Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Love and Respect (Part 1)

Q. I feel like my marriage is not enjoyable any more. All my husband and I do is fight and avoid each other. I have asked him to go to counseling with me, but he refuses. Is there any benefit to me coming alone? (For Part 2, click here)

A. I wish I could tell you how often I hear this from callers seeking counseling. It is a sad event when one spouse wants to reach out for help, but the other spouse does not. It can be a very desperate and lonely feeling.

Let me express to you though, there is hope. There is a benefit to coming to marriage counseling, even if your spouse refuses. There are many things we can do to possibly make your marriage better. Just think of all the commands given to us as husbands and wives. These commands are not contingent upon whether or not your spouse is fulfilling their commands or not. We are still commanded to obey God's word. An example of this might be Prov. 27:15 "A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike." This proverb gives you something to begin working on right now that you have control over!

One of my favorite resources in this area is the book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs**. Dr. Eggerichs does a fantastic job of expressing Ephesians 5:33 and how it is applicable to your marriage. The verse says, "However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband" (ESV). What a powerful verse for marriage.

Now you may be asking, "What does this have to do with me?" Well, the reality is that you can fulfill your biblical obligation of respecting your husband regardless of his actions. Scripture does not tell us that we only are to respect our husband if he is deserving of that respect, but rather it just says to do it. (Disclaimer - I would never tell a spouse to put themselves in any physical danger. This applies to safe situations.) Your husband has a need for respect. He needs to know that you value him and will treat him with that respect. This is a basic need for most men. When he starts to see your respect for him, he is more likely to want to change himself. When one part of the marital duo starts to change, it usually creates change in the entire marriage.

So what does this look like? You can practice this respect model even today:

1. Tell your husband what you respect about him, like how hard he works for the family, for the little things he has done around the house, for getting the bills paid, etc.

2. Show him you respect him by running ideas and plans past him, rather than making them all on your own. Say, "I wanted to get your opinion on this before I decided ... .

3. Encourage him with your words.

4. Build him up in front of others. The next time you are at a social gathering, talk about the wonderful side of your husband and the good things about him.

5. Build him up in secret too. The next time you're with your girl friends, make it a point to say positive things about your husband.

6. Do something nice and out of the ordinary for your husband. Buy him a treat, make sure his favorite shorts are washed, or schedule a date night for the two of you.

The hope is that by employing these ideas in your marriage your husband will begin to see a change in you and want to change himself. You can remind him that you want your marriage to be better and you are willing to take the first step. If you do not feel like your marriage is improving at the rate or pace you would like, seek out your pastor, trusted mentor or professional counselor. All of these people may be able to help you gain perspective or figure out what else you can do to improve your marriage. Just don't stop trying. Marriage is a sacred covenant and deserves to be honored with your hard work. God will honor your work.

If you have a question you would like to ask, EMAIL US: askanne@abchome.org or leave a comment. We would love to answer one of your questions.

*This column is not intended to substitute for an actual session with a licensed counselor.

**Some excerpts are taken from Eggerichs, Emerson. Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. Thomas Nelson: 2004.