Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family with Jim Daly

Respect: A Marriage Essential (Part 2 of 2)

Respect: A Marriage Essential (Part 2 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 2 of 2)
Listen to Part 1
Original Air Date: October 30, 2003


John Fuller: On today’s “Focus on the Family” we’re going to continue a presentation from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and it’s saved thousands of marriages just like the one represented in this note he received from a grateful wife.

Woman: “The issue of respect was a huge issue in the eyes of my husband and one of the main reasons that he left. Once I saw how important it was to our entire relationship it made it so easy for me to give my husband what he so desperately needed.”

John: You can hear how by adding a dash of love and respect to your relationship today can really make a difference and your host is Focus President, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: That’s right John, Dr. Eggerichs says the goal is for women to feel more loved and for men to feel that they have their wives respect. And, if you missed part one of his message yesterday, please get in touch with us. We can send you the entire message on CD or the audio download so that you can share it with your spouse and have hopefully a good discussion with them. Or, maybe it’s a friend that needs to hear it; whatever the situation, we’re here to help.

John: And I’d also encourage you to get our mobile app so you can listen on your phone or tablet on the go, whenever you have a moment. You’ll find all of this and more at just give us a call. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. Here now is former pastor and author of the book, Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs on today’s “Focus on the Family.”


Emerson Eggerichs: So, here’s how it happens. Let me share with you the crazy cycle. Without love, she reacts without respect. And then without respect, he reacts without love and this thing starts spinning. If I came into the room and stood there and flipped on the lights two or three times and they didn’t come on, you wouldn’t think anything about it. But if I stood there for a half hour and flipped them on and off and they didn’t come on, right, for a half hour, you would say I am–

Audience: Crazy.

Emerson: –crazy. Craziness is when we keep doing the same thing over and over again with the same ill effect. Marital craziness is when we keep doing the same thing over and over again with the same ill effect. The topics change, but here’s the point I make. When you’re in a conflict with your spouse and you suddenly sense the issue isn’t the issue, when you sense his spirit deflate or when your spirit deflates, you’re going along on a topic and it’s a real problem, but suddenly something is said or done and his spirit deflates and you cannot believe it, because when his spirit deflates, he’s so arrogant and so childish (Laughter), because it’s not your issue.

And the same thing, your spirit will deflate and he’ll look at you and he just…you know, he can’t believe it, because it’s not his issue. But I’m gonna tell you that both of us are vulnerable. You’re very vulnerable to the feeling that he’s coming across to you as unloving. God has wired you in such a way that you’re too vulnerable to that. Your husband is very vulnerable to be the recipient of what he perceives to be disrespect in your heart toward who he is as a man. He can’t function that way.

We can scream all day long; he needs to change, change, change, change (Laughter), but I’m gonna tell you something, all of you who have sons are going to have your boys grow up and have the same feelings. You don’t have to coach him, “Okay, son, I want you to react negatively when you feel that you’re being disrespected.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: You’ll see it as he moves forward. As he gets to nine and 10, you’ll begin to see it. As he moves into adolescence, you’ll begin to see it. It will be there. So, pray for your son, because he’s gonna have these same things. God made us male and female in Genesis and together, we reflect the image of God. In effect, the woman’s pink; he’s blue and together when you put pink and blue together, it’s purple–the color of royalty, the color of God. Together we reflect the image of God and we, as husband and wife, reflect the image of God. God’s not pink; God’s not blue; God is purple together. Not wrong, just different and we need to come to a point where we realize that this is God’s creation.

God created your precious boy to have certain things. He’s gonna have strengths; he’s gonna have weaknesses. The problem, of course, is front-sided strengths have back-sided weaknesses. Just as your husband can compartmentalize and instantaneously die for you and the family without thinking about it, without fear even being there–he’s dead before he even begins to think–that same tendency can result in him not being sensitive.

And remember, Martha rebuked Jesus, the Son of God–the God-man–[she] said that He didn’t care, because He wasn’t concerned about what was going on between Mary and Martha. And she said, “If you cared…” She accused the Son of God of not caring. The point is, we can be wrong in how we assess other people if we base it all on our experience. My only point there is to realize, we’ve got to come to a point, unless there’s an evil going out there, probably not wrong, just different. It’s a different preference.

