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“. . . . each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” — Ephesians 5:33
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” — Proverbs 12:18
Picture this—both sides in a battle are lobbing grenades at each other. The grenades blow up causing much destruction on each side. Now imagine that the two sides fighting are really a husband and a wife. The “grenades” are words and actions—and somehow both partners seem surprised when they “blow up”! Lots of hurt. . . .lots of anger. . . .and it just gets worse and worse. The fighting can continue right into the divorce court.
If you’ve ever seen this happening in a couple, or experienced it yourself, you know that it’s just crazy! That’s why Dr. Emerson Eggerichs calls it “The Crazy Cycle” in his book, Love and Respect. Simply put (and not doing the book justice), Dr. Eggerichs believes that the husband who doesn’t feel respected reacts without love to his wife. And the flip side is also true—the wife who doesn’t feel loved reacts without respect to her husband. And so this disastrous cycle can begin. When he doesn’t feel respected, he reacts without love (maybe stonewalling, maybe avoiding). . . . so she reacts without respect (maybe yelling). . . . so he reacts without love. . . . so she reacts without respect. . . . . so he reacts without love. . . . and on and on and on. (Perhaps she doesn’t feel loved because he doesn’t know her love language? There’s another good book—The Five Love Languages, by Dr. Gary Chapman). Put deployment into the mix, with its mis-communications and misunderstandings, and the likelihood of the “crazy cycle” taking place can be pretty high. And the enemy, Satan, is so good at keeping that cycle going—just like you see on TV when “The Wheel of Fortune” is spun. But there is hope. . . .if we can understand what is going on.
Just last week I showed a wife, struggling in her marriage, the diagram of this crazy cycle in Dr Eggerichs’ book and asked her, “What does it take for The Crazy Cycle to stop?” She answered, “Well, the wife has to feel loved or the husband has to feel respected.” I asked, “Which?” After a while she could see that it really takes just one to break the cycle—but which one? Even if a wife does not feel loved, but she responds with respect for her husband. . . . and then he feels respected and offers love. . . . the cycle begins to slow down and can even be broken. Or even if a husband does not feel respected, but he responds to his wife with love. . . . the cycle can be broken. Who decides? Who goes first? The more mature. Or the one who feels they are the more mature. When both spouses are people of “basic goodwill,” it only takes one spouse acting in a selfless, forgiving manner to create the atmosphere in which unconditional love or unconditional respect can do its work through the power of the Holy Spirit.
You might say, “It’s just not that simple!” Really? We have all seen absolute messes, pure dysfunction in families boil down to one thing—selfishness. And we go about trying to fix things in just the opposite way from how God designed marriage—we try to fix lack of respect by being unloving. . . . and fix lack of love by being disrespectful. Right? As Dr. Phil would say, “Is it workin’ for you?”
Is it really possible to motivate someone to be loving by being disrespectful? Is it possible to motivate someone to be respectful by being unloving? The attitude of, “I’ll show you just how impossible you are!” just doesn’t hack it in marriage (or in other relationships, either).
It is the Holy Spirit who is going to come into a situation, convict hurting hearts to respond in forgiveness, and lead one of the spouses to respond in redemption—which just might save the marriage from the brink of dissolution. The Holy Spirit will also be there to remind us that the whole purpose of a husband and wife showing love and respect to each other is to glorify God and live in obedience to His Word. As Dr. Eggerichs says, “. . . your marriage is a test of your devotion to Christ.” (p. 295) As believers in Christ, have you ever thought of it that way?
At the end of Love and Respect, on the very last page, there is a “prayer of commitment”:
“Dear Father, I need You. I cannot love or respect perfectly, but I know You hear me when I ask You for help. Forgive me where I have been unloving or disrespectful. I open my heart to You, Father. I will not be fearful or angry at You or my spouse. I see myself and my spouse in a whole new light, and I forgive my spouse. I will appreciate my spouse as different, not wrong. Lord, fill my heart with love and reverence for You. Ultimately, this is about You and me. It isn’t about my spouse. Thank you for this enlightenment. My greatest reward comes from doing this unto You. Prepare me this day for those moments of conflict. I especially ask You to put love or respect in my heart when I feel unloved or disrespected. There is no credit for loving or respecting when it is easy. At this moment, I believe You hear me. I anticipate Your response. I have on my heart what is on Your heart. I thank You in advance for helping me take the next step. I believe You will reward me, and I believe this touches Your heart as I do this unto You. It’s between You and me. I am a true believer. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” (p. 303)
And never forget the verse in Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Eggerichs, Dr. Emerson, Love and Respect (Nashville: Integrity Publishers, 2004)
Questions to Share:
1. When have you seen your marriage go into The Crazy Cycle? (We all have)
2. What can you do to get your marriage out of The Crazy Cycle, if you are stuck there?