What Does it Mean to Respect Your Husband?

Good morning, Friends! September is always a busy month! I hope you are getting ready for all that Autumn brings. Today’s question is short but one that I think deserves attention and discussion. I know I am not the only one who has contemplated the practical application and meaning of the word respect. Join in a discussion if you have done your own deep dive.

Today’s Question: What are your thoughts on a spouse keeping divorce on the table if he feels disrespected?

Susan’s Response:  Thank you for asking this question as I believe it brings up a tricky topic. R.E.S.P.E.C.T; Aretha sang about it. Books have been written about it. What does it mean? 

I have done some deep exploration to collect my thoughts about the word respect and I challenge you to do the same. I believe God will meet you when you seek Him and His desires for your life.

You have not provided details to your question, which leaves me wondering what is happening in the relationship to cause your husband to feel disrespected. I have many years of experience with couples and individuals who are dealing with relationship conflict, and therefore I have some guesses.  

I have witnessed relationship interactions in which men believe the wife is to serve his desires as her primary focus and she should revolve her life around his wishes. If she voices a contradictory viewpoint or challenges his thinking in any way, she threatens his sense of authority and need for respect. Or if she doesn't anticipate his needs or appreciate him in the way he wants, he becomes angry and she gets labeled disrespectful. Unfortunately, some church teachings and Christian authors feed into this mindset.

I have also witnessed situations where women become harsh and bitter to the point of being disrespectful in a desperate effort to change the state of the marital relationship. This may come across as or sound like contemptuous statements, snide comments, character attacks, or sarcastic jabs. I implore you to do some soul-searching to examine your own behaviors and heart attitudes.

Scripture does talk about respect quite a bit. How we define respect can make a big difference in how we will carry it out. 1 Peter 2:17 in the NIV says “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” The ESV translated it this way, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” The Message says it in a way that may bring light to the present age, “Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government.” 

Words like honor and dignity are often used as synonyms for respect. The dictionary defines the verb respect in these ways, 1. To hold in esteem or honor 2. To show regard or consideration 3. To refrain from interfering with. We can look to scripture to see if there is biblical alignment in these definitions.

Since Genesis 1:26 and 27 tell us that humans are made in the image and likeness of God, doesn’t it make sense that each person is worthy of honor and dignity? Paul teaches us in Philippians 2:3 to consider the needs of others in addition to our own; Considering others appears to be an important biblical value. Additionally, God allows us our freedom to love Him and He invites us to be free from what keeps us from loving Him fully, as Jesus did with the rich young man in Matthew 19; allowing freedom seems important as well.

Ephesians 5:33 has been used as a command to women that they must give unconditional respect toward their husbands whether or not they are loved in the marriage. It appears, in this context, that respect is defined similarly to admiration. The verse reads, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Greek scholar Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall teaches that in this verse there is a command toward husbands but states, in the original language, there is not a command toward the wife. ‘And’ is used to connect the two statements in the English translations but she believes the more accurate translation is as follows …”let each of you love his wife as himself in order that the wife may respect her husband.” She argues that it was already part of the cultural norm for women to submit; therefore it was a call for reciprocity in marriage by putting the obligation on the husband to behave in a way that provokes respect not fear.

Using fear as a manipulative tactic to gain control of others is despicable and not in alignment with the heart of God.  

God is calling believers to treat others with unconditional dignity but even Jesus did not give unconditional admiration to those who demanded their own way by threatening and causing fear in others. Read about how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23. God is for the oppressed and warns against wickedness. (Psalm 146:7-9)

In a healthy relationship, there is mutual caring, mutual honesty, and mutual respect. Each partner can safely share ideas, feelings, and thoughts and each person is treated with dignity and value. There is also the freedom to challenge, confront, and strengthen one another with loving-kindness.

As we all know, the effects of sin are great. From the first human relationship, sin created ongoing damaging conflict between husband and wife. God addressed this with Eve in Genesis 3:16b, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  In the original text, the Hebrew word translated to ‘desire’ is ‘teshuqah’. The only other place the word teshuqah is used in original scripture is in Genesis 4:7 when God talks to Cain just before he kills his brother Abel. God tells him, “…sin is crouching at the door. Its desire (teshuqah) is for you, but you must rule over it.” There are many opinions on how to interpret the word teshuqah. A popular translation is the ‘turning towards in single-minded devotion’. This is not a command of God but a consequence of sin. 

A wife turning toward her husband with single-minded devotion does not sound harmful on the surface. Let’s talk about how that type of desire could be problematic. 

Being single-mindedly devoted to a fallible human being can create all sorts of anxieties because no imperfect person can fully meet every need or love wholeheartedly. Only God deserves our single-minded devotion and only He provides life fulfillment. Therefore we are urged in Matthew 6:33 not to be anxious about life but to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”

Now to get back to the original question. Find out specifically how your husband defines disrespect. Once you are clear on his expectations, you can decide if you are willing to respect him in the ways he wants. As long as the definitions of respect and disrespect are vague, the rules can always change. He can claim that you have disrespected him just because you voiced your opinion or said no to something he wanted from you.

The reality is, divorce is something that any married person can keep on the table if they choose to; in most states, divorce can be sought for any reason. As believers, we are called to honor the covenant of marriage but not above the safety and sanity of the individuals in the marriage. Your husband may be using the threat of divorce to get what he wants from you. As long as divorce is on the table due to your so-called disrespect, he may feel he has some leverage to keep you in line as he chooses. The real question is, do you believe you are being disrespectful and have you sought counsel from godly people in your life to gain feedback? Are you in alignment with what you believe God is telling you?

Friends, we must take the time to know the heart of God. Explore the Bible as a whole and learn how God views women, not just how tradition and certain cultures have viewed them. God values you and wants you to live your life to the fullest for His glory.

Be well!

Beloved reader, how do you define and show respect in your most significant relationships?

21 Comments

  1. Caroline Abbott on September 6, 2023 at 9:59 am

    I believe Ephesians 5 gives a good description of respect to and from all people. Ephesians 5:21 starts with “Submit to ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ. ” It then takes 3 verses to describe how women can treat husbands, and 8 verses to describe how men should treat their wives. Definitely the onus is on the men in this passage, not the women. But either way, verse 21 sets the stage.

    • Sara Rapp on September 7, 2023 at 9:41 am

      Good points. I’ve always thought of respect as the golden rule: treat others as you would want them to treat you. It also comes to mind what is said to husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman… so your prayers may not be hindered.” (I Peter 3:7)

    • Susan King on September 7, 2023 at 5:43 pm

      Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Caroline!

  2. Carrie on September 7, 2023 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for writing this and putting so much care into this subject. It is very helpful for me. I believed a lie that respect meant never voicing my differing opinion, always keeping my eye on whether or not he he felt slighted by my requests, and being a shape shifter whose main goal was that he felt good about himself, his work, his relationships with his parents and siblings, his clothing, his (our) house, his hair, his reputation. He seemed to have a shame monster that came regularly for him and my role was to feed him praise so that shame wouldn’t eat him alive. All this benefited me greatly as the temperature of our house greatly depended on it.

    I thank God for this ministry and for all the women who continue to pour into me. Changing my beliefs is proving to be a long road. I am divorced now but I continue to work on the broken parts of me. Thank you for your role in that. Blessings ❤️

    • Susan King on September 7, 2023 at 5:52 pm

      Praise be to God! So glad to hear that you are healing and no longer need to shape shift 🙂

    • HUA on September 8, 2023 at 12:16 am

      Carrie, Can I have your contact? I really want to ask you some important questions about how you able to devoice a man like that? I need to know someone like you who had went through situation like this.

