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The Love & Respect ExperienceA Husband-Friendly Devotional that Wives Truly Love
By Emerson Eggerichs
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Emerson Eggerichs
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAnd They Lived Happily Ever After ... Not Necessarily
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.
One of our chief concerns at Love and Respect is not that people hear the message, important as that is, but that couples who attend a conference or read the book will go on to practice love and respect effectively in their daily lives. Of course, I realize each couple has this very same concern, and that's why my heart goes out to those I hear from who "get it" but who aren't able to "stay with it" consistently. They have learned that Love & Respect sounds simple, but it's not so easy to do. Maybe "not natural" is a better phrase. I understand. Sarah and I don't find it easy or natural either, and we have conducted Love & Respect conferences over two hundred times during the last ten years!
These are some of the many confessions I've heard from spouses who are struggling:
"I'm desperately praying for the Holy Spirit to help me change and be a more respectful wife. It hasn't been easy though, and I fail much more often than not."
"Love & Respect works great when we are practicing it, but we are not consistent. It's hard not to fall back into old patterns. I am so defensive it isn't funny."
"I am continuously amazed at how quickly we can go for a spin on the Crazy Cycle. I want to cry thinking how my level of knowledge far outweighs my level of obedience."
At this point you may be wondering: Why is Emerson starting this book with such bad news from couples who fail? How can this help us?
Hear me out. I am not trying to discourage you; I want to encourage you by saying right up front that Love & Respect is not a magic bullet. You will try it and find that you won't always practice it perfectly. To realize this truth and use it is a great source of strength and power. I love Proverbs 24:16 because it gives me such hope. Good people are not perfect, but God says: "A righteous man [or woman] falls seven times, and rises again." And how do you "rise again"? Here are three guidelines:
1. Never give up. If you want to have a strong marriage, you need to accept temporary setbacks as part of the game. In baseball terms, keep stepping back up to the plate. According to the baseball statisticians, even Hall of Famers fail to get a hit seven out of ten times. And Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest slugger of all time, struck out over thirteen hundred times, more than anyone of his day!
2. Seek forgiveness from God and your spouse. A wife writes: "I failed to communicate respect to my husband. I've asked the Lord to forgive me, and I am preparing an e-mail to ask my husband to forgive me as well." A husband reports: "I know now how I failed as a husband, friend, and lover, and I've asked God and my wife for forgiveness." Ephesians 4:32 says it all: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (NIV). Sarah and I often find ourselves turning to each other and saying, "I'm sorry—again."
3. Ask God to take your hand. Psalm 37:24 promises that though you stumble, you will not fall, for the Lord will uphold you with His hand. We need God's helping hand, and it's always there for us, if we ask Him humbly and confidently for guidance.
The storybook ending is always, "And they lived happily ever after." We know that's not really true because the slips, the bumps, and the falls do come in crazy ways. Life is not a matter of attaining some kind of marital nirvana. "Living happily ever after" means knowing how to deal with the imperfect parts of life—not accepting them with resignation but dealing with them through God's forgiveness and help and always getting back up when you fall. In a very real sense, the rest of this book is about just that, as you and your spouse will discover as you mine the riches of Love & Respect.
PRAYER: thank the Lord for his forgiveness, his grace, and the righteousness that only he can bestow. Thank him for his promise that though the righteous fall, they can rise again and continue to build a strong marriage with love and respect. Ask God to put it in your heart to refuse to let defeat defeat you.
ACTION: Make personalized copies of proverbs 24:16 that say, "For a righteous spouse falls seven times, and rises again," and put them up on bathroom mirrors, inside cupboard doors, and in other places where you will see them every day. (For discussion questions, see page 215 in appendix A.)
Chapter TwoPink and Blue: Not Wrong, Just Different!
He created them male and female, and He blessed them.
One of the most powerful and eye-opening concepts in the Love & Respect approach to marriage is the difference between Pink and Blue. We aren't talking about how to decorate a nursery. We are simply pointing out how God made men and women as different as the colors pink and blue. I use the simple analogy that the woman looks at the world through Pink sunglasses that color all she sees. The man, however, looks at the world through Blue sunglasses that color all he sees. Men and women can look at precisely the same situation and see life very differently. Inevitably, their Pink and Blue lenses cause their interpretation of things to be at odds, in some cases more so than others.
Men and women not only see differently, but they also hear differently. To carry the Pink and Blue analogy a little further, God created men with Blue hearing aids and women with Pink hearing aids. They may hear the same words but receive very different messages, as in the statement "I have nothing to wear!" She hears nothing new, while he hears nothing clean.
Because men and women figuratively wear sunglasses and hearing aids in different colors, they see, hear, and behave differently in countless ways: When she wants to talk face-to-face and he wants her to sit next to him and watch football, this is a Pink and Blue difference. When she wants their ten-year-old son to be more careful riding his bike and he wants his boy to ride that bike the way he himself did when he was ten, this is a Pink and Blue difference. When she wants to clean the kitchen, launder the sheets, and vacuum the carpet right away and he wants her to forgo these chores to play with him and the kids, this is a Pink and Blue difference.
Many couples arrive at our conferences suffering from "color blindness" regarding the profound impact the principle of Pink and Blue has on marriage, but when they leave, their color blindness is gone. They make observations like these:
"I never saw that before. I thought we were the same."
"Now I understand how men and women are 'wired' differently and why it takes a lot of work to learn about each other's needs."
"I am able to view conflict totally differently now. Instead of seeing my husband as an egotistical maniac, I have some peace and confidence about who God made me to be and who God made him to be, and I'm not feeling so frustrated about our differences."
Refusing to get frustrated is the key. Genesis 1:27 tells us that God made us in His image, and Genesis 5:2 adds that He blessed what He made. When differences arise (and they always will), remember this is part of God's plan. Neither one of you is wrong, just different. A major step toward a happy marriage is accepting differences and working them out with love and respect. Relax—and even rejoice. Vive la différence!
PRAYER: thank the Lord that in the very beginning he created male and female—Blue and pink. Ask him for patience and ever-growing understanding of how men and women see and hear differently.
ACTION: When the Crazy Cycle threatens to spin over a pink and Blue difference of opinion, try saying things like, "here, put on my pink sunglasses so you can see what I see," or "here, try my Blue hearing aids so you can hear what I just heard." (For discussion questions, see page 216 in appendix a.)
Chapter ThreeDo You Have a Goodwilled Marriage?
He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it (NIV).
I am sometimes asked what I think is the most important principle we teach. Pink and Blue (not wrong, just different) comes to mind, but so does one simple word: goodwill. When you and your spouse see each other as goodwilled, good things are in store for your marriage.
When they first hear the word goodwill, people have questions: Just what is goodwill? How can I know I am showing goodwill toward my spouse? How can I be sure my spouse has goodwill toward me?
A simple definition of goodwill is "the intention to do good toward another person." But the challenge often comes in when one spouse does something to the other spouse that does not feel "good," loving or respectful as the case may be. It is often just a "little thing" but still enough to get the Crazy Cycle revving up. At moments like these, the "offendee" has to cut the "offender" some slack, as in giving him or her the "goodwill benefit of the doubt."
A number of verses confirm that goodwill is a biblical idea. See, for example, Proverbs 14:9, Philippians 1:15, and Ephesians 6:7. And Paul is surely talking about the concept of goodwill in 1 Corinthians 7:33–34 when he warns that husbands and wives can become so concerned about pleasing each other that they can be distracted from serving Christ as they should. Granted, husbands and wives don't always demonstrate that natural desire to please each other as well as they might, but their goodwill is real nonetheless.
That's why today's passage is so important. When there is conflict, disagreement, or a bump of some kind, don't automatically conclude that your partner has ill will toward you. If you look for evil (offense), you can find it every time. Do that and the Crazy Cycle will spin for sure.
What Proverbs 11:27 is saying to the married couple is this: look for the good in your spouse (even though it seems to be lacking). It is quite likely that you will see your spouse's goodwill coming right back at you. The truth is simple: we will see what we look for. No matter what happens, always assume your partner has basic goodwill toward you. How does that work in real married life? Here are some examples.
I know of one husband who made the decision always to assume his wife had goodwill. Not only did this simple commitment improve his attitude, but it also changed her entire attitude toward him! He writes: "I started giving her the benefit of the doubt ... I didn't tell her she was disrespectful or anything ... The results are stunning. She has been easier to live with. She doesn't nag me as much. She has shown increased interest in my hobbies. And she says I am like a new person." All this from simply giving her the benefit of the doubt! What does Proverbs 11:27 say? Look for good and you will find goodwill—sometimes in spades!
Or what about the wife who had to spend much of the summer apart from her husband because of their different career responsibilities? After several weeks she went to see him, meeting him at his office, where she knew he was under a lot of stress because of an important interview coming up. She hoped for at least a hug or a kiss but was greeted instead by a preoccupied husband who practically ignored her. Although she was hurt, she asked God to help her remember he was a goodwilled man who simply needed some time to prepare for an important interview.
Her prayers and patience paid off. Two hours later he "emerged a refreshed and lighter man, full of hugs and kisses for me." They had a wonderful time the rest of the evening, as well as over the next several days. Before learning about goodwill and the Pink and Blue differences between men and women, she would have belittled her preoccupied husband in no uncertain terms. This time she turned to God for understanding and felt true peace because she was able to look at the situation from his male (Blue) point of view.
Does seeking good in your spouse when he or she has not shown much goodwill always work? No, not always, but remember this simple but powerful principle: assuming goodwill in your partner is always the best policy. Keep on seeking the good; eventually you will find it and goodwill as well.
PRAYER: thank the Lord for the goodwill each of you has toward the other. Ask him for strength to give each other the benefit of the doubt during moments when someone's goodwill seems to be lacking.
ACTION: During disagreements and conflicts, tell yourself, my spouse has goodwill toward me—even though it doesn't feel that way right now. (For discussion questions, see page 217 in appendix A.)
Chapter FourGod Joined You Together, and He Will Keep You Together
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.
We are all familiar with the phrase "until death do you part" in the wedding vows. The Christian view is that marriage is for keeps, a value that is under constant attack in our present-day culture. Jesus' words are a powerful reminder that God has joined you together, not some human legal requirement. I hear from many couples who are very sure of this. Regardless of marital bumps, they say, "God brought us together, and that is all that matters," or "We know God brought us together," or (typical of our cyberspace times) "We met over the Net, and God brought us together in the most wonderful way."
Sincere believers agree with these enthusiastic testimonies and start out wanting to keep their vows, but for many, something goes awry on the road to wedded bliss. One spouse writes: "I believe in my heart that God brought us together, but we can't talk to each other at all without getting into a huge fight." And another says: "Because we felt so strongly that God led us together, we were so puzzled that after only one year we were so unhappy and having so much conflict."
Excerpted from The Love & Respect Experience by Emerson Eggerichs Copyright © 2011 by Emerson Eggerichs. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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