One year into my marriage I sat with a pen and a birthday card, excited to express my love for my husband. I wanted this card to be special, so I dug deep and reflected on the many ways he meant the world to me. After I finished, I placed it in the envelope and excitedly awaited his response.
We both got dressed for the evening and went to Chattanooga for a movie and dinner at his favorite restaurant. After an incredible meal, I passed him the card and sat patiently while he read it. He finished and tucked it back in the envelope with a smile and a simple “Thank you.” To that I asked, “Thank you…? Did you like it?” He responded, “Yeah. It was cool. Thanks a lot,” and gave me a small hug.
Needless to say, I was a bit shocked by his underwhelming response. I had poured out my love in the best way I knew how. I was expecting at least a tear or two in response. For those who know my husband, that’s a lot to ask for… But I thought I had found a way to really reach his heart. It wasn’t until a few months later that I finally understood what happened.
While attending a marriage conference, Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs stood boldly on stage exclaiming, “Your husband is not motivated by love. He wants to be respected.” They proceeded to speak about how men and women speak different languages, and how we often offer our spouses what we would want instead of what they need. In other words, we tend to follow the Golden Rule of treating others how we want to be treated, but this rarely works in marriage. If we offer our husbands all the love in the world when they are truly motivated by respect, our communication fails. In reverse, if our husbands only offer respect and never show or tell us that they love us, communication fails. Essentially, we aren’t meeting each other’s needs and no one is happy.
All of this sounded good, but I wanted to put it to the test. I looked to my husband and with a slight laugh I said, “You don’t really believe this do you? Of course you want to be loved.” He looked back at me in all seriousness and stated, “They’re right, Machal. I want love, but when you show me respect I feel loved. And the more respect you show me, the more loved I feel.”
To further drive the point home, they showed us astounding stats. In an argument, 82% of men say they feel disrespected while 72% of women feel unloved (Eggerichs). Ask your own partner which they tend to feel. It’s likely that they will fall within these gender norms.
So if men prefer respect, what does this mean? Let’s start with the basic roles that men fill. Men are naturally providers and protectors. They feel a need to take care of those they love. If they aren’t filling these roles well, they’ll often feel like they’re failing and their self-esteem will suffer. Men take these roles so seriously, that they often won’t even tell their spouses when they realize they aren’t capable of providing and protecting. If your husband has had a hard time paying the bills or ensuring your family is healthy, know that it probably hurts him much more than you realize.
Now that we understand how a man thinks, we can move to the importance of respect. Google defines respect as “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Essentially, men want to know that you admire them for their commitment to providing for and protecting you – even when they aren’t 100% successful. They need to know that you see their dedication to you and that you value it. They gain so much identity and self-esteem by fulfilling their roles, and your respect is the ultimate icing on the cake.
I decided to test this out. After the birthday card experience, I was determined to find a way to show my husband how much he means to me in HIS language. One evening, he arrived home from work and was greeted with the aroma of a warm meal. I met him at the door and gave him a quick hug and kiss. I then told him:
“I just want you to know how much I respect you for all you do for me. I really appreciate that you work so hard to take care of me and Malachi, and I don’t tell you that enough. You really mean the world to me and I’m so lucky to have a hardworking man like you.”
I’ll save you all the details, but that day I reached his heart in a way that loving words on a birthday card couldn’t. I learned the importance of respecting my husband and communicating in ways that he understands.
Try it for yourself. While it may feel different and be a bit awkward, let your husband know that you have a great amount of respect for him. Then, let me know how it goes in the comments!
Please follow and like us: