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. The Need for Respect lays the ground work and explains the foundation of God’s plan for marriage. Respect in the Bedroom discusses… well… THAT. Respect in Communication covers that most difficult of subjects: our tongue. If you’ve missed any of those, we hope you’ll take some time to read them. I truly believe you and your marriage will be blessed.
Our lives are filled with interactions of one kind or another. Everywhere you go there are people. Even at home, computer time is filled with Facebook friends, email buddies, etc. How we act in these various circumstances has an impact on our marriages and communicates respect (or lack thereof) for our spouse.
How you interact with other men
This one is tricky because so many different circumstances exist, but that’s also kind of a bonus because it means you have a great opportunity to sit down with your husband, communicate your desire to respect him in all your interactions and discuss ways to do that as you interact with other men. 1 Timothy 2:9 says, “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments.” The word “modestly” here in the NASB is translated “shamefaced” in the KJV and actually has reference more to one’s behavior than to dress. Part of a Christian woman’s adornment is how she acts with regard to others. It also says a lot about how she feels toward her husband. If you see a married woman flirting with men and seeking out their company, it seems clear that she doesn’t think enough of her spouse to save her affections for him and him alone. There are other, more subtle things that we need to watch out for too. Talking on the phone extensively with men (who aren’t your relatives), meeting for social occasions, emailing, chatting, messaging for personal, non-business purposes is not only dangerous (remember that most affairs were never intended by either party; they “just happen”), but can also be disrespectful to the one you’ve promised yourself to… and thus disrespectful to the One who loves your soul.
This is where that great opportunity comes in. Sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about the different circumstances that happen in your own lives and how these situations should be handled. If you are home without your spouse during the day and the cable guy comes, what do you do? In our house, I call my husband to let him know and if he can, he comes home. Really, that’s more for safety than propriety, but it serves both purposes. If you are at work and a male co-worker asks you to lunch to discuss business matters, what do you do? I would suggest you find someone else to go with the two of you if at all possible, or better yet, schedule a meeting at the office during business hours where others can see (literally see– leave a door open) that it’s not a social occasion. Other times to consider might be giving rides to people, phone conversations, texting, and internet interactions. The internet presents a wide variety of opportunities for socializing with others: Facebook, email, instant messaging, chat rooms, etc. It is wise for you to at least know all of each others’ passwords and periodically check the accounts. Some couples share Facebook accounts and email accounts so that all communications automatically go to both spouses and everyone knows it. In our house, if a man emails me or sends me a message on Facebook, etc. I make sure my husband gets to read everything that was written either by reading it on my account, my forwarding it to him or CCing him on the message. If I CC or forward the message, I make sure the man I’m talking with knows what’s going on and that it’s just something we do in our marriage. Not only does it keep everything above board, but we have something interesting to talk about and I get to hear what my husband’s advice or insight might be on whatever the subject is. Remember the injunction of Ephesians 5:3 as you’re setting out your own personal guidelines: “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” These “rules” aren’t just for the sake of your husband or even your marriage; keeping yourself above others’ suspicion is simply what is proper for Christians.
How you interact with him
A lot of what we’ve talked about in these articles centers on how to not disrespect your husband. As important as that is, it’s only part of the picture. Your husband not feeling disrespected goes a long way, but doesn’t necessarily mean that he feels respected. On your end, just because you feel respect, admiration and love for your spouse doesn’t mean he knows it; you need to express yourself. This can be tough and may require some creativity, but it’s easy to start with the basics: just tell him that you respect him, admire him, love him. Make sure not a day goes by without telling him. Leave him a love note somewhere he’ll find it (tape it to a ball and hide it in his shoe?). Watch for something he does that you appreciate and tell him about it. Cindy Colley suggests making a list of the things you respect about your husband and giving it to him. Write him a note about what a great dad he is in dry erase marker on your bathroom mirror. Leave a $0.99 card on the seat of his car. These are all things that the book His Needs Her Needs would call “affection” and suggest for a woman, but the difference here is that the message is centered on your pride in who he is, your respect for him and the work he does for you and your family. Do make sure you thoroughly think out your plan and that it will not embarrass him (hint: receiving a singing telegram at work is just not fun for most guys). Remember too that all your kind words and good intentions are undone in a single moment of disrespect. Worse than undone because suddenly they seem like lies, empty and hollow, used to manipulate. On the other hand, a man who feels respected feels unconquerable, like he’s on top of the world. One preacher said that it doesn’t matter if every single member of the congregation thought his lesson was fantastic until he hears it from his wife. Your respect is what he truly craves and God’s word demands (Ephesians 5:33).
One preacher said that it doesn’t matter if every single member of the congregation thought his lesson was fantastic until he hears it from his wife. Your respect is what he truly craves and God’s word demands (Ephesians 5:33). -Erynn Sprouse
How you interact with your kids
Parenting is a huge part of many couples’ lives and a prime source of conflict if not handled well. Each spouse comes with their own ideas about child rearing and being on the same page, while difficult, is crucial (another great opportunity to discuss things and express your respect for his decisions!). The key to remember here is that your husband is the head of the household, Christian or not. Do not allow your children to play the two of you off of each other (and don’t doubt that they will if they can get away with it). If Dad says no, Mom must also say no and vice versa. Make it clear to the children that Mom and Dad are a team and a unit. Under no circumstances should you cut down or make fun of your husband with your kids. When your husband comes home, make sure that he is welcomed with open arms and made to feel part of things. This is especially important for homeschooling families. Since Mom and the kids have been together all day long without Dad, it is easy to form your own group, have your own inside jokes, etc. and your husband can end up feeling sidelined. Take time to tell him as a family what you did that day. Explain the inside jokes. Show him the school work. Ask him about his day and listen. Treat Dad coming home like a reunion and let him know he is an important part of the family for more than just the “bacon” he brings home. It bears repeating here even though we talked about it last week: do not treat your husband like one of your children. According to God’s plan, you’ll be married much longer than you will have children in the home; don’t let your kids come between you and never put them above your spouse.
More articles in this series: