Friday, April 8, 2022
For the last several devotionals on marriage we have been focusing on the privilege of a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church. In the final verse of Ephesians 5 we find a statement to the wives – respect your husbands.
Before you shout out, “But he has to earn my respect,” let’s talk about it. I agree that certain aspects of respect, like character, are earned, but there is to be an unconditional granting of respect for the position of husband no matter what. Unfortunately, we have very little modeling of that in our culture today. Consider the office of President of the United States. I remember as a young boy that newscasters on TV (no, I was not born before television) would never refer to the President by simply using his last name. Every reference to him began with the word President. But that kind of respect has been lost, and it has carried over into our jobs and our relationships.
God has commanded wives to respect the position that their husbands hold as His representative of authority in the family. Now some men’s character and behavior make that very difficult, but there is no loophole in God’s demand for respect. In fact, respect from his wife may be the most important element in any man’s growth and maturity into a more Christ-like role of family leadership.
One thing that destroys a man’s sense of respectability faster than anything is criticism. The wisest man to ever live understood this when he wrote things like “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife…Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife…Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife…A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day;restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.” (King Solomon in Proverbs) In fact, according to researchers, constant criticism is the single most measurable indicator when predicting marriage failure.
In the February 21, 1994 edition of U.S. News & World Report, a report was published by psychologists Cliff Notarius of Catholic University and Howard Markman of the University of Denver. They had studied newlyweds over the first decade of marriage in order to uncover the processes that destroy unions. These marital researchers studied couples over the course of years, and even decades, and retraced their steps back to their wedding day of those who had split up. What they discovered is unsettling. None of the factors one would guess might predict a couple’s durability actually does: not how in love a newlywed couple says they are; how much affection they exchange; how much they fight or what they fight about. In fact, couples who will endure and those who won’t look remarkably similar in the early days.
Yet they found a very subtle but telling difference at the beginning of the relationship. Among couples who would ultimately stay together, only 5 out of every 100 comments made about each other were put-downs. Among couples who would later split, 10 of every 100 comments were insults. That gap magnified over the following decade, until couples heading downhill were flinging five times as many cruel and invalidating comments at each other as happy couples. “Hostile put-downs act as cancerous cells that, if unchecked, erode the relationship over time,” says Notarius. “In the end, relentless unremitting negativity takes control and the couple can’t get through a week without major blowups.”
Yes, men are critical too. But we’ve already dealt with that when we spent several days talking to the husbands about loving their wives as Christ loves the church. If he does, he will be building her up and making her pure and holy, not putting her down with insults and criticisms. That same result of eliminating criticism will be experienced by wives if they would put respect for their husbands ahead of their desire to change him.
Roderick McFarlane, in the December, 1992 edition of Reader’s Digest, wrote about the success of her grandparents marriage. “On her golden wedding anniversary, my grandmother revealed the secret of her long and happy marriage. ‘On my wedding day, I decided to choose ten of my husband’s faults which, for the sake of our marriage, I would overlook.’ A guest asked her to name some of the faults. ‘To tell the truth,’ she replied, ‘I never did get around to listing them. But whenever my husband did something that made me hopping mad, I would say to myself, ‘Lucky for him that’s one of the ten.’”
Respect for the position of husband. It carries the same responsibility of obedience by the wife as God’s command to the husband to love his wife. If you’re ready to evaluate your life in this regard, there’s a quiz you can take at the bottom of this devotional. Just remember, the greatest gift you can give your husband to spur him on to become all that God intended him to be is your respect that he can do it, and your encouraging words that you believe that he will.
How Critical are You of Your Spouse’
This exercise is meant to create awareness of how easily we can become critical of those we love the most. Keep track of the number of times you answer “Yes” to the following statements.
1. I feel critical toward my partner three times a week or more.
2. I feel critical toward my partner for how he or she looks.
3. I feel critical toward my partner for how he or she talks.
4. I feel critical toward my partner for how he or she relates to others.
5. I feel critical toward my partner for his or her values.
6. I feel critical toward my partner for his or her household habits.
7. I wish my partner were more like me.
8. I think my partner is capable of changing in the ways that I want.
9. I think my partner behaves in certain ways just to annoy me.
10. I find it hard to forgive my partner for not living up to all of my expectations.
11. I find it hard to accept the ways in which my partner is different from me.
12. My parents often criticized me when I was a child.
13. My partner often accuses me of being critical.
14. I wish I were more accepting of my partner.
15. One (or both) of my parents often criticized the other.
If you answered yes to 5 or more of these statements, you may have a problem with respect.
Warner Books, Inc. of New York, New York, U.S.A. From The First Year of Marriage by Miriam Arond and Samuel L. Pauker, M.D. Copyright by Miriam Arond and Samuel Pauker.