Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Respect: A Marriage Essential (Part 1 of 2)

Respect: A Marriage Essential (Part 1 of 2)

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of the best-selling book Love and Respect, explains how the marriage relationship is weakened by The Crazy Cycle, a pattern of conflict borne out of misunderstanding and disrespect. He offers help on breaking that cycle and re-strengthening the marital bond. (Part 1 of 2)
Listen to Part 2
Original Air Date: October 29, 2003


John Fuller: Today on “Focus on the Family” Dr. Emerson Eggerichs will explain why he believes most marriages can be saved.


Emerson Eggerichs: Because I believe that most people who get married get married because the love one another. They don’t say, “You know what, you hate me and I hate you, so let’s get married!”

Audience:  (Laughter)

Emerson: No, we’re full of good will!

End of Excerpt

John: Oh that’s good, and if you have good will why do you still argue or give each other the silent treatment from time to time. Well you’re going to find out on today’s “Focus on the Family” with your host, Focus President, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: That is such a good point John. You know today’s message from Dr. Eggerichs is one of the most comprehensive talks I’ve ever heard about how to enjoy great communication in our marriages and best of all he gets his concepts straight from the Bible, you know, God’s truth. While serving for 20 years as a pastor in Michigan, Dr. Eggerichs and his wife Sarah spent hundreds of hours studying human relationships and the Scriptures which resulted in a book and conferences that are both called Love and Respect. And we’ll hear a slice of that content today and next time on “Focus on the Family.”

John: Yeah, and today’s content is going to be very encouraging. You heard there some humor as well. And, without further ado, here’s Dr. Eggerichs as he addresses a group of 800 women at a conference in Rochester, MN.

Jim: Hang on, here we go!


Emerson: In a wife’s view, what does it mean for her husband to be motivated? I believe your desire is for him to be motivated to love you.

That’s why you see so much in Scripture that the husband is commanded to agape love his wife, right? You see it in Colossians; you see it in Ephesians, all of these Scriptures that talk to men about loving their wives in that unconditional way. But did you know that there is nowhere in the Scripture you’re commanded to agape love your husband? And yet, there are thousands of Bible studies all over America that instruct women or have the topic entitled, “How to Love Your Husband.”

But it’s fascinating to me that the Scripture doesn’t command you to do that. Why? Because God designed you to love. He’s not gonna command you to do what He created you to do and we’ll unpack that in just a moment. But it’s a profound yet simple truth, but it is full of implications in terms of your relationship with your husband. But the longing of your heart then is for him to be motivated to love you.

In fact, one of the questions in academic research that’s been documented, women are the ones asking, “Does my husband love me as much as I love him?” Did you know that the husbands are not asking that question, generally speaking? He’s not walking around asking, “I wonder if my wife loves me as much as I love her.” You ask that question. For instance, say, you could say that it’s the fifth anniversary and he comes home and he’s got $150 and he says, “Hey, let’s go out and have us a wonderful dinner. And I was just thinking, you know, you’ve been talking about getting little knickknacks and all that kind of stuff. Hey, what if afterwards we spend, you know, $50 or $60 bucks on the meal, let’s just go spend a hundred, maybe $200 on knickknacks. Let’s just go have a fun time, you know.”

Audience:  (Laughter)

Emerson: So he says to you, “Hey, where do you want to go to dinner.?” You say, “I don’t know.” “No, it’s our fifth anniversary, I want to take you where you want to go. Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know.” “No, really, I want to take you where you want to go, where do you want to go?” “You decide.” “You want me to decide?” “Mmmhmm.” “No, no, I want to take you where you want to go, where do you want to go?” “Well, you decide.” “You’re kidding, you want me to decide? Hey, I read in the Mid-West Magazine about these juicy, thick steaks. You know that truck stop out on Highway 69?” (Laughter) And she says, “I don’t want to go there.” And he said, “Are you the woman I was just talking to? You’re just provoking a fight. You’re just doin’ that. I just asked where you wanted to go you said, you didn’t know, you wanted me to decide and so I decide then when I decide you say you don’t want to go there! You’re just picking a fight.” Boom! We’re getting into a crazy cycle, both stomping off from one another and there goes the fifth anniversary, right? And, and every woman who watches that little exchange knows what’s going on and I’ll tell you what’s going on. Here’s what every wife is feeling. She’s feeling this. If he loved me as much as I love him he’d figure out where it is I want to go eat without me having to tell him.

