Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Shall We Dance?

The lights dimmed. The room began to spin as my husband and I glided across the floor as if in a dream. Then the alarm rang. It had been a dream. As I lay in bed getting the resolve to move and face the day, I thought about the previous Friday evening when my husband, Chuck, and I had gone dancing for our date night. “T-A-NG-O” rang in my ears as I heard the instructor teach us the dance steps.

Actually, we were getting pretty good. Only I always left the studio somewhat perturbed with myself for getting so antsy with Chuck. “Don’t be so wooden,” I’d fuss. “Be more graceful; make sure you’re arms are positioned in the right way.” Then, to make things worse, I’d try to lead. After all, I was doing it right! Wasn’t I?

After a barrage of criticism, I would look at Chuck’s face, only to discover I had dampened his spirits and ruined an otherwise fun evening. I’ll do better next week, I’d tell myself. I’m still trying to do better next week.

I’ve learned something about myself through dance. I’m still trying to control our relationship, not just in the tango, but in other areas of our marriage as well. It hurts to admit, but it’s true. But admission is a good place for change to start.

The divine Instructor’s words in Ephesians 5:22 ring in my ears, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Another word for submit is respect. When I ignore my husband’s lead and try to take control, I am showing disrespect for him as my head. Sure, he needs and wants my input, but he doesn’t need me to grab the reins and start running with them. In my struggle to be a respectful wife, here are some things I have learned. Perhaps you will find them helpful, too.

My respect for the Lord is mirrored in my relationship with my husband. 

I will only respect my husband as much as I respect the Lord. I don’t know about you, but that realization hurts. The times I truly grasp this principle, I have had to look beyond my husband’s behavior and look straight into the eyes of my Lord and say, “Yes, I honor you. I will listen and respond with a godly attitude.” I was tested on this front just last night. I have to say I flunked the test. Oh, I responded in action, but my attitude was far from positive. Thankfully, my husband and I talked through the scenario and are on the same page at the moment.

Respect for my husband should be unconditional.  

In our society, we are bombarded with the message that respect is something one earns. Paul’s message in Ephesians is drastically opposed to that philosophy, for he says in chapter five, verse 33, “let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Period. Not if he is a good provider. Not if he loves her unconditionally. Not if he steps in to help with the kids. No, Paul’s exhortation is simply that she respect her husband.

Wife, your husband needs your unconditional respect. This may be new to you or you may have sensed all along that something just wasn't quite right in your relationship but you couldn't put your finger on it. Well, here it is. THIS IS THE BIG ONE: He desperately hungers for your respect. This is not an arrogant ploy. This is how God wired him. Begin by respecting that. Appreciate that your husband chose you over everyone else and in his heart of hearts he means no malice toward you, only good will. He needs to know and to hear that you appreciate his work and achievements. He needs to know you appreciate his desire to protect and provide for you and the family, to serve, to lead, to problem-solve. And you need to appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy and friendship with you.

I can show my husband respect in practical ways.  

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, ladies. It’s all good and well to say that we should respect our husbands. That sounds nice in theory, but how do we do that? Here are some pointers, courtesy of Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in his book, Love & Respect.

Tell him or write a letter expressing that you value his work.
Tell him you believe in him.
Thank him for providing for you.
Praise him when he makes a good decision and be gracious when he makes a bad one.
Speak gently and thoughtfully when you have a differing opinion.
Appreciate his need for space at times.
Spend time with him doing something he enjoys.
Tell him you enjoy his company.
Admit when you are wrong and ask forgiveness.
Be open to him sexually and understand that he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release.

Tonight when your husband comes home from work, tell him you respect him, and leave it at that. Let him think over your statement for awhile. When my husband and I have suggested this experiment to ladies at marriage retreats, we have been intrigued by the feedback. Some women said their husbands came back a few days later and said, “Remember when you said you respected me; tell me more.” Another lady said her husband began to tear up and said, “I don’t know why you would respect me. I’ve done nothing to deserve it.” Again, a victim of society’s mentality. Others reported that their husbands just laughed at them. All in all, the experiment proved beneficial. And when the husbands came back to their wives for feedback, the women were prepared to let them know at least one way they respected them.

Furthermore, we encouraged husbands who felt disrespected to share their feelings with their wives, saying, “Honey, I feel disrespected by you. Am I being insensitive or unloving toward you?” This honest, yet loving approach typically yielded better results than suppressing feelings or spewing out angry words. And since wives will often nag or lash out when they are feeling unloved, the husband’s question addresses this need head-on.

Respecting your husband’s leadership in the home will keep you dancing in rhythm right up to the 50th anniversary mark. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want!

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