With 20 years of ministry experience, a PhD in family studies, a Master's of Divinity degree, and a Master's degree in communication, Emerson Eggerichs was a knowledgeable, experienced, and effective pastor.  But one day, while rereading a passage of scripture he had preached on many times, he discovered what he calls "the key to any problem in marriage."  So powerful was his aha moment that ever since then he has devoted his life to using this insight to help strengthen and even save people's marriages. 

What was that passage?  It's one that is probably familiar to you, too: "Each of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband" (Ephesians 5:33).

Eggerichs saw with fresh eyes that a woman's primary need is love and a man's primary need is respect.  But here's the added insight that makes such a simple sounding concept so difficult to put into practice in marriage: without feeling loved, a woman will naturally react to her husband without respect, and without respect, a man will naturally react to his wife without love.  That gives rise to what Eggerichs calls "The Crazy Cycle." 

How to break out of it?  A husband is called to love his wife even when she's being disrespectful and a wife is called to respect her husband even when he's being unloving.  That's not easy, but it's amazingly powerful.

As I've been reading Eggerichs' book, naturally titled Love and Respect, it made me wonder about the implications for how husbands and wives use money, especially since finances are typically one of the most contentious issues in marriage.  So, I decided to ask my wife, Jude, what I do financially that makes her feel loved.  And then I thought about what she does financially that makes me feel respected.

Just bringing it up on a recent car ride led to an enjoyable and encouraging conversation.  It gave each of us a new appreciation for things the other does that we often take for granted.

She said that knowing I'm managing the details of our budget, making sure we have adequate insurance, taking the initiative to think about and plan for future needs, and generally keeping an eye on our finances makes her feel loved.  Okay, she also remembered feeling loved when I uncharacteristically gave her a present that she knew exceeded our gift budget!

I said I feel respected when she reminds our kids in front of me how hard I work for our family.  I also feel respected when she finds creative ways to stretch our food and clothing budgets.

When I put these questions on my Facebook page recently, one person said she feels loved when her husband talks with her about large purchase decisions in advance.  Doing so makes her feel like a partner in the decision, she explained, not an onlooker.

As she thought about it some more, she wrote back and added, "Ok, you really got me to thinking. It's not a one way street. I want to feel loved, so I ask for being kept in the loop in financial decisions. But as I considered your question, I began to realize how very, very disrespectful I have behaved toward my husband in our finances, not even consulting him on decisions about spending with my cavalier, ‘After all, I work and earn a paycheck too!' attitude. I had to pray and ask God's forgiveness this morning for my bad behavior as I thought about the dollars I have racked up in credit card debt. I recently received a small inheritance and was reticent to use it to pay off that debt. Now I see the need to do just that. Then I need to ask my husband's forgiveness next. That will be the hardest part. Thanks for the prodding."  

I wonder if this simple insight could help couples use money in a way that actually strengthens their marriages? What would happen if wives let their husbands know what they do financially that makes them feel loved and if they considered how well their financial actions convey respect?  By the same token, what would happen if husbands let their wives know what they do financially that makes them feel respected and if they considered how well their financial actions convey love?

If you're married, please talk this over with your spouse and leave a comment describing how the conversation went. 

 

May 20, 2010

Matt Bell is the author of two books published by NavPress: "Money, Purpose, Joy" (September 2008) and "Money Strategies for Tough Times" (April 2009).  He speaks at churches, conferences, universities, and other venues throughout the country.  To learn more about his work and read his blog, go to: www.mattaboutmoney.com