Last week I shared a testimony from a couple who discovered mutual respect for one another. Because I talk about a woman’s deepest need for love, and a man’s deepest need for respect, I sometimes get the comment from women, “Well, I need respect too!” To which I reply, “Absolutely!” Just because a woman most often speaks a love language, does not mean she doesn’t desire respect. And just because a man most often speaks the language of respect, does not mean he has no need for love. Love and respect will interact and flow back and forth on both sides in order for a marriage to stay energized.
Bottom line: don’t get hung up on the semantics.
Following are several real-life examples that I hope will bring more clarity to how these principles play out practically.
One husband related to me that his marriage was breaking down and he did not even see it. Both powerful firstborns and successful career people, they could not communicate without one trying to force his or her will on the other. The conference helped the husband see that every time he insisted on his own opinion or wishes, he was crushing his wife’s spirit. He decided to stop coming across in an authoritarian manner, and now peace reigns in their home. He writes:
When I come home or talk with her during the day, I talk to her in a loving way. I communicate that I love her and respect her opinion. If things get out of hand – which they sometimes do – I reflect after the fact and approach her in a loving way. We talk back over the incident and move forward, usually in agreement. Even if one of us has to give in, we are both comfortable with the outcome.
When another wife stopped communicating to her husband that he was an idiot with no insights worth sharing, then he started to be more understanding. She also sees a real improvement in her ability to express her needs to him instead of “becoming so hurt he just can’t figure me out.” Her e-mail continues:
If I need something from him like time or attention or specific encouragement, I have the confidence to bring those requests to him because I know his greatest desire is to be my knight in shining armor. This seems like such a simple principle, yet it has freed me from the huffing and puffing and waiting for him to get a clue. Now I have the freedom to request respectfully things I need and not set him up for failure. (Mind reading is a terrible way to make a marriage.)
Sometimes spouses may think they are making all the right energizing moves, but they are overlooking one simple thing. One husband admits:
When I heard the title of your seminar, I asked my wife if she felt loved. (We have been married thirty-seven years, and I have even done some teaching on marriage relationships.) Because I do so many things to demonstrate my love for her, I expected to hear a hearty “Of course, Jim!” so I was shocked when she was just silent. I reminded her of all the things I do to show her love, and I told her I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t giving me an answer. When she finally did answer, it changed my entire approach to demonstrating love to my wife. She said, “I do appreciate all the things you do for me, but the way I feel loved is…by the way you talk to me. When you talk to me the way you do to your men friends, I don’t feel love.” Wow! What an eye-opener that was!
Can you relate to any of these examples? Do you need to stop and listen to your tone or ask your spouse what he/she needs from you? Do you need to learn to communicate your own needs more lovingly or respectfully to your spouse? What will you do this week to improve your communication style so that you can stay on the Energizing Cycle?