This is part three of a series of articles centered on yielding to one another. We’ve discussed yielding our bodies to our spouses. Then we tackled what respect means. Now we’re going to combine these two ideas to look at what respect in marriage should look like.
Respect is given, not taken
One problem I’ve seen in many relationships, not just marriage, is that one or both people demands respect. This is all backwards. You can earn it, build it, and strive to be respectable. You should never demand it in marriage.
We have no control over other people, really. You can make wise choices, do great things, and be a person of integrity. But in the end, you can’t make someone honor you.
You can’t make anyone feel a certain way about you.
It is up to each spouse to choose to honor the other. I said in my article about who owns our bodies that we have to yield to each other. In a similar way, we have to give respect. The responsibility is on me to honor my wife, it’s not on her to make sure I give her the respect she deserves.
Giving respect when they haven’t earned it
“Well, when my husband does something worthy of respect, I’ll start showing him some!” “If my wife had any self-respect, maybe I’d honor her too!”
Having and showing regard for your spouse is easy when they are doing those things which earn it. If we are to strive towards healthier marriages, we must learn to honor our spouse at all times. This means that when they’ve made a bad choice, we choose to honor their choice. When they act like a fool, we show compassion. When they lash out and belittle us, we respond with grace instead of retaliation.
We do what we do cuz that’s what we do.
This is not easy to do, but when we remember that we have chosen to honor our spouse, we will respond accordingly. We won’t tear them down, or lash out at them, or humiliate them. We show them the honor that they’ve earned, or else the respect we’ve chosen to show them in grace.
How far does respect go?
I can hear your objections already. “Are you saying I have to let him walk all over me?” “What if she’s abusing me?” “How can I honor someone who is destroying my life?!”
These are common fears I come across when words like “respect” and *gasp* “submission” pop up. Someone always assumes that I mean that a wife has to stay with an abusive husband until he beats her to death, or that a husband has to stay with a wife who is a life-ruining influence on their children. This is not what I’m saying at all.
Respect does not mean blind obedience and dedication no matter what the circumstances. I would actually argue that there are times when physical separation can be a very healthy thing for a marriage.
You can respect your spouse from a distance.
Oddly, separation can actually be a form of respect. It seems counterintuitive perhaps, but it can actually show great regard for your spouse’s decisions. It says “I respect your ability to make your own decisions, but I can’t live with them.” In extreme cases, this may be both the most respectful, and healthiest option.
When it comes to our marriages, what other boundaries should we expect on respect? Have you ever had to choose to respect your spouse when you didn’t feel like it? Sound off in the comments below!
Be sure to read the other article I wrote on this subject: