your family.
Love is to be given without regard to your needs or wants. Just as you committed your life to her, Jesus “gave Himself up for her.” You put her first and she will feel loved.
Wives, your husband’s greatest need is to know and to feel that you respect and honor him. Your opinion of him is the most important one he will hear. His ability to respond to your needs rises and falls with how he feels you think about him.
This may be difficult for you, because your priority is helping him be the best he can be. Respect comes from both actions and words, but mostly communicated by our words. Ephesians 4:29-30 says, Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Honor and respect for your husband builds him up, and doesn’t tear him down. It gives sincere and appropriate praise whenever possible. It is sensitive to the situation of the moment. It is sensitive to how things and/or people are affecting him and counters them.
Respect is shown in words “that it may give grace”—respect and honor is full of grace and graciousness. Another word for grace is “slack” as in “give him some slack.” He is not doing what you want, when you want? It’s OK. He is not perfect; you knew that when you married him. Don’t make him your project. Accept him for who he is. Look for the best and acknowledge it.
Words set the stage
While love and respect are shown in action, words set the stage and make room for love. God’s model for communication is to say it, say it straight, say it supportively and say it sensitively.The problem in our relationships is that there is so much silence. Your level of happiness and your lifetime love is largely determined by how much time you spend talking together.
It is impossible for the husband to read a wife’s mind, even though you think you can. We come from such different worlds with such different filters that it is impossible—which means we make assumptions, which means we make mistakes, which means we begin to build our relationships upon assumptions and mistakes. It’s no wonder then that love dies.
Misunderstanding leads to breakups. Men and women are different, so oftentimes they “talk” but fail to “communicate.” Communication is often the major player in holding a marriage together. Unfortunately, many couples lack this skill and desperately need to work on it.
Listen to the spirit of what you are saying and not just the words. Be aware of how what you say will affect your spouse. Use future and present tense talking, not past tense. Couples should concentrate on the major problem, don’t divide attention by mixing in other minor problems. First, take care of the problems that hurt feelings in the relationship, then take care of the problems arising from just differences in opinions. Try to use “I feel” statements, don’t use “you are” statements.
Couples must recognize and accept each other’s point of view. They must never use lies to cover up shortcomings. Never jump into conclusions, communicate and talk it over. Discuss what happened, don’t judge. Find out all the facts rather than start guessing at the motives. Listen as well as speak. Learn to understand each other, not to defeat each other.