As I was growing up it was not unusual for me to watch the comedy variety shows appearing on television. A comedian I remember vividly was Rodney Dangerfield. He still pops up now and then. Dangerfield’s act consisted of telling about events in his life surrounding his relationships with people. There was one line he used which became his trademark: “I don’t get no respect!”

Some of you may have shouted “Amen!” as a declaration of what is happening in your marriage. A wife wrote of how her husband shows her no respect: “He comes home from work, eats, and goes straight to bed; gets up for work and doesn’t even say bye. I’m getting worried that he is falling out of love with me.”

A major ingredient in building a lasting marriage is respect. The Bible is clear that husbands and wives are to express their love for each other by being respectful and considerate (ref. Ephesians 5:33 and 1 Peter 3:7). Let me mention just three ways you can build mutual respect in your marriage:

Respect each other’s feelings

A healthy marriage exists where the two mates work toward being open, vulnerable, and honest with each other about their feelings. In doing so you are revealing an intimate part of your life which will draw you closer to each other. Steve and Jill struggled to build an intimate relationship. Steve had been involved in a men’s group where husbands were encouraged to be open with their wives about their feelings. However, every time he tried, Jill would shut him down with, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” He figured there was something wrong with him and retreated to his cave. In turn Jill was frustrated when Steve would not let her into his world.

All feelings are legitimate. You don’t have to understand or agree with your mate’s feelings, but you do need to honor those feelings. Affirm the feelings and then look at how you both can move toward each other in love.

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Respect your mate’s thoughts

Honoring your mate’s ability to think and reason is a powerful tool for blessing. This does not mean that you have to agree with every thought. God gave you each other to complement and strengthen each other. Viewing your mate’s different point of view as threatening and dis-respectful impedes God’s plan for your marriage. Think about this: One of you would be unnecessary if you both thought the same way and did things the same way all of the time.

Respect each other’s actions

Bob had unfair expectations of Ellie. When he came home from work he complained and criticized her for how she treated their young children. He thought she was too abrupt and insensitive. Bob failed to consider what had been going on before he arrived home — the constant activity of toddlers, the flurry of phone calls from bill collectors and telemarketers. He eventually learned not to be too quick to criticize, judge, or condemn Ellie for her actions. Instead, he would give her a hug and ask how he could help relieve some of her stress. Actions speak louder than words.

Honoring your mate’s feelings, thoughts, and actions helps protect you from the destructive power struggles that divide many marriages. It intimately communicates the value you place on the person and your marriage.

William Batson is Director of Vision New England’s Family Builders Ministries.
Copyright © 1998 William Batson. Used with Permission.