Respect in Communication

Editor’s Note: This series on respect is based on Ephesians 5:33 where wives are commanded to respect their husbands. Yes, the husbands are commanded to love their wives, but we’ll leave that for someone else to discuss (this is a site for ladies, after all). We’re figuring out what respect looks like and what it doesn’t look like. We’ve discussed The Need for Respect and Respect in the Bedroom. Last week’s article was fun (who doesn’t want to learn about how to enjoy sex with your spouse more often?) but this week, we may have some sore toes. Just remember, sore toes can be impetus to grow… and get those toes out of the way! :o)

Think for just a moment about some of our culture’s favorite TV shows. How are the men portrayed? The typical TV father is a bumbling fool who doesn’t actually care much about his kids or his wife. He’s self-centered, oblivious of those around him and has to be bailed out of a jam every episode. Now what about the women on TV? The typical TV mother is always cleaning up after her husband’s messes– both physical and otherwise. She is smart, savvy and sassy too. She’s a slave to her family, yet she’s hugely unappreciated and all she really wants is a few minutes of peace and quiet with perhaps a bubble bath thrown in.  In our society, men are not seen in a positive light at all. Even back to the 1949 radio show “Father Knows Best” it was clear that Father did NOT know best.  “Check your brain at the door, hubby, and just rely on mine. It’s plain yours isn’t working,” seems to be the general sentiment. Sadly, many even in the church have absorbed these ideas to such an extent husbands can do no right. In short, an atmosphere of total disrespect reigns. One of the primary ways we see disrespect is in what comes out of our mouths.

Sometimes you’ll hear husbands and wives teasing each other and it sounds like they’re having so much fun. “Isn’t that cute?” I used to think to myself. “That’s so nice that they can tease and still know they’re loved.” But then, there’s that nagging doubt in the back of my mind about something said to me and I wonder, “Were they really joking or did they meant it?” It’s been said that if you tell a lie long enough, it’ll be believed. If you call your husband a nerd or a dork or… whatever… even in jest, he may very well start to wonder if you mean it. Even if he never does wonder, it certainly does nothing to build him up. Consider Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” The word here for “unwholesome” refers to something that is useless, of no value, harmful, even rotten. “Edification,” on the other hand, is a word about building up, strengthening– it’s a construction word. What good does our teasing really do? If someone teases you, do you want to wrap your arms around their neck and tell them how what they’ve said makes you feel so warm and fuzzy? Not usually. Worse, it can sit in the back of your mind, rotting away. It certainly isn’t strengthening… and it isn’t respectful either.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this is a hard habit to break, but try this. When your husband says something and you’re tempted to say, “You’re such a dork” (or whatever it is you say to tease; “dork” was always mine), instead just smile. Maybe hug him. Or say, “You’re so cute.” Sometimes those things that we love to tease them about are really quirks that make them unique. So choose to build him up about whatever it is instead of teasing.

Really, I can’t think of a single time when yelling reflects respect. I’ve heard women yell at their husbands the same way they yell at their children. Same tone, in the same breath, and sometimes even the same words addressed to husband and child. Yelling is something many of us are conditioned to do. It’s how we grew up, it’s what our peers do with their kids, it’s what we see on TV… it’s just how things go… but that is not an excuse for not changing. Did you ever have a boss yell at you? It feels like they don’t care that you are a real person with real feelings. To them, you’re just an employee, just a cog in the wheel. Can we really expect our husbands to feel valued and respected if we yell at them? So next time you feel like yelling at your husband, remember that old trick and count backwards from 10. Still feel like yelling? Do it again, and again, and again, until you can speak respectfully to your husband. Recall that our respect for our husband isn’t based on his worthiness (sometimes it may seem he deserves to be yelled at), but based on a command from God. So do whatever it takes to be respectful.

Treating him like a child
Frequently in young mothers’ conversations, there are comments like, “Better go tend to my children… especially the big one.”  Or someone else will say, “Sometimes I feel like I have TWO five-year-olds.”  The wife settles disputes between the husband and the children, tells him what he can and can’t do, gives him “the look” when he steps out of what she considers the bounds. Really, there isn’t much to say here except DON’T DO IT. Don’t treat your husband like a child. He isn’t one. Not only is it disrespectful, but it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy. People have a tendency to rise (or fall) to your expectations so if you treat him like a child, he very well may act like one. So what to do? First off, don’t refer to your husband as one of your children or compare his behavior to a child’s either to him or behind his back. If there is a dispute between your husband and a child, leave it to him to settle and if you have an issue with the outcome, discuss it privately, out of hearing of the children. Don’t give him any kind of look and remember that you don’t make the limits or rules for your spouse. He’s a grown up; let him be one.

What you say to others
Here’s an example given at the Focus Press Marriage Retreat that’s too good not to share. A couple walks in late to the dinner party. The husband apologizes to everyone and explains that the dishwasher had broken and was leaking on the floor, so he had to do a quick repair job. A woman seated at the table pipes up, “Huh! Well, I bet that’s nice to have a handy husband! I wish Larry here was handy. Last time our dishwasher broke, you know who fixed it? ME! I did. He couldn’t fix a thing!” We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. Larry’s strength clearly isn’t in fixing household appliances, but it may be in listening with a kind ear and a ready shoulder for crying on. Guard your husband’s weaknesses; don’t announce them to the world. I’m not a great housekeeper. I’m working on it, but right now it’s a weakness. I would be mortified and humiliated if my husband teased about it or loudly wished for someone with that strength. Remember the “Golden Rule” (Luke 6:31).

Again, let’s consider Ephesians 4:29. Does it build up others for you to disparage your husband?  It really can’t be said often enough (even if it is bad grammar): don’t talk bad about your husband… to anyone… ever.

All in all, respecting our husbands with our mouths can be summed up in two Bible verses:

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31

By Erynn Sprouse
Erynn and her husband, Jeremy serve with the Patrick Street church of Christ in Dublin, TX . Her husband is the pulpit minister and evangelist. Erynn is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to their four-going-on-five children (Jaden, 7; Isaiah, 4; Isaac, 4; Ean, 22 mo’s; #5 due in September). They are 2003 graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.

Erynn Sprouse

Erynn and her husband, Jeremy serve with the Patrick Street church of Christ in Dublin, TX . Her husband is the pulpit minister and evangelist. Erynn is a stay at home, homeschooling mom to their five young warriors-in-training. They are 2003 graduates of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver. Erynn is the Editor and general buck-stopper for Come Fill Your Cup.
  • Kristina Odom

    Great lesson! Thank you for stepping on my toes and helping me to be a more respectful wife :)

  • Deirdra

    another great article, and I agree with Kristina – even after being married 23 years, it’s good to be reminded!

  • Kristie

    I think this a wonderful article and a great reminder. However, I have a slightly different view on the teasing issue. I think we need to make sure that we aren’t hurting our spouse’s feelings, but if a couple loves teasing each other, and has fun doing so,there’s no harm done. My husband and I tease each other all the time, mostly around the house,but occasionally around friends. They know us and that we would never do anything to hurt the other. By the way, we through some good ol’ encouraging words in there too, in private and in public. thanks again :)

    • Kristie

      I thought I included this already, but here it is … We try to be careful not to do this around people who do not know us. We don’t want someone to hear/see and make a wrong judgement.

  • Karla Sparks

    AMEN AMEN AMEN!!!!! I have several thoughts on this, as this is a topic that has been a soapbox of mine for a long time! One, I get so frustrated when I see a wife treat her husband as though he is ignorant and a child. He is an adult! How frustrating it must be to be treated with respect in the work place, then to come home and be treated like a child. I will preface my number two thought with, I’m not talking about discussing your hubby in a one-on-one counseling session. That said, I want to repeat the picture in your article, DON’T TALK BAD ABOUT YOUR HUSBAND. TO ANYONE. EVER!!!!!!!!! A husband and a wife are to be a team, united! When the chips are down, your teammate is the one you should be able to always count on! If one teammate slanders the other, the team becomes weaker. If you have a problem with your spouse, go and talk to him, and work it out with him! We married couples know a lot of intimate details about each other, and a runaway tongue could destroy a marriage if those details are made public. Never, EVER, talk bad about your spouse. My last point (sorry, I’m just quite passionate about your wonderful topic!) is how are we raising our girls? “Girls rule, boys drool”. “Boys are so stupid.” I have seen t-shirts, notebooks, and countless kids shows where “Girl Power” is emphasized to the point of utter disdain for boys. How can a girl grow up to respect her father, her husband, and ultimately God, if she is brought up to believe that just by merit of being female, she is superior? Things that seem silly and harmless can have lasting effects, and we need to consider how we are raising our daughters in regard to respect for men.

    Lol, ok, I’ll put my soapbox away for now, and thank you for a wonderful, well-thought out article Erynn, you did a wonderful job again! =D

    • Kristie


  • Jennifer

    Thanks for another great lesson. Maybe you can make these into a book for a ladies class study. =)

    • Kristina Odom

      Oh yes, a class book would be great!

  • Deborah Heck

    Another fantastic article. I thought, oh I don’t have time to read that right now. But I read it anyway and am SOOO glad I did. Never be too busy to slow down a minute and read an encouraging article. Every time I benefit! Thank you for this gentle reminder on the importance of R-E-S-P-E-C-T!


  • Alexandria Roach

    Good points Erynn!

  • Heidi Rice

    Love this article! Thanks for the reminders and wisdom! I know I need to change. I made a list and putting it up in my office to remind myself of these things!

