Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When He Won't Respond

Leslie Basham: How do you get your husband to open up? Here’s Emerson Eggerichs.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs: The key to motivating a man to be loving isn't by loving on him. The New Testament clearly teaches that unconditional respect is the key to motivating a man to re-open his heart to God and, by implication, to his wife.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 18.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been talking this week about something that in our culture is not politically correct. But on Revive Our Hearts we’re trying to be biblically correct. We believe that when we follow God’s way, we can walk in freedom and joy and peace. That’s why we’re teaching the kinds of things we do as we call women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

Our guest this week has been Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. He’s a former pastor. He has written a book called Love & Respect. We’re encouraging all our listeners, both men and women, to order a copy of that book. If you’re a woman, don’t order a copy for your husband. Order it for yourself and let God speak to you through it.

Dr. Eggerichs, thank you so much for being with us to help us as women understand more of what the Scripture has to say about this issue of respect.

Dr. Eggerichs: It’s been delightful to be with you this week. Thank you.

Nancy: I don’t know if most women realize how powerful this principle is. Of course, obeying God is always powerful; it’s always right. And even if it doesn’t work, it’s the pathway to blessing and joy.

I want to talk in this broadcast about what if it doesn’t work. But first let me ask you a question. I’ve not had the privilege of meeting your wife Sarah. I hope to some day. But I know that she’s a hugely important part of your life and that you really do love and respect each other.

What are some of the ways that Sarah communicates respect to you? What are some of the ways as a woman, as a wife, that she communicates, “I respect you as a man”?

Dr. Eggerichs: Well, we’ve introduced something that really does work and we encourage couples who go to the Love & Respect Conference, and we also coach them through this in the book Love & Respect. But I will say to Sarah sometimes, “That felt disrespectful. Did I come across as unloving?”

Because we’ve said that without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love, which we call the crazy cycle. So in order to get off that crazy cycle, I’ll say to Sarah, “That felt disrespectful.”

  • I’m not accusing her of being disrespectful.
  • I’m not saying I’m right.
  • I’m not saying I’m wrong.
  • I’m just saying that it felt disrespectful to me.
  • But then I give her the benefit of the doubt. "Did I come across as unloving?"

Well, every woman I know, certainly Sarah, she will engage me immediately. What that does is it allows me to hear her heart, but she’s also listening to my heart.

And then we’ll talk about what happened. We don’t pass judgment on the other as right or wrong. We believe in the good will.

So, too, Sarah will say to me in answer to your question now, “That felt unloving.” She doesn’t accuse me of being unloving. If she accuses me of being unloving when I know I’d die for her, "I can’t believe you’re doing that." Women will make these global statements that they are doing to try to get a deeper message through to the man. But he tends to hear it literally, and so that sets him off.

But if she would say—and Sarah does—“that felt unloving,” she’s not saying I am unloving. She’s just saying that’s how she feels and she’s even maybe acknowledging that’s her issue and not mine. But she is telling me what she feels. But then she follows it up, “Did I come across as disrespectful?”

Because the crazy cycle says it triggers itself. So we may be doing something here, and we give our spouse the benefit of the doubt.

So Sarah is very powerful. “That felt unloving. Did I just come across as disrespectful?” That works for us, but we feared initially that the other would say for instance, “That felt unloving. Did I just come across as disrespectful?” Sarah feared that I would say, “Yes, you are a witch and I got you a new broom. You’re always coming across in disrespectful ways, and I didn’t cause this at all. I’m not to blame.”

You see our worst fear . . .

Nancy: . . . is that we’ll get trampled on.

Dr. Eggerichs: That’s exactly right. Maybe initially with a person who has a lot of problems. But you’ve got to be married to one bad dude or one bad “dudess” for them to shut down when you meet their deepest need. Because we’re taking the position that her deepest need is to feel loved for who she is. His deepest need is to feel respected for who he is.

When you send the message that I want to understand your deepest need, you’ve got to be married to a pretty bad person.

If that reaction is negative initially, don’t just quit. Don’t just throw your hands up in the air and say, “I guess it isn't going to work for us.” No, no, my belief is they’re probably under conviction, hugely. So just stay with that.

