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Can a Wife Love Her Husband Without Respecting Him-author-scott-lapierre

Can a Wife Love Her Husband Without Respecting Him?

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“Can a wife love her husband without respecting him?”

This is a good question to understand, because many people don’t think there’s a difference between a wife loving her husband and respecting him. This leaves many women thinking they respect their husbands, while the husbands are feeling disrespected.


To learn how wives can love their husbands without respecting them, watch the message I delivered at a Marriage God’s Way Conference, and/or read the blog post below…

Husbands are commanded to love their wives, but wives are commanded to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Learn why there are two different commands, and what this difference means for men and women.

Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:33

In Ephesians 5:25–32, the apostle Paul described in detail what it means for a husband to love his wife as himself. One might then expect the passage to end with similar instructions to the wife: “Let each one of you in particular love his own wife as himself, and let the wife love her own husband as herself.” Instead, Paul commanded wives to respect their husbands.

Husbands Still Want to Be Loved

This is not to say that men do not want to be loved:

Older women…admonish the young women to love their husbands.

Titus 2:3-4

Wives Still Want to Be Respected

I am also not saying that wives do not want to be respected:

Husbands, likewise, dwell with [your wives] with understanding, giving honor to [them].

1 Peter 3:7

Honor is synonymous with respect. In fact, the NIV translates 1 Peter 3:7 as “treat them with respect.” Thus, it is important for wives to be respected, and it is important for husbands to be loved. But of the two—love and respect—respect is more important to husbands, and love is more important to wives: 

  • Husbands want to be loved, but they want to be respected even more.
  • Wives want to be respected, but they want to be loved even more.

Consider how most wives covet their husbands’ expressions of love, such as cards, phone calls, e-mails, or flowers. Though husbands might appreciate such gestures, what they desire more is their wives’ respect. I do not need my wife to buy me flowers, call me during the day and tell me she loves me, or write me poetry. I might appreciate these things, but what I need is her respect.

In marriage counseling, when I hear wives expressing their frustrations about their husbands, it typically sounds like this: “I don’t feel that my husband loves me. I wish my husband loved me more. He never tells me he loves me.” But when husbands express frustration, it more often sounds like this: “I wish my wife respected me more. I wish my wife followed my lead. I wish my wife supported my decisions.”

In truth, it is much easier for a wife to say she loves her husband than to show it through respect. But it is through respect that a wife expresses her love for her husband. If a wife does not show respect, her husband will not feel loved. A good perspective for couples to keep in mind is that feeling unloved is as painful to a wife as feeling disrespected is to a husband.

The Research Behind a Wife Respecting Her Husband

Modern research supports biblical instruction on this topic. Marriage expert Dr. Emerson Eggerichs shares some interesting statistics about husbands and wives in his well-known book, Love and Respect. In one survey, four hundred men were asked:

“If you were forced to choose, would you prefer to feel alone and unloved or disrespected and inadequate?”

Seventy-four percent responded that they would rather feel alone and unloved than disrespected and inadequate. When Dr. Eggerichs conducted the same survey with women, a similar percentage of women responded that they would rather feel disrespected and inadequate than alone and unloved. Dr. Eggerichs sums up his findings:

“[A wife] needs love just as she needs air to breathe, [and a husband] needs respect just as he needs air to breathe.”

Dr. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs. “About Us.” Love & Respect Ministries.

Another survey asked seven thousand people: “When you are in a conflict with your spouse, do you feel unloved or disrespected?” Eighty-three percent of husbands responded with “disrespected.” Seventy-two percent of wives responded with “unloved.” This reveals that during marriage conflicts husbands often react because they feel disrespected and wives often react because they feel unloved.

A Portrait of Love Without Respect

Plenty of men are walking around feeling loved by their wives but not respected by them. Scripture provides a perfect picture of a woman who loved her husband without respecting him: Saul’s daughter, Michal, the first wife of King David. Even though she was responsible for one of the strongest displays of disrespect ever recorded from a wife toward a husband, Michal is also the only woman Scripture specifically mentions as loving her husband:

Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved David.

