January 16, 2012

On Love & Respect

I have mentioned before that Bryon and I continue to do a monthly marriage session to keep us healthy and growing in the right Godly direction. To say that we love this time and need this time together, dedicated to working on our marriage is a serious understatement. To say that I am grateful to have started it before normal life has the chance to wreck our stability is also a serious understatement. To us, counseling will be a constant, our 'normal.' It's also something our kids will see as a positive, ongoing way to work on a marriage. It is SUPPOSED to be good, hard, and rewarding work. Working to keep God inside of it. And, God has ebbed and flowed our time together such that these lunch sessions arrive exactly when they are most needed.
Months before we said our vows, we began our marriage series using this book:
This is a great book. However, it was not written by anyone who has actually suffered through a divorce and popped out on the other end with few enough bruises that they were willing to do it again. Being divorced (or perhaps, having parents who were) is critical to truly successful counseling on remarriage in our opinions. So, good book, but not holy grail material.
Over the past year we've had maybe 18 sessions. I bet during every one Plowman has mentioned to us this concept of "pink" and "blue" communication between women and men. The point that he was making is that men and women speak and listen differently, and Bryon and I are no different than every other couple out there. Men solve problems; women need details. It comes down to this simple verse, Peeps:
Ephesians 5:33: Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Dr. Emerson Eggerich describes it like this:  If you gals imagine that you speak in pink (love) and hear in pink (love), then it makes sense that you can understand the empathetic, romantic, and superlative, loving notions of a woman - and that you EXPECT those same things coming back toward you from your husband. If you then also imagine that your man speaks in blue (respect) and hears in blue (respect), then it also makes sense that you can NOT understand what he is saying back to you. Nor are we speaking to them the way that they expect for us to (in blue). Therein lies the mess. The Crazy Cycle, as it were. 
This simple and rudimentary diagram was like lightening when I saw it. This entire theory is based on the book, Love & Respect. This one IS holy grail material, Folks. Humor me. Please?
This book was a wedding gift from my beautiful friend Carmen. I admit that I didn't crack the book until this past weekend. I'm not sure why. Probably because we were reading the other book above, maybe because I was preoccupied with something stupid. Well, we had a session with Plowman last Friday and again during our session, Plowman said, "pink and blue, Guys. She needs pink and you're saying blue. He needs blue and you're spitting out pink. Meanwhile, neither of your needs are being met until you beat it out of each other." Well, I paraphrase. But, it made me pick up the book, which was the Holy Spirit at work I assure you. So on Saturday he dinked around on the computer while I read the first chapter.
I was voracious. I could not read it fast enough, but wanted to slowly savor each sentence at the same time. Some of the examples were trite, but the message was there. Oh, how it was there! While I slouched on the couch, I became entirely convicted in my marriage. I became entirely convicted that I AM part of the reason why he's accidentally hurtful toward me. Why he doesn't speak in pink. I am called to respect my husband at all times but I am not doing that. The Bible doesn't say that I am to respect him when he earns it, or when I feel like it, or when he is loving to me. No, it says I am to do it because I am commanded to. [The Bible also says that my husband is to be loving to me at all times, regardless of how I speak to him, if I am disrespectful, or if he doesn't feel like making the effort... but I'm mainly focusing on my culpability in this post.]
I have not been doing as I have been commanded to. Folks, that feels shitty. As I read I was overwhelmed with accountability for my sin against my husband. All of those times that I was trying to help (while really just trying to give him a platform on which to show his love for me - pink) by asking him, "Did you call So And So? But did you tell them This? You should do it this way. Don't forget to do this, or do that." Ugh. It makes me sad just retyping it. No matter my good motive or how sweetly I said it, that is DISRESPECT right there, Ladies. I hate it because it's our natural tendency to accidentally talk down to them. But it is deeply disrespectful. This makes them cranky and *surprise* completely unloving in their responses to us.  
I certainly could blog to you all to convince your man of what HE needs to be doing to love you back, but I believe this book was written for the woman to read of her accountability first. If we are to serve our husbands, to honor and obey them and to look to them to lead us, then it makes complete sense that we should begin with ourselves. We need to look inward and ask the Lord to help us work there first.
As I read, I began to cry. I finished the first chapter and wiped my eyes eleventy times. Eventually Bryon looked up from his laptop. "Is your nose running? Or are you... are you CRYING?! Are you okay?"
I was completely overcome with how I have behaved as a wife. I was overcome with how he loved me in spite of it. And then I was overwhelmed at how our Heavenly Father loves us despite our everything. I was full of HOPE for our future. I apologized to him for being disrespectful, and I asked him to please, please read the book with me. He agreed immediately. And while I went into the kitchen [still completely lost in thought and crying, the entire time - literally crying while I cooked, I couldn't stop for the RELIEF I felt to finally know the path I should be going down. That was HOPE.]... he picked up the book and began to read.
