R-E-S-P-E-C-T is a man’s song

Most people associate the song R-E-S-P-E-C-T with Aretha Franklin. What they don’t know is that a man, Otis Redding, wrote it.

My wife and I have been reading a book called Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs (only Americans can come up with names like that!).


This book is a gem and a must read in particular for women. 

You see, what women don’t realise is that for the majority of men, they need respect more than they need love. It’s true. Ask most men if they would rather be alone in the world and unloved by everyone, or not be alone in the world but despised by everyone, the majority would choose to be unloved rather than despised.

You’ve heard of the 5 love languages. I think this is just as important. If you like, ‘love’ and ‘respect’ are the syntax (or grammatical rules) behind the various love languages of men and women. In other words, different men might have different love languages, but all of their love languages share the same syntax: respect. And the same goes for women, only their syntax is ‘love’.

A lot of the times women wonder why it is that their men are frustrated when they give and show them so much ‘love’. What they don’t realise is that you can speak love but not respect. If you mother them, boss them around, nag at them, put them down (especially in front of others), take sides with your own family (read: parents) against them, don’t empower them to make their own decisions, don’t affirm their career choices, make them feel inadequate to lead… all these might be motivated out of love, but to a man, it’s incredibly hurtful because it’s read as disrespect.

Ever wondered why your man was so romantic and considerate and proactive during early courtship but not so much now? Maybe it’s because early on their girlfriends oozed respect and admiration for them. Now that they know their men better, often that respect is lessened and years into marriage could even be replaced by an unspoken contempt. A man will shrivel in those circumstances and God-forbid be tempted to be unfaithful with other women who admire them and adore them like you used to.

Please note: I’m not saying that it’s ever right for a man to be unfaithful. A married man has made vows and needs to honour those vows, regardless of how they’ve been wronged or treated. His wife’s lack of respect is no excuse before God for cheating on her. I’m simply trying to explain why it is that some men are tempted to cheat.

Eggerichs makes a good point: we always speak about ‘unconditional love’. What about ‘unconditional respect’? A woman would hate it if a man only loved her when she earned his love. And yet, most women communicate to their men that they are to be respected only when they’ve earned their respect. That’s not only inconsistent, it’s unbiblical. Ephesians 5:33 says:

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

And a final helpful point I might mention is this (really, go out and buy the book, it’ll be great for your relationships): if a man receives the respect he needs, he’ll give the love you need. It’s true. When men feel empowered and respected and affirmed as leaders, they go out of their way to protect, cherish, adore, be considerate… love the women who are in their lives.


About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on May 1, 2009, in Books, Relationships and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Hey came over from facebook – good point about needing respect as well as love! but just a female perspective here -women also need both: let me paraphrase:

    If you FATHER them, boss them around, nag at them, put them down (especially in front of others), take sides with your own family (read: parents) against them, don’t empower them to make their own decisions, don’t affirm their career choices OR OTHER LIFE CHOICES, make them feel inadequate to FUFILL THEIR DAILY ROLES WHATEVER THESE ARE, all these might be motivated out of love, but to a WOMAN, it’s incredibly hurtful because it’s read as disrespect.

    This is why a man can write the song and a woman sing it!

    • pastorpeterko

      Hi Megan, I totally agree with you.

      Sorry I should have qualified: it’s not that women don’t need respect or men don’t need love, they both need respect AND love. It’s just that the majority of women need love more than respect and the majority of men need respect more than love (and of course there are always exceptions). I guess that’s the thing that most women I talked to haven’t really realised: what their primary need is might be different in most cases to what is the primary need of their men.

      Thanks for the helpful balance though! 😉

  2. Hey Pete, I’ve been reading this book too- it’s such an eye opener! Funny how when I read Eph. 5:33, I had focused on husbands loving their wives but totally didn’t notice how wives should respect their husbands!!!

  3. “For Women Only” by Shaunti Feldhahn is another helpful book which explores this area. http://www.4-womenonly.com

  4. Pete this is so timely for me! Thanks a lot. I have been thinking about this lately, and your post made a few things fall into place. “Unconditional respect” – my paradigm is rocked!

    Maybe I should seek out this book.

    And yes, I agree that women also need respect (of course), though maybe it looks a little different.

  5. Great post, Pete.

    I would add to that respect in front of other people. Sometimes it can be tempting to jokingly put your husband down when with other women or other people (e.g. “oh he never helps around the house…he’s a hopeless cook…etc”) and get together with women and laugh at all the funny things husbands do. This is totally destructive. One thing I had to work hard on when I got married was upholding my husband, even when he’s not around.

  6. pastorpeterko

    Thanks for all the helpful comments from the women. I know that for most women Karen and I talk to, they so want to be able to love and respect their men, it’s just a matter of knowing how and what their men interpret as ‘respect’ vs. ‘disrespect’. The book is good in this regard as it gives some practical suggestions and areas that may need attention.

    And yes Soph I totally agree that sometimes put downs when amongst the circle of gals needs to be watched. Sam’s a blessed husband to have you upholding him even when he’s not around.

    God bless y’all! 🙂

  7. I just ended a relationship because I felt unloved. And he told me he felt like he couldn’t command my respect. Now I understand this better. I always knew that men needed respect, but while I wanted my man to love me unconditionally, I didn’t realize that respect, too, had to be unconditional.

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