Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Marriage is Healing, Part IV--Respectful Communication

(Make sure you read part one and part two and part three first.)

(Special note: everything contained in this series of posts are pre-approved by my husband. It's hard to find the narrow way when speaking about your marriage on the internet. I didn't want to come across as a glib "we're perfect and have no problems, isn't God great?", but I didn't want to disrespect my husband's and my real need for privacy either. I tried to find the middle way. God's healing mercy is real. My prayer is to give Hope)

This is the part that Amy asked me to write about --respectful communication with my husband--and honestly, I don't have it yet. I just know there is a piece of the puzzle missing for me.

I love my husband.
I enjoy his company.
I admire his virtues.
I find him hot in both baseball caps and in sweater vests.
I believe in his leadership of our family because I see the Holy Spirit working in him.

Yet, I can not seem to keep this annoyingly disrespectful tone out of my voice when we're talking about something I disagree with him about.

I can't even tell you what I'm doing wrong yet--I just see his sudden "nails on a chalk board" reaction to my voice, and I know now to quickly stop, say "I'm sorry for disrespecting you" and wait until the air is fully clear.

I'm only at step one of learning how to respect my husband unconditionally (meaningfully apologize when I screw up)--but that one step is huge. I'm getting new love letters on the kitchen table! So I'm just really motivated to keep going. I really think this "Respect for my Husband" is huge and sort of applies to everything from healing our disunity to our Bishops to Better Knowing the Lord, My God.

If anyone has ideas on how to better respect our husband jump into the comments, or better yet, write your own post and link to us. Husbands, if you have thoughts on "Respect" please chime in.
(Remember personal anecdotes are awesome--that's how I remember new concepts--but always check with your beloved spouse before airing private moments in public!)


(To briefly recap for new readers)

So--watching the movie Fireproof helped me kickstart a conversation with my husband about "What 3 things can I do to show you respect." He picked tithing, doing evening prayer together, and not using my father's credit card. Three months later, those tasks are much easier for me.
I also learned that chronic complaining about my hard days with our kids was a form of disrespect to my husband. I'm now working on ironing his work shirts and keeping hand towels in the kitchen (acts of service). Respectful communication itself continues to elude me.

Reading this book "Love and Respect" helped. (I checked it out of my local library)

This book is wordy, you just need to read the first chapter. There is a picture of a "Conflict" Cycle. In theory, couples are always in a "race to the top" for outdoing each other in showing love or respect--or in a downward spiral. Basically she feels unloved (or overwhelmed I'd add with childrearing) so she acts disrespectful, then the man feels hurt and this ugly race happens. Things can get ugly really fast.

The stuff in the a blog post by the Author sounded like Greek but also somehow made sense to me.

"The secret is this:  A husband is motivated to love in response to a wife showing him unconditional respect.  

Paul, as well, shares God’s secret.  “The wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33b NIV).  This is his summary statement on marriage to the wife in the most significant treatise on marriage in the New Testament.Did you know that God does not command a wife to agape-love her husband?  Only the husband is commanded to agape-love (Ephesians 5:33a).   Agape-love is that God-like unconditional love.
The Mysterious Island
Why is a wife not commanded to agape-love?  God designed a wife to love.  She loves to love.  For this reason, a husband does not doubt his wife’s love.  What he doubts is her respect for him.  During an argument, if she shouts, “I love you a ton but don’t feel any respect for you!” he’ll become an island unto himself.  A mysterious island.
That is equal to a husband shouting, “I respect you more than any other human being, especially since you received a million dollar inheritance from your old man, but I don’t love you, never have.”  What wife will jump in the air and click her heels over that comment?  She is devastated and would never get over it.
As a wife needs love like she needs air, so a husband needs respect like he needs air.  He is devastated and never gets over the declaration, “Nobody could ever respect you.”
I recognize myself in this, but I still don't understand what "unconditional respect" to your husband means or even looks like in practice. I'm eager to learn. This healing of Eve's sin starts with me!


  1. I'm really enjoying this series. I married last year and I'm still trying to figure out how to be the spiritual head of the home. i wasn't raised in a Christian home, and I'm not totally sure what it looks like even when you have kids, let alone when you don't yet.

