Love and Marriage

“In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.”  Ephesians 5:33

“Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21

Although we spend much of our time on this blog talking about our children and the beautiful vocation of motherhood, all of us know that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of a healthy marriage relationship. If mom and dad are thriving in their love for one another, the children will feel safe and secure, part of a vibrant family. This all sounds simple, but can be very difficult to implement in reality, especially during times of personal or financial stress. Arguments can flare up seemingly out of nowhere, and suddenly a great day can turn into a day filled with sour moods and abrupt conversation.

The folks over at Love and Respect Ministries conducted a telling survey of over 7,000 individuals, in which they asked both men and women a simple question: “When you’re in a conflict with your spouse, do you feel unloved at that moment or disrespected?” 83% of men said that they felt disrespected by their wives, while 72% of women responded that they felt unloved by their husbands during the conflict (Love and Respect Ministries, Inc. 2010). Many of us have heard the theory that , while both men and women desire to be both loved and respected, women have a deep need for love and men have a deep need for respect. This survey certainly seems to give some credence to that theory! Furthermore, St. Paul already spoke these words in his letter to the Ephesians more than 2,000 years ago, in which he said that “each one of you [men] should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). This verse comes at the end of the often controversial “wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord” passage, and therefore is often overshadowed by the uneasiness that this passage stirs up in those who misunderstand it. I was so thankful when a friend pointed it out to me the other day – I’m ashamed to say that even though I have read or heard this passage a thousand times, I too have overlooked it!

So, what are some practical ways that we can practice love and respect in our marriages? After all, if we cannot practically apply an idea then it is not of much use to us. It would be great to hear from both men and women here, so that we can get a well-rounded view of how we can best communicate our love and respect to our spouses! Here are a few ideas of my own:

We can show love by:

-Overlooking small faults that are simply annoying, and not harmful in any way

-Giving our spouse the benefit of the doubt

-Listening actively, making sure to maintain eye contact and engage in the conversation

-Saying “I’m sorry” when we have done something wrong

-Giving a pat on the shoulder, a stolen wink or smile, a kiss on the way out the door

-Making sure to speak highly of my spouse in front of the children

-When something tough has happened, listening to my spouse and gently offering to help

-Lightening the mood with humor

-Showing love to our spouse even when they are not particularly lovable

We can show respect by:

-Thinking twice before we speak to our spouse: “Is what I am about to say respectful? How will it be perceived?”

-Being willing to have a tough conversation without hurling insults or rolling our eyes

-Backing our spouse in front of the children

-Asking our spouse’s opinion on how to handle family matters, and letting them know that we will honor their input

-Acknowledging all of the sacrifices that our spouse makes for our family every day

-Showing respect for our spouse even when their actions do not really merit respect

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  • Mary Alice

    Kat, this is a beautiful and practical reflection, thank you. I have really been taken by the question “what have you done for your marriage today?” which runs on an ad on EWTN. n

  • Gabie

    Your post inspired me to send my husband an E-card at work, saying thank you for getting our son ready for preschool this morning. I am so much quicker to notice faults than to thank him for all the little things he does. Thank you for the reminder!

  • A struggling Mama

    I heard that the best way to promote the dignity of marriage in our culture is to have a a good strong marriage yourself. How true! nnThis is not related, but I felt called to share these quotes I read in a book entitled, “Dressing with Dignity” with the readers of this blog who are all striving for holiness in the world. I am still digesting and praying about the points of this book, but especially after watching the super bowl with my family last night and having to deal with protecting my kids (and my husband and I) from a few of the commercials, notably a full picture of a shapely woman in a bikini as she came out of the water and another one with a man and a woman half clothed in a amorous position. Anyway, here are the quotes to gnaw on. nFirst, From the International Review on Freemasonry, 1928:n”Religion does not fear the dagger’s point; but it can vanish under corruption. Let us not grow tired of corruption: we may use a pretext, such as sport hygiene, heath resorts. It is necessary to corrupt, that our boys and girls practice nudism in dress. To avoid too much reaction, one would have to progress in a methodical manner: first undress up to the elbow; then up to the knees; then arms and legs completely uncovered; later the upper part of the chest, the shoulders, etc etc,”nn(Wow! When you think of how much what is considered acceptable in the last 100 years I was struck by how effective that slow gradual increase in modesty is so true!)nnPope Pius XII wrote in 1941:n”Numbers of believing and pious women .. in accepting to follow certain bold fashions, break down, by their examples, the resistance of many other women to such fashions, which may become for them the cause of spiritual ruin. As long as these provocative styles remain identified with women of doubtful virtue, good women do not dare to follow them; but once these styles have been accepted by women of good reputation, decent women soon follow their example, and are carried along by the tide into possible disaster.” nnPope Pius XII also wrote:n”The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts… If a certain kind of dress constitutes a greave and proximate occasion of sin, and endagers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up.” nnApparently Our Lady of Fatima told the children seers that “Certain fashions will be introlduced which will offend Our Lord very much. Persons who serve God must not follow the fashions. The Church does not have fashions; Our Lord is always the same. The sins of the world are very great.” nnThese words and many others in this book made me think and pray over my own wardrobe. I pray for all of you too who are women of faith. May we not neglect this area of struggle. Our Mother Mary, Pray for Us! n

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this Kat!

  • I think another important way to show respect for your spouse is to talk about them in loving, respectful ways in conversations with other adults, not just your own children. I am continually amazed (really, appalled) at the way some women speak about their husbands with disrespect, derision or even anger. It’s one thing to vent to your girlfriends; it’s another thing entirely to put down your spouse behind their back. While I’ve shared with my husband that I’ve witnessed this so many times in moms’ groups when women complain about their husbands, he has similar experiences at the office where people joke about “the old ball and chain” or give younger employees a hard time about deciding to get engaged. The words we use – even the jokes we tell – can perpetuate a lot of stereotypes or cynicism about marriage. Besides, if you’re so frustrated in your marriage that you’re constantly venting to other women about it, you probably need to talk to your spouse about your feelings and concerns instead – otherwise, nothing will change!

  • Juris Mater

    Kat, what a GREAT post. I haven’t ever considered the importance of respect as a DIFFERENT need for males. Thank you! I know how totally essential it is to let our husbands know over and over that we (and the kids) believe in them, which is one manifestation of respect, but I’m going to resolve to focus on respect in other areas, like in decision-making and discussions and other little ways.

  • Juris Mater

    Laura, so true, your whole comment here is so full of wisdom. It is AWFUL to have to listen to women slandering their husbands. In addition to refusing to participate in it ourselves, I think it’s worth considering whether we should even listen to it. I’ve tried at times to be a good listener or an amateur marriage counselor for friends who are slandering their husbands, but I realize that I’m almost always doing more harm in putting up with it than the good I’m doing in “talking them through it”. There’s a big difference in discussing with dearest friends how to resolve marital issues VERSUS listening to hateful, thoughtless banter.

  • Texas Mommy

    Thanks, Kat. I definitely struggle with the tendency to focus on my children to the point of having not much left over for my husband. This gives lots of food for thought.

  • Mary Alice

    I have noticed that the more I complain about something the more unhappy I am and the more fault I notice, so demeaning our husbands in our chit chat can really harm our relationships in the long term. I can be hard to turn the topic of conversation from gossip in general but I have been trying, in large part because for me the temptation to join in is so strong!.