Several years ago Mark and I were introduced to a great marriage book by Emerson Eggerichs called Love and Respect.  This book transformed our thinking in many ways. The book Love and Respect is based upon the Bible verse from Ephesians 5:33 which says, “…each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Eggerichs talks about the “Crazy Cycle.”  We certainly saw ourselves in that cycle.  The crazy cycle happens when the husband does something unloving and the wife responds with disrepect.  Then her disrespect causes him to be unloving again and she again responds with disrespect.  And the cycle never stops until one or both choose to break the cycle and take Ephesians 5:33 to heart.

Here are our individual perspectives:

Mark Says:

In the verses before Ephesians 5:33, Paul talks alot more about how the husband is to love his wife.  It’s these words that convicted my heart even more.  I particularly like The Message translation of Ephesians 5:25-33:

 25-28Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.
 29-33No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her…”

Wow that’s alot to think about.  Loving like Christ loved the church…you won’t find a more sacrificial love than that!

Do my words to my wife bring out the best in her?
Jesus loves people as they are.  Do I love my wife as she is or I’m I wanting to change her?
Jesus spoke words of truth with a heart of grace.  Do I speak truth with grace?
Jesus was forgiving.  Am I forgiving in my marriage?

Unconditional love is just that…it’s unconditional.  It’s not based upon whether the person is easy to love at the moment.  It isn’t even based upon a feeling.  I have to choose to love…each and every day. 

From a practical perspective, I’ve found it valuable to ask myself, “Is what I am about to say or do going to feel unloving to her? 

Jill Says:

The most transforming perspective for me was the concept of “unconditional respect.” I’d never heard of such a term.  In my mind, respect is earned.  It’s not unconditional.

But Ephesians 5:33 tells us that wives are to respect their husbands.  Period.  It doesn’t say, “if he deserves it.” Or “if he earns it.”  It’s clear that it is a mandate…not a suggestion.

I’ve come to understand that I can show “unconditional respect” to Mark by believing the best in him, trusting him, and speaking respectfully to him.

Specifically, I’ve learned that the tone of my voice makes all the difference in the world.  I can be right, but if the tone of my voice is wrong then I’m now wrong and I’ve missed my opportunity to make my right point.  Sounds confusing, doesn’t it?  But it’s completely true.  HOW I say something makes the difference between being respectful or disrespectful.  And this is huge for my hubby.

After many years of mentoring marriages, I can safely say that this is huge for every man.  He longs to be respected by his wife.  And when he feels respected, it’s also much easier for him to be loving in return.  So a new cycle begins.  It’s no longer a crazy cycle, but rather a healthy cycle.

The question I’ve learned to ask is, “Is what I’m going to say or do going to feel disrespectful to him?

What about you?  How have you given or received unconditional love and unconditional respect in your marriage?

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