When we understand our gender differences, we are empowered to use them constructively to build great relationships.
“Each of you, however, should love [agapé] his wife as himself, and let every wife respect her husband.” Eph 5:33
When St Paul wrote these words 2000 years ago he was keenly aware of the differences between the sexes and so he deliberately gave husbands and wives different instructions on how to live a successful marriage.
Respect: esteem; a feeling or attitude of admiration and deference toward somebody or something.
The Latin roots of the word ‘respect’ are ‘re’ meaning to ‘do something again’, and spect’ meaning ‘to see’. In the context of this passage, respect means to look upon your husband through God’s eyes, as a man with dignity, honour and value. When you respect someone, you value their opinion and are open to being influenced by them.
In fact, many men will report that they can’t differentiate between being loved and being respected – to them, the two are the same experience. Practical expressions of respect may include seeking his opinion when making decisions, avoiding negative judgements about his motives when something goes wrong, trusting his judgement, and refraining from criticism or put-downs.
Cherish: to feel or show great care for somebody; to value highly; to retain a memory of.
The original text of St Paul’s letter uses the word ‘agapé’ for love. It described the kind of love that was completely other-centred and in service to the other. To ‘cherish’ sums it up well. When you cherish someone you value them greatly, they are precious to you, so you care for them tenderly, and you think about them often.
Practical expressions of cherishment include: providing for a wife materially, caring for her physically, protecting her from harm, doing things to help her and making gestures to show that her husband has been thinking about her. A husband can communicate how much he cherishes his wife by affirming her beauty, listening to her and letting her get close to him emotionally.
Like many of our sexual differences, these traits are not exclusive. Women like to be respected and men also like to be cherished. The differences occur in the relative importance of these two modes of expressing love. Just as you have two hands, but only one hand (either your right or your left) is the preferred or dominant one, likewise with your experience of love. Most men predominantly experience love in the context of respect and secondarily in the context of being cherished. For most women the reverse is true: she experiences love more powerfully in the form of cherishment, rather than respect.
Our gender differences become even more striking in the inverse: when asked what is worse? Men predominantly say that being ‘inadequate and disrespected’ is worse than being ‘alone and unloved’. Most women say the opposite.
Questions for Reflection:
- Ask at least ten people, a mix of men and women, the following question: What would be worse for you: ‘To be alone and unloved’ or ‘to be inadequate and disrespected’.
- What do you see as the most significant differences between men and women?
Posts in this Series
Nature of Love: here
Gender Differences: here – this post
Loving Smart: here
SmartLoving Keys: here
Discover Your Unique Love Profile: here
Have you got a Smart Relationship: here