But here’s how this works then in terms of the crazy cycle. Something happens and your husband is unloving. So, you feel unloved. “I can’t believe it. Again, he just did this. I can’t believe this. It hurts.” You’re too vulnerable at it. Just, “I can’t believe this.” So, you react, but your reaction is even predicated on this idea of love. “Okay, I’ve got to react. I can’t believe this. I…” So, you start reacting in ways that’s gonna bring about resolution, remember? You’re gonna move toward him. “We’ve got to resolve this. I can’t believe this; we need to talk. Sit down and talk to me. I can’t believe this and…” You know, and you try to get this thing resolved, so he can be more sensitive, ’cause you know that if he responds to you and loves you, you’re gonna out-love him. You’re designed that way.

Some say the essence of femininity is response; the essence of masculinity is initiation. So, if he initiates correctly, you know you’ll out-respond him. But we never seem to get there in that conversation. What instead, he just thinks is you’re sending an ongoing message of disapproval. And so, what happens then in this confrontation, you were feeling the love in the first place, but you seek to do the loving thing by talking. “We need to talk; sit down and talk to me.”

And then you think, “Well, it’s only normal for me to begin to ventilate; we volley back and forth. I want you to share your heart with me, my heart with you. We’ll say, ‘I’m sorry,’” when he doesn’t say he’s sorry, good grief! (Laughter) “I was seeking for you to seek my forgiveness and this thing just gets blown up even more. I can’t believe it.” And then, “What? What do you mean I’m disrespectful?”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: “Well, I can’t…what does that have to do with anything? (Laughter) Well, and honestly, no I don’t respect you.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: I love you with all of my heart, but I don’t respect you one iota. No, I don’t.” (Laughter) “Come back here. Wait, wait, come back here. I can’t…(Laughter) this is the most unloving thing anybody could do!” See how this works? So, he was feeling disrespected in the first place; you reacted by a way that was motivated by love. He tells you you’re disrespectful which has nothing to do with anything in your worldview and then he walks away from you and that’s the most unloving reaction and I, you’re … you’re, you have four levels of proof that he deserves to be divorce.

Audience:  (Laughter) Emerson: I cannot live with this man. Women are proceeding with divorce two times to three times more than men. Men are not proceeding with divorce. The women are proceeding. I’m not saying you’re at fault for that; you have a higher set of expectations, different expectations, but the facts are you’re saying, I’m unhappy, I want out of this. He’s staying in. It can be for economic reasons. There’s the cost to it. It may not be an honorable thing, but non-the-less he’s not necessarily wanting to leave. You have to unpack that and think about that. The implications are very interesting, but I understand your woundedness and you cannot for the life of you understand why was he unloving. He doesn’t understand your loving ways. He’s talking about something – respect – which is ridiculous and then he’s walking away and isolating you and it … (sigh).

But let’s pick it up from the male standpoint. Something happens from his standpoint. Who’s more prepared for marriage a 19-year-old female or a 19-year-old male?

Audience: Female.

Emerson: Yeah. I mean a 13-year-old babysitter she can take care of your kids, the whole thing, right now. A 13-year-old male, you know, I hate to think about what’s going to go on in your house. (Laughter) So this 19-year-old, they both get married, right? And she’s just full of love. She can have babies, she loves him, she understands the nuances and interpersonal dynamics, I mean, just the conflict resolutions, I mean, she’s just got it. She knows how to do it. She decides to have this big meal for him and his friends, right? And so she has this big meal, they’ve eaten now. His friends, three other guys and himself go in the living room and start playing video games, these four nineteen year olds. [laughter] And then the three have to leave and he’s still playing the video game, when suddenly a boot comes flying across the living room floor. [laughter] He can’t believe it. Well, see she’s been in there, can’t believe how insensitive, how unloving he is. “I can’t believe he is…” You know, you know exactly where she’s coming from. But now, from his standpoint he’s innocent. He’s full of good will. He’s immature. We’ve already established that. [laughter] There’s not malice in his heart, so when he picks up the scene she’s rebuking him and he’s beaten down a little bit, but he’s knows he gotta grow up here. You know, but he’s thinking to himself, “But you threw that boot willfully and consciously at me. You were disrespectful. That was a choice. I did mine out of stupidity. I can’t, I’m, you know…” [laughter]

