Can We Talk about Mutual Respect?

by | Jan 31, 2020 | Resolving Conflict, Uncategorized | 23 comments

Mutual Respect in Marriage: It's necessary

If you’re reading this as it’s being published, Keith and I are getting on a cruise ship in Buenos Aires to head to Antarctica!

But a lot of interesting things happened this week, and I wanted to chime in while I still have good wifi. The theme of all of this, I think, is mutual respect. We finished up our post in our Iron Sharpening Iron series to talk about how to draw firm boundaries if nothing is changing, and then Keith joined me on the blog to write his first blog post about how decision-making should be shared.

So the theme of boundaries and decision-making was a big one! It seems to me that what we’re missing is agreement that mutual respect in marriage is important.

If you are not being treated with respect, that is a problem, and it’s okay if you do something about that. 

Speaking of respect, Religion News Service covered my critique of Love & Respect!

So we broke out into the wider media! It was very even-handed and doesn’t really pick a side (as news articles have to do), but I’m so grateful that they linked to all kinds of posts of mine, and my open letter to Focus on the Family, so people can judge for themselves.

Take a look at the article here! And I’d love to know what you think.

Your opinion and feelings matter in marriage. That’s part of what it means to be respected.

Marriage Needs Mutual Respect--not just men

That came out in so much of the discussion in the comments, and I want to point out two particular themes that Rebecca (my daughter) brought out in the comments. For context, here’s what she was addressing:

What about marriages where the husband does not expressly say that he has the final say but his actions prove that he makes the decisions unilaterally? My husband decided to buy a house and he told me he wanted us to buy the house on the morning of the viewing. I did not have any time to consider or ask around for opinions and in a way I had no choice but to go along. I am the one paying the mortgage.

Now he wants to sell this house and buy another one far away from my family. My family has always been good to him and I am puzzled why he is looking at houses so far away. Perhaps he does not like me being near them. He has been financially irresponsible and not faithful in the marriage. He seems to make all the important financial decisions even though he does not work and I am the sole breadwinner in our home. Does God even expect me to follow his lead when I don’t trust him.

Emma

Commenter, Do Marriages Work Best if the Husband Makes the Decisions?

Rebecca replied,

Wow, Emma, I am so sorry you’re dealing with that. If your husband is making rash decisions that are negatively impacting your family I would address that head-on. If you’re the one paying the mortgage then I would simply say, “I’m not willing to put our family in financial jeopardy and move away from my family simply because of a rash decision. We can talk about it and then revisit it in a year or so, but this is a big decision and needs to be treated with the respect it deserves.” He can’t sell the house without your signature, so just don’t give it until you are also convinced it is the right decision for your family.

God does not ask us to follow a husband blindly. He gave you wisdom, he gave you intellect, he gave you the ability to problem solve. I often feel like the messages we are given about how the husband makes the decisions forces women to become like that servant who buried his talent–God gave us these things, so use them! Otherwise He gets frustrated that we wasted the gifts we were given, even if we had good motives (in the parable, he was scared of losing the talent so he kept it safe; in marriage, we are scared we’re not submissive enough so we just go along with what the husband wants).

If he has lost trust for financial decisions or even just general trust since he’s been unfaithful in the marriage, that is trust that needs to be rebuilt. He doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt simply because he’s a man. I would bring in a licensed counsellor and maybe some trusted family or friends to help you two sort out these issues of irresponsibility and infidelity because those are big issues that you do not need to settle for in your marriage.

Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach

Do Marriages Work Best if the Husband Makes the Decisions?

And I want to add something in here, too.

Women, we need to grow a backbone sometimes! Look after yourself. Stand up for yourself and your kids! If you have a husband who won’t work and who is financially irresponsible, and your name is on the mortgage, you have a very easy way to make sure that he can’t buy another house and move the family. You just refuse to sign. It’s okay. It really is. And even if he took you to a viewing of a house and told you he wanted to buy it, you do not have to sign on the dotted line. You are allowed to say no. God does not want you being irresponsible. Please don’t just bury your talent; use your wisdom and discernment, too!

