I was dismayed as I looked at the meaning of the Greek word for respect. It means to fear, be apprehensive, alarmed, and fearfully impressed. I thought, "is this the the attitude Paul expected of wives?"
We must always look at context, because in it we find the contrast that husbands are to love. Fear is not the appropriate response to love. In fact Paul said elsewhere that perfect love casts out fear. So given the ideal that he presents in Ephesians for married couples how do we understand the word respect.
There is another translation that fits the word, and it is to reverence or to hold in high regard. Wives are to submit to their husbands by holding them high regard. This isn't as easy as it sounds because men have the tendency to fail at meeting the expectations of their wives. You can hear wives say, "I love him but I just don't respect him." Paul doesn't admonish wives to love, but to submit and respect. Maybe it is because respect is the more difficult attitude of wives toward their husband. "I get no respect" should never be a husbands mantra. Let's get to it, what does respect look like.
1. Don't insult him or make fun of him. As tough as men say they are their egos are fragile when it comes to their wives. They can take abuse from everyone, but it becomes personal when it is their wives.
2. Listen to him when he speaks. You might think that women are better listeners, but when it comes to hearing what their husbands are saying it is more of an art. Men don't share feelings to the same extent as women. Listening is hearing past the words to the intent. I always tell Rebecca to say what she means, but then I don't do it when she asks how I am feeling.
3. Value his opinion. This is a tough one, especially if you believe your husband doesn't have very good ones. Valuing an opinion is different for men then women. Rebecca asks my opinion because she wants a variety of choices. But when I give give my opinion I expect it to be acted on. It frustrates me to no end when she asks my opinion and then does the exact opposite. If that is your decision making process, whatever he says do the opposite, I would suggest you change your strategy.
4. Be considerate of his likes and dislikes. Most women are nurtures so this comes naturally. Rebecca is constantly considering what I like when it comes to food, movies, and vacations. The only downside to this is when I ask where she wants to go out to eat. I'll eat almost anywhere and because she constantly is thinking about what I like I want to be as sensitive. But when it becomes a fight as to who is the most gracious I feel my attempt at consideration is not respected. Remember my fragile ego.
5. Don't mock or ridicule him in public or in private. Husbands, as well as wives, should always feel protected, especially when they are not there to protect themselves. Men put their wives down in front of the guys as a joke, looking to build themselves up in front of the men. Women complain about their husbands failures looking for sympathy and support. Neither is a good way to respect the other.
Behind every great man is a women who has highly respected him. The general rule is that men will love their wives more deeply if they feel respected. It may be as simple as a taking his arm in public because you are proud to be by his side, or praising him in front of others for the one thing he finally did on your list (not mockingly).
I have to say that Rebecca respects me and makes me feel successful as a husband, as a father, and as a man. This is important because the world often tells me a different story. Thank you Rebecca, I'm just saying.
Ephesians 5:33 "let the wife see that she respects her husband."
1 Peter 3:1,2 "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct."