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: “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33, NLT).

A powerful marriage strengthening insight

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 does have the advantage of being amazingly effective.

A key to financial unity

When I first read 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 often 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. It led to an enjoyable and encouraging conversation.

She said knowing I’m managing some of the more detailed aspects 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 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.

When I asked some other couples to think about these questions, 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.

I believe this simple insight could help couples use money in a way that significantly strengthens their marriages. So, with Valentine’s Day just past, now would be a good time to take on the following assignment. Men, ask your wife what you do financially that makes her feel loved. Women, ask your husband what you do financially that makes him feel respected. And then both of you, do more of that! Use the comments section below to let us know what you learned.