    • Rebecca on September 8, 2023 at 12:56 am

      The way you put some of this, I could have written it myself! “ He seemed to have a shame monster that came regularly for him and my role was to feed him praise so that shame wouldn’t eat him alive. All this benefited me greatly as the temperature of our house greatly depended on it.” Yes! 💯!!! While I do believe we should have a role in encouraging each other and building each other up, it should NOT be all on me to bolster HIS self esteem or be his rescuer! Any more than it is his role to be MY rescuer. That role is reserved for Christ alone, and we need the entire Body of Christ to help, support and encourage us, not just our spouse. That is way too much for one person to bear, except Christ alone.

    • Allie on October 22, 2023 at 2:23 am

      Wow Carrie! My ex carries a lot of shame and your comment has helped me understand some of our situation. God also showed me that when I disagreed with him or had a different opinion, he interpreted it as disrespect. And I have agreed with him, often against my better judgement, for a very long time. And he also played the divorce card frequently, until I said to him one day – well, do it – divorce me then. Then he stopped saying it! Once I started putting boundaries in place, he could not handle it. We both made many mistakes, but in his words: the reason for our divorce was my emancipation.

  3. Hannah Leone on September 7, 2023 at 2:39 pm

    I struggle to respect my husband. Even now looking at divorce. We’ve only been married just over a year and he has hurt me and our marriage to the pont of no repair without a miracle. So I guess it depends on both sides. When we reach the point of only one person giving it gets too hard.

    • Susan King on September 7, 2023 at 5:53 pm

      I am sorry to hear that Hannah. How do you define respect in your very painful marriage?

  4. Mel on September 7, 2023 at 4:24 pm

    It’s very difficult to respect your husband when you know he looks at pornography.

    • Susan King on September 7, 2023 at 5:55 pm

      I am sorry you are experiencing betrayal in your marriage. It is so difficult. How are you defining respect, Mel?

  5. Kelly mount on September 7, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    I have been disrespectful to my husband. I’ve been making snarky comments about our worker after accusing him of an affair with her after finding searches for porn relating to her.
    I make comments about her as I feel insecure. There has been a lot happen messaging etc between them.
    I feel like I have torn down my house. And my husband doesn’t live me now. He I think would quite like to leave but doesn’t want to loose what he’s worked for and doesn’t want to disappoint his parents.
    He’s not Christian so has a completely differing view from me on an appropriate friendship
    Between a man and a woman.

    • Susan King on September 7, 2023 at 5:57 pm

      Trust and safety have been damaged in the relationship; you are bound to have lots of uncomfortable feelings about that. How are you showing up for yourself?

  6. Sheila Rupp on September 8, 2023 at 4:39 pm

    My husband is old schooled and believes I should submit in everything. Because of the lack of this, it has proven to be a very fear based love and a very conditional one at that. I know I have not responded godly to him, reacting instead. I am thankful for Leslie’s teachings and now know more how to depend on the Lord to respect him even when I am not treated right. It is very difficult to always be told, No, we can’t do this this way and it is because of his narcissism. The boundary for me now is… ask no questions where I can be put down and made to feel less than and not good enough. I am made to feel unsubmitting if I don’t do as he asks me to do. He makes me feel he is keeping a record of my wrongs and will eventually want to get rid of me for another woman.

    I will pray and ask the Lord to change my attitude and behaviors to reflect respect. He wants acknowledgement. It is a one side relationship and sad that it is this way. But as Leslie also said… it is because of this narcissism I can see what I need to work on.

    What Satan means for evil, God means for our good. I have had to repent over using tactics that are not going to help the situation. I also know I am turning toxic also.

    • Leslie Vernick on September 8, 2023 at 10:18 pm

      Sheila, great self awareness and insights into how this is deforming you too. I think once a woman can decide who she wants to be (her big circle self) and how she wants to “be” without NEEDING it to produce a reciprocal response from the other, she becomes free indeed. In other words, you can choose to be a loving and/or respectful person. That does not mean you will receive it in return or have a loving or respectful relationship. You are in charge of you, not the entire well-being of the relationship or the other.

