I thought I'd share a few thoughts and learnings here with you. So grab a cup of coffee or tea and cozy up. I have to give you a quick run down of the key principles before I delve into the concepts that I was blown away by.
In marriage, we WILL have trouble. God designed us male and female, and if were having trouble in our marriage, it's to be expected. A man's deepest need is to be respected, and a woman's deepest need is to be loved. Ephesians 5:33 says "However, each of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." This is the primary verse that the book and conference is based on.
What is interesting is that men are commanded to love (agape - unconditionally) and that women are commanded to respect. Loving comes naturally to women - but what men (our husbands) need most is our respect. And we need our husbands to show us love. Showing love doesn't come naturally to most men, and demonstrating respect doesn't come naturally to most women, which is why the command shows up in Ephesians the way it does. Respect is the primary need of every man, and love is the primary need of every woman; it's the way God designed us. (Scripture and science prove this concept.)
Without knowing this and acting intentionally on it, we go about caring for our spouses the way we want to be cared for. Wives love their husbands, but show them disrespect any number of ways almost daily. And men may respect their wives, but don't think about showing them love in ways that mean something to the woman. The place that we all get stuck is here, what's called "The Crazy Cycle". Without love, a wife will react without respect; and without respect, the husband will react without love. Doesn't matter who started it all, once you're in the cycle you spin fast and often don't know how you got there, much less how to get off! (Ever get into an argument with your spouse, maybe over something little, and days later you're still fighting but you forget what the initial disagreement was over?)
If we choose to take the first step and act on this principle, as women we are called to unconditionally respect our husbands - even if they haven't 'earned' it. And men are called to unconditionally love their wives. The amazing thing is that when we are shown love as women, we will respond with respect for our husbands. And when our husbands are shown respect, they will respond with love for us. This is "The Energizing Cycle", when we are meeting each other's deepest need - his love motivates her respect, and her respect motivates his love.
A great point Dr. Eggerichs made is that showing love may not (ever) feel natural for husbands; and showing respect may not (ever) feel natural for wives. But we are called to push through the discomfort, and challenged to do the loving/respectful thing. It will always be hard, and that's ok. God gives us commands and asks us to trust and obey him so that we do not hurt ourselves and others, and also so that we can receive his blessings. The Lord wants us to have peace. Also, Matthew 25:40 is a reminder from God that '...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' This includes our spouses.
Here are the specific concepts that blew me away.
If you honor a man, he will serve and he will die for you.
Men feel a responsibility (not the right) to chair the marriage relationship.
Women often have a story to tell, and they tell it (to their girlfriends, etc.) to get empathy. Our hearts are in the right place but our methods are devastating - we are crushing our husbands.
Your husband has vulnerabilities that you (the wife) don't have, and deep needs only you can meet. Things are not fair and equal - he feels responsible to be an umbrella of protection over you.
Men respond to strong male authority. Don't undermine that in your own family with your sons / husband.
Men will open up if you give them time, shoulder to shoulder, in quietness. Don't demand to talk face to face. He is energized by your presence, and you don't have to say a word.
Men are visually oriented. When you deprive your husband of a need only you can meet, you dishonor him. He also becomes more vulnerable to temptation from Satan. You can't deprive a man (your husband) of his deepest needs and expect him to survive.
At the end of our lives, God will not ask us if we succeeded in trying to change others to be more like ourselves; he will ask us how we tried to change ourselves to be more like him.
We should be allies with our spouses, not just roommates.
The mature person will ask their spouse, when it appears that they have deflated in a disagreement, 'did I come across as unloving / disrespectful?'
Is there any evidence in your marriage that you are a Christ follower? People think they are IN Christ but there's no evidence - maybe they KNOW about him but they are not living IN him. Jesus intends that we examine ourselves and check for relativism. Are we obedient to him? Some of us have become ashamed of Christ and we don't identify with him publicly. Titus 1:16 - "They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good."
Someday (when we reach heaven), something is coming our way that we aren't even aware of. There is nothing that you do that is wasted (efforts within marriage). The Lord is watching and intends to reward you. The angelic host is watching you - you matter that much. When we first enter heaven, we will be shocked at the glory that Paul saw but was not permitted by God to speak of (2 Cor. 12:7 - the reason for the thorn in his flesh). It will take our breath away and is beyond what we can imagine. Heaven itself will be an unending 'first moment' for eternity. This is the reward we strive towards in our marriages. We don't lack the ability to love and respect our spouse, we lack the willingness. To love unconditionally and to respect unconditionally may seem foolish, but what the world considers foolish is the wisdom of God. The kingdom of God is upside-down. If we abide by the love and respect principles, we'll be amazed at what happens.
Picture Jesus standing just over your spouse's shoulder, saying 'Unto me! Respect your husband as unto me! I know he's not being loving... but look at me.' He is cheering us on, wanting to reward us for demonstrating our love to Him through the way we treat our spouse. Marriage is a tool and a test to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we're not loving / respecting our spouse, we're not loving / reverencing Jesus.
The Lord is not impressed with us - with our public displays, performances, etc. He is watching to see how we relate to our spouse.
I have come to a point where I am saying "I want favor with God", and I choose to submit.
Sorry if those seem random - they are the things I wrote down during the conference that hit home with me. That is why many of them speak more to women or a wife's perspective, but I assure you the focus of the conference was split directly down the middle - husbands were challenged as much as wives.
Overall I would say that I am so humbled by all that I have learned. There's no way to adequately represent that on here. My posture towards Christ is more serious, and my approach to Rob and our marriage is now gentler and more thoughtful. With greater understanding comes greater compassion and a desire to offer quick forgiveness. I am thankful to have such a thorough explanation of what it might be like to be a man and a husband in a marriage, and for the needs of a husband to be clearly spelled out. It's not a mystery anymore!
The last thing that I wanted to mention is that throughout the conference, Dr. Eggerichs connected with us by asking us if this (a particular principle or teaching) is how we would like our sons to be treated one day by their wives. Woah. The first time he said that, he was explaining that husbands deeply desire to be respected by their wives, but he was listing what we do as wives that are actually disrespectful and very hurtful to our husbands. To imagine Robbie's future wife treating him disrespectfully and not meeting his deepest need made me well up with tears. It helped me look differently at the way I often treat Rob - sometimes we justify the way we speak or the things we do by what our spouse has first done to us, or how they don't 'deserve' our love or respect.
But just like my heart breaks for sweet little Robbie at the thought of his wife misunderstanding, mistreating, disrespecting, and therefore not loving him and meeting his deepest need, SO does Rob's mom's heart feel the same way! The lesson is this - the way we feel about our own children, someone else feels about us. We are all someone's child. And most importantly, we are all God's creation, deeply loved by him. None of us 'deserve' anything, but Christ died while we were still sinners, and demonstrated unconditional love. That is enough for me to love and respect my husband even on his worst days (which are honestly so few and far between), regardless of what he's already done for me or what he might do in response. It is the way I will demonstrate to Jesus that I love him, and that I truly do want to live for him in obedience.
Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does... - Ephesians 6:7-8
**If anyone is interested in watching DVDs of Dr. Eggerichs' Love & Respect conference, we purchased the DVDs so that we could loan them out to you! Just ask me by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.