Sunday, February 15, 2015

Love and Respect

I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I have something on my heart that I thought I would share for those few of you who might read my blog occasionally.  A couple things before I actually write this.  First of all, I know my opinion about this is not going to be agreed upon by all, and I don’t really want to get in a fight on my blog.  These are just my thoughts.  Second, if you do want to argue my points, I would rather you read the book (with an open mind), then come back and give me your opinions.  Third, I don’t agree with everything in the book, but I did get a lot out of it and would say that I agree with almost everything.  And one final thing to clarify . . . I may be completely wrong, but Brent always thinks that people might view me as somewhat feministic, I guess based on the fact that I have always worked and that I have furthered my education.  I want to make it clear that I am not at all.  I say this because the book might really bother some of you who lean more toward feminism.  I really think that the best-case scenario in families is the traditional (or old-fashioned as some might say):  Dad works; mom stays home and takes care of the kids.  I would have been perfectly happy in that situation, but God had other plans for me, and I followed them.  But to go along with that, I have said and will say again that I don’t think my working outside of the home or being in school has hurt my children; in fact, in many ways it has benefitted them in ways that my staying home would not have.  The thing I would say about our choices or really, if we are honest, just the way things fell, is that we have not been perfect by any means, but we have tried to keep God in the center and our marriage and children a priority.  Has it been hard at times?  Definitely.  But here we are . . . by the grace of God making our lives work.

With that said, I guess you are probably wondering what book I read . . . Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.  We have had it sitting in our house for years.  I’ve picked it up a few times, but I have never made it through.  I finally determined a month or so ago that I was finishing it no matter what, and it took longer than it should have, but I finished it while I was on the plane to Virginia the other day.  It was a hard read for me . . . not because it is super intellectual.  It’s not!  It’s actually a very easy read.  But because it was incredibly convicting.  Now that I’m putting it out there, too, I’m opening the door for a ton of accountability.  While I do not consider myself a feminist, I definitely do not consider myself a submissive wife either.  Any of you who know me probably can see that I would struggle with that.  I think I can fairly say that I want to submit to Brent, I really do, but my strong, way too independent personality gets the best of me so often.  It is hard for me.  And as I read about respecting Brent, I was sad because I know that my natural tendency is not to show him the respect he needs or deserves.

What made me even sadder, though, was that Brent really does do a pretty great job loving me.  He is a romantic . . . that’s what drew me to him so many years ago.  He loves with all his heart, and most of the time, he treats me like a gem.  I was sitting in a session in my class today and the professor asked us (if we were married) to think about when we first knew we loved our spouse.  I know I would not have articulated this at the time, but the first memory that came to mind was this:  Right after Brent and I started dating (actually we had not even been on an official date, but we were spending a lot of time together in groups, and I would say our friends and other people at our college would have identified us as a couple), I got a little freaked out, and I broke up with him.  Initially he was mad, but the next day, after being out of my dorm room, I returned to find a single yellow rose with a card that said something to the effect of “If you are too scared to be in a relationship, I want to at least remain friends.”  (I know it was worded better).  I think that may have been the moment, though I would not admit it right away.  But after I cried a little, I went and called my dad for advice and a day or two later called Brent and apologized, and the rest is history.  He always took me on amazing, thoughtful, romantic dates.  He planned an amazing proposal (which I ruined, if that tells you anything).  He wrote me a song and had it sung at our wedding.  He had flowers at the house after the kids were born and when I found out I was pregnant.  He will cook and clean and do laundry.  And his thoughtfulness extends beyond me . . . he’s just all around a loving man who desires for others to know how much they mean to him.  Is he perfect?  No.  But he’s pretty amazing.  I say all this because I think for his personality, the loving part comes much more easily than the respecting part comes for me with my personality.

I’m headstrong and stubborn, and I think I know what’s right.  I’m argumentative . . . ask my parents because I always have been.  I also have pretty high expectations.  Am I all bad?  Of course not.  I work hard, and I love my family, and I would give the shirt of my back for other people, but my personality is more of a challenge when it comes to respecting my husband.  So as I read that book, I was convicted, and I was challenged because I can’t figure out how I am going to do a better job and not let my natural tendencies get the best of me.

I hear ladies talk about their husbands or I see things on social media, and it just hurts me for their husbands.  I also see and hear things that hurt me for wives, don’t get me wrong.  As I read in the book about the CRAZY Cycle (which is what Eggerichs refers to when he talks about marriages that are struggling), I could see how very difficult it is to get off of it.  Our human nature keeps us on it.  He’s not loving me, so why should I respect him?  He’s thinking the opposite.  She’s not respecting me, so why should I love her?  Now would either of us admit that we are thinking or saying that?  No, but it shows clearly in our actions and in our words.

The thing I really liked about the book is that, though I know it’s not going to be easy for me to show respect like I should, the book spells out how I can do a better job . . . in detail.  It also spends time talking about how we should work on not taking things personally when our spouse messes up.  On the occasion that Brent is not being loving toward me, I need to remember that he does love me, and he is just messing up like we all do . . . and try not to take it to personally or try to get to the bottom of it.  Did he have a rotten day at work?  Is he stressed about something unrelated to home that is causing him to be short?  Sometimes our feelings take over our logic.  We need to remember what is true and that our feelings often lie to us.

I highly recommend reading the book.  There will be things you do not agree with, as there are in all books, but there are many great truths.  I have learned as I have “grown up” that most books (even those I can’t support) have good principles I can grab, learn from, and implement.  Read the book with an open-mind, with the desire to be the person God calls you to be to your spouse.  Even if you do not agree with all of it, what does your spouse think?  When you got married, you agreed to sacrifice for the other.  For some people, you may not agree with submission and respect, but if that would help your marriage, shouldn’t you do it anyway?  Your husband may not feel like he needs to love you the way you need to be loved either, but don’t you want him to do it any way?  We have to serve each other in order to make our marriages work.  If we are only seeking what we want and not seeking to serve our spouse, our marriages are doomed.