  2. Thank you Thomas! I'm encouraging my husband to write a guest post in this series.

    Any other husband's out there who have questions for Jon?

    Also, Tom, just keep going. God is very good about handing out "On the Job Training Manuals" to all who ask. "Spiritual headship" would have been a foreign concept for me at Year One of Marriage--but now I think, "Oh I think we have some wisdom to share about this..."

  3. This has been a wonderful series, Abigail, thank you for all of it! I have no good advice about respect, I barely understand it myself. :) I really appreciate your comment on your tone of voice. I harp on my dh for his tone of voice all the time - but I never thought about mine being disrespectful (which I bet it is... that "sigh, exasperated!" sound that comes out. I need to work on that!!

  4. I would love to see a guest post from your husband. For either of you I'm especially interested in how you pray together as a couple and what you've learned about it. I've just recently started to get more firmly established in praying regularly myself (rather than just passionate bursts in the midst of lukewarmness). Still haven't figured out how to be consistent with the wife.

  5. Tom, I'm a convert to the Catholic faith. I had a major "Mary block" for a long time. What helped me was that my husband took the lead in having us pray one decade of the rosary every night before we went to bed. (Each of you say your prayer intentions, then One Our Father and ten Hail Marys).

    Slow and steady is the best advice for prayer. Do something "easy" and regular--rather than something super ambitious.

    I really liked praying before bed together because I got to hear what intentions were in my husband's heart. I felt like I got to know him better by praying with him.

    I think bedtime is the best place to start--but you can also say a quick prayer called the Morning Offering together while you drink your coffee before leaving for work.

    Also, pray for your wife when you're at work. Say a quick prayer for her during your lunch break. Send her an email saying "just said a prayer for you." Ask her in the morning what she's worried about or concerned about that day and then tell her "I'll pray for you!"

    I can't tell you how much that warms my heart when my husband does that for me. So often I'll say surprised "We had a good day today?" or "So and so went easier today" and he'll say with a smile--I prayed for you!

  6. Shouldn't respect go both ways? I would much rather my husband (and children) respected me rather than loved me, if I had to pick one or the other. I try to respect them at all times.

    And I sometimes ask my husband to speak respectfully to me, whenever he does not.

    (Then again, I make him do half the housework, too, so I think I'm living according to a different book here.)

  7. I think it's wonderful that they are finding what works for them. And if it's making Abigail happier, and Jon, especially on a material and spiritual level, then bravo. I know my hubby and I at this point, having older kids, assign a lot of the chores to the kids. That's our battle. Them vs. us. The virute wanes after a few weeks, especially when said older kids have book reports due and other various schoolwork, but the dishes are still expected to be done. My husband is ex military, and for him, cleaning is enjoyable to him. It's his strength. Mine is tending to the kids and teaching them. We both joyfully do our own tasks as a way to mutually serve one another. One big task is David's medicine in the evening. He gets at least 8 supplements and an antifungal as part of his biomedical treatment. He also gets a shot every four days of b12. My husband does this, but sometimes, after a long day at work, he is tired by 7:30pm. So I offer to do it that evening. Or the next several evenings until he says he's ready to do it again. I agree also with Abigail mentioned that by her taking the load of the this at home, her husband was able to tend to more things around this house. I think this is a wonderful insight and something I learned awhile back myself. Nothing makes my husband happier than a mowed and clean property (we have close to three acres with lots of trees...gets messy!). Keep up the great posts Abigail :)

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  9. Thanks for this series! It has been so helpful to me. Respect for my husband is something I have been consciously working on since reading on your blog about not complaining to him about the kids!!

    The housework discussion was so interesting to since I have been thinking the same thing. My husband works long hours and has so little time for himself or for major home repairs because I ask him to do so much housework. I am with Jen though. I shouldn't have to do it all--but it's my children who need to pick up the slack, not my husband. It is just a lot easier to ask my husband, who wants to please me, than my kids, who have to be trained and who moan and groan about it all day. Thanks for the inspiration!