Love and respect are like the head and tail of a coin—conjoined yet with their backs to each other. In some ways, they are viewed as opposites, yet they are the glue that keeps a marriage together and strong. Which side do you gravitate toward: love or respect? Let me guess. If you’re a man, you want respect, and if you’re a woman, you said love. Am I right?
What’s the Difference Between Love and Respect?
When I coach couples and enter the discussion on marriage needs, in the top five for men, and usually in the number one position, is RESPECT. For a woman that number one position typically involves an expression of LOVE such as caring, affection, and intimacy. As I always tell couples, Respect and Love are big words—meaning if you ask 10 people to define love and respect you will get 10 different answers.
When I ask a wife, “What does love look like in action from your husband?” I get answers such as (1) share your feelings, fears, and joys with me and ask about mine, (2) listen to me without trying to fix my problem, (3) spiritually lead our family by going to church and setting an example for our children, and (4) create a marriage environment where I feel safe. When I ask a husband, “What does respect look like in action from your wife?” I get answers such as (1) support me in my work and ability to make money for our family, (2) don’t turn away from me sexually, and (3) share your opinions and thoughts with me but support my decisions.
These answers are quite different. You likely never hear a woman complain she’s not getting the those things the husband wants and vise versa.
Are Men’s Needs Getting a Backseat to Women’s?
On the micro-level, I don’t see that men or women are disadvantaged, but on the macro-level, women’s needs are getting more attention than men’s. Why do I say that? Our world talks about love, love, and more love, especially, if you’re a Christ follower. We quote Scripture about love such as “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and go so far as to advocate that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). The Bible is full of stories about love, and we are encouraged to love unconditionally.
On the other hand, our world doesn’t give the same emphasis to respect. When was the last time you hear someone say, “We should respect unconditionally?” You probably can’t recall a time, because we don’t usually say those two words together. In fact, it’s more common to hear what Rodney Dangerfield made famous, “How come I don’t get no respect?”
The Balance of Love and Respect
Happy and connected couples operate in a continuous cycle of love and respect. A husband gives his wife love, and in return a wife gives her husband respect. When the foundation of the marriage is built on love and respect, both are getting their most important need met. Dysfunctional marriages are those where the wife says, “I can’t respect him until he loves me,” and a husband says, “I can’t love her until she respects me.” Both need to stop behaving as children and grow up.
Wedding vows usually include some version of the classic togetherness “until death do us part” after committing to weather the storms of “in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer.” If I was in charge of writing wedding vows, I’d add “to respect him unconditionally even when he hasn’t earned it and to love her unconditionally even when she doesn’t deserve it.” Do you think anyone would dare include it?
About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in premarital/marriage, finances, ministry, and leadership. She coaches individuals and couples to be the best versions of themselves. You can contact Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org