Julie and I recently went through a weekly meeting on marriage called, “Love and Respect” which is the best marriage seminar I’ve seen. Typically, I struggle with many of the seminars or teachings as they tend to boil down to behavioral sacrifice as the take away. That is, if she wants a glass of water, get out of bed and get it. There is nothing wrong with that, but is that type of service really what marriage is about . . . getting along by bribing the other with gifts of service? Maybe to some small degree, but the depth of what is possible gets sacrificed at the altar of the shallow.
This particular seminar/series focuses on the differences between men and women and calls out what is eternally True in each. There is no need to emasculate the man into a submissive, defeated servant just as there is no need to dominate the woman so that she will submit to the authority of man. There are differences in each and the compliment of one with the other is the picture of completion that was intended by the institution of marriage in the first place. The differences invite conflict which was part of the original design; to grow into maturity through the give and take of relationship which requires sacrifice and compromise. Someone once told me that the best way to work on your marriage is to work on yourself so to be in a healthy marriage, there will necessarily be self-development for each spouse.
The “crazy cycle” which many couples find themselves on is the man’s crying out for respect but feeling disrespected, the woman yearning for the passion and security of love but feeling unloved and each refusing to offer either to the other because they want what they want first. The men give in to the Homer Simpson influenced ideas of what value a father and husband bring to the home while the women are fooled by the lies of the current culture while wanting the benefits of a rescuing knight.
I don’t claim for a second to have it figured out but I do know that when I give up my cry to be respected, I gain respect. I also know that we I offer love without selfish ambition for what it might bring me, I am loved and respected. It’s when I feel the need to scream from the rooftops that I am a conquering warrior created to be feared and obeyed that I have some problems. That’s not leadership and it’s not marriage. But when I simply make a way for my wife to walk without fear or challenge and to hold her up for the world to see and love her to the best of my ability without consideration of what I might or might not get in return, then I am revered. Not by a defeated woman defeated by strength, but by an empowered partner released into her destiny and secure in her identity.