“You are a terrible mother, and a terrible wife. Totally disrespectful.”
Those might not have been the exact words, but that’s how I heard them. They then went on to list all the reasons why.
Mark sat there with me and said nothing.
The arrows sunk in deeper.
Over the next few months, those arrows festered. I tried to dislodge them. Mark assured me I was not a terrible wife or mother, but he couldn’t deny that at times he felt disrespected. The way the words had been spat at us and the examples used to back up their opinions he did not accept or agree with, but neither the less, he had obviously felt there were times I had not honoured him.
I knew it too, but honestly, I did not even know how to change. What was respect anyway? What does it mean? What does it look like? Doesn’t it have to be earned? At least 1 Corinthians gave a whole list of ideas for love! Mark had definitely fallen short on those, so why was it me who was being targeted and not both of us?
Even though the words disabled me, shamed me and sunk deep, I knew that if the enemy had specifically targeted me in the areas of motherhood and marriage, then those were two areas that God must want to use in the future as an example to others. And if I didn’t know how to be respectful, He was going to show me and then use that testimony to help others.
That year, a friend invited me to study the book ‘Love and Respect' with another friend. For the first time, I saw why Mark and I bickered so much: I felt unloved and he felt disrespected. For the first time, I realized that I had been showing love to Mark, but not much respect and he was feeling it. I also realized that Ephesians 5:33 doesn’t tell the wife to love her husband specifically, but to respect him. And, it is not a suggestion but a command. Ouch.
So I set out to try and find out what ‘respect’ meant. From what I understood, it meant affirming the good things Mark did. But, I had spent so long feeling unloved and listing his faults that I found it hard to see the good things.
I stared at the word ‘respect’, seeing if the word itself had any clues to its meaning. Then I saw it – ‘re-spect’: ‘spect’ connecting with seeing, like our word ‘spectacles’ and ‘re’ meaning ‘again’. I needed to look at him again and see him with new glasses on.
I started to write a list of all the things I appreciated about Mark. The list started slow, but as it picked up speed, I began to see Mark differently. I began to ‘re-spect’ him.
Since then, our marriage had improved a lot. But I still find my tongue running away from itself – especially on those days I don’t feel loved. I have to keep remembering to call on God for help! Knowing how to respect is no longer enough – I need God’s help to actually do it!
Recently, I have been praying through 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband, by Jennifer Flanders, an article I was pointed to on facebook. Each day, I took one of the ideas and journalled a prayer for each one. Slowly, drip by drip, I feel my tongue not so ready to be disrespectful. And not surprisingly, Mark finds it easier to be loving!
What does respect look like in your marriage?
- (Jennifer’s husband’s responding article 25 Ways to Show Your Wife You Love Her
also has some great ideas.)