How to Show Respect When He’s Not Acting Respectable

show respect

My husband and I lead the Marriage Ministry at our church campus and we mentor couples and individuals. I also lead a small group for wives in challenging marriages. I’ve listened to many women who are desperate and ready to throw in the towel. One of the most common questions wives ask me is how to show respect when he’s not acting respectable.

First of all, Biblical respect is a controversial topic. The worldly view is if I respect someone who is not respectable, I’m a doormat. But Godly respect is an important concept that is very powerful. It’s also required of wives, God asks us to respect our husbands unconditionally. Many struggle to understand what respect really looks like, so first we will take a look at what disrespect is, and then share some practical ideas for what respect is. Let’s take a dive into this challenging and very misunderstood topic.

Respect is Important

Respect is important. Men need respect. Current studies show 83% of men feel disrespected by their wives. Shaunti Feldhahn, author of For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men writes that respect is so essential to men, they “would rather feel alone and unloved than inadequate and disrespected.”

Scripture agrees. Wives are never told in the Bible we should love our husbands. God knows love comes naturally to us women. But wives are exhorted to respect their husbands, filling a role that only a wife can do for a husband.

Another reason respect is important is children are watching. Your kids are enrolled in a Marriage University, their expectations for marriage will be determined to a great extent by what they observe in your marriage. Will your daughters grow up to disrespect their husbands? Will your sons grow up to marry women who disrespect them? We often have marriages that are similar to our parent’s marriages. What kind of relationship did you observe between your parents?

Respect is Powerful

Emerson Eggerichs and his wife Sarah wrote a great Bible study called Respectfully Yours. They write, “Wives are not to be a doormat, but a welcome mat.” To a great extent, the atmosphere of the home is determined by the attitude of the wife.

Respect is powerful, and life changing. A wife’s respect can change the eternal destiny of her husband.

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (1 Peter 3:1-2).

Many wives tell me they are more spiritually mature than their husbands. If that is true, their spiritual maturity will enable them to realize they hold the key to changing that spiritual mismatch.

Respect can be thought of as a powerful love potion. “We have discovered that as women motivate their man God’s way, men are energized to love them better. It doesn’t matter if your marriage is good or seems like there is no hope. We have seen God move in powerful ways even when things looked hopeless.” Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs.

Respect is Unconditional

In our culture the attitude is “all you need is love.” Love is considered to be unconditional, that love should be given no matter what. I know that I want to be loved, no matter what. Even on my crabbiest days, I want to be loved. Even when I’m acting unlovable, I still want to be loved.

But respect, that’s a conditional thing in our culture. We think he has to earn respect. A frequent question I hear is, “How do you expect me to respect him when he acts this way?”

God’s plan is not like the world. God’s plan for respect is that respect is unconditional. “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).

The Bible doesn’t say respect your husband when he’s acting respectable. It just says respect your husband.  A noble wife respects her husband not because he is necessarily respectable, but because she is. A noble wife desires to honor and obey God first and foremost. What’s the difference between conditional and unconditional respect?

  • Conditional respect means showing respect in order to change him.
  • Unconditional respect means showing respect in order to honor God.

What is Disrespect?

A sign of our times is disrespecting men. Since the 60’s when Women’s Lib became a thing, women have turned the misogynist tide by pummeling men with disrespect. In God’s economy, both women and men are held in high esteem, both are created in the image of God, and we are each asked to respect the other.

How to respect your man? Well, says Eggerichs, do you know what disrespect is? Just stop doing that. Here’s a list of the ways women can show disrespect.

  • Complaining, instructing, correcting, shaming.
  • Showing distrust, or disinterest.
  • Humiliating them in public
  • Talking about them behind their backs. Disrespect is catchy. Stay away from other wives who dis their husbands. You don’t need to be exposed to that.
  • Sighing, slamming, stomping

You’ve probably heard that something like 90% of communication is not the words we speak. We can portray disrespect through sarcasm in our voice, rolling our eyes, wagging our fingers, standing with our hands on hips, etc. You may not even be aware that you are doing some of these things. One wife I knew rolled her eyes every single time her husband spoke. Yet she was completely unaware of it. They say, “If it’s in your heart, it’s on your face.” Unless you are a trained CIA operative, you probably can’t control what’s on your face. If you have disrespect in your heart, your man will see it or hear it.

One of the best ways to determine if you are showing disrespect to your husband is to check for anger. Anger is a telltale sign he feels disrespected. Many women will break down and cry in a conflict with their husband. And we feel totally justified in doing that.

But when our husbands erupt in anger we think that’s a sign he is out of control. We have a double standard! Just like tears come when wives feel unloved, “Anger is often a man’s response to feeling disrespected.” Emerson Eggerichs

Remember, men are vulnerable and insecure – just like we are.

How to Show Respect

First of all, I want to mention that this article isn’t promoting abuse. If you or your children are in danger, make sure you get somewhere safe. God isn’t asking you to put yourself in harm’s way.  Never submit to physical or emotional abuse. Never agree to something illegal.

