As part of our ceremony preparation, Brian and I have been attending informal monthly meetings with our awesome youth pastor turned officiate, Kathy. At our last meeting in December, Kathy suggested that Brian and I take a five-week course offered by the church on Love & Respect to strengthen our relationship – “it can’t help but help!” she said.
The course is based on the book of the same title by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, who uses a combination of science and scripture to demystify what he calls the “Crazy Cycle” of male/female miscommunication and to encourage the development of healthier relationships built on understanding the fundamental differences between the sexes. Emerson’s thesis is summed up by Ephesians 5:33 (NIV): “However, each one of you must also love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
There’s a whole defense of this verse and its intent that I hope you’ll be patient enough to wait for, because this isn’t an objective review of the book but instead a confession – and today more than usual, my blog is the mirror that I’m pointing at myself.
We were encouraged last week to think about how applying what we have learned so far has made a difference in our relationships, and to reflect on that in our session tonight, and that’s what I want to do now. I guess admitting it to a faceless blogosphere that nonetheless is populated with people I know and respect will make it easier to face those whom we’ve known (at least in this respect) for only a few short weeks.
The thing is, as soon as I read the description of the Crazy Cycle I immediately recognized it. It’s the cycle that Brian and I have ridden, with varying intensity, for most of our time together.
When she feels unloved, she responds in disrespectful ways.
When he feels disrespected, he responds in unloving ways.
Every argument was the same: I would yell and cry and plead for him to say something. Defend himself. Give me a solution, show me that I wasn’t doing “this” all on my own. And he would withdraw because he didn’t have anything to say — not because he doesn’t care, but because he didn’t want to say the wrong thing or because he actually agreed with whatever it was I was saying in the first place. But when he would sit there in silence and gawp at me like I had grown a second head (or that’s how it felt, anyway), and I would hiss and spit like a cornered cat.
When he would finally – finally – say something, it wouldn’t be what I wanted to hear. It wouldn’t be what I needed to hear. No…by then he would be so upset that he would just yell back at me. And then I would yell, but a little less loudly, and before too long we would return to a state of relative calm – until the next time.
As Emerson explains, we act out in gender-specific ways in an effort to communicate our deeper need for love or respect from our partner. One of the worst things, then — one of the most hurtful — is to say to your partner “I don’t love you” or “I don’t respect you.” That was a powerful reminder…and a rebuke. When I heard that, I was so hurt at the memory of hearing “I don’t love you”…and ashamed at the memory of saying “I don’t respect you.” But the damage, he says, is not irreparable between two good-willed people.
And you know what? He’s right.
It isn’t such a big deal if Brian forgets to call or do something that I asked him, because I remember that it is a mistake. He didn’t deliberately not call me, or ignore a request to say “I don’t love you;” he just…forgot. And Brian doesn’t close himself off when I slip up and snap at him; he knows that I am not saying “I don’t respect you,” but that I’m human and not always on my best behavior. And while it hurts to recall that we once treated each other so poorly, by continually reaffirming our true feelings and being mindful of one another we have made a complete 180 in our relationship together.
And that’s what we’ll share at our session tonight. We’re not wrong, just different, and we’re learning how to work together.