Respect: A Tale of Two Wives

“…let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33

Wife 1 is almost perpetually annoyed with her husband. It could be anything, from the way he butters his toast (too much butter!) to the way he stops to talk to strangers on the street (too outgoing!). Inwardly, she tries hard not to be so irritated by him, but then he will do something else to set her off. Her feelings toward him come out in eye rolls and loud sighs, and the occasional “do you have to…?” comment. In public, she interrupts his stories to correct him on small details or answers questions directed at him. She is often more gracious in her speech towards acquaintances than to her own husband.

idiot

Wife 2 has always got something good to say about her husband. She listens to his every word intently and laughs at all his jokes with perfect timing. If he hurts her, she brushes this off because “I’m just so blessed to have him”. And if he tries to apologise, she will say “you’ve got nothing to apologise for, honey!”. Sometimes she pretends not to understand things, just so he can feel smarter explaining it to her. If ever they have differing opinions on an issue, Wife 2 assumes she must be incorrect.

Which wife is more respectful?

Wife 2, right?

If it’s not entirely obvious, this is a trick question, and both wives are caricatures.

Neither of these wives is properly respecting her husband.

Wife 1’s actions are obviously disrespectful. But while Wife 2’s actions appear respectful, they do not come from a heart that truly sees her husband. Respecting our husbands is not merely about our actions, it is about having a respectful heart. And while we might fool others for a while, God looks at our heart and knows our thoughts.

And “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”.

Wife 1 goes wrong because, in her heart, she assumes that her husband is an idiot and that she is better than him. Therefore, everything he says and does is filtered through this lens and it seems to her, he can do nothing right! She will be constantly frustrated and exhausted by this attitude, because she feels she must constantly watch over him and police him.

Wife 2 goes wrong because, in her heart, she assumes that her husband is a god and that he is automatically right. She is unable to offer him grace and honesty, because to offer grace, she must first acknowledge he has sinned in some way. And to be honest with him, would mean giving him access to her unfiltered thoughts. This wife will be emotionally drained by her attitude, because she must constantly police her own words and actions.

In the past, I have been both Wife 1 and Wife 2… sometimes even on the same day!

Just the other day, I was feeling frustrated with how much time my husband was spending working on his bike instead of hanging out as a family. I thought to myself, “I’m not going to complain about this. What’s something positive about the situation?”

I turned to him, “Honey, I really admire your dedication in working on this bike to get it finished.”

He looked perplexed, “Really? Well… just so know you, it won’t be like this forever.”

Later that evening when we were in bed, he said, “When you said before that you ‘admired my dedication in working on the bike’, were you telling the truth? Because I thought you kind of hated it…”

“Well, the truth is, I have been feeling frustrated with the time you spend on it, but I wanted to find something positive to say about the situation,” I said.

“Okay,” he said, “Next time, can you please tell me the whole truth.”

I tried to do the respectful thing, but ultimately, this was not the right thing to do, as I was deceiving my husband.

I am still quite early on in marriage (just approaching six years), but these are my thoughts on being a truly respectful wife:

– If you have a problem with your husband, take it to the Lord in prayer, as opposed to saying it straight to your husband or trying to push it away, like it never existed. Sometimes you will find the problem was your attitude, and sometimes the Lord will make a way for you to raise it with your husband.

– Give your husband grace when he sins. Give the Holy Spirit room to convict him and forgive him when he apologises. Saying “it’s okay” in response to “I’m sorry” tries to sweep sin under the rug – a better response is “I forgive you”.

– A general level of irritability with your husband is usually a sign of a deeper issue in the marriage. Or a sign that your period is about to arrive. (If it’s your period, your only remedy is to stuff your mouth with chocolate so the rude words can’t get out. Kidding! It’s my experience that during times of PMS, I need to pray a lot. Psalm 141:3 is a good one.) If you are irritable with your husband all the time, I recommend you spend a lot of time on your knees, asking God to reveal the root of the problem and to fill your heart with true respect for your husband.

– Be okay with difference. It’s okay that you and your husband do things differently. Be open to the fact that he might have a better way than you, and if you think your way is better, don’t push him to try it.

Ultimately, our husbands are not stupid and they are not perfect. And because they are not stupid, they know they are not perfect. Treating them like idiots or gods will always fail to be true respect, because it fails to meet them where they are. A truly respectful wife seeks to find the best in her husband, without denying the worst.

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2 thoughts on “Respect: A Tale of Two Wives

  1. And to be honest with him, would mean giving him access to her unfiltered thoughts. This wife will be emotionally drained by her attitude, because she must constantly police her own words and actions.

    I completely agree with the honesty aspect. I will admit though, I do not leave my thoughts unfiltered before I speak. Over time, I have learned how he hears things – my tone, my wording, my urgency etc. and do my best to be honest with him in a manner that will not be off putting to him. The example I have that sticks out in my mind is one from many years ago when I began taking all thoughts captive and not just speaking whatever thoughts came to my head. I was writing a text message to him and had to rewrite it several times. I think it was a simple request but I knew he’d be receiving it at work and it was a request for him to do something inconvenient to him. I know he likes to head straight home after work. I knew that he wasn’t feeling good and I knew that stress levels were high at work. It was a few days later and out of the blue that he told me how much he appreciates the way I make requests of him now. He told me the truth that he had been withholding that he often felt disrespected before when my requests were flippant and didn’t take into account the mood he might be in.

    That he told me that, thanked me, and showed so much appreciation for the way I was speaking to him, it made me desire to continue on considering him and his mood and adjusting my conversation accordingly. It also convicted me to speak up when I appreciate something about him and to look for more ways to let him know how truly grateful I am for him.

    But you are right, it all must flow from the heart. Even if it is structured at first while we learn, it must be genuine and not forced or fake.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, SD. That is a very good point about phrasing things in a way that considers our husbands.
    I think the difference between the example you gave and the example I gave (wife 2), is that your “filtering” came from being genuinely considerate of your husband’s needs, whereas my example was of a wife who is primarily concerned about appearances.

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