The Language of Love and Respect

God’s way of communicating in marriage is to talk with words of unconditional love and respect.

“If,” comments a wife, “I’m in the middle of a conversation with my husband that has the potential to become heated and a negative thought about my husband enters my mind, I remember the simple advice in Love and Respect that when I communicate with my husband, I need respectful words, a respectful tone of voice, and a respectful countenance. I also remember the simple advice that I need to think respectful thoughts about my husband because he is created in the image of God, and God commands me to respect him.”


The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips. — Proverbs 16:23

I also teach “my response is my responsibility.” When my spouse and I get on the Crazy Cycle, my unloving words are my responsibility. My wife, Sarah, doesn’t cause my unloving words, and I must always ask myself before I speak, “Is that which I am about to say going to sound loving or unloving to Sarah?”

A husband comments, “Our relationship changed from frequent nagging and fighting when I realized that my response is my responsibility. I find myself constantly going back to that [truth] in every situation that gets heated. Our relationship has gradually gotten better and better as I try to speak lovingly.”

It would be easy enough to deduce that communication is the key to marriage, but I don’t agree.

To say that communication is the key to marriage is to assume that both spouses speak the same language.

After more than three decades of pastoring, counseling married couples, and conducting marriage conferences, I have learned that, in fact, the wife speaks a “love language” and the husband speaks a “respect language.” They don’t realize this, of course, but because he is speaking one kind of language (respect) and she is speaking another (love), there is little or no understanding and little or no communication.

Your words are a very good indication of what is going on in your heart — and your spouse knows it.

Just about every couple knows what it is like to get into a conflict that escalates into a full-blown argument and they are not sure why it happened. Spouses tend to write off these kinds of arguments, saying, “If only she weren’t so sensitive” or “If only he weren’t so touchy.” But those aren’t the real issues at all.

Conflict inevitably happens when spouses focus on their own needs and overlook the needs of the other. That’s when the issues arise. The wife needs love; she is not trying to be disrespectful. The husband needs respect; he is not trying to be unloving. And once the Love and Respect couple grasps a basic principle — that the apparent issue is not the real issue at all — they are on their way to cracking the communication code.

Conflict is inevitable; it is simply part of living together.

The key to keeping conflict from escalating is to choose to practice love or respect. When a husband speaks with a loving tone during a conflict, which may range from a mild argument to a more serious disagreement, his wife will feel one with him. And when a wife softens her facial expressions and comes across more respectfully during those times of friction, the husband will feel one with her.

Will the disagreement be solved? Perhaps, but more than likely it will still be there. Yet husband and wife can feel oneness because nobody has to win and nobody has to lose.

Oneness is, and it is gained when the wife feels loved by her husband and the husband feels respected by his wife. They bond with each other; two, indeed, become one.

Excerpted with permission from Love and Respect for a Lifetime  by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, copyright Thomas Nelson.  
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