God wants us following after Him and seeking His will; not just doing our husband’s will. If you feel strongly that something would be a mistake, then ask your husband to wait and to pray about it with you. Or seek other counsel. As someone said on Twitter this week, which I thought was spot on:

A marriage takes two yeses and one no.

That’s right–if one person says no, it’s no. You pray. You wait. You talk about it. You seek counsel. But, in general, one person should not get to unilaterally decide something (though there may be exceptions). Instead, you should be seeking God’s will together. 

Now, about seeking counsel–here’s another comment:

I agree; this time, a number of Sheila’s ‘boundary’ suggestions assume that the husband is on board with developing these new habits. That has to be true to keep it from devolving into a power struggle that just frustrates one party more. For instance, she suggest that “you can still reclaim your bedroom and insist that your spouse sleep somewhere else”, but what if the spouse says ‘if you don’t like it, YOU sleep on the couch’? What if you “say to your spouse, “Come on, we’re going to clean up the kitchen before we turn in.”” but the spouse says ‘I’m tired, I don’t feel like cleaning now, I’m going to watch this show’ or only makes a perfunctory effort and then wanders off? I think most of these are helpful if the spouse has acknowledged the problem and just needs help developing a habit; less so if they don’t admit their behavior is problematic and agree to attempt to form new habits. 

Sara

Blog Commenter, How to Draw Boundaries when a Spouse's Bad Behaviour Isn't Changing

I get what Sara is saying. What if you’re trying, but your husband isn’t going along with it? That’s when you call in reinforcements. And Rebecca makes a good point about that here:

Yes, that’s exactly it Sara. A lot of times when we have these conversations nothing changes and so a firm boundary must be put in place. E.g., with the kids in the bed example he may say “I’m sleeping in my bed and if any kids come into the bedroom I will be picking them up and putting them back in their rooms. If you want to sleep with them you can go to their room” but then she starts screaming at him and crying if he does so, this boundary doesn’t work anymore. But the fact that he is being firm and saying “This is the only acceptable option to me and I’m willing to be firm to make sure that this stops happening because it’s ruining our marriage” can often be enough to make the spouse realize this is a real issue that is catapulting them towards divorce.

If a spouse continues the bad behaviour, I think you’d have to bring in outside people. Talk to a licensed counsellor, then family, then friends, etc. Make a stink. Frankly, raise a stink within your community if needed because your spouse is completely unwilling to change when it’s just you saying “This isn’t OK.” Plus, then if you are being controlling and unreasonable people have a chance to call you out on it and your spouse also gets to say their piece (I actually called out one couple I know where he was being unreasonable of demands he was making on her as a stay-at-home-mom. He needed to hear from someone else he respected that what he was asking was simply not realistic, because both he and his wife were so emotionally entangled up in the fight it was difficult to separate out emotions from logic at that point.). But I think that airing issues in public should be the last resort (not including licensed counselling, any time is good for counselling), which is why this post is needed–to show how to be firm and make it very clear what is and isn’t acceptable. If your spouse still doesn’t listen or agree that there needs to be a change, then getting other people involved is often necessary and helpful.

Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach

Sometimes when we ask for help, you may just find that you weren’t seeing the situation clearly, either. We need community–community that we can trust and community that is wise.

You’ll be hearing more from Rebecca in the comments in the next few weeks as I’ll be on vacation and my wifi is sketchy. I’ve scheduled all the posts ready to go as usual, though! And I’ll jump into the comments when and if I’m able to connect.

Sexual healing takes time

Commenting on our podcast yesterday where Keith and I discussed two different scenarios where a wife had cut her husband off from sex, Jane Eyre said:

The problem with trying to give advice to men who have been shut off from sex is that there are a whole host of reasons why it happens, and there’s a whole spectrum of culpability.

I know of a couple wherein the wife unilaterally shut the husband off after the birth of their second child. Interestingly, they were in couples counseling at the beginning of their marriage because she didn’t want to have sex (with him), despite having been very active with any number of men (at least one married) prior to the marriage. That marriage ultimately failed when she walked out on him.

