Friday, November 20, 2009

Respect and the husband

Isaac isn't mad, he just doesn't smile for photos... sort of on principle. So annoying :)

I have read a lot of books about marriage, and after a while they all start to sound the same. One book that has stuck out of the pack for me is a little book that is an easy read...

For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men
by Shaunti Feldhahn

Honestly I don't remember the whole book, but it's an easy read. The chapter that was so helpful to me was about respect. Each chapter is built around a survey that she took of a number of men. The survey indicated that three out of four men would choose to be unloved over being disrespected. See what Feldhahn says about this:

When I got the survey’s back, a note was attached: “A lot of the guys fussed over Question 3. They did not feel the choices were different.” Finally the light bulb came on: if a man feels disrespected, he is going to feel unloved. And what that translates to is this: if you want to love your man in the way he needs to be loved, then you need to ensure that he feels your respect most of all.
Now, I get this. I tend to to carry some typically male characteristics, and the desire for respect is one of them. What I didn't get, though, was what comes across as disrespectful to a man and how he reacts to that. I loved this quote:

One married man put it very starkly: “The male ego the most fragile thing on the planet. Women have this though that He’s got such a huge ego that I need to take him down a peg. No way. The male ego is incredibly fragile. “You know that saying ‘Behind every good man is a great woman?” Well that is so true. If a man’s wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world – or at least his little corner of it. He will do better at work, at home, everywhere. By contrast, very few men can do well at work or at home if their wives make them feel inadequate.”
So I get that respect is so important... and I do experience that in my own marriage. When praise Isaac, he beams. When I tell him his paper or presentation is great, he moves forward confidently. When I tell him honestly that I'm amazed by his intelligence, you can practically see him stick out his chest proudly. Respect really is suuuch a powerful thing.

I still get tripped up what what men perceive as disrespectful, though. To be blunt, often what is perceived as disrespectful is NOT mean as disrespectful from the woman's perspective. Still, it's really helpful to understand how guys perceive things so I can form my speech accordingly!

A sizable minority of men read something negative into a simple female reminder. I asked men what would go through their minds if their wife or significant other reminded them that the kitchen wall was damaged and it still had to be fixed. More than one-third of those men took that reminder as nagging or as an accusation of laziness or mistrust.

(a local pastor's response to a wife's reminder about a household duty) Pastor: “I’m irritated because I have to be reminded. I hate being reminded.” Calvin: “Why is that a problem? Look at your Day Planner there – you set up systems to remind yourself of things all the time.” Pastor: “Inherent in her reminder is a statement of disappointment. For me as a man, that is saying that I failed. I hate to fail. It’s not a statement that bothers me; it’s the implications of the statement.”

Isaac and I still go back and forth all the time with me trying to figure out what exactly is a reminder and what is nagging. Most of the time I'm better off setting expectations beforehand and just letting him do things in his own timing, not MINE.

Another interesting thing is how a man reacts to feeling disrespected. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, founder of Love and Respect ministries, says that “In a relationship conflict, crying is often a woman’s response to feeling unloved, and anger is often a man’s response to feeling disrespected.”

That's helpful to me because anger the most difficult of all emotions for me to deal with. To understand that men tend to get angry when they feel disrespected helps me to know what to do when men start to show anger. Affirm. Show respect. That covers a multitude of wrongs!

Something that the girls in my small group struggle with is how to encourage your man when we ourselves are nearly all strong, independent women who are opinionated and maybe tend towards being controlling... maybe? ;) I tend to want to stand up for myself, fight for my opinion and make sure I'm not walked on. However, as Feldhahn says,

A man deeply needs the woman in his life to respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions – what I would call his judgement. No one wanted a silent wallflower, but many men wished their mate wouldn’t question their knowledge or argue with their decisions all the time. It’s a touchy thing in these liberated days, but what it really comes down to is their need for us to defer to them sometimes.

Several men confessed that they felt like their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except at home. Some men felt that their comrades at work trusted their judgement more than their own wives did. Also, while a man’s partners or colleagues will rarely tell him what to do (they ask him or a collaborate on a decision instead), more than one wife has made the mistake of ordering her husband around like one of the kids.

For me, all of this has been very powerful and helpful in how I interact with Isaac. It's what I most understand about the way the Bible talks about the role of the "helper" in a marriage. I am his biggest fan. That is incredibly empowering.


Jaimie said...

I don't know if I buy into this stuff yet. I've had bad interactions with Shaunti anyway. Not personally, but she attacked my friend at Cedarville (my college) for writing a perfectly reasonable viewpoint on abortion. Details, details, details. It doesn't matter, but yeah, bad taste in mouth.

Also she thinks masturbation is wrong before marriage and often during, and that's just the height of lunacy to me too.

I guess everyone can say good things though. Anyway, back to point, reading men say stuff like this just sounds so whiney to me. It's like, GROW A PAIR. You said you were going to fix the door Sunday, it's Tuesday, you're watching a lame TV program and we've both been to work all day, could you give me some indication of when you're going to fix it?

Haha, I'd just fix it myself at that point though. Which is why I'd be asking. If you ask me if I need help somewhere, and I tell you where, then you take weeks to do it, I'll just do it myself.

I know men are wired differently, but I guess at this point it's just something I need to see for myself before I figure out how to deal with it.

Jaimie said...

(And I feel like I've been so beligerent on your blog lately! I like you, I promise! Haha.)

Lauren said...

I read this book recently, and admit I have serious problems with this chapter. If I remember correctly, she said that women want unconditional love, and that men want unconditional respect. I have not been able to conceptualize “unconditional respect.”

I’ve observed similar results as you when I genuinely compliment N. I also experience similar difficulty distinguishing between nagging and reminding.

For example, the passage you quote is about a wall that needs to be fixed. The man said he “felt like a failure” when his wife reminded him. However, here is the part I get confused/angry at:
-she asked him to do something;
- it was important;
-he did not do it.
- Therefore, he failed. So…he feels like a failure (in this case) because he failed. How is it the wife’s fault? If he doesn’t want to feel like a failure, then he should take the steps necessary to not fail!

Now, if she didn’t communicate how import it was to her, or her demands where unreasonable, or she nags all the time, or if she rubs it in, gloats, says things like, “I knew this would happen” or “You never do what I ask” or “I just can’t count on you”, then I agree: she should shut up and been patient. But - if she clearly said, “This is important. I need you to do this by such-n-such time” and he doesn’t do it…I don’t understand.

I admit I do not handle situations like this well at all. I have gotten into the habit of asking N “I need this. This is when I need it by. Do you want me to remind you?” If he says no, then forgets, I usually do it myself. This, of course, does not go over well, but I can’t wait forever for him to do the things that need to be done. And if he doesn’t want me to remind him, but he forgets, then, what is the best solution? I don’t know. I have a situation like this right now and I’m extremely frustrated, more so because I don’t know how to handle it properly.

This portion of her book made me extraordinarily angry. I felt she was saying, “Protect his ego at all costs, even if it means lying to him. You should never make him feel bad about anything he does no matter what it is.”

I agree with her: an encouraging wife is the crucial strength for a man, just like a loving husband is a crucial strength for a wife. Look at the warnings in Proverbs. As a wife who loves her husband, I want to be that for him. I know it means being patient, holding my tongue, thinking before I speak and in generally thinking of him before myself. I also think it means actively looking for the good things he does and making sure to thank him, tell him I’m proud of him, brag about his awesomeness to others etc. It means not making a big deal about his faults, not constantly pointing them out, not getting angry or snarky, not saying things in a condescending or hurtful way, but using words wisely and gently.

Still, many things she said didn’t sit well with me. I admit that she hit a nerve, however. I have a seriously huge pet peeve about guys that won’t admit they’re wrong when they’re wrong and this connects to it is a large way. However, that is a rant for another day.

~ L

PS: I had negative reactions to her chapter on physical appearance as well, although not as nearly as strong. I did like her statement that “anger is to guys what crying is to girls”. Now I know when N gets seriously angry during an argument, he’s gotten to the same place I get to when I cry. So helpful to know!

Kacie said...

Lauren... you guys sound like us. Or maybe it's just most married couples. :)

I get what you're saying about unconditional love and unconditional acceptance being different, but I think it depends on your perspective. I mean, unconditional love doesn't mean that in the moment when your wife is being b****, you feel ooey gooey love for her. It means you are committed to loving her, regardless of the feelings. Isn't respect similar? In the situation your spouse may not be deserving of respect, but you are committed to respecting them as a person regardless of the times when they fail.

I agree with you - I don't think that in the conversation with that pastor it is the wife's fault. I think it's still the husband's fault... or maybe he's just been too busy or forgotten. But in any case, I think the point is that we understand how they react to our questions and try to respond accordingly.

I think the point is not to protect his ego (though some men might say that) - it's to affirm him and who he is and so empower him and encourage him to go forward (and to fulfill those responsibilities that he won't WANT to fulfill if we stand over him like a hawk, waiting to see if he gets it done or not - that's motherly, not wifely). So I think our tone matters - are we asking these questions accusingly, or are we just asking very nicely - hey I thought you were gonna do that - what happened and can I help?

Sometimes, though, it's just flat out a man's pride and/or laziness. The question changes at that point. At that point it's - how do we respond when our spouse has failed and perhaps is continuing to make bad choices?

I don't know the answer to that, because my first instinct is to just be mad, because when you're married it affects you too, not just the individual making the choices. How do we respect with grace without enabling? TO a certain extent we can't convict - that's God's job, and generally our attempts at convicting our spouses just ends in conflict....

I wish more men read this blog, I'd love their perspective...

CM said...

I'm single, so maybe I shouldn't attempt to comment. I also haven't read these books, but I have a lot of friends that have and I've watched one DVD on the series Love and Respect. I think that there's a lot to be said for it. It is really interesting talking to the guys in our group of friends when it comes down to this.

I think that unconditional respect is a really hard concept for me to grasp. Respect seems to be something that is earned. But at the same time, I hope some day to find unconditional love. I want someone to love me even if I gain weight, for example. It doesn't mean that he loves that I've gained weight, but it means that he loves me anyway.

One of the things that I think works well (in general not just between spouses) is affirming those things that are done well. When he does get that fix-it job done, be sure to tell him what a good job he did, for example. It doesn't mean lying and saying he did something well that he didn't do. It means choosing to focus on the things that he did well.

I dunno. Just some thoughts. Take for what they're worth; I'm still single, so what do I know? :)

Anonymous said...

I'm 55,married 31 years by the grace of God.
9 years in I lost respect for my husband for a variety of reasons - including working at the same firm on opposite sides of a union conflict.
Bottom line - it was a death nell - I ended up leaving him and we were separated off and on for almost 3 years. It was only new birth in Christ that saved both us and our marriage.
You may think it sounds like Stepford Wives - but I've been there - and I pray and work at respecting him now as a major priority for his sake and mine. Not only is respect crucial to them, for me when respect goes, love goes.

Kacie said...

Doesn't God give us unconditional respect in some ways though? In a similar way to what I described above. We are made in His image, and so humanity, thought identified as lost and broken, is throughout scripture considered worth the salvation of God, because we are created by Him.

The image of God in humanity is always treated as sacred by God despite our great failure... I feel like that is love but also a respect. In the same way we show respect for the innate value of our spouses, even when their momentary actions aren't deserving.

I've always reacted against the possibility of love without respect. To me, that is pity, and not a sort of love I wish to have at all.

Clare said...