If they say, “Yes, you are to blame,” just say, “Well I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” and then walk away.

Nancy: It’s really the pathway of humility isn’t it?

Dr. Eggerichs: It is. But it works. There’s power. You see, when Jesus said to turn the right cheek after they hit you on the left it wasn’t because you are to become a wimp. What you do is you take over the spiritual situation. They look at you and you look at them now and they know they’re in the presence of someone who has a spiritual authority. That’s why the Jews said, “You heap hot burning coals upon a person’s head.”

So if a wife says, “I’m really sorry. Will you forgive me?” after he mocked her and she walks off, he comes under tremendous conviction as a husband.

If he said, “That felt disrespectful. Did I come across as unloving?”

She says, “You don’t deserve respect and you’re always coming across as unloving.”

So he says, “That hurts, but I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me,” and walks away.

What woman is not going to feel horrible?

Nancy: It’s going to melt you.

Dr. Eggerichs: That’s right. We’re saying to women, "Trust me." When you use the language this way—“That felt unloving. Did I come across as disrespectful?” and he says, “Yes, you’re always coming across as disrespectful.”

“Well, can you forgive me? I’m sorry” and then walk off. I’m going to tell you, he comes under conviction. Keep doing this. Stay the course when the issue isn't the issue. When you sense his spirits deflating or yours has, you’ve got to go to the deepest issue, which I believe is love and respect.

You’ve got to put it out on the table. You’ve got to stop avoiding. You’ve got to risk it like the rest of us. It’s not something that’s risk free. It’s not something that isn’t going to create some negative emotion. But you stay the course and you’re going to find the spirit of your spouse softening.

It works! Why not do what works? The other methods are not working. You’re going to have to come to grips with it if it’s not working the way you’re doing it: You're negative, negative, negative, negative and your spouse is going to be motivated to be positive? They’re going to have an epiphany? “Oh, I realize now why you’re so negative. That was designed to move me to be positive. I’ve finally got it!”

Nancy: Not.

And you’ve seen over and over and again in your pastoral ministry and in the conference ministry, the cycle really reversed and became an energizing cycle rather than a crazy cycle when one person is willing to start the process and get off that crazy cycle. As a woman to say, “I’m going to enter into this respect even if I do feel unloved at the moment.”

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes. And then that begs the next question. What if? What if my spouse doesn’t respond? They may not respond. But don’t necessarily conclude it "ain’t" working. I encourage people to stay the course.

But let’s just suppose that it "ain’t" working, so to speak, at the beginning. Maybe you’re married to a Judas. Both Peter and Judas denied the Lord. But there’s a difference between a Peter and a Judas. I hope you’re not calling your husband who is Peter, Judas. But there are Judases.

So what do you do? This is where we go upward. The Bible is clear that we do what we do unto Jesus Christ. In fact, in Ephesians 6:8 Paul said, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord.”

Here’s where we encourage the godly, wise woman. When you do this unto Jesus Christ, when you put on unconditional respect toward your husband who’s unloving—and we assume you’re not in harm’s way. If you’re in physical harm’s way then you need to get out of that situation for the sake of the children and your own safety.

But we’re assuming here that the situation is emotionally disruptive, that it’s like fingernails down a chalkboard and there’s dissonance and you just can’t stand this. But when you do this unto Jesus Christ and you look beyond the shoulder of your husband and you see Christ saying, “Do it unto Me, sweetie. Honey, do it unto Me. Do it unto Me. It’s about Me. No, no, no, no, don’t look at him. No, no, no, keep your eyes off him. To Me. No, no, no, I know he’s not as deserving. No, no, no, I know that. Look at Me.”

There’s a cha-ching effect in heaven. Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Women have no idea. Some of the women listening now, you are holding the eyes of God. What you do matters to God because it matters to God. This is the thing that He rewards. This is the thing that He finds important.

When you do this unto Him, and your spouse is irrelavant in that sense, there is going to be favor extended to you. Twice Peter says, “This finds favor with God. This finds favor with God.” Something is coming.

You have to take that by faith. We’re challenging women to look beyond their husband who isn’t responding and see that you’re touching the heart of Christ. When I first taught this, I thought that might be a little threatening.

