Have you ever looked for your lost keys in the same place over and over again only to find out they were there in front of your face the whole time? Or have you ever looked everywhere for the pen or pencil that you had all day only to find it behind your ear at the end of the day? This is how I felt when I read Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.
The running theme of this book is many marriages are strained due to the fact that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” What I am saying here is that a simple misunderstanding causes the strain. Men don’t grasp what women are feeling when they are trying to express themselves and, yes, it’s true women are in the same predicament concerning men. Husbands aren’t feeling respected by their wives when, in turn, wives aren’t feeling loved by their husbands.
Eggerin states there are three major cycles to the process of Love and Respect. The first cycle is named the crazy cycle. So named because the husband and wife end up with the same negative results for the same reason over and over again and the cycle continues until the couple decides to break the cycle. The second cycle is coined the energizing cycle.
Let me elaborate on how Eggerin came to the epiphany of the need for love and respect in a healthy marriage. First, if we look at the success of the twelve step programs ranging from co-dependency to food disorders to chemical addictions, we can come to one conclusion as to their success. They work because they are based on one person with the same problem helping another.
Oddly, Dr. Eggerich had the advantage, for lack of a better word, of watching his parents’ marriage disintegrate because of the lack of respect and love in it. Interestingly, Eggerich shares his difficulties in his marriage and the difficulty he had with marriage counseling from the start as well. He may have his PhD but his success concerning marriage counseling is due largely to the fact that he and his wife had the same struggles many couples experience.
There was a lot of stumbling through cycles of misunderstandings between Emerson and his wife, Sarah. He forgot her birthday one year. After a Bible study group one night, Sarah’s voice grew louder and louder on the way home trying to get through to Emerson concerning his standoffish quiet demeanor. Emerson felt disrespected and hurt and he said to her; “You can be right but wrong at the top of your voice. (p.11)”
One day, for the thousandth time, he read Ephesians 5:33;
“33 Nevertheless tlet each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she urespects her husband.”
That’s when it hit him. It was right in front of his face every time he read it but this time, it truly resonated. He had never seen the connection between love and respect but this time, he did. He came to the realization that a husband is to obey the command to love his wife, even if the wife does not obey the command to respect the husband. Also, the wife is to respect her husband even if the husband does not obey the command to love his wife. So, the connection is love and respect.
There are two reasons why love and respect are primary needs. He discusses his personal experience of coming to this understanding from a husbands’ point of view. When disagreements occur, the husband perceives that the wife is contemptuous or disrespectful toward him. This, in turn, causes the husband to shut down or blow up at her and the wife does not receive an expression of love (p.17). After years of counseling married couples, I think it is safe to hang your hat on Eggerins’ theory.
The crazy cycle is a down to earth approach to a problem that started at the fall of man. If not broken, this cycle will tear a marriage to pieces. Often, the man is not even aware that it actually is disrespect that the wife is conveying toward him. On the other hand, the wife doesn’t understand why her husband is not expressing his love toward her.
The steps toward breaking the crazy cycle are just as simple as the realization that it exists. One major component is communication. Learning how to express our feelings in a respectful tone is very important. The communication code is discussed. He uses a funny little example of how men and women communicate in code. When a wife says; “I have nothing to wear,” she actually means “I have nothing new.” When a man says, “I have nothing to wear,” he means “I have nothing clean.” This is an example of the code that needs to be broken in order for couples to move past the crazy cycle.
I believe another important thing to mention concerning the crazy cycle is unconditional respect. It is vital for women and men to see that respect is not earned, but given. Eggerson uses an example of a boss in the workplace. He basically says that even if you don’t feel respect for your boss, you still show respect for him or her. This is an example of unconditional respect. I suppose we can look at it this way as well, we are to give respect, expecting nothing in return. Just the same, we are to give love expecting nothing in return and both love and respect are reciprocal. They feed off of each other.
The second cycle that Eggerson discusses is the energizing cycle. This is the cycle in which application is necessary in order to stay off of the crazy cycle and move forward. There are two separate sections devoted to husbands and wives respectively. Each section contains an acronym; 1) Couple and 2) Chairs for the wives.
The acronym for couple is Closeness, Openness, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyalty and Esteem. To elaborate, a wife wants her husband to be close and there is a biblical standard for this as well. Genesis 2:24 says, “the husband shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.” She also wants her man to open up to her or to tell her what’s happening inside of him and not shut her down when she asks if something is wrong. Sometimes a wife just wants her husband to listen and not to try and fix her problems for her.
This is where understanding comes into play. She desires to be at peace and she wants to hear her husband say that he’s sorry some times. Take initiative and pray with her after apologizing. She also needs to know that you aren’t going anywhere and that you are committed to her. Loyalty is very important in a marriage. If her friends are upset with her, be there. Even if she is wrong, a husband can still be loyal to his wife by being there for her in her time of need. She wants you esteem her as well. Read the Song of Solomon and pay special attention to the esteem and love that the man bestows on the Shulamite.
For the women, the acronym for chairs is Conquest, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship, and Sexuality. Respecting a husband is appreciating his desire to work and to achieve. This is not referring to the archaic definition. It merely refers to encouraging a husband in his achievements at work and in life and with the family. The hierarchy is to appreciate his desire to protect and provide. Eggerichs says that we need to keep in mind this is not a chauvinists’ construct but it is one thing that gives a man purpose.
I kind of look at it in the way Christ defines hierarchy and that is that the least will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Men desire to be in authority and there are times that it is okay for a wife to appreciate that. Also, appreciate the wisdom and insight your husband has and his desire to analyze and counsel. Next comes relationship. I know that it’s hard to understand that sometimes husbands just want you in the same room with them, but it’s true.
They don’t always want to talk about something. Sometimes, they just want their wives with them. Finally, the taboo of Christianity, sexuality! Appreciating his desire for sexual intimacy is also very important. Nothing seems to break a man down more than to remove physical intimacy from a relationship.
Finally, the third cycle is fairly straightforward. It is a biblical concept through and through. There is no doubt as to whether or not Jesus practiced this concept in His life on this earth. The cycle is called the rewarded cycle. Notice it says rewarded. This is referring to the fact that it is done. No matter the husband or wife’s response, the reward for the obedient servant is eternal. It is stored in heaven. If a husband pours his love and gives all that he has for his wife, his reward is in heaven. There is no response necessary in order for the husband to be rewarded. If his wife is completely disrespectful then he will still receive his reward and vice-versa for a wife.
This book has opened my eyes to a whole new reality concerning those who carry the opposite sex and myself. In the long run, there is no reason to give up on a marriage that is not working because of miscommunication and confusion. If we practice humility and recognize the need for biblical truth in married life then anything is possible.
t Col. 3:19
u 1 Pet. 3:1, 6
The New King James Version. 1996, c1982 . Thomas Nelson: Nashville