Can a wife love her husband without respecting him?

“Can a wife love her husband without respecting him?”

This is a good question to understand, because many people don’t think there’s a difference between a wife loving her husband and respecting him. This leaves many women thinking they respect their husbands, while the husbands are not feeling respected. Watch the short video of Katie and I discussing the answer and/or read the transcript below…

Can a wife love her husband without respecting him? Not only would I say it’s possible, I would say it’s common! Most women will say they love their husbands, and I believe they do. But many of these same wives might not respect their husbands. I’ve met men who have told me they feel loved by their wives but not respected.

In marriage counseling, when I hear wives expressing their frustrations about their husbands, it typically sounds like this: “I don’t feel that my husband loves me. I wish my husband loved me more. He never tells me he loves me.” But when husbands express frustration, it more often sounds like this: “I wish my wife respected me more. I wish my wife followed my lead. I wish my wife supported my decisions.”

In truth, it is much easier for a wife to say she loves her husband than to show it through respect. But it is through respect that a wife expresses her love for her husband. If a wife does not show respect, her husband will not feel loved. A good perspective for couples to keep in mind is that feeling unloved is as painful to a wife as feeling disrespected is to a husband.

An example from scripture of a wife loving her husband without respecting him

In answer to the question, Scripture gives us a perfect example of a wife who loved her husband without respecting him. There’s actually only one woman in all of Scripture SAID to love her husband:

1 Samuel 18:20 Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David.

This is not to say other women in Scripture did not love their husbands. I am sure many of them did—but it is not emphasized. Why is that?

I admit I am being a little speculative here. Perhaps it is because—as we have already discussed—the priority is for women to respect their husbands rather than to love them. As a result, Scripture emphasizes a wife’s respect more than her love.

When David brought the ark into Jerusalem, he danced and twirled as he led the procession. Michal thought David’s behavior was terribly unbecoming. Her father, Saul, was all about appearances, and he would never act this way. Perhaps this had rubbed off on Michal, so she found David’s behavior far below the dignity of a king:

2 Samuel 6:20 Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

You can hear the ridicule in her voice. No matter how much she loved David, we can be sure he didn’t feel respected at this moment. So to answer the question, yes, a wife can definitely love her husband without respecting him!

Discuss: Do you think a wife can love her husband without respecting him? Can you think of any other examples fro Scripture that apply to the question?

A few other things:

28 thoughts on “Can a wife love her husband without respecting him?

  1. If a woman loves and respect her husband and made a mistake once in not respecting him. Is it right for the husband to embarrass his wife in front of a visitor. Shouting to her and walking out of the house staying two nights presumably at a hotel. Can you please advise on this. Thank you.

    1. Hi Pamella,
      God’s commands for husbands and wives are not conditional. In other words, they do not contain the word “if.” God simply commands husbands to love their wives, and wives are commanded to respect and submit to their husbands.

      Since the commands are unconditional, we’re expected to obey them regardless of how our spouse acts. So to answer your question simply, I would say no, it is not right for him to act that way. It wouldn’t be right for your husband to do that regardless of how well you have or haven’t obeyed God. Similarly, God commands you to obey Him regardless of how your husband has acted. So just because your husband did what you said, it wouldn’t be right for you to mistreat him in return.

  2. Interesting thoughts. I believe you are right. I’ve often said I don’t believe I could love a man I didn’t respect but reading this, I think I’m wrong. But, respect is beautiful and I’m thankful I don’t have to experience it personally. Do you think it’s possible to grow respect in some areas — find and dwell on the good? Thinking about this post during my day.

    1. Hi Pam,
      Seems like perhaps you felt otherwise before reading. Thanks for withholding judgment and reading with an open mind.

      Just to let you know, in a subtle way, I do believe 1 Peter 3:7 commands husbands to respect their wives when it says to honor them. It’s not as clear as the commands for husbands to love their wives, but I believe it’s there! Just like it’s also there – in Titus 2 – for wives to love their husbands.

      Yes, a wife’s respect for her husband can grow, just like you said. I actually write that almost exactly in my book. Here’s part of it…

      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.

  3. I think when we look at the 1 Corinthians 13 definition of love, the simple answer to this question would be “no”. I think you can disrespect certain things about your husband and still love him, but that true agape love will always manifest itself as respectful. Hermeneutically, it is more important for wives to respect than to love, but that starts with agape for Christ, IMO.

    1. Hi Isa,
      Even if you disagree, I still appreciate hearing your thoughts. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      If you don’t mind me asking, what would you say to a husband who says, “I know my wife loves me, but I don’t feel respected by her” or a wife who says, “I love my husband, but I don’t respect him”?

  4. Respect and feeling cherished. With the busyness of everyday life, children, school, home, it’s easy to slowly slide into unrespectful unappreciated rolls. This doesn’t only exists in young marrieds, but also throughout a marriage, despite all of the scriptures of instruction for wives and husbands. It’s a catch 22. If the husband doesn’t feel respected, he doesn’t behave towards his wife where she feels cherished.
    Eph 5:33″And 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.” This verse in its order shows the importance of an unselfish woman’s behavior towards her husband.

    Husbands are also commanded. Eph 5:25 Ampl. “Husband’s love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”(Love includes leading and providing) Eph 5:33 Ampl”However let each man of you (without exception love his wife as (being in a sense) his very own self.” This counteracts and challenges selfishness and weakness in him. With an attitude of Christ to the church. It is the means of winning from the wife her respect and submission. These verses I’ve had taped to our bathroom mirror off and on through the years. It reminds me and my husband, how God wants us to behave and treat each other by keeping our focus on His basic life principle for marriage. Also for myself Gen 3:16 “Thy desire shall be to thy husband,, and he shall rule over thee.” This helps to keep my rebellion in check.

    1. Mary,
      Great thoughts, thank you. I hope people who read the post also make it down here to read your comments.

      I actually figured that probably existed even more in marriage veterans (than young marrieds), since they’ve had time to get in a rut, take each other for granted, forget the good things the other does b/c they’re so accustomed, etc.

      Funny to see you quote the Amplified; I’ve used the exact verse on respect before in a sermon on wives respecting their husbands.

    2. Thank you Scott. Sometimes we think in “big” as showing respect or cherish when it’s actually the daily “little” thing’s. My husband hates an empty sugar bowl when he has his breakfast, so, not using it myself this used to happen. Now I always make sure it’s filled. Also to always welcome him home at the door with a hug and kiss, and send him off with both and “I love you.” For me, I hate pulling back the bed at night, so he makes sure he does this for me. Also, since I do all of the cooking, he does the dishes, another icky job for me. Holding hands while walking together, I feel he, `covers` me with strength and protection. It’s the daily little actions that makes him feel respected, and me cherished.

    3. Once again, great thoughts Mary!

      I have a section like you mentioned in my book. Here’s the portion for wives:

      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.”

      There’s also a section for husbands based on 1 Peter 3:7 and husbands “dwelling with their wives with knowledge” (or in an understanding way). But it’s too long to copy here :).

    4. I’m currently just beginning Chapter 7. We both know by our previous conversation I jumped ahead to Chapter 14 .. addressing another issue. Now, Scott, ha…. where do I skip to for your ref?

    5. Mary,
      You go to Chapter Eleven and the section “Learning, Then Embracing” for the section I quoted above.

      You go to Chapter Eighteen and the section “Living with Her According to Knowledge” for the corresponding portion for husbands.

  5. Of course a wife can love her husband without respecting him. And a husband can respect his wife without loving her as well. It always amazes me how we can get our “love languages” crossed and jumbled up when we don’t take the time to understand one another.

    Both my wife and I have been working harder on loving and respecting one another better. This has led to some conversation that is hopefully open and honest to how we can serve and help one another better and I think our marriage is better off because of it. We have found that when we don’t invest into our marriage, we start falling by the wayside and our marriage shows the lack. This is actually one of my goals this year is to set aside more time to “date” my wife and learn more about her.

    1. Hi Steven,
      Good point! The opposite is also true.

      I’m glad to hear about the open communication taking place between your and your wife. If my book has any small part in that, I feel blessed. I received your message(s) about this discussion and it encouraged me.

      I’ve appreciated not just your goal-setting mentality, but the way you make it so quantifiable.

  6. When I read the title, I thought well YES she can. Love is a decision and sometimes it is easier to love a person without having full respect for them.

    I love how you pulled an example from Scripture of just this!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Yes, I definitely agree that it can be easier to love than respect. In one part of my book I discuss how husbands can make it easier for their wives to respect them.

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