In my last post, I suggested that there is more to good marital communication than simply “talking”…we need to understand what the other is saying.
That’s the “Love and Respect Connection.”
Let me explain from personal experience. As I said last week, although Sarah and I loved each other, we often just couldn’t communicate in our marriage, but we didn’t understand why. As much as we tried, it just seemed like we were speaking different languages. Then God revealed to me what I call the “Love and Respect Connection” through Ephesians 5:33. I am commanded to love Sarah because she needs love and even “speaks love.” If I speak to her in unloving ways, her tendency is to react with disrespectful words. But she is commanded to respect me because I need respect; in fact, I “speak respect.” Respect is the language I understand. But when Sarah speaks to me in disrespectful ways, my tendency is to react with unloving words.
I finally figured out that the opposite would also be true: if I would speak loving words to Sarah, she would usually respond with words of respect and if she spoke words of respect to me, I would usually respond more lovingly to her!
Bingo! Communication problems solved, right? Well, sort of. But these changes were not easy or automatic. We took baby steps at first, but soon we were making progress, and eventually we had a major breakthrough.
As I spoke Sarah’s mother tongue of love and Sarah spoke my mother tongue of respect, we became friends who shared mutual understanding. For years we had been like a Russian and an Israeli, speaking our different languages. All we did was get louder as we tried to get our respective points across! But as we began to learn each other’s vocabulary – as I learned some of her love language, and she learned some of my respect language – amazing things happened. Not only did we start understanding each other (in many ways for the first time), but our communication improved dramatically.
This is why I say the key to any marriage is a mutual understanding of each other’s language. It is the mutual understanding that leads to good communication.
Does this mean our marriage is completely free of stress, disagreement, and tension? Of course not! Sarah and I still argue over some of the same old things; we still get irritated with each other for certain habits and practices. But now we know how to communicate with each other and deal with our problems. We don’t know it all, but we know a great deal more than we did before we started living with Love and Respect.
A lot, of course, depends on you and how open you are to the simple idea that husbands and wives speak in two languages – hers the language of love, his the language of respect. We know Love and Respect does not click with everyone – at least right away. We know, however, that if you are serious (desperate?) about improving your marriage, Love and Respect can help you succeed or get even better!
So stay tuned – next I’ll share how in marriage, your mouth matters!
Excerpts taken from the Introduction to The Language of Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.