The Air We Breathe

Every husband needs respect;
every wife needs love.

Kelly wondered if her husband, Steve, would remember their 10th anniversary. Some years he had forgotten.

But, this year, he remembered. He had found just the right card, and he was sure it would be a great anniversary. When he handed her the card, she beamed from ear to ear. But when she read it, her countenance turned sour and dark.

"It's not bad ... for a birthday card," she scowled.

Steve stiffened at her anger. He meant well. What was written on the outside was great, but he had failed to read the inside. "Hey, an honest mistake. Give me a break."

"An honest mistake? You just don't care. You are so unloving!"

Now he was miffed. "Hey, give me a break."

"You buy me a birthday card on our 10th anniversary, and you expect me not to be upset? I'd rather you hadn't bought me any card at all!"

Feeling disrespected, he coldly said, "Fine. I'm going to the office."

Love and Respect

This conflict isn't unique. Kelly felt unloved, and Steve felt disrespected, even contemptible in his wife's eyes.

When Decision Analysts, Inc., did a national survey on male-female relationships, one question for men read:

"Even the best relationships sometimes have conflicts on day-to-day issues. In the middle of a conflict with my wife, I am more likely to be feeling:

a. That my wife doesn't respect me right now.

b. That my wife doesn't love me right now.

Not surprisingly, 81.5 percent of men chose "a."

Women need to feel loved, and men need to feel respected.

The survey only substantiated what I had already discovered in my years of working with married couples: Women need to feel loved, and men need to feel respected. This may explain why Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:33 that a husband must love his wife and a wife must respect her husband. Both commands are unconditional. The hard part is that respect comes more easily to men, and love comes easier to women.

You're stepping on my air hose!

Colossians 3:19 commands a husband to agape-love his wife (love unconditionally). Obviously, she needs to feel loved.

Imagine that the wife has an air hose that goes to a love tank. She needs love like she needs air to breathe. When her husband stands on her air hose buying a birthday card for their anniversary she'll react negatively!

When the husband sees the spirit of his wife deflate, he should realize he's stepping on her air hose and get off it. Though she may react in a disrespectful way, she is crying out, "I feel unloved by you right now. I can't believe you're doing this to me." If, in response, the husband heads to the "office," she'll feel even more unloved.

Likewise, the husband needs respect, just as he needs air to breathe (1 Peter 3: 1-2). He, too, has an air hose to a tank labeled "respect," and as long as the air (respect) is coming through, he is just fine. But he deflates when his wife steps on his air hose by saying things like, "You don't care! You are so unloving!" If she shows disrespect in an attempt to motivate him to be more loving, it hinders the relationship. A destructive cycle of feeling unloved and disrespected easily starts.

Husbands and wives must learn how to recognize when they are stepping on each other's hoses and respond appropriately. (See "Love and Respect" for practical tips.) When a wife is careful to show respect in obedience to God her husband will stay connected and teachable. When a husband shows his wife love, her spirit will be reaffirmed. Then both will have the air they need to breathe.

Taken from Focus on the Family magazine, September 2004.
Article copyright © 2004, Emerson Eggerichs.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Use by permission.

Emerson Eggerichs is a popular broadcast guest and the author of Love and Respect.