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Why Do Husbands Need Respect and Wives Desire Love?

Why Do Husbands Need Respect and Wives Desire Love?

How to meet your spouse’s primary desires

Published on 08 February, 2018

“I can’t believe you just said that about me in front of all our friends! How could you humiliate me like this?” Sean spat at his wife.

Xue Ying was baffled. “It was just a casual remark. Anyway I was just telling it like it was. You do behave like that often, even when I’ve told you not to.”

“Did you have to tell everyone and make me lose face like that? I don’t know how I can face them again!” Sean stormed off.

For the rest of the evening, Sean gave Xue Ying the cold shoulder. He knew they should talk it out but he was still fuming. Besides, he thought, she probably wouldn’t care about being apart for just a few hours. He just needed some space to cool off.

Xue Ying didn’t understand why Sean was this bothered and treating her this way. She texted her close friend and cried confused tears as they chatted. “He’s been ignoring me since the afternoon. Does this mean he doesn’t love me anymore?”

This is a fictional scenario, but does it sound familiar? The wife did something she believed was harmless, but it affected her husband in a way she didn’t foresee. The husband acted in a way that he thought was inoffensive, yet didn’t know it would upset his wife this much.

The Crazy Cycle

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, a New York Times bestselling author on marriage, points out that “men hear criticism as contempt [while] women feel silence as hostility.” This explains why Sean felt so embarrassed by his wife’s joke about his behaviour, and Xue Ying felt so hurt by her husband’s subsequent silence.

Men hear criticism as contempt while women feel silence as hostility.

He calls an exchange like that the “Crazy Cycle”. Here’s how it works: when a wife doesn’t receive love from her husband, she reacts by not giving her husband respect, and when a husband doesn’t feel respected by his wife, he reacts by withholding love from her. And the crazy cycle repeats itself!

Why do men value being respected so much, and why is feeling loved so significant to women?

Men and Women Have Different Needs

In her surveys, Shaunti Feldhahn — a social researcher and author of many bestselling books on relationships — found that men and women have different inner insecurities.

She found that “[w]omen tended to have deep, hidden questions like, Am I special? Am I loveable? and thus needed to feel special and worthy of being loved for who they were on the inside.”

On the other hand, “men…really didn’t have those questions. Instead, they worried, Do I measure up? Am I any good at what I do? In other words: they deeply need to feel noticed, able, and appreciated for what they do on the outside.”

Different insecurities lead to contrasting emotional needs in men and women.

Different insecurities lead to contrasting emotional needs in men and women.

Give Our Spouse what is Needed

Feldhahn urges that understanding these sensitive areas helps us avoid hurting our spouse, and stop thinking that they’re being ‘oversensitive’. This lets us care for our mate in the way they need.

She points out that “men’s private doubt about whether they measure up is the reason why [their wives’] respect…matters so much to them.” For women, because their “latent insecurity [is] about whether their man really loves them and even whether they are truly lovable,” they “need to be reassured [by their husbands] often that they are beautiful and they are loved.”

This doesn’t mean a husband only wants his wife’s respect without love; neither does a wife only long for her husband’s love without respect. It’s just that a man needs to feel respected more, while a woman needs to feel loved more.

Dr. Eggerichs observes that just as a wife desires unconditional love from her husband, a husband needs unconditional respect from his wife. When we meet our spouse’s emotional needs, that’s when a couple enters into what he calls the “Energising Cycle”.

The Energising Cycle

Imagine that Sean and Xue Ying have learnt about each other’s insecurities and emotional needs. What can he do to meet her desire to feel loved?

Some things Sean can do include:

  • making it a point to spend quality time with her
  • sharing his joys and difficulties with her
  • listening to her and being empathetic when she shares her feelings with him
  • apologising when he has done something wrong toward her
  • speaking well of her in front of others
  • being physically affectionate with her in public

As for Xue Ying, to help Sean feel respected in their marriage, some things she can do to meet his emotional needs include:

  • expressing her appreciation for his efforts at work
  • affirming his commitment to protect and provide for her
  • not putting him down about his accomplishments or how much he earns
  • recognising that his desire to solve problems is his way of caring for her
  • responding to him when he desires sexual intimacy
  • encouraging him to spend time alone to recharge

Love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man.

Of course, every person is unique, so each couple needs to figure out what most satisfies their spouse’s primary desires. When we remember that “love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man” (Dr Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs), we’re off to a good start! Be energised in loving each other as you meet your spouse’s emotional needs.

This article was written by Raphael Zhang.

© 2018 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

For Men Only: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women (Revised and Updated Edition) by Shaunti and‎ Jeff Feldhahn.
For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men (Revised and Updated Edition) by Shaunti Feldhahn.
Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Love and Respect by Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs.

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