Session 4 – Question #3 (Workbook pg. 64)


As I encourage some wives to use unconditional respect, I can tell they suspect that I am a chauvinist in sheep’s clothing trying to set them up for a life of subservience. I remind such a wife to be patient. I’m trying to help her get her husband to love her more, not run roughshod over her.

When I talk about respecting your husband, I do not mean being a doormat. I do not mean burying your brains, never showing your leadership ability, or never disagreeing in the slightest way. I do not mean that he is superior and you are inferior in some way. Nor do I want you to ignore your hurts and vulnerabilities.

Despite my assurances, some wives fear that taking a respectful attitude during a conflict with their husbands will render them powerless. These women do not believe a husband will change into a loving man unless he is awakened to his flaws. And the only way he will awaken to his inadequacies and faults is to hear his wife’s grumblings, corrections, and contempt. One wife confessed, “I would listen in on phone conversations (or conversations in a group of people) to ‘correct’ any misstatements he might make.”

Another wife admitted “mothering” her husband. “As mothers, it is built into us to be instructors — that’s a major part of motherhood. But it is extremely difficult to differentiate our roles between mother and wife. For instance, when baby comes along, Dad seems at a loss as to what to do and we ‘instruct’ Dad. Over time, we start instructing in many areas.”

 Wives, “do what is right and do not give way to fear.” (1 Peter 3:6 NIV)

The typical wife knows instinctively that correcting and mothering her husband are not good ways to approach him, but what else can she do? If she keeps winning battles this way, it could help her win the war of changing him into the kind of man she feels he ought to be. She keeps on using negativity because she feels empowered by it. She thinks it gets through to him. She knows being nice doesn’t get through to him because he just seems to ignore that. Her disrespect gets his attention and she seems to win the skirmishes, which are usually about the same problems: being late, working too much, poor parenting, insensitivity, etc. But none of these problems is the root of the issue. Lack of love and respect is at the heart of it all.

As John Gottman observes, “The major goal is break the cycle of negativity.” One wife confessed, “Most people would label me ‘one of the happiest, most positive people I know,’ but then something happens behind closed doors. I can yell and scream and rant on about little issues forever.”

Unfortunately, the wife who feels empowered by negativity isn’t even aware she needs to break that cycle. But she may sense that her criticisms don’t motivate him to be more loving, so she tries to apologize after an argument or a conflict. He may accept her apology because he knows she is a good-willed woman who feels badly. But as the Crazy Cycle spins again the next month (or week) and then continues in a distinct pattern, he begins to believe that she has contempt for him as a human being — that she secretly despises him.

Because he is confused, he doesn’t ask the question, “Don’t you respect me?” for fear she’ll say, “No, I don’t.” That frightens him so he avoids it. As a result, she gets locked into disrespect as a way of communicating her irritation goading him to change. But over the course of the marriage, something slowly dies between them. She wins the battles, but deep down she knows she is the war.

 Go down the “List of a Wife’s Fears” below. Which of the following fears concerns you to some degree at this time?

(Y/N) – If I respect him, he won’t really be more loving.

(Y/N) – If I respect him, I will wind up a doormat, and doing whatever he wants.

(Y/N) – If I respect him, I’ll have to bury my brains, never think for myself or speak my mind.

(Y/N) – If I respect him, he will ignore how I hurt and where I’m vulnerable.

(Y/N) – If I respect him, he’ll become arrogant and self-centered.

(Y/N) – If I respect him, I’ll have to do something I don’t really feel, and that’s impossible.

 My fear, in my own words, is…


Do you see anything in the above list that may be of concern to your wife? Take note of those concerns and be ready to talk about them. 


This question provides plenty of opportunity for sensitive sharing. Wife, if you don’t have any of these fears, you should tell your husband, which will be a big encouragement to him. Husband, if your wife does have fears about showing you unconditional respect, you can do several things: First, be thankful that she is courageous and humble enough to tell you. Second, remember she is a good-willed woman who wants your love. Third, do not dismiss her fears as “silly” or just say,

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that.” Fourth, seek to understand her and empathize as much as possible.

Session 4 – Question #15 (Workbook pg. 71-72)

In his extensive research on marriages, Dr. John Gottman concluded that it was very effective when a husband could embrace his wife’s anger. He advised men not to avoid conflict if they want to make their marriages work. To sidestep the problem, to leave the conflict unresolved, would only upset the wife more. The husband must always remember that the wife must talk about what’s eating her. As she vents her feelings, she believes she is keeping the marriage healthy and helping the relationship work more smoothly. She is not trying to attack her husband personally. “If you stay with her through this discomfort, and listen to her criticisms,” says Gottman, “she will calm down. If you stonewall, she’ll be edgy and may escalate the conflict.”

My suggestion to fellow husbands is: instead of running from your wife, will you move toward her or let her move toward you, firing her venomous little darts as she comes? If you’re ready to take the hit, you can stop the craziness. After she vents, you can lovingly say, “Honey, I love you. I don’t want this. When you talk this way, I know you’re feeling unloved. Let’s work on this. I want to come across more lovingly, and I hope you would like to come across more respectfully.”


Because a husband does not love naturally, God commands him to do so (see Ephesians 5:25-33). It may never feel “natural” to say something like what is quoted above, when your wife is venting her anger at you, but as a man of honor, are you willing to try it?


If your husband used Emerson’s suggestions when you were venting your anger at him, how might this make you feel? Would it help? Why or why not?


Compare your answers. Is Emerson’s suggestion for turning aside a wife’s anger something that could work in your marriage right now? Talk about how it would feel in the middle of an argument or angry exchange for the husband to talk about wanting to be more loving and hoping the wife could be more respectful.

 Things to Remember:

* Even though feeling disrespected, pull back from being unloving toward her.

* Even though feeling unloved, pull back from being disrespectful toward him.

* When she is being critical or angry, she is crying out for your love; her intent is not to be disrespectful.

* When he is being harsh, or stonewalling you, he is crying out for respect; his intent is not to be unloving.

* If you defend your lack of love, she will feel unloved.

* If you defend your lack of respect, he will feel disrespected.

* When you feel disrespected, you tend to react in unloving ways and don’t see it.

* When you feel unloved, you tend to react disrespectfully and don’t see it.

* When you feel disrespected, it is not natural for you to be loving in return; you must love her in an act of obedience to Christ.

* When you feel unloved, it is not natural for you to be respectful in return; you must respect him in an act of obedience to Christ.

* Ultimately you show your love for Christ when you unconditionally love your wife. If you are not loving your wife unconditionally, you are not loving Christ.

* Ultimately you show your reverence for Christ when you unconditionally respect your husband. If you are not respecting your husband unconditionally, you are not reverencing Christ.

* If you have failed to love her, do something loving.

* If you have failed to respect him, do something respectful.

* The best way to motivate her is by meeting her need for love.

* The best way to motivate him is by meeting his need for respect.

Session 4 – Question #21 (Workbook pg. 76)

Right now husbands reading this may be thinking, Emerson, that’s okay for you, but you’ve never had to face what I face. Well, let’s look at my record. I’m supposed to be the Love and Respect poster child. I have preached the Love and Respect message for more than five years, but I still have moments when I get angry and withdraw. I am still only a man, and the flesh can be weak no matter how much experience you think you have.

And through the years I have had more pressure than some men. There were times when, despite all of what I had been telling seminar goers about the Love and Respect Connection, I would become angry when Sarah would criticize me, and I would try to stonewall her. She would simply follow me through the house, saying, “What would you say to a husband who was acting like you? How would you counsel him to treat me?”

Good grief ! Stop the planet, I want to get off ! How embarrassing! How awkward! How unfair!

At some point, however, I have to calm myself down. I have to grow up—be mature! Like the Fonz in Happy Days, I try to mouth, “I was wrrooo . . . I was wrrroooo . . . I was wrong.”

I don’t like to be disrespected and then have to apologize for being unloving any more than the next guy. It’s not normal! But I know from personal experience that it is possible to fail, even as a so-called expert, and still recover. I know what it is like to rebound when you seem unable to “make any shots” on a certain day. As I prayed and sought answers to my own weaknesses, I found help in the Scriptures. Malachi tells us, “Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth” (2:15). I also found real solace in Proverbs 24:16: “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.”

None of us is perfect. We all blow it. As a man takes baby steps toward a better marriage through the Love and Respect Connection, he may find himself falling seven times and possibly more. But he should take a lesson from one of his own children when that child was learning to walk. No toddler falls the first time and stays on his bottom. He gets up and falls down, gets up and falls down, gets up and falls down, gets up and . . . keeps walking. Eventually, he figures it out.

Husbands, some of you have stuff from the past. Bad habits exist. The sins of your fathers are visited upon you (see Exodus 20:5). You will slip and not think about decoding her message at the moment because she feels so offensive. You might even say, “Drop it,” and then you will try to move on without thinking more about it.

While God is gracious and kind, He knows that old habits don’t die unless they are dealt with. It is in moments like these that He will speak to you, saying, “Go back. You honestly forgot to decode her message. You responded like a male. You thought you were doing the honorable thing by refusing to engage her. But that isn’t going to work now. It won’t stop the craziness. I want you to hear her deeper cry and move toward her. Allow her to vent. Embrace her negativity and anger.”

 If she has something against you, “go and be reconciled” (Matthew 5:24 NIV).

If you can do that—if you can take the hit and keep coming —then you’ll be able to say something like this: “Honey, I’m sorry for coming across so unlovingly. When you come at me like that, it makes me angry because I feel you don’t respect me. But I want to change. Please help me.”

When his wife comes at him with disrespect flashing in her eyes and venom shooting from her tongue, every husband has two choices: (1) defend his pride by firing back venom of his own or stonewalling her, or (2) try to hear his wife’s cry and respond with unconditional love.

I have made the decision that, with God’s help, I will always choose option 2: try to hear Sarah’s cry and respond with unconditional love. But even though our marriage is much better and stronger than ever, I still miss the loving mark now and then. And when I miss—even ever so slightly—I rebound. After calming down (usually in a few minutes), I say, “I’m sorry. I know I’ve been unloving.” And, of course, from the other side of our marriage, that wonderful woman who I always knew would be my friend, responds and says she’s sorry for her disrespect. (Best of all, she no longer follows me around the house wanting to know how I would advise a husband who was acting like an unloving schmuck!)

What truths in Emerson’s transparent admissions stand out for you?


As a husband, note especially the two choices you have if your wife comes at you “with disrespect flashing in her eyes and venom shooting from her tongue”: defend your pride or surrender with unconditional love. As a wife, how would you respond if your husband said, “I’m sorry. I know I’ve been unloving?”