Some couples keep negatively reacting to each other in the same way. The topics over which they argue change, but the same negative reaction is evident. Unfortunately, one’s spouse does not seem to react any differently in response! Yet, each time one or the other feels, “This time my spouse will wake up! They can’t treat me this way! I’ll show them!” Even so, it never seems to be be effective. Why?

What happens when a husband hands his wife a Diet book?

What happens when a wife hands her husband a Marriage book and says, “I’ve underlined in yellow the sections you NEED to read?”

I’ll come back to that.

If I came into a room and flipped a light switch but the light did not come on, you’d think nothing of it. But if I stood for ? an hour flipping it, you’d say, “He’s crazy.”

Craziness is when we keep doing the same thing again and again with the same ill effect. Marital craziness is when we do the same thing over and over with the same negative results. I call it the Crazy Cycle.

All of us who are married go through this cycle. The topics change, and the intensity varies, but the crazy cycle continues. This happens among good willed people. In other words, neither are bad people with a bad marriage. In fact, some people think they have a horrible marriage because of this craziness. Truth is, they are inches away from making an adjustment that can set them in a whole new and positive course. If, though, they do not see underneath this “craziness,” to the heart of their spouse, this thing can spin out of control.

Are you interested in discovering the secret that cracks the communication code?

You see, each of us reacts in code, and we expect our spouse to decode the code! Sadly, that rarely happens.

Based on Ephesians 5:33 we discover why a husband and wife react the way they do. “Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

Since a wife needs love, a husband would be wise to assume this is why his wife essentially reacts. Since a husband needs respect, a wife would be prudent to assume this is why her husband reacts.

Do you recall the story of the Diet Book and Marriage Book? (To review: go to the front of this web page: “Newcomer Checklist… Understand the Crazy Cycle.”)

When handed the Diet Book, the wife feels unloved. She reacts negatively. She expects her husband to decode this negative reaction. This is a typical reaction whenever she feels unloved. However, that reaction can be equal to flipping on a broken light switch. Though she feels her husband will wake up to his unloving behavior, that rarely happens. Why? She reacts in such disrespectful ways that he is deafened to her deeper cry. As she needs to feel loved, he needs to feel respected. When he feels offended and disrespected, he finds it tough to empathize with her need for love.

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How many wives keep reacting disrespectfully every time they feel unloved? After all, isn’t the guy brain dead for giving her a Diet book? Shouldn’t she verbally pounce on him?

Does it work?

Rarely. He does not warm up to her. Sure, she can seek to teach him a lesson by her contempt. He’ll not get a Diet book again, that’s for sure. Yet, at what price? A wife does not have to go ballistic and spew out wrath to make her point.

This is why the Lord instructs wives to focus on respect (Ephesians 5:33b and 1 Peter 3:2). This enables her better than any other way to awaken her husband to her need to be loved. This is the answer to insuring the marriage goes the distance. When she discovers the secret God has revealed to her, she can halt the craziness. To be sure, the Diet book hurts her, but telling him he is a brain dead is like flipping on a broken light switch. It simply does not work long term. It wouldn’t work if he called her brain dead.

When handed the Marriage Book, the husband can feel disrespected. He reacts negatively, typically by neglecting the book. He expects his wife to decode this neglect to mean, “I am not energized by the feeling that I am not good enough in your eyes.” If she commands him to read the book, he’ll get angry and stubbornly refuse. If he does concede, he’ll do so with internal protest. This is a typical negative reaction whenever he feels disrespected. However, a husband needs to see that his reaction equals flipping on and off a broken light switch. It is ineffective. This reaction feels too unloving. His wife is deafened to his cry to be respected. As he needs to feel respected, she needs to feel loved. When she suddenly feels offended and unloved by his neglect of the marriage, she finds it tough to empathize with his need for respect.

How many husbands keep reacting in anger and without love every time they feel disrespected? Rarely does this work. She does not warm up to him. Sure, he can seek to teach her a lesson by his refusal to respect her need to increase the feelings of love between them. He’ll not get a Marriage book shuffed his way any time too soon. Yet, at what price? A husband does not have to stonewall his wife and refuse to address issues in the marriage to make his point. He can say lovingly, “I feel disrespected when you give me this book. I feel like you are saying, ‘I do not accept you. I do not approve of you. I do not respect you as a man.” She’ll be all ears.

This is why the Lord instructs husbands to focus on love (Ephesians 5:33b and Colossians 3:19). This enables him better than any other way to awaken his wife to his need to be respected.

Does this make sense? If you are disrespectful as a wife in order to motivate your husband to be more loving, that’s like a bald headed man selling hair restoration oil.

If you are unloving as a husband to influence your wife to be more respectful, that will be as effective as trying to sell brass knuckles to Ghandi.

One wife said, “I realized through this that I was shouting at him too much. He wasn’t hearing my deeper cry for his understanding and love. My shouting truly was interfering. What I wanted was his love. But how could he be tender with me when I was screaming at him, ‘Love me!’?”

One husband said, “I recognized that when I went silent, thinking this prevented me from getting more angry, which it did, it also made her feel rejected. What I wanted from her was a more respectful attitude but my silence made her insecure. She got more upset with me and said things that made me feel more disrespected.”

Let’s stop flipping a broken light switch. What’s the point? The one who sees himself/ herself as the most mature makes the first move.

Copyright © 2006 Love and Respect Ministries Inc Emerson E. Eggerichs Ph.D.