The Strong Marriage Check List: Item #4: Respect

Opinions differ regarding what a marriage needs to either become strong or stay strong. The following is from a list I compiled of ten essential characteristics couples need to build a strong and lasting marriage.


by Leslie De Morais

Item #4: Respect

“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences then love has a chance to blossom,” says the best-selling author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, John Gray.

There may be times in your marriage when you think to yourself, “I’ve married a completely different life form! One from outer space!” This thought springs from the fact that men and women think and act so differently. It might seem as if your husband is from another planet!

In this age of acceptance and tolerance, you might assume it would be easier to adjust ourselves to one another in marriage. However, the daily challenges of seeing eye-to-eye with your spouse remain.

The quote from John Gray gives us a window into some basic understanding of what a relationship needs to function. Acceptance of each another’s differences is impossible without the first step of respect.

Respect and Love

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.                          – Ephesians 5:22-33 (NIV)

This well-known passage, which outlines the attitudes and actions God expects of us in marriage, is sometimes misunderstood. Words like submit, obey, and respect, are hot button topics for most women. Not taking the time to understand what the Bible is teaching us can cause our hearts to become stubborn, unbelieving or even rebellious toward God’s word. The dangerous consequences can result in either rejecting His standard for our lives or modifying it to suit our own ideas or lifestyle. Attitudes such as these nullify the Bible and our acts of worshiping God are rendered useless. (Read Matthew 15:1-9 to see an example of this concept.)

So why is respect such a difficult trait to develop in marriage? For most of us, we look at the concept of respect from the wrong end of the matter. We tend to focus on the recipient of respect instead of the giver of respect.

From a very young age, we are taught that respect must be earned. And to some extent, that notion is true. But does that mean we have free reign to disrespect those who have not earned our respect? I don’t believe so.

Respect Everyone

Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

In a worldly sense, those who are elevated to a level of respect usually have a long list of admirable qualities and strong characters. These people are respected for their accomplishments and contributions. They inspire awe and high esteem. And we revere them for being better than ourselves.

An example of this would be my attitude toward particular styles of art. A friend proudly displayed an original painting she bought at a pricey gallery. It consisted of a thick brushstroke of black down the middle, a squiggly line of red and a yellow circle. Surprised at my lack of enthusiasm she asked why I didn’t like it. I replied, “I don’t appreciated art I can do myself.”

It is this same approach some people take when confronted with the idea of respect. If the recipient of the respect isn’t “better” than me, then how can I be expected to respect him or her? There’s a monumental problem with this rationale. What if half the world doesn’t pass your assessment of being better than you are? What about your husband? What happens if he doesn’t find himself in that coveted category of being better than you are?

Consider Christ

Let’s think about Jesus for a moment. Who walking the earth was better than him? Who was more spiritual? More loving? Wiser? More intelligent? Without sin? The answer is no one. Yet look at this incredible example of respect he leaves us to imitate:

53 Then they all went home,but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”         – John 7:53-8:11 (NIV)

Picture this scene. Someone “caught in the act” of adultery is most likely naked or at least scantily clad. Either way, it would make for an extremely compromising situation. Now imagine being in that predicament completely surrounded by men. Compound the circumstances with the fact that those men are religious leaders bent on condemnation. What does Jesus do? In a matter of a split second, he assesses the fact that the question posed is a trap. They are using the woman’s sin to condemn her and trap Jesus. Two birds with one stone!

Now, how can Jesus school these legalistic leaders and have a lasting impact on the woman? He shrewdly diverts the men’s attention away from the woman by writing on the ground. Envision that moment when all the men lean in to see what Jesus is scribbling in the dirt. Out of respect, Jesus is not looking at the humiliated woman. Because of him, neither is the crowd of men. Jesus goes a step further and causes each one of the men to look inward at themselves by saying, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Who then had the courage to look at the woman after those wise words? I don’t suppose those men had the courage to even look at one another yet alone the woman.

Here’s a question for you: was the woman caught in adultery worthy of Christ’s respect? If you’d asked the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, surely they would say, “No.” What about the onlookers? Were they worthy of Christ’s respect? Jesus could have shamed them because of their sinful ways, yet he gently reproved them by causing each one to examine his own heart and life. You see, the only person worthy of respect in this scenario was Jesus and he was the only one showing respect.

Respect for others is achieved when we comprehend that the respect given is based on a decision to be a respectful person. True respect is not dependent on another’s worthiness to receive it.

Your husband is not Jesus. He is imperfect, like you are. He has flaws, as do you. Why should you respect him? Well, hopefully you will respect him because you have decided to be a respectful person. Your decision just might inspire and motivate those around you to be people worthy of respect. But even if others do not change, you can imitate that in Jesus which is good and right and pleases God.


As with any check list, this one may show your strengths and weaknesses, what’s already present and what’s missing from your relationship. A check list reveals where you’re at and where you need to go. The good news is you can celebrate what’s going well and make a plan to fortify what’s lacking in your marriage.  With reliance on God and some attention to the matter, you’ll soon be checking all the boxes!

 

Footnotes:

1 John Gray (born December 28, 1951) is an American relationship counselor, lecturer and author. In 1969, he began a nine-year association with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi before beginning his career as an author and personal relationship counselor. In 1992, he published the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which became a long-term best seller and formed the central theme of all his subsequent books and career activities. His books have sold millions of copies. (Wikipedia)

The Strong Marriage Check List: Item #3 – Humor

by Leslie De Morais

 

Opinions differ regarding what a marriage needs to either become strong or stay strong. The following is from a list I compiled of ten essential characteristics couples need to build a strong and lasting marriage.

