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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Emotional Respect - The First Pillar

Men and women are so different in almost every way that it's a wonder we can spend more than a couple of hours together without a complete breakdown in communications.

Oh, that happened of your first date with your spouse, too?

But two areas in which we're quite similar are our needs. Men and women need love. And women and men need respect.

But again - there's a quick divergence. Men need to be respected for what they do, while women need to be respected for who they are.

Tell a woman she's a lovely human being, and she'll glow. Tell a man that, and he'll say, "Ug," and drag his knuckles back to his cage, where he'll scratch his head for minutes trying to figure out what you meant. Then he'll give it up and have a beer.

Tell a man he's a terrific accountant and he's on cloud nine. Tell a woman that, and she'll feel just a little bit incomplete...like it's not quite a full compliment. And she may spend days wondering what she's not doing as well as she could.

The same paradigm applies in giving emotional respect. Both men and women react from the heart, and often to the same stimuli, bit they do it in different ways.

Men tend to become emotional about issues relating to goal-fulfillment. The ending of Saving Private Ryan is a good example; the now elderly James Ryan, standing in a cemetery in Normandy, asks his wife if he's been a good man. In other words, he's asking if his life validated the sacrifices made to ensure his survival. The emotional content is loaded into a relatively brief scene (or set of scenes); the rest of the story builds to that point with action.

Men respond strongly to this message, to the vindication of effort (or,in some cases, the lack of vindication as tragedy).

Women tend to respond more deeply to process; films like Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail generally appeal to women more than men because the emotional content is drawn out through the bulk of the film where the main characters aren't together. The process of their movement toward a central point of union is what gives these films their emotional 'meat'.

Men get restless during Sleepless not because there's no action, but because their emotional feelers are being overtaxed.

Women get bored during Private Ryan because their emotional range isn't being exercised through much of the film.

To respect one another, as husbands and wives, we need to understand this basic point - we're taking very different roads to get to a similar place.

The man has to subsume his emotional activity through action of some sort, but his reaction is heartfelt when it comes.

The woman has to ride the current of emotion over time, or else she feels cheated; her reaction is no less heartfelt, but it's a more gradual buildup.

Think of the Sierra Nevada mountains; the western slopes rise gradually through the California foothills, the feminine side; and once past the crest they drop abruptly to the Nevada high desert (the masculine).

To respect one another, first, understand. Then affirm.

Ladies, if you see your husbands tearing up at the end of a movie, don't inquire what they're feeling. You'll ruin the moment, Just be there. Give a hand on the shoulder, or on the knee (and keep it non-sexual; not every moment is right for sex, even for men).

Don't talk, because for a man, the bottled emotion is often the emotion fully lived. He'll talk if he wants or needs to.

Guys, if your wife is going through the Kleenex for ninety minutes, don't sigh loudly and roll your eyes. Hold her close (again, non-sexual touch, please) and ask, "What are you feeling?"

And, yes, guys, listen for the answer. Then ask another question, so your wife can fully live the moment.

Now, Quiz Time - what's the secret to providing emotional respect to your spouse?

Yes, good! Support, in the form of your full presence,manifested through supportive touch and listening.

Your turn - how do you show emotional respect to your spouse?

(Please don't forget to stop in at my new blog, www.dailygracequote.wordpress.com, for a quote and short commentary that I hope will shine a light of grace...for October, the subject's marriage.)

This post is linked to Wedded Wednesday, a compendium of really cool posts on marriage (and I got to write today's!). If you click on the logo below, you'll be taken to www.messymarriage.com, which is the springboard to a wealth of information.


  1. This is so jam-packed with marriage wisdom that I'm surprised it fits on the page, Andrew! Wow! I love this and I'm going to be talking with my hubby about some of the insights you fleshed out for us here today. How do I show respect to my husband? Well, two ways come to mind - I brag on him to my girlfriends and bite my tongue when I notice he got a detail or two wrong. It can be so deflating to be corrected by our spouses in the minor communication mistakes we make. No one will remember the right or wrong details, but my spouse will not soon forget being corrected for all to see. This is one way that my husband doesn't always recognize when I do it, but that doesn't stop me from being committed to it. Thanks for your insight, Andrew! And know that I've prayed for your pain today and will continue to throughout the day!

    1. Thanks, Beth!

      You're absolutely right in what you do. Talking someone up actually helps us respect them more...the Bible says that we are what we speak.

      And avoiding public criticism is a gem. Even small humiliations are something we all remember long after everyone else has forgotten them. They fester, like splinters unremoved, and can hurt for years.

      And...thanks for the prayers.

  2. Great stuff here, Andrew. I show my husband respect by keeping things quiet while he's sleeping after a long night shift... I'm in trouble because that's all I can think of. Oh, and I defend him and brag on him when my family misunderstands. :)

    1. Those two are huge. Most men would be delighted with just one of them!

      It doesn't really take much. This is one area where small, consistent effort pays a dividend way out of proportion.

  3. Wow, that is a lot of wisdom in a small space. Those movies are the perfect example. I show my husband respect, I think, by giving him space to do things he loves like running in the evening. I know I could open up space to bless him even more. A work in progress.