Anyone who has been married for more than a few months will attest to the difficult challenges you must face and overcome if you are to remain married. That was true for Diane and me after only a few months of wedded life. We are both able to express our opinions clearly. We don’t always agree. In those first years that combination was accompanied by the inevitable external pressures that come with moving, going on to school, working at a job significantly below her educational level to earn a PHT (Putting Hubby Through) degree. There was also the challenge of learning theology, hermeneutics, homiletics, and Greek.
One Sunday we were on the way to worship and happened to listen to Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, the Lutheran Hour radio program speaker. His message was simple. It was to married couples and quite simple: “Hang in there … Together!” It had such an impact on us that we wrote a letter and received a printed copy of the message.
Since that time we have learned much, including the importance for each of us of love and respect the other. This is a concept that we’ve come to appreciate. In his book, Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs describes these two qualities as, “the love she most desires, and the respect he desperately needs.” He picks up on the expression of Ephesians 5:33, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Notice he is to love his wife. She is to respect her husband. We’ve found it true for us. We both want both love and respect. But when we are hard-pressed Diane tends to feel unloved, and I have a sense that I’m not being respected. Sometimes we’ll even identify it as such. It can truly help.
There is yet another even more vital ingredient to marriage faithfulness and success. That is an awareness that as husband and wife, we are both broken. In other words, I cannot demand from Diane that which I am not for her. I have faults. I must accept her together with her faults.
Certainly we must appreciate the blessings we see in each other. Failing to acknowledge that will erode the foundations of even the strongest marriage. But if we do not recognize our own brokenness – especially when we rub up against our spouse’s brokenness – we will become self-righteous and judgmental. Those are not the building blocks of marriage or of any relationship.
When we do recognize our mutual need for mercy, grace, and forgiveness, we are in a better place to find true joy and blessings in marriage and in life itself. It’s another place not to feel bad about feeling bad.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:31-33