Audience:  (Laughter and applause)

Emerson: That’s because the academic research reveals that woman are asking does he love me as much as I love him. There’s a need in your heart and soul to be reassured of that, but partly because God has designed you to love; you know you love him; you know you feel love. Now, if you married him for other reasons or you have become embittered or you’ve transferred your affection to someone else, then that doesn’t apply and those are very serious issues. But in the generalized statement, women love to love. You are designed by God to care and to love–a very powerful thing.

Well, the second question. How does a wife seek to motivate her husband? Well, by loving him and which begins and ends, typically, with talking.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: If you ask a million women, “What’s the key to marriage, ladies?”

Audience: Communication.

Emerson: There it is.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: The…the men who echo that, who are also say it, have been so conditioned to answer it that way, but they won’t necessarily say that’s the answer, but you do. You’ve been designed by God to communicate. How can you commune apart from communication? In fact, you want to keep the relationship up-to-date (Laughter), right? You don’t like that sense of unresolve. You don’t like it when you think he’s secretly mad. You want to keep it up-to-date. Most women do. Most women want to keep it up-to-date. In fact, you would prefer, “Let’s talk about problems on a daily basis to keep us from having major marital problems.” But there’s a huge male and female difference. Your husband feels that if we’re talking about marital problems on a daily basis, that mean’s we’ve got a major marital problem.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: I sometimes wonder, “Lord, why have You made us this way?” But there is a deep truth to that, deep truth. You want to keep it up-to-date; you want to communicate and sometimes it seems as though he shuts down on you. He doesn’t seem to want to talk as much as you do.

The third question: Does a wife’s way of motivating her husband work?

Audience: No. (Laughter)

Emerson: Well, let’s put it this way, less than she expects. (Laughter) In fact, in the academic literature, again, women are what we call expressive-responsive. You’re an integrated personality. Your mind, body, soul and spirit are connected. The left brain, right brain research, all these things. But if…if a man–a husband–wounds your spirit, it’s going to display itself on your countenance.

Whereas, men tend to be more compartmentalized. We can put our emotions in compartments and there are strengths to each of these and there are weaknesses. The strength is when I was in Manhattan on 9/11, men went to their death. Most of them who went back into the World Trade Tower centers did so because men have this ability–the warrior in them–to put their emotions in a compartment and go right into their death. That is a strength. The weakness, of course, is that they can put their emotions in compartments and not let you know what they’re feeling. They can even bury that and they aren’t always as responsive or expressive; whereas you are designed by God to express.

Did you know that women’s faces wrinkle more than men’s do as you age? (Laughter) That’s because the research shows you smile so much. (Laughter) It’s true. You’re expressive; you’re responsive and it does have that effect. So much for academic research; your tax dollars (Laughter) going to that kind of finding–wonderful finding. But that’s why women say, “My husband’s a mysterious island. I’m forever paddling around him, but he doesn’t permit me to land.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: That’s why when women come in for counseling with the husband, the man will seat himself in such a position and he’ll look at me. (Laughter) Right? She will sit in such a position where she can watch him and me.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: She’s trying to figure out what’s going on in his soul. There was an article called “Poker Face vs. Cry Baby” and you can see the research from Vanderbilt was pointing out that men and women feel the same things, but when a woman is wounded, whatever, it will display itself. That’s why women weep. It’s a beautiful feature, but women will cry. It’s very difficult for you not to cry; it will come out. What they found at Vanderbilt though, men feel the same things, but it doesn’t come up out that way. We poker face it.

And so, what happens then, you don’t know for sure what he’s feeling. And if he’s in a mood, you tend to personalize the thing. Dr. Deb Tannen, the great secular linguist, in her book called, Talking Nine to Five has said that women in the work arena, when there’s a conflict, will personalize that conflict far more than men do in the, the same kind of similar conflict. And when your husband is moody and when he’s shutting down you have a tendency to think “What did I do? What did I do? What did I . . .” Because you’re very sensitive, you don’t want to meet with his displeasure. You, you care about there being harmony and peace, and reconciliation and relationship. And so you’re trying to figure out what’s he feeling, why is he feeling that, did I do something, did I say something? It’s not true for all women, but it’s true for many women.

