Thursday, February 08, 2007

LOVE AND R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Question: If a man says something in a forest, and there is no woman around to hear it, is he still wrong???

This joke has always cracked me up, but now I feel a little guilty laughing. Why? Because I have just finished a book (Yes, Susanne, another book!) called Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.

My cell group of 7 couples which meets in a home on Sunday nights is doing this study together. We have texts, workbooks and DVDs, the whole she-bang.

Let me see if I can boil down the thesis a bit. If you read Ephesians 5 carefully, quietly tucked away in the verse 33, you'll find an admonition to women to respect their husbands:

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

For years, sermons/books/teachings have emphasized husbands loving their wives sacrificially, probably as an answer/antidote to unfair chauvinism that has plagued the sexes since Time.

But the author shines a spotlight on this mystery: women need to be unconditionally loved, while men need to be unconditionally respected. He recounts the survey of 400 men (which I'll summarize clumsily) in which 74% responded that they would rather be alone and unloved in the world than feel inadequate and disrespected.

Women, on the other hand, place love above all else. We can't help it. It's what we do. We do not have to be commanded to love our husbands. It's in our nature to love him. It's not in our nature to respect him, necessarily.

Of course, each gender craves love and respect, but Eggerichs claims that these respective needs are not equally felt. Because people (mainly women) do not understand the male need for respect, couples get going on what he calls "The Crazy Cycle," wherein the male responds unlovingly toward his wife, who feels unloved and therefore responds disrespectfully (with contempt) toward her husband, who feels disrespected and therefore responds unlovingly. Round it goes. No need to try to point the finger to say, "He/She started it." Everyone's in this.

The phenomenon that keeps the cycle spinning is that age-old communication snafu. He uses the analogy of women filtering the world through pink sunglasses and hearing aids and men filtering through blue. If we never learn to "speak" or "hear" in other language (accepting maleness and femaleness without judgment) we'll just keep doing the same unproductive things we've always done with the same results, as the saying goes, perfectly illustrating the definition of "crazy."

In our culture, we are taught that love should be given unconditinally and that respect should be earned. Yet in God's economy, we humans deserve neither. However, we are graced with both, and so should we grace each other.

If at this point you're wondering about becoming a doormat or hypocrite ("How can I respect my husband who is 'doing time?'" for example) you'll just have to read the book. If you're wondering about how to break out of the Crazy Cycle, you'll just have to read the book. If you're wondering why sex is so dadgum important to men . . .

Well, let me add this one more little tidbit about sex. Men equate it with feeling good both physically and emotionally. It truly is a form of communication, a major one for him, and it validates his maleness.

Eggerichs states, "By way of analogy, a wife needs emotional release through talking. When that need is met she feels loved. When a man refuses to talk, that symbolizes he does not love her or care about her need. A husband has a need for physical release through sexual intimacy. When a wife refuses, that symbolizes to him that she does not care about him and does not respect him and his need. A wife [who refuses] needs to think abou thow unfair it is to say to her husband, 'Have eyes only for me.'" So, imagine how you would feel if for three weeks, or more, your husband simply refused to talk to you. Would you be a happy camper?

There is a lot of truth in this book, and I have learned from it. There is also a lot in this book that made me bristle. Even my husband said that the author seems to come down heavy on the women, but I think that's because he believes men haven't been given their due time in the spotlight in this respect (no pun intended). At times, the author's voice is condescending and patronizing, and his examples of couples who have successfully bettered their marriages (one after the other after the other) are tediously simplistic and too perfect. Nevertheless, it's worth picking up, I guess. Sorry I can't be more enthusiastic.

Finally, one interesting tidbit is that Eggerichs refers to the history of Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T--a feminist anthem--that was actually written by Otis Redding! This underscores another observation: the greeting card industy, mainly supported by women, sells almost every card on the premise of how much "I love you." You never see one that says, "Here are the reasons I respect you." He suggests you tell, or write, your husband about how and why you respect him.

Valentine's Day is almost here. Maybe it's time to write a new kind of love note: "How do I respect thee? Let me count the ways . . . "

10 comments:

Susanne said...

Way to go. Except now I think you've caught up to me. And I haven't finished a non-fiction yet this year. I better get at it.

I've heard iffy reviews of this book from other places for the same reasons. But it's good that you did learn from some of the truths.

Okay, so what's your next read?

Susanne said...

Oh and I hope you're feeling better. Hope you didn't overdo it at work.

Linda said...

Yes, I honestly have to say I learned something, which is saying something considering I've read a million marriage books.

Barbara H. said...

"In our culture, we are taught that love should be given unconditionally and that respect should be earned."

That's exactly my problem. When anyone -- not just husbands, but pastors or other authorities or brothers and sisters in church -- act in a manner that I think is undeserving of respect, then there is a part of me that feels it is ok to lose respect for them, even though the rest of me knows that's not right Scripturally and knows nobody at all would respect me if others acted that way toward me.

I keep hearing about this book. I should probably try to read it some day. Thanks for the review.

samurai said...

I love this book ;-).

My wife and I have danced around this book, and have talked about it. I am not always sure I am loving her the way I should because I am not seeing anticipated responses - but then, that is th e mystery of women. :) I need to talk with her sometimes to see if what I am doing is blessing her or not.

For me... I know I feel a 'smack' every now and then. And I am unable to show her what this does to me - at least not without seemingly making her point.

Thank you for sharing this!

Carol said...

They could put in a "Respect" section of greeting cards right next to "Romance." Or, if that's too much trouble, put one in that says, "Romance and Respect."

Okay. I just reread that. Somehow the two juxtapose each other in our postmodern era.

Melanie said...

Linda-

Well written. And I have to add this as well. Sometimes we women have found that if our husbands won't talk to us, we'll just go elsewhere to talk (like our friends.)

Imagine the consequences if the husband went "elsewhere" for his needs.

And, while it is good to have women friends, we should not let them replace our husband as our friend. When we do, we tend to clam up and just not tell him anything. Then, how on earth is he supposed to know what's going on?

It is so true about the "respect need." I have seen that in my own life. We can say "I love you" all day, but if we do not respect them, they won't believe us.

Thanks for this well-written post!

Kim said...

Well-written post; I need to go look for this book.

Have a good weekend!

daisyaday said...

I've also heard this information about men needing respect, although from another source. The book I read was "For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men", by Shaunti Feldhahn. She does a wonderful job of presenting this, and it is that much more powerful since it is from a woman's perspective. She interviewed men from many different arenas of her life and found that there was little difference in their responses. I tested out some of the questions on my husband, and he agreed! I think I'll have to go back and read this again--I think I've forgotten some of it already because it just doesn't come naturally to us as women. You know how we always have these "duh" reactions when a man isn't sure about a question about women, and we think that even the dog already knows the answer to it? Well, some of the men's "duh" responses are in regard to questions I hadn't even thought of! It's a little humbling, but very enlightening.

Pam said...

Our pastor mentioned this book Sunday morning and used it in his sermon. I thought that it sounded familiar. Then I remembered it from your blog. I felt I had a heads up. Then the Lord told me quit letting my mind wonder (which happens frequently--I was wondering what a typical Sunday morning service was like at your church which led to I wonder if my son Nate would like your church. It just started to go on and on.) and listen to what Pastor Brandon has to say. More importantly, what I have to say. That usually means I have some area of my life that needs some work! I am glad that I was able to read your entry again.