"If a man’s wife is supportive and believes in him, he can conquer the world – or at least his little corner of it. He will do better at work, at home, everywhere. By contrast, very few men can do well at work or at home if their wives make them feel inadequate.”"

Well, that was my parents.

Enough said, really... Interesting post. Am talking it over with the boyfriend right now :)

Jaimie said...

Yes, I think love and respect are really the same kind of thing. Otherwise it's pity. That's a very good point.

Because really, I think women are whining when they say they love but don't respect. Trying to look better, like the bigger person "who sees the truth." They don't know what love is.

(I think males and females are more alike than they are different.)

Lauren said...

You said, “I think the point is not to protect his ego (though some men might say that) - it's to affirm him and who he is and so empower him and encourage him to go forward”

If this is what is meant by “respecting your husband” then I agree 100%. I learned (the hard way) that even when I am madder then a poked hippo at N, to disparage him, mock, belittle or in any other way, through words or actions, to disrespect him is 1) a sin and 2) is like pouring gasoline on a wildfire – it is only going to make the situation worse.

I like how you phrased the definition of unconditional respect: being committed to respecting the person even when you don’t feel like it. After all, unconditional love is being committed to loving to person even when you don’t feel it.

I feel there are two kinds of respect: Given and Earned. Given is the basic respect we show everyone, regardless of race, creed, kind, gender, religion, sexual orientation, attitude, etc. It is given because every human is made in the eyes of God and therefore should be treated at the handiwork of Him. Earned is the kind only bestowed when the other person has behaved in a manor worthy of it or demonstrated character and virtue.

For example, I will treat the check-out girl with respect even if she has the worst attitude ever; she is a God’s creation and that is all that matters. My response to her is dictated by my relationship with God, not her. However, I don’t “respect” her the same way I respect N when he sacrifices something important to himself, for another, because it’s the “right thing” – Does that make sense?

I like what your question, “At that point it's - how do we respond when our spouse has failed and perhaps is continuing to make bad choices?” This may be where the unconditional respect comes in: but how that looks, I don’t know. I’m still learning about this “married” thing – by trial and error, I might add.

I’m like you: my first instinct is always to get mad-mad-mad. I am working to change that about myself.

I would also like to hear a guy’s response to this. Perhaps I will post a bit on my blog….

Jon said...

Love without respect is ultimately worthless. You cannot love someone and at the same time disrespect them. Belittling someone (man or woman in a relationship) because they didn't complete some menial task on *your* schedule is inherently selfish and disrespectful.

Communication is the foundation for everything in a relationship. If your request for the SO to do something is an order instead of a conversation then disrespect is at the very root of any problem stemming from this seemingly trivial or mundane task. If you actually strike up a conversation, ask when would be a good time, and come to a mutual agreement on the honey-do list, showing respect for EACH OTHER, not just one side of the equation, then things would work out.

Its a failing a lot of people have; lack of communication coupled with the expectation that everything has to be done on one person's unilateral schedule.

Togenberg said...

I am not sure what love without respect would be. Not pity in the older sense, but maybe in the contemporary sense of pity, that gross saccharine-y thing where the object of pity is most definitely lesser. If love is more than an emotion it must surely have the quality of respect as it must also have commitment.

Kacie said...

Jon, thanks for your perspective - I'd love to know who you are, I don't think I've heard from you before!

Togenberg said...

The book sounds awful to me though I've only browsed it.

Truly men are more fragile than many imagine, and having someone in your corner is unbelievably cool and powerful. And sex for most men might be quite differently perceived as sex might be for most women. And men are more visually stimulated than women in the main. And, and, and.

All true. Men are not robots, not ideals, need respect and support and love.

But jeez the men discussed sound like *such* whiners, who are pawns of sex drive, brittle ego, competition. Almost contemptible. Why would someone want to add to that, coddle that? and in such a reacting, passive manner? There is more than a little a Laura Schlessinger/Tim and Beverly LaHaye/Promise Keepers ethos here, and I think in some situations this could make things much, much worse.