In those circumstances, your problem is that your wife was never invested in the marriage.

Then, there are plenty of women who find sex to be painful, get no pleasure out of it, and as a result, find it to be alienating rather than intimate. (I have never felt so disconnected from my husband as I have during and after intercourse.) In those circumstances, the lack of sex is a symptom of a larger problem, and focusing on that symptom is to focus on the consequence that happens to be uncomfortable for you, not the underlying cause.

If your wife hasn’t orgasmed in seven years and finally cuts you off, your problem is that your wife hasn’t orgasmed in seven years, even if what is causing you pain is the fact that she cut you off.

In those cases, you have a variant of the weight loss issue: they say if it took you X years to put the weight on, it will take X years to take it off. Get ready for the long haul, because these problems were a long time in the making.

Jane Eyre

Blog Commenter, Podcast: When Your Wife Cuts You Off from Sex

She’s absolutely right. And sex needs to be something where both parties are respected. If she feels as if she’s just being used, sex will be distasteful and yucky that makes her feel like a non-person. To rebuild, it’s not just about sex. It’s about how she feels her experience and feelings have been ignored because of the pressure to have intercourse. It’s going to take a while to disentangle.

Finally, on a personal note, Keith saw his 1000th bird!

He’s an avid birder, and yesterday he hit 1000! It was a ruffescent tiger-heron.

Here he is taking the picture of the bird:

Keith Taking Picture of 1000 Bird

And here’s the bird!

So that’s it! Want to keep up with our bird pictures on our South American journey? Be sure to sign up for my weekly emails! That’s also where we’ll be sharing some more of our early survey stats, right in time for Valentine’s Day!

What do you think? What does mutual respect look like in your marriage? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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23 Comments

  1. Nathan

    Something Egerichs said in the article…
    > > “Unconditional respect does not mean you give a person license,” he told RNS.
    > > “It means there is nothing you can do to make me hate you.
    Actually, I’m pretty sure that unconditional respect DOES give a person license. “Unconditional” means no limits.
    The phrase “there is nothing you can do to make me hate you” is in fact unconditional LOVE.
    Or, if you want to split hairs, maybe unconditional respect means “I may not always agree with you, but I’ll never voice that thought or say anything about your bad behavior”

    Reply
    • Lea

      There is always something you can do to make me hate you. Let’s get real here. People can do pretty terrible things. Love and respect are never *really* unconditional, but loving someone who doesn’t deserve it is alot easier than respecting them..

      Reply
  2. Lindsey

    Oh wow!!! Have fun it Antarctica! What an amazing trip! I hope you get to pick up “wild penguins for your bird list.
    Saving the interview to listen to with hubs today, he’s been asking about your update all week.

    Reply
  3. Melissa

    Mutual respect, to me and my hubs, looks like if we can’t reach an agreement on an important decision, we don’t move forward until we have more clarity. We each pray and let God steer us individually in the best direction – God’s never failed to do that. Or sometimes another even better option appears when we wait instead of forcing a decision. Sometimes waiting has kept us from doing things that could have turned out badly down the road, because God knows what our future holds and we don’t.
    Here’s the thing: When we put the burden of the “final say” on a husband, we are actually putting him in God’s place. Anyone who asks us “Who has the final say in your marriage?” we say “God does.” Anyone who asks “Who wears the pants in your marriage?” we say “Uh…we both wear pants. It would be kind of weird if anyone here wasn’t wearing pants wouldn’t it?” That always gets a laugh.
    Do we do it perfectly? Of course not. We get into arguments sometimes. We’re human. We had a fight yesterday, for cryin’ out loud. But giving the “final say” to God has made our home much more harmonious.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s beautiful, Melissa!

