If you could only have one what would you choose: love or respect? Research data in Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, “For Women Only,” concludes that most men choose respect while most women prefer love. Ironically, many couples don’t even recognize their spouse’s primary need, and think sex, money or in-law problems keep them from having a good marriage. Emerson and Sarah Eggerichs of Love and Respect Ministries propose, that the state of any marriage has much to do with recognizing certain cycles that involve love and respect.

The Crazy Cycle

Couples caught up in this cycle include women who fight for their need to be loved, and men who fight for their need to be respected in ways that don’t inspire the love and respect they’re looking for. They go at it repetitively hoping to get their need met without realizing the method doesn’t work. Therefore, the need continues to go unmet and spins the cycle without end.

For example, a wife who wants her husband to romance her more, might have a nasty attitude towards him if he asks her about making plans to attend his office party when he hasn’t planned anything romantic for her in ages. He feels disrespected by her attitude and wants to get away from her. In turn, it makes her think he doesn’t love her and she fears he’ll never be romantic again; while he thinks she doesn’t respect him and fears she’ll never be sweet and approachable again. Meanwhile her nasty attitude is just a crying out for him to show her love, and his absence is just a crying out for her to show him respect.


The Energizing Cycle

This cycle includes his love motivating her respect, and her respect motivating his love.  According to Emerson Eggerich, “The key to motivating your spouse is meeting their deepest need, especially during conflict.” For example, (using the example from above) if the wife appreciated him wanting her to accompany him to the office party, she might agree politely and prepare by getting a babysitter or taking their outfits to the cleaners in time enough for the party. He would then believe she thought it was important too, feeling respected as well as motivated to respond to her in a more loving way; which could include the romance she’s been looking for.

Of course it’s not always this simple. In fact, it’s not even easy to work at meeting your spouses deepest need when they’re not concerned with meeting yours. Still, doing it anyway will inspire a change in your spouse over time, and they need (at minimum) just a fragment of love in their heart for you.

The Reward Cycle

Based on the Bible scripture Ephesians 5:25-33, the reward cycle implies her respect and his love, regardless of him showing love or her respecting him.  Because God commands each man to love his wife as his very own self and each wife to respect and reverence her husband, married couples don’t have the option to love or respect based on whether their spouse does their part. A wives respect and a husband’s love have nothing to do with their spouse and everything to do with obedience to God, by making Christ’s instructions applicable in their relationship. No couple has this down perfectly and it can take some time to get better at, but interacting with your spouse in a way that pleases God moves you closer toward perfection and an enjoyable marriage.

Matthew 25:40 says that whatever you do for others is the same as doing it for God in Christ. So it’s vital that both the husband and wife reverence God, because it’s hard to keep disrespecting your husband or withholding love from your wife when you know that doing so also disrespects and is unloving to God.


Shaunti Feldhahn: For Women Only
Focus on the Family: Energizing Your Marriage With Love and Respect (Audio)

Love and Respect Ministries
Focus on the Family Web Exclusive: Eggerichs

Editorial Staff

Editorial Staff


Founded and operated by Zara Hairston since 2012, Love-Life, Inc. provides biblical support for singles and married couples. The editorial staff brings you relative content to enlighten, encourage and strengthen your single or married life in Christ.