Eventually I heard him close the book after the first chapter. He came into the kitchen and we discussed it. He was very surprised that the book was NOT a lesson on how he was doing something wrong. Or how I was. It was just... directions. It was scriptural directions made easy to understand. And, Folks, we are not "broken" by any means. We have no large divides in our relationship, nor are we consumed with anger toward one another. But we want to work on our marriage. Love it, pray for it, and do what we are commanded to do.
We have agreed to read one chapter at a time, one not reading ahead until the other has caught up. We've involved Plowman now, too. I am so excited! Once we figure out how to avoid the Crazy Cycle, then we can start what Dr. Eggerich refers to as the Energizing Cycle.
And, there is no bandwagon here. I'm not getting compensated for this review. And I know that this book is simply a vessel of God's directions. For that, we are grateful. But I am excited because this message is already convicting me in the day-to-day. I think about it all the time. Really, I do.
A couple of nights ago Bryon started down a blue path (because that's where boys naturally go). And I was moody and period-y and only listening in pink. At first, I mean. When he asked my opinion on something, I started my usual lovey-dovey, "Oh, Sweetie, you have to be careful because blah blah blah," as I giggled, "and then you should..." Oh I went on and on and giggled and he tolerated it - yes he did - he tolerated it until ... well, until he didn't anymore. 
He pushed my hand away.
I was CRUSHED. He has never pushed any part of me anywhere away before.
Now I had a choice right then. Right in that moment I could have gotten all pink and swirly and decided to let my feelings be hurt because he pushed me away (he pushed me away! me, who he loves so much, he pushed away. he was repulsed by something I did!). I felt myself circling the drain. He doesn't understand me. He has no idea that I was only trying to help. I wasn't trying to disrespect him. Then, slowly, the perspective seeped in: Hmm... I was doing that, wasn't I? Disrespecting and immasculating him. He was sitting there, quiet. He knew I was upset, but he was still pissed at me and couldn't decide what to say. So I sat there, too, replaying all of this in my head until I felt that familiar THUMP of the Holy Spirit in my chest. This was the perspective that this book had given to me in a new way.
Ephesians 5:33: Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Dang it. I did it AGAIN. I couldn't believe me. Jeez, I might as well have lopped his balls off my own self right there.
So, instead of getting all pink and swirly and upset, I just spoke from the heart. I thought of the book and the Crazy Cycle. You guys, it was HARD because I wanted to swirl in pink. It was hard to say, "I'm sorry... I wasn't trying to disrespect you." And as I said it, I was still pissed. I had no idea what would happen next; I only knew that I meant it, and I wanted to handle this differently than usual to avoid the pink swirl.
We chatted for a moment. We held hands. Then he said, "I'm sorry... I overreacted."
That is not something he has EVER said to me before (the overreacted bit, I mean). That was a show of pink - he was trying to be loving in his own way. And just like that, he said something loving and stopped my spin. My respect for him directly led to him responding in a more loving way. Somehow, we both used what we had read. It doesn't get any better than that, Folks.
As I understand it, the point is this:
The woman must have blind faith in her husband, faith that he loves her above all things because he is commanded to do so. And she, because of this faith, must be able to see and find and appreciate all of the loving things that he DOES do for her already. Expectations will melt away into reality when this confidence motivates her to be more respectful of him in every way.
The man must have blind faith in his wife, that she respects him and appreciates all that he does for the family because she is commanded to do so. And he, because of this faith, must be more loving toward her in actions and comments, no matter how she behaves. Expectations will melt away into reality when he is more loving toward her, and he will begin to see all the times that she DOES respect him.
It is through this blind faith that they are both able to see the love and respect that they desperately need from one another. She can begin to hear blue and he, pink.
It's not magic. It's God's plan. And it's also not easy by any means. And we definitely don't have the hang of it yet. But there is hope in God's plan for us. Oh, there is hope. And it feels amazing!


  1. I couldn't agree more! Yes, I do love my husband, but I know that a long-term relationship doesn't work by itself. It needs many things to remain strong and flurishing through time. I think it is great that you guys don't take each other for granted.

  2. I can't tell you how timely this post is for me! I'm ordering it ASAP. I'm looking forward to it helping me be a better wife, but more specifically, a better mom. I'm raising two young men (often alone, as my husband travels for a living and he isn't always available for me to ask the best way to communicate with two small men I'm raising).
    So, thank you!

  3. Yep, Got the book years ago (80) and blogged about it, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. http://dontpokethebaby.blogspot.com/2008/08/respect.html

    (need to pick up the book again. ugh)