Considering Marriage? Can You Respect Him?

Ephesians 5 contains one of the most oft-referenced sections on marriage in the Bible. Verse 33 in particular is a verse that we wives in particular need to pay better attention to:
"Let each one of you love his wife as himself,
and let the wife see that she respects her husband."

We in our culture, particularly as women, are fed an incomplete picture of marriage: that it is all about love. We want to be "in love"... we want to feel "madly, deeply" in love. And we, frankly, have a wrong picture and idea of what true love really is. But that's a subject for another day.

But when a young woman is considering marrying a young man, she (most typically) wants to be "swept off her feet" and feel butterflies in her stomach. This is what our culture has geared us to desire-- the feelings-- the swoon-- the weak knees. But there's a much more important issue that ought to be considered:

Can you respect him? DO you respect him?

When we focus solely on love, we too often miss this more important biblical command... that we, as wives, are to respect our husbands. [We are to show love one to another, but husbands are the ones with the specific command to love their wives, while the wives' command is to respect her husband.]

Shaunti Feldhahn's book, "For Women Only", shed some great light on this subject-- essentially, proving that the greatest need men feel (and the greatest lack most men are feeling) is that they are not respected by their wives. When a husband feels disrespected by the one person in life whose opinion (at least at one time) mattered most to him, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to feel successful in other areas of life (work, ministry, friendships, parenting, etc.).

Oftentimes, what will end up happening is that if there is an area where a man feels more respected (perhaps at work, perhaps with a particular person, perhaps in a certain role), he begins to invest more in that place, person, or role because there is the reward of respect from that investment of his time. This is how affairs often start. This is how workaholics are fueled. This is how a dad spends more time coaching others on a team than actual time spent one-on-one with his own child (because he perhaps receives respect and feels rewarded by the "position" of coach).

When men don't feel respected, particularly by their wives, all sorts of problems arise. And God knew this. Which is why He wrote it into His plan for marriage... instructing wives to respect their husbands.

It can be tough. Particularly if you married an unbeliever. Perhaps you married a Christian, but he has backslidden. Perhaps you married someone who has radically changed since your early days of dating. Maybe your husband has made poor financial decisions or career moves. Regardless, our responsibility, as wives, is to "respect".

Think of at least one way that you can begin showing greater respect for your husband. Have you ever written him a letter telling him how much you respect him and a few (or many) reasons why? Perhaps you could spend 1 minute each day this week hugging him and telling him something in particular that you respect him for. (It can be as simple as, "I respect you for getting up each morning and going to work to provide for us", or as detailed and involved as you want it to be.) You may remember that one of my New Year's goals is to begin more intentionally giving verbal respect to Doug-- encouraging him and praising him for the man that he is- not only to him, but to others. We all can (and should) find ways to show greater respect to our husbands, particularly in this culture which tells us to seek- rather than to give- respect. Our husbands need and greatly desire our respect.

There's nothing wrong with feelings. They are fine and good, and do help to knit our hearts together. But more urgently, you need to ask yourself, as a Christian woman, "CAN I RESPECT THIS MAN?" If there is a man you are dating, engaged to, or considering marrying, or if there's a man that you've been eying, before you make the commitment, and before you let things go farther, ask: "will I be able to respect him?"

Consider some of these things:
- Can I respect the work that he does?
-Can I respect the relationship he has with God?
- Will I respect him as the spiritual leader of our home?

- Can I give him verbal respect in the presence of others?
- Can I respect his leadership on moral issues
(how to raise any children God may give, how many children to have, what kind of church to attend, etc.)?
- Will I respect him in social situations and his interactions with others (with my family, with his family, at get-togethers, etc.)?
- Can I respect his personality style (i.e., Will I resent it when he's not the first one in line for a promotion? Will I resent it if he IS the first one in line for a promotion? Will his sense of humor grate on me and make me resent him? Will I be frustrated by his seriousness?)?
- Can I respect his financial position and continue respecting him if it changes for the worse?
- Can I respect him in sickness and in health
(his or mine)? For richer or for poorer? For better or for worse? For the rest of my life?

- Am I really aware that by marrying this man, in order to obey God, I am choosing to respect this man for the rest of our lives?

Tough questions. But they are much better asked on the front end than on the back end. I'll admit, I didn't think in terms of "respect" when I got married. I thought in terms of love, communication, compatibility, and friendship. I DID think in terms of mutual respect, but I confess that I was more concerned about making sure that I was receiving "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" than making sure from my heart that I could give it. (Incidentally, though sung by the soulful Aretha Franklin, that song, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T", was written by a man--which certainly enforces the idea of how critical respect is to men.)

If you are married, I would encourage you to consider these things- and make a change or two in how you may interact with your husband. If you aren't yet married, I would urge you to consider these things as you look at potential spouses, and as you frame the issue of marriage in your mind.


Anonymous said...

Titus 2:4 does command women to love their husbands! Great post.


Dove said...

RESPECT was written by a man! How interesting, and telling!

Respect is one of the things that drew me to my husband. I so respected who he was, and when we became a couple it translated into pride. I am still so proud of who my husband is, and proud to be known as his wife.

That would be a related question to ask, considering those that only know him and don't know you yet, would you be proud to be known as his wife?

K in the Mirror said...

I'm in the middle of reading Love and Respect by Emerson Emmerich and it says many of the same things. I guess hearing it here too means it's something God wants me to look at!

Samantha said...

To be honest, I never once considered marrying a man whom I do not respect. Because to me, if you don't respect someone, how can you love them? If you don't respect someone, it is merely lust, not love, in my eyes. Love begins with respect.

Nancy said...

This is very true, and something I didn't think about when I got married. Only now that I've been married 10 years (!) do I see how important it is. Luckily, I can answer "yes" to all those questions. I should make it a point to tell him that!

Jess said...

Good point- I forgot about Titus 2 (duh!). Thanks for pointing that out. I'll change that in the original post. The respect issue still remains, but I stand corrected. :)


Terry said...

Hey Jess! I have to say that this is another great post. My husband and I are pretty opposite personalities and while I have always respected him because he is just such a wonderful man, there were times early in our marriage when I didn't respect his personality. I've matured enough and we've been through enough for me to respect it. There were times his personality and ways saved me from making some really bad, Type A decsions. So you're right, it is important to be careful, especially during courtship, to consider all of this. While I wouldn't trade what I've learned and how I've grown, I could have avoided a lot of difficulty siimply by cultivating a respect for all parts of my husband's personhood early on.

Brandy said...

This is such wise council. The small voice in my head after dating a guy for 4 years (giving him my heart and thinking of him as my future husband) was that I did not respect many pieces of his character and action. By the grace of God, I got out of that relationship and love and respect my husband I have been blessed with. I hope to teach this to my future daughters and already tell teens I am around that this is so important. Another thing this post makes me think about is how important it is for us women to read and LISTEN to what the Bible is telling us. Sometimes I am guilty of reading and not acting on God's commands. We as Christian women need to challenge each other to do this. Thank you for help with that Jess!

Elizabeth said...

As a young, not yet hitched woman, I have a few questions. Should you be able to respect the man you're dating/potential husband in all of the areas you mentioned from the get-go, or is it enough to have an overall respect for him despite faults and failings and know that he is trying to grow into the man God wants him to be? Is part of a woman's task learning how to respect even when it seems like your man has fallen short? Afterall, we expect to be loved when we are most unlovable!

Jess said...

I think the question you're asking reveals your heart. I think if you're striving to respect him in your heart and certainly giving him respect then of course, just like love, that respect can deepen as the years pass. Of course there may be things that with maturity are going to grow and develop (spiritual growth, financial know-how, etc.)... but if there are strong warning lights going off and you feel embarrassed by him or you feel like you need to run the show because he's such a bonehead and makes such foolhardy decisions, then those are flashing red lights that, in my mind, would be giving a big "NO!!!!" warning before marriage happens.

I'm sure others may have additional thoughts to add to your question.

Kelly said...

Well said Jess. In our culture so many young women are caught up in falling in love and totally ignore the respect issue.
I've only been married 6 years but I can say that I respected my husband from the beginning. It does change though. My biggest issues have always been when he and I don't agree. It becomes really hard to still respect his decisions. But I remind myself that I do respect him, and in marrying don't we make the choice then to respect, or give him that respect from that point on. Kind of like when you don't feel that euphoric love anymore you choose to still love that person.

deb said...

As always you have created a thoughtful and wise article. How the heck do you manage to constantly give me something to think about?

I really don't see how anyone can truely love someone that they don't respect. As a previous poster said, strong emotion without respect is lust not love.

Thankfully, I have been very blessed to marry a wonderful man who I respect deeply.

Erin said...

A bit off topic, but when I read this I remembered the line in Pride and Prejudice where Mr Bennet says to Elizabeth
"My child, let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life." :)

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I agree that respect in marriage should begin with respect in a dating/courting relationship. Too many of my friends have started a relationship having some doubts, expecting to change the man to what they could respect and it doesn't work out as they planned (suprise, suprise).

Another thing is I think wives should be proactive in verbally respecting their husbands. I hear alot more complaints/annoyances from Christian wives about their husbands than prasie or respect for their husbands decisions/actions. (I don't mean in a one-on-one mentoring /close sharing evvironment but in everyday conversations)

*~Tamara~* said...

Great post, Jess.

Elizabeth, when you're establishing a relationship with someone prior to marriage I think a general, overall respect is necessary. You have to be able to look past his faults and respect him anyway, but you also have to ask yourself, can I look past these faults if he never changes? If the answer is no, then that's not the guy for you. He may be trying to grow into the man God wants him to be, but can you live with the circumstances if he never makes it fully there?

I'm not suggesting everybody has to look for a perfect man, since obviously there aren't any. (Sorry, guys.) But you do have to decide what you can and can't live with, and once you've made the decision to marry someone, you have to respect them, faults and all.

One more thing I want to say on this topic...I have observed quite often when wives will say they would respect their husbands if they "would just (insert desired trait here)." For instance, "It would be easy to respect him if he would just do what needs to be done!" Meanwhile, while her husband doesn't do what she wants, she demeans and belittles him in public, so who knows what she says behind closed doors. Our command to be respectful isn't conditional on their behavior! I just cringe when I hear this sort of thing. I feel so bad for the guy but honestly don't know what to say in their presence that wouldn't make the situation worse. I tend to change the subject. Quickly.

Jess said...

Me too (the cringing part). It makes me sad to think of how that kind of woman doesn't even realize how her words aren't just venting-- they affect the way others see her husband (I'm reminded of the Prov 31 woman whose husband was respected in the city gates-- she probably didn't run him down, especially in public!), and how her husband sees himself (and thus, behaves).


Anonymous said...

Great post! I totally agree that it is SO important to respect your husband. When I was dating my husband, he came with me to my older brother's wedding. He was wonderful! He was patient, kind, polite and everyone loved him. That was when I started thinking about him as husband-material more seriously. I respect him and can be proud of him and his behavior. It's vital for a happy marriage.

Anonymous said...


I too want to thank you for bringing up this topic. I know I am guilty of tearing my husband down both to his face and in public even when I try very hard to NOT do that. It is so much our culture for women to speak this way that I have to be very careful to watch my words.
At home, my husband and I often exchange jabs at one another. It's all in fun and 99% of the time we don't hurt each other's feelings. But how does that look in public when we verbally elbow each other in front of others? I'm sure it does not come off as respectful.
This is such an important area for women to pray about and work on . . . constantly.
When my husband comes home from work tonight, I will purposefully praise him in front of the girls. It isn't enough to not tear-down. I need to consciously build-up as well.
Grace and Peace,

ClaireBoe said...

I wish someone had spoken to me about respecting my husband before we got married. I thought about it like you did, Jess. MUTUAL respect was what was important. *sigh*

Finally, after almost 17 years of marriage, I can finally say I respect my husband, and strive to honor him daily.

Here was the turning point: I had always worked. We had agreed before we got married that once the children came along, I would no longer work. Well, I held onto working at home, then "had to" go to an office job when my husband lost his job. I had to "save the day."

Rather than leaving the office job when he started working (which was only a few months later), I kept at it for about 3-1/2 years. Then I came home to homeschool, and continued to work part-time. I just couldn't give it up, despite knowing that God was calling me to quit. I heard His voice many times, but I was too afraid to let go of that control.

In 2007, my work ran out (loan industry). My husband has been working part-time, plus his full-time job to keep us afloat. And he's doing it with a wonderful attitude. I respect and love him more now than ever, because he has completely risen to the occasion, and become the sole breadwinner of our family.

All that to say, I think young wives need to LET their husbands be the man of the family. That's not to say you can't work, but let him be the man. Believe me, I know.

LisaM said...

really important stuff - I'm seeing a lot of this in books and workbooks, as well as blogs and Bible studies. The turn back of wives learning to respect, as their husbands learn to love, as Paul points out in Eph. is such a great and powerful move in a marriage, and hopefully can spread out into our communities and etc.! You brought out some excellent comments with this one too.

Elise said...

I'm belatedly responding AND trying to keep this short -- I would humbly submit that the text of Titus 2:4 is actually commanding older women *to teach* the younger women HOW to love their husbands (phileo - brotherly love) instead of directly commanding women to love their husbands; I believe the implication is that women have a general inclination to "love," although not necessarily the way God wants us to do so.