Obrien said...

Since I'm single (chronically so) I can't really comment on the marriage thing from the inside. But since I also can't resist throwing in my two cents worth, I would like to point out that there is a difference between speaking the truth with love, and using the truth as a club. And no, there is nothing wrong with building up a man's ego, treating him like a gentleman whether he deserves it or not. I often advise men to treat the women around them like ladies whether they are or not.

eva said...

This is very true. I think the most dangerous trap a wife can fall into these days is disparaging her husband to her friends & family. Men can be extremely infuriating to their wives because there are just so many little things that they simply do not SEE. This is a difference in construction, but it can get frustrating at home and often a wife's response is to, well, mock/disparage her husband's inability to keep up with her mental list of things to do. I make a concerted effort to praise my husband to my friends and family because - to respect his abilities and not mock the things he just will never manage to do around the house.

Not sure how common this is, but there are a lot of wives who mock/complain about their husbands' attributes and I think that tears down a lot of relationships from the inside out.

~eva (a xanga person - miss_order)

Jon said...

Kacie I'm a friend of Lauren's. I came via her blog.

Rae said...

In some ways I think that the approach of this book is actually disrespectful toward men since it makes them appear so childish. I get the point (I also read most of the book for men only and see that it is just the author's style). I just don't think that it is helpful for most people.

I agree with you on unconditional respect being a key part of love which is more than pity. I just got the feeling that Feldhahn's approach was far too binary. When I first read the book I was horrified enough to take the time to register on the site so that I could see the survey questions. One used as evidence was:

"Think about what these two negative experiences would be like: to feel alone and unloved in the world OR to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone. If you were forced to choose one, which would you prefer? Would you rather feel...? {Choose One Answer}
Alone and Unloved (73.8%)
Inadequate And Disrespected (26.3%)"

Who wouldn't rather feel like they were valuable, just unloved (meaning that others are wrong to fail to love someone so good) rather than inadequate?

And in my experience, *not* reminding my husband about things has been one of the biggest struggles in our relationship. Josh would get frustrated that in my effort to not nag I would stew over the fact that he wasn't doing something. While he would have loved a simple reminder, I would seriously be thinking that if he really cared he would remember.

Maybe there was more to the situations than we know from the survey responses, but it does not strike me as fair to think that men in general find reminders disrespectful.

Mark G said...

I'm a single guy who occasionally reads Lauren's blog and followed her link here.

I agree that for myself, at least, respect is either more necessary than love, or else such an integral part as to be indistinguishable.

"Unconditional respect" is a little difficult. What conditions would you normally place on the respect you show toward your husband?

Ake said...

I don't see how you can demand unconditonal love any more than unconditional respect...I mean, surely we don't always deserve loving and we don't always deserve respect, but isn't love when you stay committed to someone in relationship and their value and worth, and respect when you stay committed to someone as an (at least) equal and a powerful and influential and valid and honour-worthy person. Not great definitions but perhaps it gives the gist. Either of those seems like a massive ask to do unconditionally but I'm not sure that one is more or less "possible" to do unconditionally. I went to some talks by this couple called Danny and Sheri Silk that was pretty much about unconditional respect (or honour, as they call it) for everyone - it was pretty full on yet so down to earth and really challenging. There are some interesting clips on you tube, this one in particular: I completely buy it according to his def of honour and my understanding so far of the Scriptures he refers to - I think it's the right thing, but it's incredibly hard to actually live out of.

I do think the differences between men and women can be over-emphasised sometimes, but I do see the value in it at time. I def want respect as well as love and do see them very interlinked.

Kacie said...

Dude. So many comments, so many different opinions. I guess that means it is all the more important that husbands and wives clearly express to each other what their expectations are, what comes across as unloving and disrespectful to them...

Rachel said...

Great that you've sparked debate Kacie, I've found it really interesting, and good for you for treating everyone so respectfully whatever our opinions. I love you!