      Reply
  4. Nathan

    Eggerichs is partially correct in one thing. “Unconditional Respect” doesn’t mean that you always agree with your spouse, or that you’re always happy with his actions, but it DOES mean that you implicitly tolerate, put up with and silently accept ANY behavior, no matter how toxic or hurtful. It also can imply that you blame yourself for your spouse’s bad behavior.
    I disagree with this, but I may be willing to meet this idea half way. Just by getting married, maybe I can agree with the idea of each spouse defaulting to respect each other … AT FIRST. But that respect can be lost with repetitive toxic behavior, or long term lack of good actions, like a spouse who distances himself from his wife over time. Not toxic, but not a good place to go long term.

    Reply
  5. Nathan

    Melissa writes
    > > Do we do it perfectly? Of course not. We get into arguments sometimes.
    Same here, and likely for most marriages. I have what I think is a good marriage, but we argue and fight sometimes, too, and I have to admit that on occasion I can be childish and passive aggressive. But we keep loving each other and work to keep things good.

    Reply
  6. Jane Eyre

    If you marry someone, you are forever bound by a whole host of decisions that the person makes, whether it be in regards to child-rearing, how hard they work at their job, how they spend money, how they care for their bodies, how they treat your friends and family, etc. The list is almost endless. Legally, if you are incapacitated, your spouse is the default for making every decision for you for the rest of your lives.
    If you marry someone whose decision-making you do not trust, believing that you can somehow “be in charge” or “have the final say,” you are a fool.
    Mutual respect is about respecting the decisions your spouse makes and understanding that part of how marriage works is that you are bound by thousands of decisions, large and small, made by your spouse. It’s understanding that part of marriage discernment is deciding whether or not you are comfortable with that person’s judgement, and if you aren’t, wisdom dictates that you not marry them.
    You can and should work together to make better decisions, but part of being married and respecting your spouse is knowing that if you weren’t there, the decision would still be reasonable, responsible, and prayerful.
    (For the record, I am kind of weird in that I find responsibility and thoughtfulness to be extremely attractive traits in a man.)

    Reply
    • Lydia purple

      For the record, I am kind of weird in that I find responsibility and thoughtfulness to be extremely attractive traits in a man.)
      I don’t think you’re weird for that, but wise.

      Reply
  7. Anon

    What if the husband during the dating stage seemed responsible and reasonable and showed his true colors only after marriage? My husband was a gentleman during our dating days and revealed his abusive nature slowly after the wedding. He said he could not cope with his job demands and claimed he was “let go” by his employers. 20 years later he still has no job. This has put all the financial strain on me whilst he stays at home, takes care of our child and buys groceries.
    Because he has so much time in his hands he got involved in porn. Refused counseling. Although he says he had repented he never did anything to repair the damage caused to our marriage caused by his porn habits and affair. Although the advice given on this website is good, it is easier said than done as life with an abuser cannot even be imagined. An abuser destroys your emotions and soul. Its hard to even set boundaries when the husband does not respect it.
    A much earlier post encouraged joint accounts between spouses. But from my experience I would caution a wife to have her own separate account. An abuser always appears nice at the start of a relationship and will not expose his traits. Once he has earned the trust of the unsuspecting wife he will show his true colors. By this time it may be too late. My friend lost all her contributions when the husband emptied their joint account and later he filed for divorce. He got away from paying my friend her dues by hiring a good attorney.
    Please be careful what you advice women out there. There is no need to have joint accounts. Husbands and wives have their own hobbies , work, skills, even friends so why not their own savings too. God is not going to punish the wife for taking steps to protect herself and her children in the future.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Anon, I’m so sorry that you have gone through this. I really am. That’s terrible.
      And I do agree that joint accounts are best, in most situations, but I’ve said repeatedly that you should not use them if you’re being abused or married to someone with financial issues or if your marriage isn’t stable (see my post on Monday, for example).
      I think it’s terrible that your husband hasn’t worked in twenty years and has gotten into porn. But that really does need to be dealt with. It really does. Please insist on counseling (and he should likely go alone for a time), and separate your finances so that he has to work and take responsibility. It may even be worth cutting off the internet for a time. Whatever it takes. But again, you do need to do something, because this is unlikely to get better on its own.