There really is, your 19-year-old son is going to feel that way. He’s not going to be tracking. You see it already. He’s not tracking. So let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt. Your 19-year old son, she’s upset, we understand why she’s upset, but she crosses the line, hits him upside the head with a boot, so he’s feeling without respect from the first place. He can’t believe this. I mean, he’s just … And he loves her, he adores her, I mean, he’d die for her, he can’t believe this. I mean, the guy, he’s immature, you know, but he’s confused. And so she’s just really coming at him. So, now he’s thinking, “No one’s ever talked to me this way.” And you can sense it in your son or whatever, he’s just, “I can’t believe this.” But he loves her, he adores her, so he’s not going to fight with her. “She’s being very provocative. She was disrespectful in the first place, but someone must do the honorable thing, so I will.” [laughter] 

Stonewalls, it’s what your husband does. That’s what your son’s going to do, doing the respectful thing. [laughter] “I’m disrespected in the first place, but I adore her so I’m not, she’s provoking me…” And we know from a blood pressure research that the man’s blood pressure, when they’ve done that you’re relatively calm. (laughter) You know it. It’s really amazing, and it’s just amazing. All you, all I …I say to guys, “All you have to do is get humble, move toward her, speak softly, and say ‘Honey, I’m sorry.’ And she’ll come right down off of that, just immediately. There’s no, because she wasn’t really out of control. That’s what she wanted. That was the objective. And when it’s there, she’ll calm right down. 

But in a guy’s world if you come back at it, his blood pressure’s staying up there. That’s why he says, “I’m trying to calm down. You’re just provoking me. Leave me alone. I need time alone and you keep following me around to…” [laughter] So he was feeling disrespect in the first place, he seeks to do the respectful thing, you tell him he’s the most unloving human being on this side of the Mississippi, and then you say something to him so disrespectful he can’t believe it.

Now, in your world though, you’re just slapping him with a wet feather. You’re trying…you know it works. You just don’t know why. [laughter] “Finally he’s feeling something.” You can see his spirit deflate. “Good, oh good, yes.” [laughter] But I’m going to actually tell you that’s not where you want to go. [laughter] Just to let you know among us sisters.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: Now some of you aren’t believers in this and I remember when we had a MOPS group at our church, we had 200 women, right? And I was so excited. I was first discovering this stuff. So, I’m their senior pastor and here I am doing this stuff and I say, “Hey I’ll come.” They say, “Oh, come and tell us.” So, I come the first time and talk about this respect thing. And then they wanted me to come back, you know. They asked me for two sessions. So, I come back the second time. And then I said, “I’m available to come back the third time.” The leadership and the whole group said, “No, we don’t want you to come back.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: My own women!

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: That’s because when I first was excited about it, I didn’t know how you were processing this information. I was so excited about it. “Man this is great. You just respect this man.” Just, you know…”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: So, then I had to go back to the drawing board. “Lord, I don’t think this is getting through, because they didn’t even want me to come back.” In fact, they asked another woman, who is a good friend of mine, to come the third week and in her session to say, to answer this question; how to love your husband. And she wrote me a note, who’s a good friend, she said, “They missed it. You were telling us how to really love our husbands God’s way. You best love a man by putting on unconditional respect at the point of conflict. And that’s what brings him under conviction.

When you actually put on respect, actually distance yourself in quiet dignity, he will move toward you. It’s just an amazing thing, but you have to test that out. But here’s the thing I did first with these women. I thought, “I’ve got to go back to the drawing board.” So, I said to these gals, “Hey, anybody who would like to volunteer for the respect test, just let me know and you e-mail me and we’ll do this.” And we had many women volunteer. So, I said, “Here’s the respect test. Just to…you should believe this, ’cause the Bible is teaching.” Let me stop here just to pause. You should believe this, because the Bible teaches this. Experience is really secondary. That should close the case, period.

Guys say, “Well, I don’t feel love for that woman.” “It doesn’t make any difference, sir; the Bible commands you to love her, as Christ loved the church. Your feelings are irrelevant; may I suggest that?” (Laughter) “God is calling you to move toward her, to be a loving man.”

Program Note:

John: Well you’re listening to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs on “Focus on the Family” and in a few minutes you’ll hear some amazing success stories from folks who have used his principles. Go in depth with his book, Love and Respect, we have copies here at Focus on the Family and we’ll send you one for a donation of any amount when you call 800-A-FAMILY. That’s 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or you can donate and request that book at Well let’s continue now with Dr. Emerson Eggerichs as he returns to the female side of the love and respect equation on “Focus on the Family.”

End of Program Note

Emerson: God is calling to be respectful. “Well, I don’t feel respect.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: “I’m not gonna respect him, because I’m not…he’s not superior to me.” Okay, so I thought, “Well, how do I get through, ’cause that is the definition; respect toward your superiors. But how do I get through this? So, I thought, “Let’s do this.” I said to the ladies, “Here’s what I want you to do. When he’s in his living room by himself just reading the paper–he’s not doing anything–walk into the room and say, ‘You know, I was thinking about you today and all the things about you I respect. And I just want you to know that I really respect you.’” And then leave the room.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: You see that’s his mother tongue. It is his mother tongue. So, suddenly when they hear this and I will tell you, this is what you did during courtship. You had what we call the glow. You believed in him; you admired him. You looked up to him; you shared things and respected him. But then he wounded you, because of his immaturity, that first year.

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: And you started reacting in a way that was very obvious to you, but which the glow was gone and he didn’t know how to get it back. So, he’s really, in some cases, he…he is suspicious within his heart that you respect him. Now, because love is to be unconditional, respect is to be earned, you can say to him when he’s unloving, “I can’t believe how unloving you are.” But, you know and so even if you’re unlovable, he is to love you and if he doesn’t love you, he’s not a loving human being. See how it works? Even if you’re unlovable, he’s to love you and if he doesn’t love you, he’s an unloving human being.

So, and if he finally says, “Well, that’s right, but you’re supposed to respect me. I heard that thing that Emerson said.” “No way. You…you haven’t loved me in the way that are [sic] meaningful and I don’t have to respect you, ’cause you’re not worthy of respect. I don’t have to respect you at all. In fact, I can have feelings of disrespect, because you’re not worthy of respect.” That’s where the culture’s at.

But the…the quality here and I’m not saying the men are right, I’m just telling you it’d be like him saying to you…I’ve said this to women. I said, “If your husband was here and I said ‘Sir, do you respect your wife?’ ‘Oh, I really do; I really do.’ ‘Do you love her?’ ‘No.’”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: I said, “What you feel when you hear that,” and I’ve said this enough now and I’ve said to women, “What would you feel like?” “I’d be devastated.” And I say, “How long would it take you to get over it?” “Forever, I’d never get over it. He said he respected me, but didn’t love me.” I said, “That’s right. So, now think with me a moment. If he needs respect like he needs air to breath in the same way you need love like you need air to breath, what do you think he feels when you say, ‘I love you, Tom, but no, I don’t respect you?’ Would he be devastated?” “Um-hm.” “Would it take him forever to get over it?” “Um-hm.”

But he’s not expressive-responsive. And because you and he believe that respect ought to be earned, he’s never gonna go there again. He can’t handle hearing that again. He’ll only go there once or twice and if he hears, “I don’t respect you,” he’ll never bring it up and then you wonder why he’s quiet. There’s part of him that’s kept back. It’s because deep within his heart, he’s suspicious that she no longer believes in me, admires me, feels about me what she did in courtship and I don’t know how to get it back. I can’t put a voice and vocabulary to this.

Now the question is, what should we do in response to that? Well, let me tell you about the women who have done…done this. One gal did the test and she was just blown away. And let me…before I finish the respect test, let me say, I went to a military academy and I realized that the great military leaders lead their men by unconditional honor. Men who lead men–coaches–it’s unconditional honor. They believe in the men more than men believe in themselves. They know the performance stinks a lot of times, but they continue to send a message of honor.

You can have 50,000 troops and there’s a four-star general, who was in the Vietnam, Gulf War, Afghanistan, so on and so forth. He can have those 50,000 troops and say, “Men, I was watching you today and you stunk, you stunk; you stunk; you stunk. But I see more potential in this unit than any unit I’ve ever been around. In fact, I’m a military history professional. I understand about military history. There is more potential in this unit than any fighting force that the world has ever seen. Get your head up young man. Get your head up; look at me and you get your head up. You stunk, but I’m gonna work with you the next six months. This will be the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen. And I’m gonna get you there and I’m gonna tell you how you’re gonna…get your head up and look at me.”

