Love is Not Enough in Marriage: A Good Relationship Requires a Balance of Love and Respect
Can you think of any words that are so over used or mis-used that they have lost their meaning? Have you ever repeated the same word or phrase over and over again so that it has lost its meaning when you say it again? Most people have, at some point or another.
Love is a word that is so frequently used to describe anything from a fancy for a thing to the sensation of lust and infatuation. The word is used in an almost flippant manner in so many instances that it is hard to really pin down the feeling that is associated with the word "love." The word, and I wonder, the feeling, has been cheapened by our disregard for its meaning. People fall in and out of love all the time. The divorce rate is sky high.
I don't believe that people truly understand the meaning of love. Love is an emotion, but it is also an action. Too few people today understand the act of loving another person. I hope to shed some light on the situation.
Do Men Understand Love?
In his book Love and Respect Emerson Eggerichs suggests that men understand the importance of love because they are saturated in it. We have songs such as the Beatles' All You Need is Love (listen to the right) and we face constant exposure to love songs and romance novels.
I have a few problems with this
- We're being saturated with "love this" and "love that." It's just too much and it is overwhelming. People feel pushed to say those "three little words" that can utterly change your life and this often places stress and strain on budding relationships.
- It gives us an unrealistic vision of what love is. The media saturation with "love this" and "love that" implies that love is simply an emotion and that feeling love is enough to sustain a relationship or a marriage. This isn't the case. Active love is essential if a marriage is going to work!
- Men are given an unattainable goal. Romance novels and songs give an unattainable goal to men and may cause them to give up. Not all men are an adonis with a fully loaded wallet. The media portrayal of "romantic" men can be overwhelming.
Ultimately, the fact is that women's needs often aren't met because men are given the perception that "love is enough." For many men, the "act of loving" isn't natural for them and because they have been bombarded with the notion that it is enough to feel love for their wives or girlfriends, men don't reach out in a way that is practical for their wives.
Recommended Books to Improve Love Life for Men!
Love in Action
It is very, very true that our culture doesn't teach us how to love. Let us imagine for a moment that we do understand what love is. But how many people do you know who really know how love is? How to you commit an act of love?
Men in particular can be very insecure, especially when they feel that their partner doesn't respect them. We, as women, sometimes have the trait of asking our men (repeatedly) whether or not they love us. This isn't meant to be an insult to your intelligence or disrespect in any form: it happens because we genuinely aren't feeling your love.
For me, deep down I know that my husband loves me. He's a wonderful man and we've been together for five years. We don't fight all that often any more and we have a child together. We aren't always happy, but things could be much, much worse. On the other hand, I don't always feel loved.
Why? Because love is active, and sometimes we just forget to actively love one another. Our lives are busy, and by the end of the day I am so tired of running around after a toddler and he is so tired from work that we don't always mesh well. We both want our space to do our "own thing" and sometimes we aren't communicating as well as we could be. It's sad, but it's true, and my guess is that other couples aren't all that different from us.
Love is active, but the way in which it is active is different for men and for women. Women need to be pursued. While men often feel that the chase is over once the wedding rings are placed on the fingers, women need to be pursued. They want ot be chased down. Regular date nights are very, very helpful for this purpose, but more than that, gentlement, remember what it was like when you were dating. Did you hang on her every word? Buy her flowers? Kiss her passionately goodnight? Remember to compliment her on her looks? You can't stop doing these things just because you are now married! They are important to a woman.
I have reviewed two books that might be of interest to you: The Five Love Languages and For Men Only.
Success in a relationship may be in large part determined by your ability to stay in love with your partner. Staying in love requires that you actively love the other person.
Why not try the Love Dare (from Fireproof, the Movie).
Recommended Books to Improve Love Life for Women!
Love Looks Different to Him
Ladies, have you ever asked a man which is more important to him, love or respect? You might be surprised by the answer that he gives you! In fact, most men seem to view these two things as synonyms! Yes, respect is far more important to a man than is love.
Our belief, as women, that "love is enough" can be disastrous for our relationships. Often we push ourselves harder and harder to love more and more deeply. We cook for our men, if we stay at home we clean the house and take care of the children. When he comes home, we might ask him how his day was and attempt to open a dialogue with him. We want to be with him, to spend time with him. And often we smother him.
For a man, love isn't going to overcome nagging or other "bad" behavior on the part of his wife or girlfriend. Men may respond to a disrespectful attitude by with unloving behavior, including shutting down (refusing to talk) or even raising their voices and saying hurtful things.
If a woman wishes to make her husband or boyfriend feel loved, she must learn how important respect is to him. She must understand that while there is great value to love, he needs her respect even more.
I have recently begun to believe that many women don't understand this basic principle. Some see this as a "one size fits all" analysis of men. Having done some basic experiments myself, however, I can confirm that 100% of the men I spoke with confirmed that they would choose a loveless marriage in which they were respected over a marriage in which they knew they were loved but not respected. In most cases, men also confirmed that love and respect as concepts are inseparable to them. They don't see a difference between the two.
Ladies, it is always false logic to state that "he should change first." If the key to success in a romantic relationship is communication, the key to communication is understanding the way your partner communicates! By denying your partner his needs, you are (deliberately or not), hurting him, and ultimately, hurting your partner hurts yourself. Step off the cycle of crazy logic, read Love and Respect and take the steps necessary to better communicate with your partner.
Additionally, please do understand that if you are happy and your partner is happy, you're already doing it right! I accept that there are occasional variations. Even my favorite books on the subject of marriage (those recommended in this hub) show some variation. You do what works for you and makes you both happy. I simply urge women in particular (since we, more than men, tend to seek vindication) to be willing to meet the needs of their partners.
The Hazards of Lust
You might be rolling your eyes and thinking "okay. Here comes the Christian propaganda!" If that's the case, trust me, I understand. I haven't been a Christian my entire life! Nevertheless, there were times that my relationships fell victim to "the hazards of lust."
I believe that this is a too-little-understood concept, and it is often one which tears relationships apart.
Most of us can connect an affair with lust, but the issue goes significantly deeper than infidelity in a relationship. In fact, most of us (male and female alike) have exhibited lustful attitudes at one time or another and have not been aware of them!
As an example, women know that men are visual. We don't always understand what that means (for more of an explanation, check out For Women Only, which can be purchased from this page!). In general, men have a difficult time not looking when a beautiful woman is within his sight. As women, we often feel as though we are being compared to the beauty who is more slender, has better hair or skin, or is taller/shorter, etc, etc. Although men have a difficult time not looking, women often consider this to be an act of lust (and guys, the ladies don't understand how hard it is for you to keep your eyes away from something beautiful!).
Looking isn't lust: Lust becomes a factor when a man begins to compare his partner to a woman he saw at the grocery store or in line to purchase baseball tickets. Lust occurs when he begins to fantasize about her. And yes, this can seriously damage a relationship!
But the ladies aren't immune to lust, either! While we are significantly less visual than our men, we, too, have a habit of engaging ourselves in activities which press us to compare our partners to a fantasy. Yes, girls: I'm talking about romance novels.
The issue here is not whether men look or women read romantic stories because the problem doesn't arise until one begins to hold his or her partner to an unattainable standard. A woman in her forties isn't likely to have the body of a nineteen year-old and the men in those stories are mostly fantasy (even those who have faults!). It becomes a problem when the eyes linger too long, or you begin to tell him that you wish he was more like your favorite romantic hero.
Your lust can hurt your partner, damage trust, and ultimately hurt you as well. If you have a tendency towards bad habits or an addictive personality, the best thing to do is to at least be aware of your tendencies or to avoid temtation altogether.
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