Respecting a Difficult Spouse
by Steve and Cindy Wright
“When we got married, I didn’t know the Lord, and I didn’t really know my husband either. After coming to Christ a couple of years ago, I kept hearing all this stuff about honoring Larry, submitting to Larry. And I’d think, ‘Are you serious?”“A few weeks ago our women’s Bible study was studying in Ephesians. When we got to the verse, ‘Let the wife see that she respects her husband,’ I knew everyone was thinking of Larry. They all know I’m in an unhappy marriage, so I finally just blurted out: ‘How do you respect a husband you don’t really respect? Someone help me understand how you honor a guy like my husband.’“An uncomfortable silence ensued. ‘Well,’ Karla, the group leader finally said, ‘let’s talk about that. Does anyone have any insight to share?’“Finally a woman named Marsha spoke up. ‘I think you have to think about how the word respect doesn’t mean the same thing as approve or condone. You have to separate what Larry does from who Larry is. You can respect his position, just like you respect a cop who pulls you over, even though you don’t like what he’s doing to you.’ “That made sense to me—sort of. But could I somehow find a way to respect and honor Larry simply because he’s my husband?
“That afternoon, I continued to debate with myself. Lets say I did decide to honor Larry because God says to and because God loves him. By honoring him, wouldn’t I be telling him, ‘You’re perfectly okay how you are—I think you’re just wonderful because God loves you?’
“Later, after dinner had been cleaned up and Larry had become one with his recliner, I went to our bedroom to read a novel. The main character was a man who was everything I could want in a husband and the exact opposite of Larry. The contrast was painful. Finally, I put the book down and began to pray half-heartedly for Larry. I tried to picture him as God sees him. But that wasn’t working. Larry, after all, isn’t wearing Christ’s robes.
“I kept at it, though, and then something happened. Suddenly all this grief welled up and I sensed it wasn’t mine, but God’s. It was like He was crying—over Larry! I’m not the type of person to see things or hear God when I pray.“So I asked God what this meant and waited. It began to dawn on me that when God sees Larry, He sees a son of His who won’t come home. He sees the marvelous man Larry could be, would be, if he would only let love break through.“Larry doesn’t behave in ways that deserve my respect. But the Larry God loves, who’s buried behind that brick wall, does. Now I’m trying really hard, every day, to feel God’s grief over, and love for, Larry.“I keep looking for ways to show him respect. I ask his opinions about things that I never used to before. I listen carefully to what he says and I make eye contact when he’s talking to me. I tell him I’m proud of him when anything good happens at work. And I don’t grumble and complain about him to my friends every day.“As I’m doing this, I’m realizing something important. Respect is a man’s #1 love language. You should have seen the look on his face a few days ago when I asked Larry what I could do to show him more respect. He was so stunned, he was speechless for once.“Then yesterday I caught myself thinking, Larry seems to appreciate having my respect, but I still don’t know if this is going to work. I had to quickly remind myself that it’s not supposed to work. Changing Larry isn’t the goal. That would only turn what I’m doing into manipulation.“I can honor Larry because God asks me to. Buried deep inside of him is a man worthy of respect. And for now, that’s good enough for me. The rest is up to Larry and God.”
“If we blame others, we enlarge the distance between us and them. We alienate. We poison the relationship. We settle for much less than God ever intended.”“Consider this: Blame never affirms, it assaults. Blame never restores, it wounds. Blame never solves, it complicates. Blame never unites, it separates. Blame never smiles, it frowns. Blame never forgives, it rejects. Blame never forgives, it remembers. Blame never builds, it destroys.”