1 Samuel 18:20

This is not to say other women in Scripture did not love their husbands. I am sure many of them did—but it is not emphasized. Why is that?

I admit I am being a little speculative here. Perhaps it is because—as we have already discussed—the priority is for women to respect their husbands rather than to love them. As a result, Scripture emphasizes a wife’s respect more than her love. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is a case in point. She is held up as an example for wives, not because of her love but because of her submission and respect.

This also reveals why Michal, even though she is the one wife in Scripture said to love her husband, is not praised. The disrespect she showed David ruined any potential of her being a positive example for women. We find her conduct toward David in 2 Samuel 6.

Soon after David became king of the nation of Israel, one of his top priorities was transporting the ark of the covenant to his capital. The biblical account describes this as one of the most joyful moments of the new king’s life. As the procession entered Jerusalem:

David danced before the Lord with all his might.

2 Samuel 6:14

Unfortunately, Michal did not share her husband’s joy.:

Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

2 Samuel 6:16

Michal thought David’s behavior was terribly unbecoming. Her father, Saul, was all about appearances, and he would never act this way. Perhaps this had rubbed off on Michal, so she found David’s behavior far below the dignity of a king:

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

2 Samuel 6:20

King David arrived home eager to share his joy with his family, but Michal was so disgusted with him that she could not even wait until he got inside. Picture a mother coming out to reprimand a child. You can hear the scorn and disrespect in her words. Wives might ask themselves: “Am I like this?

  • “Do I pounce on my husband when he does something wrong?”
  • “Do I ridicule him over something inconsequential?”
  • “Do I make him feel like a little boy who is in trouble?”

 Just to be clear, Michal was not the only one wrong in this situation. David did not respond lovingly to his wife:

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

2 Samuel 6:21-22

David harshly pointed out that God chose him over Michal’s father and then added: “You think this is bad? I’ll act even worse than this!” The phrase “held in honor” may be the clearest and simplest definition of respect in the Bible. David told Michal: “You might not respect me, but there are plenty of other women who do.” Pointing out other women’s feelings was prideful and insensitive.

Disrespect Can Change a Husband’s Feelings Toward His Wife

This encounter between David and Michal does not end happily:

Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

2 Samuel 6:23

I take this to mean that David no longer had sexual relations with Michal. I am not defending David’s actions. Husbands are supposed to love their wives unconditionally, and David definitely did not do that. As is the case in most marriage conflicts, both spouses were at fault:

  • It is sinful for husbands to punish their wives as David punished Michal.
  • It is sinful for wives to disrespect their husbands as Michal disrespected David.

With that said, it is important to notice how dramatically this one event changed David’s relationship with Michal. Only a few chapters earlier, he made every effort to be reunited with his wife (2 Samuel 3:13–14). This reveals how much David previously longed to be with Michal. But once Michal disrespected David so drastically, his attitude toward her changed drastically. He now resented her. It was not the right response, but it was the reality.

It is no different today. When husbands are strongly disrespected by their wives, they become resentful and distance themselves from them. It is not right, but it is a common fruit of disrespect. If not dealt with, the result may be a destroyed relationship such as that between David and Michal.

The account between David and Michal is very instructive:

  • It gives wives an example of how not to treat their husbands.
  • It gives husbands an example of how not to respond to their wives.
  • It illustrates that wives loving their husbands is not the same as respecting them. Perhaps Michal still loved David at this point, but we can be sure that he did not feel loved because of the way she disrespected him.

Respect Is Not an Option for Wives

A husband must make his wife must feel supreme. It is not about what the husband thinks or says but about how the wife feels. Similarly, a husband must feel respected. It is not about what the wife thinks or says but about how the husband feels. Just as a wife’s perception regarding being the supreme relationship in her husband’s life is her reality, so too is a husband’s perception regarding being respected his reality.

Husbands are commanded to love their wives even when they do not feel like it. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands love your wives . . .” without containing the word “if.” The same is true for wives. Ephesians 5:33 says, “Let the wife see that she respects her husband” without containing the word “if.” Just as husbands are to love their wives when they do not feel like it, wives are to respect their husbands when they do not feel like it. As much as wives want their husbands to love them unconditionally, husbands want their wives to respect them unconditionally.

The moment any marriage becomes conditional with a husband saying, “I am not going to love my wife because she . . .” or a wife saying, “I am not going to respect my husband because he . . .” the marriage suffers. When each spouse’s obedience is not conditional on his or her love for Christ but rather on the other spouse’s behavior, this is the recipe for a miserable marriage. Only when two people are equally committed to obeying God’s commands unconditionally will a marriage experience the health and joy God desires for it.

Discussion Questions for the Comments Section

  1. Do you think a wife can love her husband without respecting him?
  2. Can you think of any other examples of respectful or disrespectful wives in Scripture?

Husbands

  1. Do you feel your wife pounces on you when you do something wrong like Michal did with David? Why or why not?
  2. Describe a time you felt your wife responded appropriately when you did something wrong.
  3. In what ways have you punished your wife when she has disrespected you like David did with Michal?
  4. Have your feelings toward your wife changed because of her disrespect? If the answer is yes, describe the disrespect. Then confess your sin of not loving your wife unconditionally and ask for her forgiveness.

Wives

  1. In what ways do you feel your husband has punished you when you have disrespected him like David did with Michal?
  2. Do you feel you pounce on your husband when he does something wrong like Michal did with David? Why or why not?
  3. If your husband feels you pounce on him when he does something wrong, how can you handle things in the future, so he doesn’t feel this way?
  4. Do you feel like your husband’s feelings toward you have changed because of your disrespect? If the answer is yes, describe the disrespect. Then confess your sin of disrespecting your husband and ask for his forgiveness.
Your Marriage God's Way book and workbook by Scott LaPierre

The content in this post is found in Your Marriage God’s Way and the accompanying workbook.

26 Responses

  1. Thank you for the interesting and thoughtful discussions here. If asked, I’d say I would like to see more examples of how a wife should respect her husband. In our church, our pastor talks about how husbands should love their wives about once a quarter, and he often makes the husband out to be the root of marital problems, but he ha only once in 5 years alluded to the possibility of the wife being at fault in marital discord. From my perspective, my wife has rarely shown me respect even though she tells me that she loves me. When I disagree with comments or behaviors of anyone outside our household, she nearly always sides with them and frequently refuses to hear any arguments I have against their stance. For example, I wanted to remove our child from public school because of the very anti-Christian messages she was being taught and bringing home. My wife thought I was “going off the deep end” and wouldn’t listen to me for most of a year. I finally asked her to watch the documentary “Indoctrination” then pray for a few weeks before making a decision whether we should talk further about it. We did finally talk about it, and decided to homeschool, For me this was a spiritual decision. My wife usually discusses it with others as a decision for “better education” for our daughter and then sometimes will include the spiritual aspect. Another example would be our new youth pastor. He is very young (25 years old if I recall correctly), and has espoused many ideas with which I disagree, some that are theologically unsound. When my wife disagrees with him, she tells me and is very expressive, but if I attempt to discuss my disagreements with her about the same (and/or different) issues she immediately and vehemently defends him. I’ve even been in situations where she denigrates me to compliment hosts at parties or guests at our home. My apologies for the lengthy response on this thread, but I’ve struggled with this for some time and my wife refuses to listen to my side of this even when I’ve pointed her to Biblical teachings, sermons, etc, to try to be heard by her. Thank you, in advance for your thoughts.

    1. Hello Michael,
      I liked your request to see more examples of how a wife should respect her husband that I created a post on the topic! Here you go: What Respect and Disrespect Looks Like to a Husband. Also, I hope you’ll check out my message from a Marriage God’s Way Conference about wives respecting their husbands. It includes many examples of what you’re looking for. If you check it out, I’d be glad to hear your thoughts!

      I think it’s common for pastors – because they’re men – to put more responsibility on the husband’s shoulders and shy back from addressing the wives directly. Plus, it seems like in some churches it’s taboo to discuss submission, even though it’s the most common command in Scripture for wives.

      Have you asked your wife why she disrespects you? Is there anything you’re doing that makes it hard for her to respect you?

      I’m glad you have a heart to homeschool, and I love that you asked your wife to watch “Indoctrination.” I’m a big proponent of homeschooling and think that’s a great documentary. I would encourage you to pray that God changes your wife’s heart and gives her the desire to homeschool.

      Have you thought of checking out a family-integrated church? You won’t see youth pastors, because the youth pastors are the fathers.

      One more thought. Have you spoken with the elders in your church and considered receiving some marriage counsel from them?

  2. If a woman loves and respect her husband and made a mistake once in not respecting him. Is it right for the husband to embarrass his wife in front of a visitor. Shouting to her and walking out of the house staying two nights presumably at a hotel. Can you please advise on this. Thank you.

    1. Hi Pamella,
      God’s commands for husbands and wives are not conditional. In other words, they do not contain the word “if.” God simply commands husbands to love their wives, and wives are commanded to respect and submit to their husbands.

      Since the commands are unconditional, we’re expected to obey them regardless of how our spouse acts. So to answer your question simply, I would say no, it is not right for him to act that way. It wouldn’t be right for your husband to do that regardless of how well you have or haven’t obeyed God. Similarly, God commands you to obey Him regardless of how your husband has acted. So just because your husband did what you said, it wouldn’t be right for you to mistreat him in return.

  3. Interesting thoughts. I believe you are right. I’ve often said I don’t believe I could love a man I didn’t respect but reading this, I think I’m wrong. But, respect is beautiful and I’m thankful I don’t have to experience it personally. Do you think it’s possible to grow respect in some areas — find and dwell on the good? Thinking about this post during my day.

    1. Hi Pam,
      Seems like perhaps you felt otherwise before reading. Thanks for withholding judgment and reading with an open mind.

      Just to let you know, in a subtle way, I do believe 1 Peter 3:7 commands husbands to respect their wives when it says to honor them. It’s not as clear as the commands for husbands to love their wives, but I believe it’s there! Just like it’s also there – in Titus 2 – for wives to love their husbands.

      Yes, a wife’s respect for her husband can grow, just like you said. I actually write that almost exactly in my book. Here’s part of it…

      As a wife looks for her husband’s best qualities, focuses on her husband’s strengths, speaks well of him to others, and praises him to their children, she will find her respect for her husband growing. Conversely, if she speaks badly about her husband to others—whether they be friends, neighbors, or the children—she will find her respect for her husband diminishing.

  4. This is an excellent reminder for us to make sure our husbands feel loved by respect as well as our other actions. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  5. I think when we look at the 1 Corinthians 13 definition of love, the simple answer to this question would be “no”. I think you can disrespect certain things about your husband and still love him, but that true agape love will always manifest itself as respectful. Hermeneutically, it is more important for wives to respect than to love, but that starts with agape for Christ, IMO.

    1. Hi Isa,
      Even if you disagree, I still appreciate hearing your thoughts. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      If you don’t mind me asking, what would you say to a husband who says, “I know my wife loves me, but I don’t feel respected by her” or a wife who says, “I love my husband, but I don’t respect him”?

  6. Respect and feeling cherished. With the busyness of everyday life, children, school, home, it’s easy to slowly slide into unrespectful unappreciated rolls. This doesn’t only exists in young marrieds, but also throughout a marriage, despite all of the scriptures of instruction for wives and husbands. It’s a catch 22. If the husband doesn’t feel respected, he doesn’t behave towards his wife where she feels cherished.
    Eph 5:33″And let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband-that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.” This verse in its order shows the importance of an unselfish woman’s behavior towards her husband.

    Husbands are also commanded. Eph 5:25 Ampl. “Husband’s love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”(Love includes leading and providing) Eph 5:33 Ampl”However let each man of you (without exception love his wife as (being in a sense) his very own self.” This counteracts and challenges selfishness and weakness in him. With an attitude of Christ to the church. It is the means of winning from the wife her respect and submission. These verses I’ve had taped to our bathroom mirror off and on through the years. It reminds me and my husband, how God wants us to behave and treat each other by keeping our focus on His basic life principle for marriage. Also for myself Gen 3:16 “Thy desire shall be to thy husband,, and he shall rule over thee.” This helps to keep my rebellion in check.

    1. Mary,
      Great thoughts, thank you. I hope people who read the post also make it down here to read your comments.

      I actually figured that probably existed even more in marriage veterans (than young marrieds), since they’ve had time to get in a rut, take each other for granted, forget the good things the other does b/c they’re so accustomed, etc.

      Funny to see you quote the Amplified; I’ve used the exact verse on respect before in a sermon on wives respecting their husbands.

    2. Thank you Scott. Sometimes we think in “big” as showing respect or cherish when it’s actually the daily “little” thing’s. My husband hates an empty sugar bowl when he has his breakfast, so, not using it myself this used to happen. Now I always make sure it’s filled. Also to always welcome him home at the door with a hug and kiss, and send him off with both and “I love you.” For me, I hate pulling back the bed at night, so he makes sure he does this for me. Also, since I do all of the cooking, he does the dishes, another icky job for me. Holding hands while walking together, I feel he, `covers` me with strength and protection. It’s the daily little actions that makes him feel respected, and me cherished.

    3. Once again, great thoughts Mary!

      I have a section like you mentioned in my book. Here’s the portion for wives:

      How does a wife adapt to her husband? By learning what is important to him and making it important to her.
      • Is your husband punctual? Work hard to be on time.
      • Does he have to be up early and thus wants to be in bed by a certain time? Strive to be in bed by that time.
      • Does it bother him when certain things are messy or left out? Try to make sure these areas are tidy.
      As my wife once shared at a woman’s event: “Ladies, work hard to make your husband’s priorities your own and to put your priorities second. And when you adapt to him, do not make him feel stupid for the way he wants things done.”

      There’s also a section for husbands based on 1 Peter 3:7 and husbands “dwelling with their wives with knowledge” (or in an understanding way). But it’s too long to copy here :).

    4. I’m currently just beginning Chapter 7. We both know by our previous conversation I jumped ahead to Chapter 14 .. addressing another issue. Now, Scott, ha…. where do I skip to for your ref?

    5. Mary,
      You go to Chapter Eleven and the section “Learning, Then Embracing” for the section I quoted above.

      You go to Chapter Eighteen and the section “Living with Her According to Knowledge” for the corresponding portion for husbands.

  7. Of course a wife can love her husband without respecting him. And a husband can respect his wife without loving her as well. It always amazes me how we can get our “love languages” crossed and jumbled up when we don’t take the time to understand one another.

    Both my wife and I have been working harder on loving and respecting one another better. This has led to some conversation that is hopefully open and honest to how we can serve and help one another better and I think our marriage is better off because of it. We have found that when we don’t invest into our marriage, we start falling by the wayside and our marriage shows the lack. This is actually one of my goals this year is to set aside more time to “date” my wife and learn more about her.

    1. Hi Steven,
      Good point! The opposite is also true.

      I’m glad to hear about the open communication taking place between your and your wife. If my book has any small part in that, I feel blessed. I received your message(s) about this discussion and it encouraged me.

      I’ve appreciated not just your goal-setting mentality, but the way you make it so quantifiable.

  8. When I read the title, I thought well YES she can. Love is a decision and sometimes it is easier to love a person without having full respect for them.

    I love how you pulled an example from Scripture of just this!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Yes, I definitely agree that it can be easier to love than respect. In one part of my book I discuss how husbands can make it easier for their wives to respect them.

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