When Matt and I first got engaged, I started asking questions to married couples that I knew in an attempt to understand the deep, dark secrets of marriage. People told me all kinds of things, and I tucked the advice away but didn’t think I’d ever really need some of it. I mean, Matt and I were madly in love and wouldn’t need to worry about speaking kindly or serving one another or putting the other’s needs before our own — it would all just come naturally, right?
I’ll pause for a minute to give you a chance to laugh. All done? Alright let’s move on.
Needless to say, all my preconceived ideas of marriage were pretty off-base. It didn’t take long for us to start learning — the hard way, I might add — about what marriage is not. But God is gracious and he has put people in our lives who have “been there, done that” and have spoken truth to us. As a wife, one of the buzzwords that has been pounded into my head is RESPECT. Here are a few key ways I’ve learned (from others and through experience) to effectively show respect to my husband:
- Stop the Multitasking — Ladies, this is a hard one for me. It makes me cringe when I think of all the times that Matt has been trying to tell me about his day while I wash dishes/make dinner/browse the internet/fold clothes/work on a craft/search for a snack/mentally make a grocery list and “listen” at the same time. So often I am far more concerned with doing, doing, doing than I am with engaging my husband. Set aside the laundry, leave the dishes, close the laptop. Plop on the couch next to your husband, grab his hand, make eye contact, give your undivided attention, and listen.
- Greet Him at the Door — Your husband has probably been dealing with demands, deadlines, and quite possibly nothing but deadpan expressions all day. Aside from daily demands of the job, your husband is undoubtedly also bearing the weight of many other concerns: leading a family is no joke. B and I try to make a point to be waiting at the door or on the porch when Matt gets home. It’s a sweet moment of the day — there have been several times where I’ve seen the stress etched into Matt’s face as he climbs out of the car, and then as soon as he looks up at us his entire posture seems to change and a smile spreads across his face. Meeting your hubs with a welcoming smile and warm hugs communicates that, no matter what happened that day, you’re together now and you’re so glad to see him. (If it works out where you get home after your hubby, make a point to greet him before doing anything else!)
- Talk About Him Behind His Back — No, I’m not talking about telling your friends how he grinds his teeth at night, leaves his clothes everywhere, or constantly misplaces his wallet. Tell others in your peer group about the things that make your husband awesome. Share about how he is a wonderful provider, is so handy around the house, is great with the kiddos, or is incredibly witty and quick-thinking. Think about the things your man does well, no matter how big or small, and brag on him. Speaking highly of your husband shows others that you respect him, and if you’re lucky, the positive things you said will make their way back to your hubs. Another option is to brag on your guy with him present. It’s far too common for spouses to rag on one another (try watching ANY sitcom with married couples and you’ll see what I mean). This is a way to build up and encourage your man, and also to set an example to others of what a healthy marriage can look like.
- Hear Him Out — The quickest way to make your husband feel as if his ideas and suggestions don’t matter is to dismiss his input. I may think — heck, I may KNOW — that my idea or opinion is better, but that doesn’t give me the right to roll my eyes, make a face, throw out, or talk over my husband’s thoughts. We are a team, but my husband is the leader, and nothing undermines that leadership more than belittling or scoffing at his viewpoints. Validate his perspective, knowing that he is bringing things to the table that you never could.
Will these things magically give you smooth sailing through the oftentimes choppy waters of marriage? Probably not. But it’s a good place to start.
Love and respect within marriage are not things achieved in a pre-marriage class, in a few counseling sessions, or in random attempts to earn brownie points with your spouse. Rather, strong marriages with deep, well-anchored roots are formed in the everyday mundane. In selfless acts. In loving gestures. In showing respect even when you feel like it may not be deserved.
Here’s to doing whatever it takes to strengthen our marriages — one selfless, grace-filled act at a time.