      • Susan T. on September 10, 2023 at 6:30 am

        Leslie and Susan, Thank you! You ladies are such an encouragement to me. I so appreciate your hearts after God and your wisdom. It was particularly helpful to me that specific understandings of definitions and expectations can help my big circle know how to respond…without bitterness! Bless you!

  7. Sally on September 8, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    My husband threatens as well. His last visit to his attorney was July 31 (2023). He says I’m toxic – he has been professionally diagnosed with narcissism.. Married 34 years. I’m so sick of it! Our counselor told him he prioritizes the church and church activities over our marriage (he’s a staff pastor in addiction recovery), functions like a dry drunk, is slow to admit wrong and is too friendly and familiar with women. I began standing up for myself so he has abandoned me in Every way except providing … I no longer work outside the home. I do Not know
    What to do. He still hasn’t actually filed but yes, the threat is always there, especially if I try to dip under the surface. I think the lead pastor just hopes it will fix itself (IMO because he has a successful ministry) which also causes me confusion. I feel broken, overwhelmed and stuck. My oldest son and DIL do NOT agree with him, will not attend our church but will not say anything because “he won’t listen.” It is what it is but UGH! – so devastating! .

    • Susan King on September 18, 2023 at 7:46 pm

      Sally, you are in a difficult situation! 34 years is a long time to be marriage. You may need to have a safety plan in place so you can leave if you need to. With a professional diagnosis of narcissism, your husband is not likely to change. Please stay close to a supportive community, stay safe and be well!

  8. Mary Drontle on October 10, 2023 at 11:48 am

    Susan there is gold in this write up. I gotta take this to the Lord and journal on all these great points ! Thank you
    I will add what the Lords shown me
    My biggest struggle is detachment. Part of that is respect also. Is how I see that interwoven.
    It’s so hard w these kind of guys when your trying to conversate about anything that goes against them being in control . They go on defense and like others were saying to the monster comes out in whatever way and tactic he chooses to get what he wants when he wants and how and that word respect if we don’t use that just right they use it to gain more power.
    That tiny little space in between to keep our own power and yet respect them when there the enemy out for attack for us is hard.
    One thing I found through doing alot of brain retraining around the evil words they say that get stuck in our head is redirecting back out of it and get your focus off what Lucifer is doing in them is important.
    Cause otherwise I get stuck in the pit w them but yet it has to be done in a respectful way which I still try to find and you have some great points here Susan I need to dive into w the Lord.
    I see this lady is writing this question and I viw it from this point …
    Are you getting sucked into the pit? Or are you staying in the Holy Spirit safety bubble w the Lord?
    Cause hearing this “divorce “word can induce fear not of God and thats the wrong place to focus.
    I have Leslie’s saying on my mirror. “What others say and do has absolutely nothing to do w me.” And everything to do with him”
    I add….” He is not my business ”
    so if he says divorce. I say that andI take my reaction to God andnow have a little plan ready in if there is a divorce what do I need to do to be safe.
    Now if he wants to talk about why he says this and it draws to better the relationship. I would visit that but if it’s threat and control. I walk away like Jesus did and don’t let him poison my mind and heart. That’s been his bait for a long time.

    The Lord showed me” Keep my eyes on him.”
    Seek the Kingdom of God 1st like you say Suan.
    Putting God 1st is respecting him 1st
    We’re responsible for our sin. Our hearts
    “Create in me a pure heart and a steadfast spirit Lord”
    I see it as if you want to put gunk in my heart poison my spirit control and manipulate. I am running the heck away from you cause your not in the kingdom of God your not safe and your not speaking God’s words of respect your cursing and hearing from satan and I am choosing to put God 1st. Respecting God 1st