      Reply
  8. Anon

    I am so sad to read Focus on the Family’s response and to see that they have rejected your plea to reconsider recommending L&R.
    It’s funny though, how even trying to rebut your arguments, they got into a mess. E.g. ‘Mrs. Gregoire argues that Love & Respect’s message “is that women only really need love and men only need respect.” In stark contrast, Dr. Eggerichs clearly states in the book: “Of course, women need respect and guys need love, but I’m talking about the primary drive in each sex… A woman does need respect, and if a man loves her properly, she will get that respect (Love & Respect 47).’
    A woman needs respect and feels that respect when she is loved? Ok, so if feeling respect is a by-product of being loved, how come we have all this emphasis in L&R on wives respecting their husbands, because if they love their husbands, the guys are going to be respected anyway… Which kind of destroys the whole central theme of L&R. Hmmm, I think that rebuttal has backfired a little!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s hilarious. I hadn’t even realized that, but you’re right!

      Reply
  9. Emmy

    “A woman does need respect, and if a man loves her properly, she will get that respect (Love & Respect 47). ”
    Fiddlesticks.
    Besides, how to define “loving her properly”?
    My hubby claimed to love me soooo much. Every day. I believe he did, in some sense. But he also overuled me all the time and made all the decisions. And when he saw I was unhappy he ciriticized me for having a bad attitude, or he got mad and nagged: “So you are crying AGAIN. You KNOW I love you. Can’t you just be HAPPY for a while? What I really need is a wife that SMILES at me, but here you go around with a sour face even though I love you soooo much….”
    He for sure thought he loved me “properly” but he did not respect my opinion.
    I found happines and got my smile back after I made up my mind and started to espect my opinion myself and started to make decisions for myself even though it made hubby upset sometimes. I got myself a bank account of my own. I started to earn my own money and I started to manage my income myself even though I did it for the benefit of our whole family.
    Little by little he started to realize I was not irresponsible with money and my decisions were founded on realities. The last years I have seen he has grown some respect for me and to be honest, I’d rather lose that “love” he used to claim he had, that the respect he has now. Now we can truly be friends.
    I prefer respect and being treated right to “love” and to be treated like a vacuum cleaner.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s great, Emmy! And you’re right–what your husband said was love was not real love at all.

      Reply
    • Lea

      Emmy, a lot of the complementarianesque defenses of this kind of ‘love’ use direct analogies of a wife to a child. A grown woman is not a child and should not be treated as one. I think that’s where the respect comes in, and emmerson is trying to have it both ways with his ‘proper’ love will include respect defenses.
      I know Dave Ramsey is really big on joint accounts but it doesn’t work for everyone and people will have to make their own decisions on these things.

      Reply
      • Maria

        I know that banks don’t do this, but what if they had, say, an account option where it’s a joint account and you both have to sign to withdraw any money?
        Or other ways that a married couple can customize their account(s). Like, they have separate accounts, but she says that he can look at her balance and transactions whenever he wants, just not withdraw, deposit or transfer? (And ditto for him.)

        Reply
  10. Sammy

    When my husband and I got married, he was wonderful to me and acted very loving. He made major decisions when it came to finance and I went along as this was what was expected of me. We had joint savings and I gave him access to my accounts. I shared my income with him as he could not find a job. In essence I trusted him.
    What I did not realize was that my husband was actually emotionally abusing me. Arguments and constant put downs. Criticizing my choice of clothes hairstyle and even food. Saying I was getting fat and hinting that I was not smart enough to earn better. I did not think much of this as I thought he loved me and I believed what he said about me.
    I only understood abusive tendencies when I started reading “A Cry For Justice” blog years later. Then I discovered his affair. Everything fell into place. But by then my financial position had been compromised as my husband had been squirreling away money secretly.
    I want to tell women not to be too trusting of their husbands when it comes to finances. Many men appear to be great husbands but underneath they are narcissists. Sometimes even the wives are unaware of this as they are living in a fog and are confused. I know women who lost all their money as their husbands recklessly spent the money and finally when the husbands divorced them, they had no job and no money. had they kept their own bank account at least they would have had the financial security.
    Having joint accounts is not a proof of oneness in marriage. To become one flesh means being physically joined in union. It does not mean that the wife has to surrender her own bank account and have a joint account with the husband. This is false and erroneous teaching. Sometimes even a non abusive husband can be irresponsible and use the money unwisely. Come on women, God has given us a brain and skills and instinct and do not be misled into guilt trips because you chose to have a separate account. God will not judge you or send you to hell just because you kept your finances separate.
    The ones who propagate joint accounts are usually those who have good secure marriages. But the problem is most times, that one cannot be hundred percent certain if the spouse is trustworthy or not until it is too late.
    I would love the feedback of women on this.

