Do I Have to Respect my Spouse in a Difficult Marriage?

I, by no means, have managed to master this concept.

I used to belive that respect was something a person earned, like trust. They really are connected in many ways. But when trust is broken, respect is hard to summon.

So when a woman is in a difficult marriage and it says in Scripture that she is to respect her husband, it is like kicking someone who is already writhing on the ground in agony. You just can’t see it because as a “good Christian woman” we have to pretend to the world that everything is fine.

Even when we are at church.

Especially when we are at church.

After all, it is right there in Ephesians 5:33. Verses 23-33 are pretty strong commands for men to love their wives. Yup. It’s a command.  No negotiations. No paltry love. We wives are to be charished, protected, provided for and LOVED.

Then Paul writes this little addendum:

” . . . and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.”

I’ve heard that “see to it” is more of a “might.” It is not a command. It really is a suggestion. A strong one from Paul.

The fact is, if a man is really living out verses 23-33 (you can go look them up), a woman is going to naturally fulfill the last part of 33. She’s going to want to.

So does that mean women who are in difficult marriages don’t have to respect their spouse who fails to in any way fulfill the ten verses before that?

No. We still need to respect our husbands.

I’ll be honest.  Struggle daily with the resentment and hurt over the fact that I don’t have an Ephesians 5:23-33 kind of guy. I long for that. Is it wrong for me to want what I can’t have? No. But I can’t need it. That’s a tough one.

So how does one respect a spouse that does nothing to earn it?

We respect him as an image bearer of God instead. He may be a horrible spouse. But he is still an image bearer of Christ as much as any murderer, rapist, child-molester is.

Ooooh. Ouch. But it’s true. All sin is equal in G0d’s eyes. And I am not exempt either. I don’t always act as Christ would want me to although most of my sins are ones of thinking. Still, it’s sin. Pure and simple.

So while we may struggle to love and respect our husbands because of their words and actions that are the oppositive of what a God-fearing man should be doing, we have to remember that we are all fallen and all sin.

Because Jesus loves our husbands more than we ever could, we need to respect the person and yes, even the position. God  holds our husband’s responsible for the words and actions he expresses towards a wife. And the ones he doesn’t but should.

Just as he holds us responsible for our own actions.

So maybe Valentine’s day isn’t a lovey-dovey holiday for many of us. We can still be respectful of the person God holds in the palm of His hand just like He holds us. No one is more important than the other. Equally loved in spite of our sin.

And for that reason alone, we should respect our husband in spite of the pain he causes.

Blessings, Lilly Grace

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The Anti-Love Story?

I chuckled when I discovered that my non-fiction book: “Lessons from the Trenches: Staying in a Difficult Marriage” did not make the cut in the Women of Faith/Westbow competition.

It looks like most of the finalists were romance. Yes, we all want romance. Who wants reality?

A few months back when I was working on the book, a bride-to-be and her mother were sitting down at a table next to me planning for a wedding. The irony of that struck me. She has stars in her eyes, dreams in her heart and confidence in the power of love that will sustain her till she is old and grey through whatever comes their way. It’s a dream we all buy into, isn’t it?

That’s why Disney has made so much money. Why my daughter loves to watch movies about Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid . . . we are raised from early on in the good ol’ US of A to believe that the pursuit of happiness means “happily ever after.”

And no one could tell us it’s a myth. Yet it’s as much a deception as the prosperity gospel that promises that God desires us all to be wealthy and healthy and anything less is an abomination to the faith.

Hosea was told to marry a prostitute and repeatedly take her back as an example to the Israel of how they were treating God. How Hosea’s heart must have been crushed over and over. Now maybe he was a less than stellar example of manhood. We really don’t know. But it had to be a blow to his pride to have his wife repeatedly seek her “entertainment” with other men.

Most women feel shamed and slighted even when a husband chooses to stimulate himself through pornography. It’s like they are not enough to hold his interest, to satisfy his needs. Actually it has nothing to do with that – but tell that to a woman’s hurting heart.

We women long to be the center of our husband’s love. After Jesus, we want to be important, secure, protected, cherished. And we crash inwardly when that is withheld from us for whatever reason.

The enemy is behind all these lies that we have bought into and we are gullible enough to keep pursuing the myth.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner.  I remember one where I got a dozen red roses. I still have the vase. It’s in my bathroom with silk roses. A mockery of the promise of vibrant love that turned plastic. The diamond I had been given one year, I ended up giving back. I then got it as a necklace, I was too hurt and afraid to wear. Last year due to our financially difficulties I finally sold it to help buy groceries. I put it to better use than sitting in a drawer where it had been for 20+ years, another reminder of pain and sorrow. I still have my wedding ring, although it too feels like a mockery of promises made and unkept.

So reality sucks, doesn’t it? When we have been hurt, abandoned, criticized, abused. . . Valentine’s Day doesn’t seem like a nice holiday. It mocks us and reminds us of our loss and maybe even brings us to grieve again those childhood dreams.

I’m still married in spite of all that. I’m walking in obedience to my Lord in the midst of my pain and struggle. My girlfriend said that my book is not an “un-romance” but rather a look at the most important romance of all – of me and my Jesus. The God who pursued me and gave me more than diamonds. He gave His life to redeem mine. That is true love and it is eternal and far more secure than what any human on earth can give.

So, this Valentine’s Day, I do wish you love and joy. But I pray that you ultimately are finding that in the arms of a Savior who desires you more than any human ever could. He will never leave or forsake you and He will walk with you through the pain of the other disappointments that this life dishes out. This world is not my home. Someday I will have all the hearts and flowers and a place to live beyond compare that my Lord is building for me – and for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Blessings

LGB