    The Lord showed me ask yourself
    “Is this healthy for me?
    “Can I stay on the vine in the spirit realm”
    So I set my boundarie line on that. Strong fortress.. Not swaying or moving. I am choosing God 1st and not
    worrying about respecting Satan speaking through him at this time. We’re not fighting man flesh and blood
    The enemy uses them to tear us down. If we let him.
    Respect God . Respect yourself. Not allowing him to sin on you respects him.
    If it’s not healthy I won’t focus there cause God’s not there. And I won’t stay in the Holy Spirit safety bubble w the Lord hearing him if I clog my ears eyes with fearful words that come out. of his mouthThen there is more of a chance it comes out of my mouth and gets lodged in my brain and body and then I ruminate on that not Jesus. I feel Respect should be 1st in my relationship w the Lord and then automatically I respect h if I am in the spirit realm. I keep my focus here
    This has been my experience so putting God 1st to me is being around only healthy and what keeps the Lord 1st and me on the vine.
    Before you walk in that room your h lays divorce on the table. Ask the Lord to put a safety bubble of protection around you and him and your holding the Lords hand in there. The arrows of fear from his words fall right to the ground and your in the spirit and God is 1st and with you

    If my h acts nice at times I keep hold of the hand of Jesus cause u know we can’t trust these guys not to flip at anytime. But I am safe to be respectful and kind but yet detached. God will show me if one day I don’t need to be detached from h but for now detachment from him is safe and cleaving to God and attaching my codependency to the Lord is safe. I use to let my guard down when he love bombed. Not any more. I know what comes after that.
    I also call it “throw the dog a bone” What does your h have pride in that’s not attached to you?
    Mine for example loves his lawn so when he is nice to fill his bucket I say every week or so “Man does that lawn look beautiful and green this year” Then he talks about himself and his good job. Gets his focus off of picking on me. And he feels respected! Have like 5 of those things keeps resentment down in my heart to

    My point is to wrap it up if we have these men we can’t trust to keep us safe. Respect is always Put God above all else but when these manipulators hearing from
    satan who uses them are trying to curse us and not bless us and speak death to us. Run! Look away. Get your focus off of hell is what I see. Thats not spirit realm
    Cause even focusing on finding the line of respect can suck us into feeling devalued shamed were not being a good Christian and confusion Is what happened to me.

    I sit w God and write there comments down and the Lord and I decide if it’s the kingdom and if not the Lord guides me out of fear and into his way.

    Most the time I get up and walk away from h Cause its not the Lord
    Jesus did. I think these men get the hint better
    I dont know if this is respectful but I say
    ” If your going to partner w Lucifer I am not dealing w you” and I walk. Half the time they don’t know there being used by the devil. So that’s a reminder.
    And a reminder to me to choose Jesus
    I tell him” you get a choice how to act. “Jesus gave it to you.”
    “Life or death. Blessings or curses and your choosing cursing and I’m not listening to that.”
    Kinda shuts him right up and nothing usually does.
    Sometimes he is going off as I walk but I tune him out
    You can correct me if this is wrong Susan.

    It wakes him up to think of he is responsible to the Lord.

    When I got my eyes off of how to respect H and got it on the kingdom of God and dealing w my reaction w the Lord on let’s say what thoughts feelings actions come up for me with that “divorce “word. I am no longer bothered by the threat. It got me to make a plan for my safety to take my fear away.
    When he says these fear words which abandonment has been a huge hook in the past. I leave him to go to God who I can trust to take care of me. That’s creating a pure heart and a steadfast spirit to stay out of his pit he is trying to lure me to. I do find to when God is # 1 there is not much caous. It’s when I get sucked in and don’t stay in the safety bubble and nobody’s eyes are on God the issues happen.
    1)Respecting God 1st
    2) leads to respecting me and
    makes it easier
    3)to respect H
    and walking away and waiting for a time where H isn’t partnering w Lucifer to through abuse at me is best.
    And if he escalates in the conversation…I use one of Leslie’s one liners that is always a boundarie on me
    What I will do?
    What I won’t do?
    That’s healthy and safe and keeps me on the vine.

    That’s my goal and when I stick to it there is more respect 🙏

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