Item #3: Humor

Being able to laugh, with one another, at each other, or at your circumstances, could just possibly be one of the best ways to weather tough times.  It can also help a marriage to last. Humor, lightheartedness and having fun are some of God’s best gifts for any relationship. They give way to happiness, appreciation and serenity, even if only momentarily. These times of spontaneous smiles, giggles, chuckles or raucous laughter relieve stress and ease tension. They bring levity and a sense of contentment to a marriage.

The comedian Milton Burle once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”

Not only is it an instantaneous vacation, it’s free and lasts as long as you make it last.

There is great assurance in a relationship when you know your partner has the ability and discernment to use humor in a proper manner, time and place.

When I first met Alcides, one of his characteristics I found myself drawn to was his sense of humor. It was so diverse! He could imitate a variety of accents or individuals. He could make witty commentaries about current events or recite a repertoire of his father’s vintage jokes on command, one right after another.  He could even make light of the mistakes he made in English (since it is his second language). He was so funny. Or, was I simply in love? Being able to laugh at your husband’s sense of humor is a good gauge to the level of closeness in your relationship.

There are two things that are almost impossible for a wife to do if there’s a wedge between her and her husband: have sex with him or laugh at his jokes.

What do the two have in common? Laughter, inside jokes, and goofiness, they are all a form of intimacy. They are the product of months, years, decades together. They communicate, “I know you. I know how you think, I know what you’re about to say. I know you and I love you.” Humor allows us to relax a little and let down our guard, even when life is not perfect. Our time together just seems more enjoyable when we’re able to laugh, no matter what else is going on.

When was the last time you and your husband had a good laugh? Not at externally sourced humor from a comedian or TV show, but a laugh at something just between the two of you. Perhaps a private joke. Maybe about something that always made you laugh in the past. If it’s been a while, there may be an impediment to your closeness. It could be stress or an unresolved issue. It could be you just haven’t made the time to stop and simply spend time together.

Humor thieves

What robs us of the good fun we could be having with our spouse?

We all know that life happens. Constant bliss is what we have to look forward to when we’re in heaven. On this earth, we may face troubles and trials of many kinds, such as: worry, unemployment, debt, disappointment, illness, loss, etc.

Since none of us are immuned to the innumerous predicaments life can throw our way, the best course of action is to learn how to take life in stride and not let it steal our joy.

Insurance against theft

Having a spiritual perspective is what one Bible character chose to do. The Apostle Paul made a decision to keep his eye on the prize (heaven, being united with Christ and coming into God’s presence) instead of allowing the weight of life’s problems to drag him down. And he had some fairly hefty problems!

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?                – 2 Corinthians 11:21b-29 (NIV)

Floggings, beatings, attacked with stones, shipwrecked, lost at sea, in danger, without sleep, without food and naked. That’s what Paul had to contend with. Some of us might not make it through just one of the things on his list. In view of that collection of problems, read what Paul writes here:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.   – Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always? How? Have you seen my bills?” you might say. “Don’t be anxious about anything? Do you know what kind of pressure I’m facing at work?” you might ask. Paul could possibly respond by saying, “No, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Can you imagine being flogged? Or stoned? Or beaten?”

With everything he went through, how could he actually rejoice? How could he be happy? And yes, I’ll stretch the comparison just a bit by asking how could he perhaps even laugh at his circumstances?

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  – Philippians 4:10-13 (NIV)

Paul’s focus was on Christ and the strength he provides. Unlike Paul, many times, our suffering is due to our own unrighteousness. It may be a direct result of not obeying God’s Word in the first place. Nevertheless, Paul reveals to us the secret of maintaining joy and happiness in the worst moments of life: get your strength from Jesus.

Weathering Life’s Storms with Humor

Ron and Linda Brumley are exemplary disciples of Christ in a variety of ways, but one of the aspects I most admire about them is the sense of humor they both have. Although they are getting on in years, it is that lighthearted approach and quick wit that preserves a remarkable youthfulness about them.

Back in the ’80s, Ron was in the hospital for a biopsy on a tumor in his chest that turned out to be malignant. His room was overflowing with friends and family who had come to visit. Linda, of course, was by his bedside. Ron began to speak and the room fell silent.

“Linda,” he said, “years ago, you were there when the doctor gave us the bad news about our son possibly having juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.” Remembering the scare they had been through, Linda nodded, receiving sympathetic looks from family.

“Linda,” Ron continued, “you were there that year when our daughter was in and out of the hospital battling pneumonia.” Linda nodded again, recalling that challenging time they faced together. The onlookers murmured supportively.

“And Linda,” Ron went on, “you were there every time we went through tough times financially.” Again, Linda nodded as the crowd of friends pressed in closer trying to hear every word.

“Linda,” Ron affirmed with conviction, “you’re bad luck!”

After a split second of confusion mixed with disbelief, the room erupted in boisterous laughter. Linda, however, saw that punch line coming from a mile away.

Sometimes, being a good wife is being a good straight man for your husband, too.

Ron told Linda his first joke over 50 years ago and they are still able to laugh together.


As with any check list, this one may show your strengths and weaknesses, what’s already present and what’s missing from your relationship. A check list reveals where you’re at and where you need to go. The good news is you can celebrate what’s going well and make a plan to fortify what’s lacking in your marriage.  With reliance on God and some attention to the matter, you’ll soon be checking all the boxes!