I’m a huge believer in the concept of love and respect. I also believe they go both ways, husbands and wives both need love and respect. However, there is one important area where I may not agree with the majority on this subject.
Many people talk about the importance of making your spouse feel loved or respected. I think that they believe it is the duty of a husband to make sure his wife feels loved, and likewise it is the duty of a wife to make her husband feel respected. The problem with this is that it takes headship away from the husband and holds the marriage captive to emotions.
Even if you believe in mutual submission (which I don’t), headship is not in the hands of the couple or Christ in this scenario. This is because emotions are very difficult to control.
I can’t make my wife feel loved. All I can do is put my best effort into loving her. Sometimes love is tough and she may not like a decision I reach. I cant control that. If I try to always please her, I will sometimes (or often) get things wrong, and I am left to making decisions simply to appease her fickle emotions (I’m not singling her out, everyone’s emotions are fickle).
She also has very little control over whether she feels loved. She can only work on her attitude to make it easier to receive my affection.
She can’t make me feel respected, either. She is only responsible for respecting me, not how I respond to her. And I can’t choose to feel respected.
I think this is why Emerson Eggerichs talks about assuming the goodwill of your spouse in Love and Respect. If my wife says something that feels disrespectful to me and I assume her goodwill, I can divorce my feelings from the matter. She could be trying to be respectful but it comes off wrong. Or she could be reacting to something going on in her life, which might not have anything to do with me. Even though I feel disrespected I can choose to react in love instead of anger and defensiveness.
Or I might say something that makes her feel unloved, but if she assumes my goodwill she can disregard her feelings and chose to respond in love.
Now let me make it clear that I do think emotions are important, and you should consider your spouses feeling when making decisions. This is called being considerate. Anyone who completely disregards the emotional needs of their spouse is not practicing servant love.
Take for example a common Valentine’s Day or anniversary situation: A husband sends cards, flowers, and a singing telegram to his wife at work. She gets mad because she is embarrassed by the extra attention this brings from her coworkers and she tears into her husband.
Was her husband wrong for making this gesture of his love for her?
Only if he had a clear reason to believe she would feel embarrassed by it. If he had done something similar in the past and his wife had let him know she didn’t like it, then he is being inconsiderate. Otherwise, he is acting in a loving way and should not feel like he failed her in this. And the wife should show grace and accept the gift with generosity, but also let him know she rather wouldn’t get things like this at work.
In summary, it’s not your responsibility to make your spouse feel loved or respected, but you should still be considerate of those emotions when you can.
Image Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/369976