There is no better place to learn the art of cooperation than in marriage. And it’s not an option—not if you desire to experience all that marriage was designed to be.
Cooperation in marriage is learning how to flow together. That can only happen over the long haul by showing love and respect for each other.
The challenge of every marriage is getting two different people to learn how to operate as one.
Put any two people together for any length of time under the same roof, and you’ll see individual differences surface quickly. A husband and wife see things differently and have different needs.
That’s not a bad thing. Yet if you don’t learn how to appreciate those differences and flow together, life together devolves into one conflict after another.
Love And Respect
One of the biggest helps to us after almost 20 years of marriage was the book, Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Those words were obviously familiar to us as they are to you. But for the first 2 decades of marriage, we failed to understand how profoundly different the other’s needs were.
Ask any guy—feeling respected is a big deal.
Ask any lady—feeling loved is a big deal.
That’s why Ephesians 5 commands a wife to respect her husband, and a husband to love his wife. It’s a big deal. And it’s not about deserving or earning. It’s unconditional.
Doing so consistently will cause your marriage to be noticeably different than the majority. And cause your marriage to be ever-improving.
The Crazy Cycle
Neglecting these and other differences, however, and not adapting to your spouse ends up in what Eggerichs calls the Crazy Cycle. If you’ve been married any length of time, you know what it is even if you’ve never heard that name.
A husband interprets something his wife said as being disrespectful—so he responds in a way that seems unloving to her. She cuts him off at the knees with an intentionally disrespectful comeback. He goes into fight mode, full of fury. And the Crazy Cycle revs up, once again.
In the early years when I was the lead pastor of our church, I was extremely busy and not around the home as much as I should have been. I didn’t always fulfill my responsibilities at home, which made it hard for Gail to respect me on the homefront.
She could respect me as a pastor, but it was more difficult for her to repsect me as a husband and father when I was falling short of expectations.
All that changed when we understood each other’s needs for love and respect.
Gail learned how to convey her needs and address frustrations without coming across as disrespectful. She chose to respect me even though my performance may not have “deserved” it. She had to not only watch her words, but the “looks” that every gal knows how to deliver and every guy bristles at.
Similarly, I learned to choose my words much more carefully so that I didn’t come across as unloving. I get animated and louder when I get emphatic and that tone always signals unloving to Gail, even if I’m not upset with her. I have to reel that in.
We’ve come to realize that marriage is a dance—learning to flow with one another for the mutual benefit and enjoyment of the other. Two completely different people in every way, cooperating with each other, bringing out the best in each other, learning to flow with one another.
And when you misstep, quickly acknowledge it, apologize, and adapt. But keep dancing!
A couple needs to help each other learn the dance steps. When one of us defaults back into our old behavior that leads to a Crazy Cycle, the other asks a simple question to hopefully defuse the situation.
- “Did you mean to sound unloving?”
- “Did you mean to sound disrespectful?”
It gives the other as chance to regroup and rephrase.
It takes very little to get married. But, it’s take a lifetime to make a great marriage.
Commitment. Communication. Consideration. Confidence in God’s work and help. And cooperation.
Sometime before this day is over, say to your spouse, “May I have this dance? I love you. And I respect you. I’m sorry for my missteps. Let’s keep making this dance even better.”
Question: What helps you to avoid another Crazy Cycle and instead show love or respect for your spouse? Share your answer in the comments below.