Ephesians 5:25 commands “husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church” In verses 26-32 Paul describes what it looks like for husbands to obey this command. One might then expect the passage to end with similar instructions to the wife, such as: “Let each one of you in particular love his own wife as himself, and let the wife love her own husband as herself.” Instead, in Ephesians 5:33 Paul commands wives to respect their husbands.
To learn what it looks like for husbands to feel respected and disrespected, watch the message I delivered at a Marriage God’s Way Conference, and/or read the blog post below…
What Respect Looks Like to a Husband
How does a wife convey respect to her husband? Here is a basic checklist of what respect looks like to a man.
A wife respects her husband by admiring him, looking up to him, and holding him in high regard. In the Amplified Bible:
Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].Ephesians 5:33
Regarding the Virtuous Wife:
The heart of her husband safely trusts her.Proverbs 31:11
A husband feels respected when he can trust his wife. When he is away, she acts in a way that would please him just as though he were present. He is sure that she will not hide anything from him. Conversely, when a wife is untrustworthy, she communicates that she does not respect her husband’s headship.
A wife respects her husband by protecting his name and reputation. She does not slander him or complain about him behind his back. With the prevalence of social media, a wife’s criticism of her husband can be much more damaging than when she gossips to her friends. With a single click of the mouse, hundreds of people can become aware of the wife’s accusations against her husband.
Also regarding the Virtuous Wife:
Her husband is [respected] in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.Proverbs 31:23
Why is there a verse praising a husband in a passage that is all about his wife? How is his position a credit to her? This husband would not be respected and sitting among the elders if he had a wife whose behavior or speech caused others to lose respect for him. There are husbands who will never achieve leadership positions in their church or community because of the way their wives demean them or damage their reputation behind their backs.
A wife respects her husband by expressing appreciation of how hard he works to care for his family and by considering the sacrifices he makes to be a good father and husband. Few attitudes communicate respect more than thankfulness, and few attitudes communicate disrespect more than ingratitude. And this leads us to the next section.
What Disrespect Looks Like to a Husband
Conversely, no matter how much a wife might profess her love, certain attitudes communicate disrespect to her husband.
When a wife routinely expresses frustration with her life, her home, her family, or her possessions, she is disrespecting her husband. A discontented wife makes her husband feel like a failure because he is the one—at least in her eyes—who is not providing well enough.
Disparaging Speech and Body Language
A wife disrespects her husband when she:
- Talks down to him or treats him like a little boy who is in trouble
- Interrupts him or talks over him
- Rolls her eyes, huffs and puffs, or wags her finger at him
Even worse is when such disparaging speech and actions extend to others, such as telling friends “a funny story” about a husband’s inability to do something or how many times it took him to fix something.
Even when a wife is doing her best to respect her husband, she sends the opposite message when she second-guesses everything he says, offers all the reasons he is wrong, constantly corrects him, or undermines him when he makes a decision. The wife might be trying to be helpful, but her actions communicate: “I do not trust you. You don’t know what you are doing. I could do this better.” Sometimes the words, “I’m just trying to help,” do not help.
Badmouthing Dad to the Kids
A wife terribly disrespects her husband when she belittles him in front of their children. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a wife disagreeing with her husband, but there is a right and a wrong way for wives to handle such feelings. Disagreements between a husband and wife should be carried out in private. When a wife corrects her husband in front of their children, she destroys his credibility with them. Instead, a wife should strive to build up her children’s good opinion of their father.
As a wife looks for her husband’s best qualities, focuses on her husband’s strengths, speaks well of him to others, and praises him to their children, she will find her respect for her husband growing. Conversely, if she speaks badly about her husband to others—whether they be friends, neighbors, or the children—she will find her respect for her husband diminishing.
Learning Your Husband’s Respect Gauge
After listening to hundreds of hours of my teaching, Katie often knows how I will answer questions and can even finish sentences for me. Because of this familiarity she can help me know when not to say certain things. She will swipe her hand across the front of her neck, signaling, “Not a good idea.” Perhaps the most common criticism I have received of my preaching is that I talk too quickly. Katie will make a hand motion that lets me know to slow down.
I find these actions helpful, but Katie has had other women tell her: “I can’t imagine doing that to my husband when he is talking.” I have had men ask me: “You don’t mind when your wife does that?”
At the same time, there are things other men might find helpful that Katie knows I find disrespectful. This is why it is so important for wives to learn their husbands. We will talk more about submission in Part V, but for now it is important to note that the biblical instruction for wives to submit to their husbands also includes the concept of adapting. This is captured in the Amplified Bible:
- Ephesians 5:22—Wives, be subject [be submissive and adapt yourselves] to your own husbands as [a service] to the Lord.
- Colossians 3:18—Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is right and fitting and your proper duty in the Lord.
- Titus 2:5a—[Wives should] be self-controlled, chaste, homemakers, good-natured [kindhearted], adapting and subordinating themselves to their husbands.
- 1 Peter 3:1a—In like manner, you married women, be submissive to your own husbands [subordinate yourselves as being secondary to and dependent on them, and adapt yourselves to them].
Learning, Then Embracing
How does a wife adapt to her husband? By learning what is important to him and making it important to her.
- Is your husband punctual? Work hard to be on time.
- Does he have to be up early and thus wants to be in bed by a certain time? Strive to be in bed by that time.
- Does it bother him when certain things are messy or left out? Try to make sure these areas are tidy.
As my wife once shared at a woman’s event: “Ladies, work hard to make your husband’s priorities your own and to put your priorities second. And when you adapt to him, do not make him feel stupid for the way he wants things done.”
Since husbands are called to be spiritual leaders, one of the best ways a wife can respect her husband is by embracing his vision for the family and doing what she can to see it fulfilled. She passes along his ideas and desires to the children. A wife who does this will have a husband who feels very respected.
Understanding Respect in Marriage from the…Military?
An interesting parallel to this in the military is the relationship between a platoon leader and platoon sergeant. Typically, a platoon leader is a brand-new junior officer. In contrast, the platoon sergeant may be a career soldier far more knowledgeable in many areas. Regardless, the platoon leader is the commanding officer responsible for developing the orders and vision for the platoon. The sergeant’s responsibility is to embrace the platoon leader’s plans and see that they are carried out. The relationship between leader and sergeant is not based on who is wiser or more experienced but on the chain of command. Still, a smart platoon leader will recognize his platoon sergeant’s experience and wisdom and seek his thoughts and counsel.
Similarly, a wife may have more experience and wisdom in some areas than her husband, but God has still appointed the husband to be the head and He expects the wife to embrace his leadership. A husband should recognize his wife’s wisdom and experience and seek her thoughts in making decisions and establishing the vision for the family.
Husbands, Make Respecting You Easier!
Even though a wife is commanded to respect her husband, a husband can make respecting him easier. Some wives reading this have been saying, “I want to look up to my husband . . .” but they find it difficult because their husband:
- Does not work hard to take care of his family
- Mistreats their children
- Looks at things he should rip his eyes away from
Part of being a loving husband is also being a husband who seeks to earn his wife’s respect. Husbands, make it easier for your wife to obey Ephesians 5:33!
Discussion Questions for Husbands and Wives
- What are three ways your wife makes you feel respected? What about disrespected?
- Are there ways your wife doesn’t show you respect, but you wish she did?
- What are three ways your wife adapts to you?
- Are there ways your wife is not adapting to you that you wish she would?
- Do you have a godly vision for your family? If yes, describe that vision. If no, describe how you will develop this vision. For example: seek a mentor, pray and study God’s Word, or find a sermon on the subject.
- What are three areas where you recognize your wife’s wisdom and ask for her counsel?
- If your wife feels like you do not seek her counsel, what changes can you make to help her feel differently?
- What are three ways you make your husband feel respected? What about disrespected?
- What changes could you make so your husband feels more respected?
- How will you focus on appreciating your husband’s strengths to change your attitudes and actions?
- What are three ways you adapt to your husband?
- Do you make your husband’s priorities your priorities?
- Do you feel like your husband has a godly vision for your family?
- What are three areas where your husband recognizes your wisdom and asks for your counsel?