Ephesians 5:33 – “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Nowhere in the Bible is the wife commanded to love her husband. There is reference to her teaching the younger women to love their husbands in Titus 2:3-4, but other than that, women are only called to respect their husbands. Men, on the other hand, are instructed, repeatedly, to love their wives.
God is so cool how he works out every little detail! What is the most important need for a woman? To be loved! All women desire to feel loved above everything else. And for a man, his desire above all else is to be respected.
So God’s word directs us, very clearly, that women should respect their husbands and men should love their wives. When we do that, we are fulfilling our spouse’s deepest emotional needs. When we neglect these needs, the vicious cycle begins.
It begins slowly and very subtly. We start taking each other for granted. The husband gets caught up in work and spends much of his time at home preoccupied with his work. He’s often late getting home and misses dinner - dinner that the wife may have carefully prepared just for him. He forgets to compliment his wife and neglects her need for conversation. He turns on the television instead of devoting time to his wife. He’s not spending time with the kids like he once did. (One of the greatest things a man can do for his wife to express his love, is to be attentive and helpful with the children.)
(Note: I started this cycle with the man only because he is called to be the spiritual leader and is responsible for setting the tone.)
When a woman doesn’t feel loved, she begins to notice the flaws in her husband. She becomes critical of all he does and doesn’t do. She may not realize that the underlying issue is her longing to feel loved and because of that, she often reacts negatively with exaggerated words that may be irrelevant to the situation. She responds with emotions from every undesirable action of her husband, in the past, that subconsciously relays a feeling of not being loved. Her dysfunctional cry for love appears as disrespect to her husband. A husband who feels disrespected responds by withholding love. And so the vicious cycle begins.
As human beings, we tend to be selfish and want to hold on to our righteous indignation. Our pride keeps us from being the one to “give in”. Someone needs to break the cycle, give up their selfish desires.
Marriage is not meant to be a competition or a game to see who can hold their breath the longest. It is a journey we take with our best friend to become a better person with their help and support. It is an adventure, together, to unveil the plan God has for our lives.
Marriage should be about give, give, give, although most of us presume to receive. In order to experience the healthy, happy marriage God intends for us, we have to learn to put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own. As with our relationship to God, we have to die to our “self”. That means making sure our spouse is getting all the love and respect he/she needs. It means sacrificing our wants and needs so our spouse’s wants and needs will be met. Until we learn to do that, we will always get stuck in these vicious cycles that take us nowhere – except to the land of pain and unhappiness.