I usually ask wives to make a list of the positive traits of their husbands. Many wives cannot think of one positive thing to say about him. Eggerichs says, “did you marry Hitler’s cousin?” I sometimes wonder, “did you walk down the aisle at gunpoint?” All kidding aside, start making a list of his good qualities. Ask other people. Think back to when you first met and you were madly in love.

Philippians 4:8 may help. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is:

  • true
  • noble
  • right
  • pure
  • lovely
  • admirable
  • if anything is excellent or praiseworthy

– think about such things.”

If you have trouble coming up with anything positive, you may have been filling your mind with negative thoughts for a long time. Those thoughts can become toxic to your relationship, to your love, and eventually to your own health. Work to find something, anything, worthy of praise about your man. Let your mind dwell on his positive qualities.

We have less trouble respecting our husbands when we understand our identity in the marriage. Our role is to be his cheerleader, his number one supporter, his admirer.

  • Respect his judgment, don’t question his knowledge or argue with his decisions. You are not always right!
  • Respect his maturity. I wish I had a dollar for every wife who claims that her husband is just one more child to take care of. You are not the Mama!
  • Respect his faith. A man worships and prays and serves God differently than you may. You are not the Holy Spirit!

Try these Tips for Showing Respect

Your husband might love you, and you believe that. But if he doesn’t show it, that hurts. He feels the same way about respect. Perhaps you do respect your husband. Shaunti  Feldhahn reported that most men believed their wives did respect them deep down. But few actually show respect.

Show it!

Here are some ideas for how to show respect, from Emerson Eggerich’s book, Respectfully Yours.

  • Talk him up to others in his presence.
  • Praise him to your family.
  • Tell your children about the wonderful man he is.
  • Be interested in his job.
  • Support his hobbies.
  • Ask for forgiveness when we mess up and do show disrespect.
  • Choose not to show disrespect.
  • Ask for his opinion.
  • Do something with him, side by side. Watch his favorite sport and don’t complain about it. Or talk at all!
  • Watch him play with the kids.
  • Sit down with him for 15 minutes when he arrives home and ask him about his day.
  • Ask him about his dreams and don’t shoot them down.
  • Tell him he is strong.
  • Thank him for going to work.
  • Honor his authority in front of the kids, differ in private.
  • Let him fix things and applaud his solution orientation.
  • Tell him you need a listening ear, not a solution.
  • Tell him you like him.
  • Smile at him.
  • Initiate sex and respond more often.
  • Greet him at the door and tell him you’re glad he’s home.
  • Soften your tone and expression.
  • Go to him first – before your parents or girlfriends.
  • Don’t answer the phone or text or look at social media when you are talking to him.
  • Don’t nag!
  • Live according to your budget, don’t overspend.
  • Put him first before church service and Bible study.

Be consistent when you try to show respect, but don’t try once and give up if he doesn’t respond. If you have changed your behavior he might be wondering if this is just your homework or something. He definitely notices, but he might not respond because he’s waiting to see if it’s genuine or not. Keep at it. ”Remember this is about who you are, not about who he is.” Emerson Eggerichs

Many women feel that it’s hypocritical if they act like they respect their husbands but they really don’t. God asks us to respect our husbands. He wired them to need respect most of all from their wives.

When we lack respect for our husbands, we are weakening our own marriage and risk tearing our family apart. Respect is the most powerful tool a wife has to bring peace into her home, provide a stable environment for her children, get the love she craves from her husband, and empower and motivate him to be the man God intended him to be. Respect is important, powerful and unconditional.

What one suggestion from this article will you try today? Comment below and let us know!

…because U count, deb

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My greatest joy is sharing the wisdom God has given me about forgiveness, healing, destiny and maturity. I do that in coffee shops and in auditoriums; in speaking and in writing; with humor and with candor.

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2 thoughts on “How to Show Respect When He’s Not Acting Respectable

  1. I understand how a man needs respect from their wives as much as wives need to be shown love from their husband’s. This is most difficult for me to do. My husband back slid some years back and has slipt back into addictions to pornography and smoking weed. He also is constantly cursing and has very crude interest and humor. It is difficult to respect him when he is doing all this. How do I show respect when he shows me none? I pray God show me how but I am unsure. One good example is I have asked him repeatedly not to smoke anything infront of our children. And he got caught by his son smoking by his son. My son came and told me he saw daddy smoking something but it is unsure what exactly what it was…cigar or weed or a joint. How do I show respect in a situation such as this? Because these kinds of thing occur frequently and just make me want to pack up my things and my kids and run away. Please any words of advice encouragement would be great. Thank you!

    • Oh Ruth, I hear your pain. I agree it is very difficult to show respect to the disrespectful. And it’s very difficult to show love to unlovable. God asks us to do these difficult things, but we can only do them through His power. I would recommend attending Celebrate Recovery or seeking the help of a counselor. And I recommend spending quality time in prayer and being filled up by God by reading His word. Ask God how to love this man – after all God sent Jesus to die for your husband too. Praying for you! Deb