However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. -Ephesians 5:33
NOTE: I want to start off by saying that though this post talks about a marriage-related verse, and a ministry around it, these concepts really can be applied to all relationships.
This verse comes from one of the Pauline epistles (the apostle Paul’s letters), where he speaks to the Christians in Ephesus about how a husband and wife should love and respect each other. In a marriage, both members need love and respect, but in this passage, the husband is commanded to love his wife, while the wife is commanded to respect her husband. Why?
The relationship secret hidden in plain sight
There’s this program called Love & Respect, by Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs, where they uncover the basis of successful Christ-centered marriages. They call it a secret in plain sight: husbands mistakenly speak and listen to their wives as if they were men, and vice-versa.
In other words, when a wife confronts her husband, it’s because she wants to resolve a situation, as she would with another woman. To a man, confrontation (with another man) leads to conflict, so he puts up a wall to do the honorable thing. This wall is looked at by the woman as being unloving, so…she becomes disrespectful, and the man becomes unloving.
Husbands are naturally respectful, due to their living in hierarchical male circles…but are not very good at being loving—especially when feeling disrespected. Wives are naturally loving, but not very good at being respectful—especially when feeling unloved. This is termed by the Love & Respect ministry as the Crazy Cycle, where husbands put up walls when feeling disrespected, and wives confront and disrespect when feeling unloved.
Breaking the cycle
So, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians teaches men to do what is unnatural (be loving) when the chips are down, as well as for women to do what is unnatural for them (be respectful) when the chips are down.
The amazing, eye-opening key to breaking the cycle was this concept: to love the other person as Christ loves you. Unconditionally. Where your love for them is not dependent or conditional on their behavior or spiritual performance.
In a certain respect, this makes the other person irrelevant, because this is really about your walk with God. It’s also freeing because you’re no longer tying your happiness to a person, but instead carrying His peace with you.
When it hits you, then you can see how, suddenly, the sting of the other person’s hurtful words and actions are blunted, because they no longer pierce you…they no longer even reach you. You can now extend grace and love and respect as Jesus has done for you, despite you not deserving or earning it, because you never could.
What’s interesting is that even if only one person in the relationship tries Love & Respect, it’s possible that, over time, the other person’s heart will soften and be convicted, and will get on board.
Love and respect is for all
You can see how this concept is applicable to any interpersonal relationship, and takes practice. You will falter and fail from time to time, because the flesh wants to respond in a worldly way. But we are not of this world…and we can make Him known in how we treat others, and not make our behavior dependent on theirs.