But people who are in these painful situations, Nancy, feel like there’s no purpose to it. What we’re saying is, there’s incredible purpose. In fact, there is so much purpose here that you are going to rejoice and glorify God throughout eternity when we’re in our holy state, not in our depressed discouragement now.

You’re going to say, “Oh God, through Jesus Christ, thank You. Thank You for the privilege of allowing me to suffer. Thank You for the reward You gave to me. I had no idea that every time I put on that respect toward that unloving man that there was something going on in the heavenlies that was so incredible and that what you had prepared for me was so beyond. Oh Lord, I thank You for those few seconds of suffering compared to eternity. I thank You for this privilege.”

I’m going to tell you there isn’t anybody in the world who would endorse that. But you remember Paul said, "What is foolishness to the world is the wisdom of God. And what is the wisdom of God is the foolishness of man" (see 1 Cor. 3:19).

It is foolish to the world to put on respect toward an unloving man. It is foolishness to the world to love a woman who’s full of contempt. But God’s Word is precisely teaching that.

Why? Because it’s not about them. This is a gift in a sense given to you by God to allow you to go through a degree of suffering so that He can reward you throughout eternity. This is coming.

You would be a sad person if in your prayer the Lord listened to you: “Lord, I don’t want to have any suffering,” when the key to the reward was going through that. You will be saying, “But, Lord, why did you not ignore my prayer? Why didn’t You put me through the suffering? I didn’t know. I was so self-centered. Why didn’t You put me through the suffering in spite of what I was asking, ‘Make me happy. Make me happy.’”

Well, guess what? He’s now listening to that prayer and He’s going to invite you to go through the suffering because what He’s going to give to you as a result of this, the world doesn’t pay attention to. But the Christ follower does.

There’s coming a day when He’s going to say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful in a few things. I’m going to put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:23 paraphrased).

In return, you’re going to go, (“Gasp”). What He has for you is beyond anything you can imagine. Not only will you do that, you will do that forever. It’s what I call the unending first moment throughout eternity. All you have to do is a few things. Whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord.

What was he referencing? Wives putting on respect toward men who weren’t particularly sentimental and loving. That’s all you had to do.

Nancy: I wonder how much regret there may be expressed at that point if instead of doing it God’s way, instead of staying the course and persevering, we gave into the tendency or the temptation to return evil for evil and said, “I’m tired of doing this respect thing. I’m tired of doing it God’s way. I’m tired of responding in a meek and quiet spirit.” And we picked up the sword, took on the disrespect and for the moment may have felt better or may have felt like the score was evened.

Then we get to heaven and realize, “I’ve lost the reward. I could have had more here. I could have been more Christ-like, maybe could have been an instrument in my husband becoming more of what God wanted him to be.” So there’s gain and loss to be considered here as we live in this moment.

I so appreciate, Dr. Eggerichs, that you have in this book helped women to understand, and men as well, that you really can be free in your relationship with the Lord regardless of what circumstance you’re in, regardless of how your mate is responding.

Dr. Eggerichs: That’s correct. The Scripture talks about two dimensions. We can be hurt by people. We can be affected by people. Paul was depressed when Titus wasn’t there. There is a whole area of what I call neutral emotions that can be negative in nature, but they’re not sinful.

Every person has to be honest. But I will tell you that my response is my responsibility. Sarah doesn’t cause me to be unloving. She reveals that I’m unloving because God has commanded me to be loving. So if I’m unloving, is Sarah to blame for this? No, no, no. My response is my responsibility.

Sarah does not cause me to be the way I am. She reveals the way I am. Therefore if my response is unloving, it reveals a sin problem within me that can’t be blamed on Sarah.

So, too, Sarah’s response is her responsibility. I don’t cause her to be disrespectful. I reveal that she’s made a decision not to be obedient and trusting toward Jesus Christ to obey the command to be respectful apart from me.

It’s not about me. It’s about her being obedient to Christ. If we don’t lock into that, if we lock into the idea that I am the way I am because my spouse is causing me to be that way, that is a central false doctrine; we might put it that way. That’s false teaching.

You are free. You are free.

A speck of sand in a human eye first causes irritation and then infection and, when not cared for, loss of vision. That same speck of sand in an oyster first causes irritation, then secretion then produces a pearl.

Did the sand cause the results in the human eye? Did the sand cause the results in the oyster? No, the sand is an irritant that reveals the inner properties of the human eye and of the oyster.

If that’s not the case, the next time you get sand in your eye, be careful. A pearl may pop out.

The point is, your spouse is an irritant. But they’re ultimately revealing your character. Sarah is revealing my character.

That intimidates us at the front end. But what the undercurrent is saying is that we are free. We are free. Our spouse does not control us, not to the extent that we think. They affect us, but they don’t control us in that sense.

Jesus said, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21 NKJV).

Paul said, "It’s the deeds of the flesh" (see Gal. 5:19).

The problem is within me. So if I’m not loving or respecting when I come to that point where I say, “Okay, I’m going to own up to this. I hate this teaching. I hate it. But I’m going to own up to this that my response is my responsibility.” It’s amazing. It’s amazing at that time what happens in terms of an internal freedom.

We begin to realize that my spouse’s initiation, as important as that is to me, doesn’t ultimately determine my happiness.

Nancy: I was speaking at a conference to college students not too long ago, to college girls, about biblical womanhood. I asked the girls to write on a card, “What is one thing you’d like to say to the Christian guys you know?”

They were real thrilled for that chance. I was able to capture their responses. I’d like to ask you, Dr. Eggerichs, what’s one thing that you would like to say to Christian women?

Dr. Eggerichs: The key to motivating a man to be loving isn’t by loving on him. The key is to be obedient to what God has revealed to us who live by what we call a revelatory view. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

The New Testament clearly teaches that unconditional respect is the key to motivating a man to re-open his heart to God and, by implication, to his wife. God designed you to love, so you’re going to do that.

What you’re not designed to do is to give the gift of unconditional respect. The key to motivating a man to be loving is by meeting his need to feel respected for who he is.

So one of the things that we’re encouraging women to do is to ask themselves, “Lord, does my husband have the freedom to confess his sin to me?” For instance, “Does he feel the freedom to pray with me and to be open before Jesus Christ about the things he’s struggling with?”

Here’s why this is so important. The issues that your husband is struggling with, you don’t by nature. He has issues that you don’t have. It’s so easy to judge another person based on my strengths.

But what about the love chapter? Not taking into account a wrong suffered? What about the issue of gossip? We could go down, if you wanted to, and incriminate women. That’s not the point I’m making. You just have different issues.

But we can cloak it sometimes under this idea of care and love. When you unpack this biblically, these are violations of the heart of Abba. So what can a woman do?

She needs to ask herself, “Have I been coming across in a self-righteous way? I don’t intend to. I love my husband. I’m trying to help him; that’s my whole motivation.”

But if he feels that you’re much more righteous than him and he feels that you see him as much more unrighteous—I’m going to tell you a simple little principle—he won’t open up to you. And then you wonder why he sits there closed off.

So maybe you could go back and say, “I’ve been doing some thinking. You know I have issues in my life that I struggle with that are different from you. And you know what? The Lord’s impressed something upon me. You struggle with issues that I don’t. And you know what? It’s been easy for me to pass judgment on you.”

Nancy: Or to feel that he’s the center of all the problems.

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes, but on this issue of confession to get him to re-open,

I just want to seek your forgiveness for having sent a message of contempt at times, and disrespect. I was really threatened at the core of my being at these issues because you’re so important to me. But I realize in the process that I was passing judgment, like the temptations sexually that are out there. I think I’ve really passed judgment rather than empathize with you as best I knew how. I think I’ve come across this way because I was threatened, I was insecure. I really sent a message that I am better than you and you’re worse than me. And you’re going to close off to me. Will you forgive me for being disrespectful?

And then just go quiet.

He may deserve disrespect. He may deserve the wrath of God. But the point here is, if you want to break through and get the man to reconnect with you, you have to do it this way. When you do it this way, watch what happens. You might see tears form in this man’s eyes. He wants you to be his best friend.

I predict that first year of marriage, he told you everything. And you freaked out when he told you that he had a temptation at the office because you don’t have those temptations. It threatened you.

You sent a clear message: "Be open with me but only about those issues that are going to increase the feelings of love between us. If you tell me anything on the dark side of your soul that you’re struggling with, it threatens me at the core of my being. Shut up. Don’t you tell me that at all. And don’t you pray with me about that.”

And then you wonder why he’s not the spiritual leader? Because you told him loud and clear, “Don’t you ever tell me your dark side issues that you’re struggling with. Don’t you ask me to pray with you about that. You just close off to me because I’m too threatened as a woman.”

I’m saying to ladies, you’ve got to come back and go back. Seek his forgiveness for being disrespectful and watch what happens. Oh, watch what happens.

Leslie: Emerson Eggerichs has been giving wives a lot to think about. He’s been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about the power of a woman’s words. Nancy will be right back.

I hope love and respect will become a way of life in your marriage. This is the type of material that you'll benefit from listening to over and over. We'd like to send you the entire conversation on CD when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Ask for the CD series, Love and Respect when you provide a gift of any size to Revive Our Hearts.  Call 1-800-569-5959, or visit

Tomorrow we’ll hear from a couple who are asking congregations to take a fresh look at hymns.  This isn’t a stuffy musical form but a type of music that is very much alive and well today. Keith and Kristyn Getty will join us next time. Now Nancy is back to close today’s program.

Now Nancy is back to close today’s program.

Nancy: I know that a lot of our listeners have really been challenged by what you’ve shared this week. I hope that they will order a copy of your book Love & Respect. There’s so much more in that book than what we’ve been able to talk about on the broadcast this week—so many practical illustrations, a lot of practical questions to ask yourself. There’s a section in there for husbands too, but if we as women just get the part that God commands us as women, we’ll really be different and I think we’ll impact our homes, our children, grandchildren, and perhaps generations to come.

I wonder if you would close our time, Dr. Eggerichs, by praying for women who’ve been listening who are wrestling with the issues of obedience and respect, and many different kinds of marriages represented.

Would you pray for us as women and for wives in particular that God will give grace and courage and faith to do what it is that He’s asking?

Dr. Eggerichs: Yes. And to encourage them that the love and respect message is a fair and balanced approach. We believe that men will engage this. We talk about the subtitle: “The Love She Most Desires But the Respect He Desperately Needs.”

The first chapter is dealing with the fact that love alone is not enough. We’re finding that men are engaging this because it is fair and balanced. We go back and forth. We don’t challenge the women more than the men. It’s back and forth.

Men find that very exciting, and they will engage it. So to encourage those women out there that their men will respond to this message. This is one of the things that we’re excited about. But let’s just pray together then.

Father, we do pray for that woman out there who’s like my mom. We went through many miserable days and months and years when I was in my developmental years. But my mother stayed the course and was ultimately instrumental in my dad coming to You. My mom never bad mouthed my dad. There was an incredible amount of pain, an incredible amount of suffering at times.

But, Father, I thank You for my own mother who stayed the course and as a result both mom and dad are with You now in heaven forever. It was worth it. It was an incredible decision that Mom made. And Dad blubbered like a baby when he found Christ.

Father, I know that woman out there is in despair. My mother was in despair. But Lord, I believe that You’re speaking to her and You are wanting to encourage her that You’ve revealed something. This is Your Word. This isn’t the world’s word. This is Your Word and she’s at a crisis of faith in a sense.

Will she trust You? Will she walk by faith, not by sight? Paul said in Thessalonians that he was so thankful that they received this not as the word of man but for what it really is, the Word of God which performs its work in you who believe. Which performs its work in you who believe.

Lord, give this lovely woman grace to trust You. Encourage her. You know the feeling of defeat. Break through even today. And Lord, those who have good marriages, some of these gals out here, but they’re on a negative edge and they’re actually going to divorce for some pretty flimsy reasons. They know who they are and there’s no biblical basis for this. They just aren’t happy and they want more.

Lord, that is not in keeping with Your richness here. Furthermore, they may be sabotaging the relationship through their disrespect. This is a good man who would respond if they would get off his air hose, so to speak.

So Father, I pray that she would awaken within her soul, that it may not be even closely bad. It’s actually just inches away from them doing again what they did during courtship. So we commit her to you as well through Jesus Christ, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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