By Lori Hatcher, Crosswalk.com
“The male need for respect and affirmation, especially from his woman, is so hard-wired and so critical that three out of four men would rather feel unloved than disrespected or inadequate.”
This shocking statement underscores what Shaunti Feldhan, author of For Women Only, discovered when she surveyed more than 1,000 men: If a man feels disrespected, he’s going to feel unloved.
If we want to love our husband in the way he needs us to be loved, we must ensure he feels our respect.
Sadly, modern culture and misguided l feminism have maligned and misrepresented God’s command in Ephesians 5:33 instructing a wife to respect her husband. Wise Christians, however, know that respect can be one of the most powerful forces for good in a marriage. It demonstrates love, honors Christ, and empowers a husband to become all God created him to be.
If you’d like to unlock the power of respect in your marriage, here are 5 simple things that will make your husband feel loved and respected.
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1. Ask His Opinion and Seriously Consider It
"Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety." Proverbs 11:14
It was an eye-opening day when I realized that not only did my husband have an opinion, but his opinion had merit. In my arrogance and pride, I assumed my thoughts were the only ones worth considering. After all, I knew everything, right? Ouch.
One day, probably after reading a marriage book, I tried a more humble approach. As we discussed an upcoming purchase, my husband shared some information I knew couldn’t be accurate. Instead of saying, “Nah, that can’t be right,” I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
“Wow, if that’s true, that would be great,” I said. “Let me call the bank and see if that’s possible.” I must confess that I made the phone call primarily to prove that I was right, and he was wrong. To my surprise, I discovered that not only was my husband’s information accurate, it was the wisest option.
This lesson taught me not only to ask for his input, but to seriously consider it.
Keep in mind that by the time a woman brings up a subject, we’ve usually thought through every possible aspect. Our husband, however, might be hearing it for the first time. He’ll need to process it.
Giving him time to think before demanding a response shows him we value his insight and love and respect him. Our husbands won't be right 100% of the time, but it helps him to know he's the leader of our house when we give his perspective its proper weight.
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2. Serve Him First
"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)
Serving your husband first might seem like a throwback to the 50s and Leave It To Beaver days when stay-at-home moms wore aprons and pearls, but the concept is timeless and biblical. And the way we respect our husband in front of our children profoundly impacts whether or not they will respect him.
This may not seem vital when your children are young, but seeds of disrespect in childhood bear fruit in adolescence and beyond. Do we want our children to scoff at their father’s rules and disregard his guidance as they make decisions that will profoundly impact their lives? I think not.
Serving your husband first can be simple. When you prepare a meal, serve his plate before your children’s. Treat him like you would an honored guest. As you prioritize your day, make sure you put your husband’s needs at or near the top of your list.
In the early days of parenting, I found it easy to neglect my husband in favor of the kids. As much as possible, reserve proper time and energy for your husband’s needs, too.
When your husband comes home, if you're home from work too or if you stay at home, stop what you’re doing, and greet him. Tell him you’re glad he’s home. Even better, encourage the kids to do the same. Imagine how affirming it would feel for him to know his hard work is appreciated and valued by the whole family.
Serving your husband first can help him feel loved and respected.
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3. Resist Correcting Him in Public
“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)
As simple as this sounds, keeping our mouth shut when our husband is telling a story, offering an opinion, or relaying information can go a long way toward helping him feel loved and respected. No one enjoys being interrupted or corrected in public, especially on insignificant details.
When we do so, it embarrasses them and makes us look controlling and know-it-all.
Most of the time, the exact details don’t really matter. Few people care whether Aunt Betty had her gall bladder out or her appendix, if the neighbor’s new boat cost $15,000 or $20,000, or if Goliath had four brothers or five.
If the error is important, it’s certainly okay to say something, but do so respectfully and in private if possible. Instead of, “John, you weren’t listening. You got everything wrong,” you can use words like, “I thought that, too, but then I discovered…” or “You may not realize this, but the leaders’ meeting is scheduled for before the service, not after.”
Using these types of phrases takes on humility as you remember that there are things you don't know or realize sometimes, either, and it just takes gentle guidance to help you get back on track. And keep in mind that our tone of voice can make the difference between our husband feeling belittled by us, or helped.
As women, it's very tempting to want to take control of everything around us--including everything our husband is saying. But limiting the times we correct our husband in public can make him feel loved and respected.
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4. Acknowledge His Efforts, Not Just His Successes
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)
The world is not our husband’s friend. Business is cutthroat, and culture stands opposed to men committed to holiness, integrity, and faith. When he seeks to shine in a world governed by unfriendly forces and influences, he needs a cheerleader.
You can be that cheerleader.
When we believe in our husbands—their efforts to succeed in work, ministry, and family—we provide a haven in an otherwise hostile world. Acknowledging his efforts, not just his successes demonstrates unconditional love that can carry him through some of the most challenging waters.
Simple ways to acknowledge his effort include thanking him for providing for the family (even if you earn more), praising him in front of the children (“Your daddy works so hard for us!”), and applauding his ingenuity (“That’s a great idea. I had no clue where to begin.”)
If he’s struggling to provide, respect his efforts by cutting back on non-essential purchases, sticking to an agreed-upon budget, and cooking at home instead of buying take out.
It's part of men's DNA to want to provide for and protect their family. Even if your life isn't where you want it to be right now, you can trust and believe your husband feels the weight of it and is doing everything he can to make your life the best it can be.
Recognizing and applauding our husband’s efforts, not just his successes can help him feel loved and respected.
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5. Say Yes More Than No
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:3-4)
I heard this piece of advice part way through my parenting journey, but it also applies to our marriages. When my children were young (maybe in response to the Terrible Twos), I found myself saying No much more than I said Yes.
“No, you can’t climb on the table.” “No, you can’t watch another video.” “No, you can’t eat ice cream for breakfast.” I said No so often it became my default response. Then a wise woman advised me to say yes whenever possible. As I evaluated why I said No so often, I realized that while I had some good reasons to say No to my children’s requests, many times I said No because of preference or, dare I admit, laziness.
The same is true in my marriage. I say No when my husband asks me to watch a football game because I’d rather read a book. I say No to his suggestion that we grill burgers because I prefer chicken. I say No to his invitation to go to bed early because I’m tired (You know what I mean).
But my husband is my best friend. The father of my children. And the man God gave me to love and respect all the days of my life. He deserves a Yes whenever possible, even if it means yielding my preferences.
Isn’t this what sacrificial love is all about? I don’t think we’ll receive any spiritual rewards for loving our husbands the way we prefer to, the easy way, the convenient way. But God rewards us every time we say Yes when we’d rather say No (Hebrews 6:10). Maybe not in this life, but certainly in the next.
Even without the promise of eternal rewards, seeing my husband’s smile when I snuggle up next to him to watch a football game (with my book in my lap) is reward enough.
Sadly, our world has made respect something our husbands have to earn, bargain for, or demand. God designed it as a way to show love. Gestures of respect, even small ones, can accomplish great things. As we respect our husband, we help them become all God created them to be. They—and we—become more like Jesus.
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself." (Philippians 2:5-8)
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