The same thought would carry through to the second part of the verse where the older women are instructed to teach the younger women to (appropriately) love their children. Elsewhere in Scripture, wondrous pictures are painted of the love that mothers have towards their children, so it can't be assumed that mothers don't love their children and must be commanded in this action.

Contrast the Titus 2 verse with Ephesians 5:22-24 which calls us as married women to respect the position of our husbands in the same vein as we respect the position of Christ. Surely if there was a dire need to command women to love their husbands, those commands would have been included in the same passage in which husbands are instructed (at great length, IMHO) how they are to love their wives.

As has been pointed out in many books over the years, women have a tendency to "love" according to their own needs instead of brotherly-loving, which includes a hefty dose of respect. I don't know too many girls who are swept off their feet or have butterflies over their brothers, but I do know quite a few of us (me included) who respect and admire their brothers.

Just my two cents from 23 years of marriage!

DJP said...

If a man may interject:

1. You're absolutely right, and well-said.

2. Beware one thing: you stress showing verbal respect, and this is a great aim. But it is women who tend to be primarily verbal, not men.

So my unsolicited suggestion is that you be sure not only to say respect, but to think respect, and to show respect.

That is, do your own decisions in child-raising or other home matters reflect respect for priorities he's laid out? Or does he feel as if he's forgotten the moment he's out of sight? Or, when he expresses a concern to you, do you immediately explain why he's wrong, why he should be ashamed for expressing this concern, and why nothing will be done to address it? A verbal expression of respect can be undone by responses and actions that communicate disrespect.

You'll all be wives of very blessed men.

Anonymous said...

Great post! My sister-in-law were just discussing this the other day, so it was neat to click on your blog and read this...I'm going to send her a link!

Nicki said...

Hi Jess,

I've just come across your blog via the numerous links made to this great post. A poignant, helpful reminder for me!

Anonymous said...

I realize my comment is a bit off tangent, but what if you are an unmarried woman and you realize you are just not up to the task of biblical wifedom? This post today is insightful and honest. It has also begun to make me think that marriage is just not for every woman. I enjoy the biblical insights here and the great discussions, but I am fast coming to the conclusion that getting married may simply not be for me given how hard it is. I don't know how you ladies do it all.

Is it wrong to simply decide NOT to marry. To recognize that it is beyond my capabilities and enjoy being single instead?
Thanks for any input,

Jess said...

Hi Liza,
Thanks for your question and comments. I don't think it would be wrong to soberly and prayerfully choose singleness at all. The Bible (Paul and Jesus specifically) offer singleness as an excellent and praiseworthy option for those who would forsake marriage (and the focus on "worldly things", like pleasing a husband or wife, that it would bring), and focus on Kingdom work.

So those who choose not to marry ought to then purpose in their hearts to devote that same passion and energy, time and commitment to Christ and to the furthering of His Kingdom. Of course this can be done in a variety of ways, but as I understand it, this is the biblical option for the Christ-honoring life of singleness.

It is indeed a difficult thing to try to live out a biblical marriage, and you are wise to consider that before you enter into married life. Blessings on you as you seek His will for you and thanks for offering your thoughts here.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jess,
Thanks so much for your encouraging response. What God has pointed out to me, through your response and through other means, is that my focus, should I remain single, should be on Him in a single-hearted manner. This is difficult. I find the world gets me so wrapped up in my work and career that I do not feel that Jesus gets my best. I never intended this and never viewed myself as a career-ladder gal willing to forsake all for her career. It as just that the demands of the job seem to take over so easily.

Today I started to pray that Christ will help to change that. I do not wish to be married at present, but I DO want to serve God faithfully and want more steady single-eyed focus in that direction.

God led me to some work by Shane Claiborne
and the New Monasticism. In the New Monastacism
a single Christian puts all that time, energy, focus, and love onto serving Christ through serving others. I want to know more about this and how to *live* it which always seems to be the most difficult part.
Thank you and God Bless You,
Liza G.
(I am "anonymous" because I don't have a blogger ID or Google, not because I don't want to say my name.)

DJP said...

If I may offer a slightly different response:

It depends on why one is single.

Remaining single is certainly a moral option, though not God's intended norm. But why would one choose it? If for specific ways of serving Christ, well and good.

But if a man were to choose singleness because he doesn't want to be tied down, doesn't want to be responsible, doesn't want others to depend on him, doesn't want to devote himself to any one woman... I might urge him that these are defects in Christian masculine character that he should work on replacing with godly traits. And that they're not good reasons for choosing singleness.

Likewise, should a woman recoil from marriage because she has always rebelled against authority, because she never respected her father and refuses to respect any other man, because her career is more important to her than anything else... ditto the above.