“I believe in you more than you believe in yourself. I saw you today and you did stink, but boy, I see more potential in you than any man I’ve seen in a unit in a long time.” Now, I’ll tell you, you know what, men? You see, women don’t always understand this, but when men hear this, do you know what men do in response to that kind of leadership? They serve–and that’s why men call it the service–and the second thing men do…listen to me…is they die. There is something within us for honor. We actually die for honor; we die.

Men’s [sic] first impulse when they are…and this is for good-willed men, when you show unconditional honor toward a good-willed man, his first impulse is to serve and then to be willing to die. In fact, one guy said to his wife, “I love you so much I would die for you.” She said, “Oh, Harry you keep saying that, but you never do.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: So, this gal did this respect test and she came into the room, and she said–’cause she followed him up the steps; he was going to the bedroom–and she said, “I was thinking about you today, all the things about you I respect.” And he, you know, was ignoring her and the, you know, and he couldn’t believe it. And then she actually said this. She leaves the room; she gets to the door post and he screams so loud, “Wait, wait, whoa, whoa; come back; whoa, whoa, what is it?” I mean the guy immediately gravitates towards…”What is it?” Well, he’s so loud that the kids in the other parts of the house heard dad; he was so animated. They hadn’t heard dad that animated (Laughter) in a long time. So, they’re like eight, nine and 10 years of age. So, they came running into the living room, because there had to be a pony there somewhere–

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: –into the bedroom, came into the bedroom. So, then they were jumping up and down on the bed and there was bedlam and everything and she couldn’t respond to the question and then they exited. And like a good student, she started to leave with them and he goes, “No, wait (whispering), wait, wait, wait, whoa; come back.” “What is it?” And then she proceeded to tell him three things about him that she respected. And then she said it was like an out-of-body experience. She hadn’t seen that look in his face since courtship and that could be a clue.

But, then she said the first thing he said was, “Whoa, hey, can I take the family out to dinner?” Now, what was that…so amazing there was she said, “He never takes us out to dinner.” The first thing he thought about was service. Then she said, “Can I take a rain check on that? [The] kids have practice and so on,” and he said, “Sure.” Then she left the room. Fifteen minutes later, she heard pans banging in the kitchen. He was down there and he fixed dinner. She said, “He doesn’t cook.”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: And she wrote me an e-mail three days later; she said, “I’m getting this off to you quick; you’re not going to believe it. He’s in the laundry room.”

Audience: (Laughter) Emerson: Then she said, this is the way it went down ladies, then she said, “Do you have any more respect tests?”

Audience: (Laughter)

Emerson: Then she said, “I believe, literally, I’m gonna get a cruise out of this.” Audience: (Laughter and Applause)

Emerson: A gal wrote, “I attended your marriage conference. I spoke with you briefly after the Friday night session and told you that my husband had filed for a divorce, but was giving me some mixed signals about possibly getting back together.” She was a nurse; he’s a medical doctor. “I’d asked him to come to the conference with me and he had refused. You had suggested to me that I see if he would listen to the tapes. Before I even brought it up, before I even brought it up, he knew that I had purchased the tapes and he asked to listen to them. The divorce was in the final stages and he assured me that it would be finalized. 

From the very beginning, I had many people praying for the restoration of our marriage and I continued to trust that if it was going to happen, it would only occur with God’s intervention. I don’t know if it was the tapes or a combination of things, but after that, he began to draw closer to me and told me that he wanted to be a part of the family. On April, the third week, he called his attorney, called off the divorce. The next week, he moved back home and we’ve been married for 20 years. And our marriage is stronger now than it has ever been.”

And then she said this, “The issue of respect was a huge issue in the eyes of my husband and one of the main reasons that he left. Once I saw how important it was to our entire relationship, it made it so easy for me to give my husband what he so desperately needed. The more I made him feel respected, the more he realized how much he loved me. We both had to go through many changes to get to the point that we are today, but I thank the Lord for making me walk through the fire and trials that I went through, in order to make my marriage what it should be.”

And one of the points that I am making is your husband needs your love. And you need respect, and I don’t have ti

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