  • Judy Cook

    Erynn, this is a very good and very needed lesson—to respect our hubands even in our speech to them and to others. Well-written and thought out. Thank you so much. It is truly terrible to hear husbands and wives tear each other down to others. I would like to offer a thought to add to this excellent article. And I know you will agree with me. When a woman and/or her children are being abused, either physically, verbally, or emotionally, she needs to tell someone. When a husband is sinning, perhaps he is unfaithful or addicted to some other sin, and he doesn’t heed a wife’s loving request to make his life right with God, she needs to tell someone. I totally agree that, in a “normal” Christian marriage, a wife should NOT say anything bad about her husband. I think, though, that to say ANY wife should never say anything bad, EVER, is very misleading. When a woman is in an abusive marriage, it is difficult to seek help. And should she read such a statement, as to say nothing bad, ever, about her husband reinforces that idea that she should, in order to be a good Christian, say nothing and suffer in silence. I know you would agree that she should go to an older woman or an elder or someone who she could trust and seek help for herself and for her husband. I know when an article is written, the writer cannot see all the possibilities, we often overlook some application that another will question. I simply offer this possibility. If any of the readers are in a relationship where there is perpetual abuse, or sin that needs to be repented of, I know you would join me in saying, please, dear sister, seek help so that your soul and the soul of your husband may be cleansed. Please don’t feel that going to someone for help is the same as being disrespectful of your husband.
    I want to say too that Christian women in these types of unhealthy, unChristian marriages usually believe that they are alone. No one else in the church is in the same situation. This is not true. Ladies, there are many in the church who are unfaithful and/or abusive. I believe that addiction to pornography is epidemic in the church. Emotional affairs are too common. Physical and emotional abuse is happening more than we can imagine. This is because it is too easy to hide from our brethren. It happens in families who are secluded. It happens in families who practice hospitality. The innocent spouse feels guilty and responsible for the sin, which is not true. The innocent spouse will also feel that he/she should cover for their spouse so that no one will think ill of them. Our instinct is to protect our spouse. But, we are not protecting, we are enabling them to continue in their sin and endangering their soul. Our primary concern must always be pleasing God and seeking His will. While we should not air their sin at every turn, we may need to turn to a trusted Christian who will help both of us.

  • Laura Warnes

    I believe that both the article and this response are very well written. I appreciate the love and care that went into this post. Like you, Judy, I would never want to hear husbands and wives belittling each other. And I so appreciated all that Erynn pointed out in her article in order to remind us to value and respect our husbands and to never publicly disparage him in any way. Even as a young wife I have always been uncomfortable when a group of women start talking down about their husbands or even when one wife starts making fun of her husband. So bravo, Erynn.

    But I also appreciate your points, so very much, Judy! I agree that sometimes we can overlook something completely unintended when we discuss issues like these. And perhaps sometimes we hurt each other without ever meaning to. I would think that none of us would argue that the wife finding herself married to a husband who is abusive to either herself or her children or to the husband who living a life of sin finds herself in a different situation entirely.

    Then I am thinking she should deal with her husband just like she would any Christian that she loves. And Judy, you gave the best advice, and it is the same advice found in God’s Word: Matt 18:15-17, and that is the familiar passage that instructs us to go to the brother who sins and if he will not listen, then take one or two more with you, and then if he still refuses to listen, then tell it to the church. So to go to ONE older trustworthy woman would be a wise thing to do, in order to get help. If that doesn’t work, then go to the elders.

    But this would not be a matter of going to several friends to talk ABOUT your husband in order to gossip about what a creep you think your husband is. This is in order to get counseling and help for yourself and your husband. And as older women, we need to be willing to takes things like this seriously and give godly advise and NEVER be the kind of women who take this kind of information and gossip about it to other women. Remember that our job as older women is to teach the younger women to love their husbands (Titus 2) and if we find ourselves with information that is too difficult for us to handle, then send the young wife to elders of the church, or to a wiser older woman who that wife can trust to help them. Never take it lightly and leave the wife without help or without hope. Just some additional thoughts. Sorry if I was long-winded.

  • Megan Murray

    Beautifully put. I was reading an article the other day that basically said women need juicy gossip to relate to others and I found that ironic considering that as far as any relationship goes, gossip may be one of the most destructive things you can do. So sad that the world does not know or take seriously this command in Ephesians 4:9.
    Thank you. I will share this article 😀

  • Kathy Pollard

    Excellent thoughts, Erynn! We surely need these kinds of reminders that can pull us out of the worldly mindset. If a husband doesn’t get respect in his own home, he will spend his time at the place (or with a person) where he does get respect. I would guess that most Christian men deserve respect, but even if some don’t, all wives should live in such a way that we can look back and know we were blameless.

  • SusieQ