I got A LOT of feedback from the first Invest in Your Marriage post, so I thought it would be worthwhile to put some of the information from our Love and Respect Conference out.  First and foremost, let me say, it was WORTH IT!!  I was nervous going in.  We were invited by some friends who, as far as I know, have a fabulous marriage and once again, seem like they are on the VIP track to heaven.   We admire them and count them as wise, so I silently wondered if we wouldn’t spend the weekend sitting through some Holy garble that I, in my uneducated religious state, would not even be able to relate to.  And, I especially worried about my husband who, let’s be honest, wasn’t super excited about being there anyways. 

BUT…it was really, really good.   Really good.  If you doubt me, read my husband’s comments on the last post.  He wrote them after we went.  We loved it!  I am actually going to see if they will do it again because I want to go again and this time I am going to invite a lot of people.  You can FB message me or comment here or whatever if you would be interested.  I need to get at least 10 couples.  In the meantime, there is a book out with the same title, “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggeriches.   You might pick that up.

I will preface this post by saying this took me a long, long time to write, because I really do not want to mis-represent anything.  These are just a few tidbits that hit me.  The seminar itself will do a much better job of communicating the message.   Also, before I start, I want you to try to remove your society stained glasses and either just be open to hearing this message or go ahead and put on your Jesus glasses and commit to hearing this message. 

Second to your relationship with Christ, your marriage is the most important relationship you will have on this earth.   Hear that.  Most of us know this, but it is so easy to forget and so very easy to take for granted.   Again, I think our world works against us here.   Maybe no one else feels this way, or has done this, but I think I spent a lot of the early years in my marriage protecting my individuality and my equality.   I had convinced myself that life would always be fair, that the marriage would always be fair, and that above all else I was a woman who had her own interests, leadership skills and the ability to support myself if needed.  I was almost “using my marriage to make a statement to society.”   I definitely wasn’t “investing in my marriage.”  The sad part is that I really wanted to, I just did not know how. 

The basic premise of the Love and Respect conference, as the title alludes, is that a woman’s most basic need is unconditional love and a man’s most basic need is unconditional respect.   That doesn’t mean men don’t need love or women don’t need respect.  It just means that for each, that is the most basic need and the best way to communicate with each other.   When we don’t give each other those two things, we get on what Eggeriches refers to as “The Crazy Cycle.”  If you have ever been on this cycle, or you are on it now, you know what the crazy cycle feels like.   

The husband doesn’t make the wife feel loved; the wife turns around and doesn’t respect the husband.  The husband then turns around and decides not to act lovingingly, and around and around you go.  You are frustrated, your spouse is frustrated.  You argue about the same things over and over and you wonder why you ever decided to get married.  It’s like a cruel joke.  You thought it was going to be so great, and it is so awful.  Typical marriage vows, read something like this:  for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.   If you are in the crazy cycle, you know what is meant by “for better or worse.” 

 

I’m going to talk about the Love and Respect part separately from the unconditional part for a minute.

Women love to be loved and we love to love.  We love and hug on our friends, our kids, our friends’ kids, our families, whoever.   We read romance novels and watch “girlie” movies (i.e. ones that end with a happy, loving ending).   It is our nature, and so that is usually the way we communicate to our husbands.  I love you.  I love you so much.  We almost can’t think of anything else to say to them, because love is the only and best word.  True?   Yes?  I don’t think that many people would argue this. 

Men, however, are actually motivated by respect and this was kind of a new thing for me.  They are the provider and protector.  For me personally, this was a pretty powerful section.  I also provide for our family, but as a woman, I have a choice.  I have a lot of options.  I can be a stay at home mom, I can work and have kids, I can work and not have kids or I can stay home and not have kids.  All of these are accepted and options for me.  But that is not true for my husband.  It’s pretty much a given that he is going to work day in and day out until he retires or we are financially stable enough for him not to work.  And, it’s part of him.  He defines himself by his ability to work and achieve.  It is part of who he is.  I had never thought about it that way, and it all of a sudden made me appreciate him in a whole different light. 

The other thing that really struck me was the protector part.  This does not come into play very often in modern society, but it is true and really noble.  Men protect the family.  If someone breaks into your house, who is responsible for fighting them off?   If someone had to die, it would be your husband.  My husband would die for me. I realize this is extreme, but it is true and part of their nature.  With women’s lib, I think we like to think that women and men are created equal, which is true to a certain extent.  God loves us both the same. We are equal, but equal does not mean “the same.” 

My big question was ok, if my husband is motivated by respect, what does that even look like?   There are a lot of ways to express it, but simply thanking him for his hard work (especially in front of our children), telling him I respect him, telling him I appreciate him spending all day plowing our driveway, etc are ways that I can communicate that I respect him.   

Now, let’s talk about the unconditional part.

When you are in the crazy cycle, and we all get on it from time to time, it is easy to say, “he doesn’t deserve my respect,” or “she doesn’t deserve my love.”  But if you go back to what a man and woman’s basic needs are, you will see it says unconditional.  Unconditional has nothing to do with “deserve.”  We don’t deserve God’s love or forgiveness either.  So, if we are truly trying to be like Christ, we ought to start learning not only the meaning of unconditional but how to carry it out day to day. 

So the challenge for the day is to ask myself, “Will I go first?”  During those times when I don’t feel like my husband deserves respect, will I go first and extend to him unconditional respect?  Will I apologize first?  Will I humble myself and forget about my pride?  If you are on the Crazy Cycle, this is your exit plan.  You have to exit and continue to exit at every opportunity.  Keep exiting even if they aren’t.  This won’t feel comfortable.  It won’t feel fair.  But, it’s your marriage.  It’s more important than your pride.

Now, society will lie to you and tell you the following: “you have to do what’s right for you (Newsflash, it’s not all about you/me.  It’s really, really, really, really not).”  “Don’t act like a doormat.”  “If he/she is going to treat you that way, then you need to treat them poorly right back/leave, whatever.”  Blah, blah, blah.  I’ll be clear here, and I think everyone knows this.  I’m not talking about a physically abusive relationship or something where you are in danger.  I am talking about your average marriage where things are just “not working.” 

Do unto your spouse as you would do unto Christ.  Imagine God above you looking down.   He can see that your spouse is being a jerk, or as my son might say, a chicken-head.  What do you think Christ would tell you to do?  Tit for tat?  Really?  You really think Jesus is impressed when you lash back at your spouse and decide if they are going to be crappy, you are too?  1.  Yeah no, He is not impressed with you.  Your fiends might be, but the One that Matters isn’t   2.  I’ve already tried this.  It doesn’t really work very well.  So, what is Jesus going to say?  He is going to say “Amy, can you treat your husband with respect as if you are doing it unto me?  Can you look past your spouses’ failure at this point and see Me?”

Again, let’s be honest.  Loving your spouse when things are good is not a challenge.  That’s not really a Godly act.  Anyone can do that.  Loving your spouse or respecting your spouse in challenging times is what we are called to do.  It might be uncomfortable, it might be out of your comfort zone, it might seem contradictory, but realistically do any of us think that doing the right thing is always easy?  Go back to the marriage vows.  “For better or for worse.”  You know why those words are in there?  Because worse IS going to happen.   How am I going to react when worse happens? 

God says “love your enemies.”  And although your spouse may feel like your enemy at times, they are the one you chose to marry and they are not your enemy.  They just hold the greatest capacity for disappointment because they also hold the greatest capacity for LOVE.  The capacity for great love is there, it would be a travesty to miss out on it.

 

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