So, No. 4: When a wife feels her way of motivating her husband isn’t working, what does she tend to do? Well, talk more.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: Even demanding to talk; “We need to talk; we need to talk now. Sit down and talk to me.” (Laughter) That can be the tendency at times when you’re intimate with somebody and you trust them. It’s not how you treat other people, but in that intimate relationship with the man who matters to you, that will take place. Women will tend to be aggressive and move toward the husband to connect. That is a natural instinct, a natural desire. So, you’ll move toward him. Back in the academic research, again, we see this whole issue of, women will build rapport by giving report. This was a very well-documented thing, that they will follow their husband around to give the report, you see. (Laughter) Give the report, “How’s your day? Mine…” she’s giving the report. And you do that to build this sense of rapport. And then you say to him, “Well, how was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “Nothing.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: It kind of just drops there a little bit. It’s a huge frustration, but you tend to move toward him to talk, because that’s the key to communication and marriage and communion.

So, No. 5: Is there potential for a husband and wife to get into a painful pattern of things? Yes, a cycle of criticism and withdrawal. On page 20 of our book, Motivating Your Man God’s Way, I quote Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington, who studied 2,000 couples over 20 years. He’s the one that can predict with 91 percent accuracy; after meeting with somebody for five minutes, he can predict with 91-percent accuracy whether that couple will remain married or divorce.

But he says this, in terms of this cycle. “Men are far more likely than women to be stonewallers, 85 percent.” And this is [in] his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. Men avoid emotional conflicts by going off by themselves. If you ask a male stonewaller to describe his state of mind, he often says, “I’m trying not to react,” though his wife perceives his silence as an act of hostility. The wife is likely to interpret his response as a rejection of her. She couldn’t imagine (listen to me) she couldn’t imagine needing to withdraw over such a minor criticism. Such interactions can produce a vicious cycle.”

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs on “Focus on the Family” and I’ll quickly point out that this material and so much more is covered in his book, Love and Respect, for a donation of any amount when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or stop by

Let’s return now to Dr. Eggerichs as he continues to explain the differences in how wives and husbands process information. The pink and blue viewpoints.

End of Program Note

Emerson: No. 6: Why do a wife and a husband tend to experience a common cycle? I believe the answer is this: Both assume that the other should know. You see, it’s obvious to pink. It’s obvious to pink and it’s obvious to blue. But you’re in the middle of this conflict, when suddenly, you’re wanting to ventilate all this stuff and he says, “Drop it! You’re just provoking me. You’re just trying to make me mad. Just leave me alone.” And, and you cannot imagine this, because at the level of intimacy, that’s not how you treat anybody. “That’s just the most unloving thing anybody could do. I can’t believe it. What do you mean, just forget it?”

And it’s so obvious to you. Why can’t he get it? But it’s what I call, neither one of us understanding what the Bible revealed 2,000 years ago, which is the secret that cracks the communication code.

See, when you’re negatively reacting, you’re sending a code and that code is obvious. A thousand women looking at you would say, “Well, I know why that sweet thing is reacting the way she is. I know exactly why she’s doing that and saying that. I can’t believe he’s do…he would do that to her (Laughter), you know, this guy. (Laughter)

And of course, he shuts down and walks away and 1,000 guys watching, “Well, I know why he walked away. I said…it’s so obvious. Look at the way she was yapping at him, talking. I can’t believe it, you know. (Laughter) We don’t talk to one another that way, you know.” (Laughter)

So, we both put our heels in as right. The problem, of course, is we’re not getting along. We’re educated beyond our intelligence or we’re lacking wisdom. And I will share with you in our family crazy cycle as well, I wet the bet until I was 11 because my mom and dad divorced one another and then remarried one another and then they separated again. I saw my dad attempt to strangle my mother and I come out of that. And then mom and dad came to Christ my freshman year at Wheaton. My whole family came to Christ. Mom and dad now are in heaven and Sarah comes out of, oh, incredible mono-divorce. We understand the pain of this and so, partly what’s driving this is our desire to prevent the little boys and girls from crying themselves to sleep at night and I have vivid memories of that. We don’t have to do this, because I believe that most people who get married, get married because they love one another. They don’t say, “You know what? You hate me and I hate you, so let’s get married.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: No, we’re full of good will, aren’t we? We’re full of goodwill. In fact, people will be yelling at one another and I’ll say at my counseling, “Oh time out, time out. Does he have basic good will? Would you entrust the children to him?” “Well, of course.” “Would…does she have basic good will? Would you entrust the kids to her?” “Yes.” You know, what is going on here? People are bitter toward one another and yet, will acknowledge that they both basically have goodwill. There are people who are dying for their faith as martyrs, saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” And we’ve got good willed husbands and wives living together, who would entrust their children to one another, but are bitter and going to divorce lawyers. What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, No. 7 then: What can a wife do that motivates her husband God’s way? What can a wife do that motivates her husband’s God’s way? I’m gonna share with you that the best research that exists–it comes out of Gottman, but also, is very interesting. In his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, they said, “We’ve discovered the two key ingredients for a successful marriage.” There are just two key ingredients and he says, “They are love and respect.” It doesn’t make any difference your status, the type of style you use when you’re fighting. Some couples are avoidant types; others are volatile. It doesn’t make any difference; as long as there is love and respect in the relationship, you will succeed.

And that has to be a pattern, however, not “I loved you and respected you four years ago, but it stopped the day after.” I mean, it’s got to be a pattern; it’s an attitude. But I was blown away, because through the years I knew Ephesians 5:33. Ephesians 5:33 is the summary statement in the largest treatise in the New Testament on marriage. Ephesians 5 deals with husbands and wives and then Paul concludes that whole chapter with this. He says, “Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife, even as himself and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” And I looked at that and I thought, “That ain’t popular with radical philosophical feminism.

I got my Ph.D. at Michigan State University and with feminists, I did a thing on national study on fathering. I had great relationships with, with them. I mean, I understand some of the issues and concerns, but I realized that the feminist movement has removed from the marital radar screen this notion of respecting a man. If you don’t feel respect toward him, you don’t have to show him respect. You’re not gonna show respect toward him, because he’s not superior. He’s got to earn the respect and etc., etc., etc. In fact, if you show respect, he might treat you in a subservient way. If you show him respect, he might abuse you. “There is no way, until he starts loving me in ways that are meaningful to me, will I even begin to entertain the idea of respecting him. And furthermore, if I respect him in 10 areas, but there are three or four areas that I don’t respect him in, I don’t respect him at all. I just don’t feel any respect. I love him at times, but I don’t respect him at all.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: So, in light of that, I realized I had a little difficulty, as I thought about this. How am I gonna make this case in light of where we’ve been the last 40 years, because then, as I went into the Scriptures, as well as my academic research, I suddenly realized, “Whoa!” No wife is commanded to agape love; there was no agape love. And in fact, Paul, who penned the love chapter, I Corinthians 13–it’s read at all marriages, the greatest chapter on love known to mankind–he never told the wife to agape love her husband. And then I thought, “I wonder what Peter had to say.” And, whoom! Peter was specifically asked in I Peter 3:1-2 that the husband was disobedient to the Word. And you can see, a lot of times the Epistles are written in response to questions or concerns.

And so, he says, “Look, you can win your husband who’s disobedient to the Word,” because the women are saying, “My husband is disobedient to the Word.” We don’t know if he’s a carnal Christian or an unbeliever and sometimes they would have the economy word, so it meant both. So, it applies both to a carnal Christian, as well as to a non-Christian.

He said, “You can win a man who is disobedient to the Word, disobedient to Jesus Christ, you can win him without a word.” And he says this in verse two, “by your respectful behavior.” And I looked at that and I thought, “Unbelievable. Peter walked with the Lord of love for three years, but never told a wife to love her husband.” I thought, “These are no two small apostles. Paul would you come here please; Peter would you come? Would you explain to us?” “Yes, you’re right. The Lord did not reveal to us that a wife is to love her husband with agape love because Abba Father created her to love. He designed her by nature to love.”

Men, on the other hand, their nature isn’t the same way. So, Abba Father needed to reveal a divine command to them and that they are commanded under a divine mandate, because he does not as naturally respond in the ways that are meaningful to her in the way in which she needs. But when she feels unloved, she doesn’t respond naturally in the way that he does as a man. In the male arena there is what we call the honor code. And you don’t speak disrespectfully.

In fact, I will tell you that when you get into a conflict with your husband because you love him and he’s hurt you, you will move toward him to talk. “We need to talk right now!” And you’ll begin to ventilate negatively and critically and this is what Dr. John Gottman found.

At a certain point, your husband shuts down. [He] says, “Drop it. Forget it.” He stonewalls; he just disengages, because as a male who wears blue hearing aids, he begins to hear a message. And the message is, “You have contempt for who I am as a human being, who I am as a man.” And males never cross that line.

We learned as young boys if you do, you’re gonna get hurt. (Chuckling) We have an instinctive honor code that if you dishonor another male, consciously, willfully, you have an enemy now and…and there is a fight that could potentially incur [sic] here. And so, you learn in the male arena, you just don’t go there. You give what we call unconditional honor, unconditional respect toward another man.

So, in the home, you will talk to your husband in a way that no man would ever talk to him. And that’s why he’s in disbelief. But you are doing naturally what’s…this is just a minor criticism and he…”I can’t believe this. Come back here! Get…” And then you’re staring out the window thinking, “This was crazy.”

Let me share with you the illumination that I believe God revealed to me. As I was meditating on this, I thought, “Whoa! Then it must mean then, if a man is commanded to love, his wife needs his love.” She needs love. But if she’s not commanded to love him, but instead commanded to respect him and we’re gonna talk about this being unconditional respect, because in I Peter 3, listen to me, the man is disobedient to the Word. He ain’t deservin’ your respect. It is not about him earning it, deserving it and it isn’t about you feeling it. Peter’s very clear, it’s respectful behavior.

In other words, in tone and facial expression as you’re communicating to him that he’s unloving, you need to ask yourself, “Is that which I’m about to say going to come across to him as disrespectful and sending him a message that I have contempt for who he is as a human being? If I come across that way, even though my heart is full of love and even though my heart is feeling hurt and wounded, am I coming across with the dark look?”–what we call the dark look in the eyes, the sour look in the face. Remember you are expressive-responsive. That look in your face is completely misinterpreted by your husband. So, the check on your spirit has to be there.

Now, I’m gonna share with you, though, what I discovered then. It must mean…it must mean that your husband needs respect like he needs air to breathe. You need love like you need air to breathe and you have this air tank and it has a hose in it and the love tank is right there and this hose is connected. And you need that love in that intimate relationship and periodically, your husband comes in as a big elephant and stands on your air hose—

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: –looking for someplace to eat peanuts, right?

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: And you’re dying. You don’t just go, “Okay, I’m gonna suffocate and die. (Laughter) He’s just wounding my spirit, closing my spirit. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna be indifferent to this. It makes no difference.” No way. You’re gonna…if there’s a baseball bat somewhere, you’re gonna hit the elephant upside the head. “Get off my air hose. (Laughter) I can’t believe it; get off. Beast!”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: But apparently, he has an air hose to an air tank called “respect” and you come in, as a beautiful fawn—

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: –with all your little fawnettes, (Laughter) to have a nice little picnic. And he’s not going to go, “Oh, okay, I’m just gonna suffocate and die here.” (Laughter) No. He’s – get off! Get off!” Now here’s the discovery I made. I want you to think of a clock and at the top of the clock, two words, write “without love,” that’s you, “without love, without love.” A clock without love at 12:00. Then at 3:00 write “She reacts.” Very simple so at 12:00 without love and at 3:00 she reacts. You see, you’re not going to flat-line it on the emotional heart monitor. When you feel unloved you’re not going to be indifferent to that if God has designed you to need his love. And if you abandon yourself to love him; if you held back and didn’t really love him this is …won’t apply to you. But if you really loved him then you’re going to want reciprocity there. You’re going to want him to love you back it’s just nature within you. So, without love, she reacts. Then at 6:00 write “Without respect.” Then at 9:00 write, “He reacts.” Again, he’s not going to flat-line it on the emotional heart monitor and I’m going to point out something very important here. I’m not saying he’s justified in feeling this way, so hang on, trust me. I’ll make the case in just a moment. Trust me, if you’re coming up with reasons why you’re not going to do this, which is exactly where most of you are (Laughter), just hang in there by faith. Take it by faith, ok? But here’s what I discovered. Without love she reacts, without

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