"However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." Ephesians 5:33 (NIV)
When I married my husband over 23 years ago, I fully intended to unconditionally love, respect and admire him. I had great intentions of being the perfect wife, offering kind words, a romantic kiss and dinner on the table every evening.
But then careers took off, bills increased, children were born, laundry piles grew, and life became chaotic. Along the way I subconsciously created a measuring stick of expectations for whether my husband actually deserved my love and respect.
When marriage didn't meet the unrealistic expectations I had before the wedding, and real life kicked in, it became easy to fall into the habit of tearing down my husband and marriage.
It seemed the longer we were together, the easier it was to see each other's flaws, and mercilessly criticize them. This eventually led to short tempers, less tolerance, and a lack of marital bliss. Not what I dreamed my marriage would be when I said "I do."
Maybe you can relate? Have you noticed too that as a result of these frustrations, the gifts of unconditional love, respect and admiration that we fully intended to offer become gifts we withhold?
A few years ago I picked up a book written for wives. I was hoping to rekindle some passion in my marriage. Little did I know God would use truths shared in that book to get my attention and help me make some inward changes.
As I read, God convicted my heart about things I had said to my husband just days earlier. Critical comments that rolled off my tongue so easily, I now regretted deeply. Although I had fully intended to be my husband's biggest encourager, I had become one of his worst critics.
God helped me see the powerful influence I have on my husband and marriage when choosing words that build up. Words that encourage instead of discourage. Words that heal, not wound.
As women, we can build up or tear down our husbands every day, merely by the respect we give, the words we choose, and the amount of faith in him we convey.
Respect and admiration are two of the most powerful tools a wife has to influence her husband. Realizing I had fallen short in giving those two precious gifts to my man, I asked God to help me control my tongue. I asked Him to fill my heart and mouth with words that would make my husband feel admired, respected and loved, regardless of whether I felt he deserved it.
I knew I'd need God's help to follow through on my renewed intentions, so I asked for a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit when critical thoughts crept into my mind. God helped me avoid the temptation to say them out loud.
Within just a few weeks, I saw a change — in me, in my husband's demeanor, and in our relationship. A change that rekindled unconditional love, respect and admiration within my heart, thoughts and actions toward my husband. A change that reflected what I set out to give him all along.
Through our words of respect, and admiration, we can help our husbands become the great men God created them to be, and in turn, have we can have the marriages we fully intended to build. It will take patience, humbleness and grace, but it'll produce love, happiness and togetherness.
Dear Lord, help tame my tongue and focus on building up my man. Help me break free of the habit to criticize, even when warranted. Open my eyes to the positive, not the negative. Draw us closer, and help us both nurture a strong and loving marriage. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Related Resources: Tracie Miles' new book Stressed Less Living: Finding God's Peace In Your Chaotic World can help you have a less stressed marriage.
Reflect and Respond: Think about how important your husband's love is to you and consider how much your respect means to him.
If your marriage seems strained right now, think about conversations with your husband lately. Have your comments been encouraging and uplifting, or discouraging and destructive?
Power Verses: Genesis 2:24, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." (NIV 1984)
James 3:5b-6a, "Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body." (NIV 1984)
© 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.
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