    Reply
    • Emmy

      Sammy, that’s exactly my experience and how I feel about it. My husband has not been unfaithful but I’m not very happy about his attitude towards money. Having a joint bank account made me feel like in prison. Like being under guardianship.
      Finally, I put up a fight and insisted on having my own bank account for my income and him having one for his income. A heavy burden fell off my shoulders from that day on. I won’t have it any other way even though I can see his attitude towards money has become better. I want the things stay well.
      Maybe a joit bank accound works for a great many couples, but I’d be very careful with it, and personally, I don’t believe I’ll ever try it again.

      Reply
  11. Seeking

    I have been married for more than 2 decades. My marriage has not been very happy and there have been several issues. My husband has a weakness for women which led to porn habits and an affair. He has a weakness for money too. If he knows that I have some money, he will try to create an expense for spending it. I am very wary of him now and find it very difficult to trust him. And there are other stuff going on in our marriage too.
    All of which led me to cancel my husband’s name as the beneficiary on my insurance and replace it with my son, without my husband’s knowledge. At least I know that my son will receive the money. I am now wondering if this was dishonest

    Reply
    • Emmy

      Dear Seeking, I don’t believe it is you who is being dishonest. If your husband creates a need when he knows you have money, it is him who is being manipulative and sneaky. That’s a way of being dishonest, too. And if you can’t discuss it and there is no hope for change, you simply must to something to protect yourself for his sneakines and manipulation.
      My husband behaved much in the same way, so I stopped sharing with him how much money I had. I still share the money, by paying bills and buying groceries and providing for things we need…and even for things that he needs, or even likes. But I do not share any information about my finances any more. If he asks about it, I’ll give no answer, or I give a very vague answer.
      I’m not happy doing it like this, but I know I must. If I let him know how much I have…I just KNOW after a short while I don’t have it any more. It will disappear into some black hole that will appear from nowhere.

      Reply
  12. Nathan

    Anon, I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for somebody (usually the husband, but not always) to be Prince Charming during the courtship, then show his true colors after the wedding.
    You have many issues, but the porn likely needs to be dealt with first

    Reply
  13. Kim P

    “Your opinion and feelings matter in marriage. That’s part of what it means to be respected.”
    Do they!? That’s new to me! (I love your message so much). This sounds like such a simple basic thing! Mutual understanding that both peoples opinions and feelings matter But it’s so not to so many women! Bc we have been blindsided and brainwashed by bad theology. And the men of course have used that against us.
    Thank you thank you THANK YOU for this truth! This is IT, the core of what the patriarchal and misogynistic “biblical” men have tried to deny in their agenda to have power and control in their Demi-god man on a pedestal world.
    Jesus preached freedom from oppression incessantly. He cared about and for women…. he went OUT of his way to care for them and against societal rules. We have been taught to deny our opinion, feelings and Holy Spirit inspired insight.
    It doesn’t make sense for a marriage to be all ab one person and their feelings or insight and final decisions. Only Bc of their genitalia. For a whole half of humanity to DENY their God given right. To feel less than.
    The NT is clear the HS spirit descended upon everyone. And it makes it clear that mutuality is the theme! Everyone’s opinions and feelings matter. That’s a beautiful way to view marriage and live life.

    Reply

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