Leadership is about people. Evangelism is about people. People are complicated. That’s why I believe it’s important for every leader to make an effort to improve their soft skills.
One way to work on this (and kill two birds with one stone) is through marriage seminars.
I have found that marriage books and seminars can be really great for improving my skills in relating to everyone, not just my wife. In the workplace, other family members, everywhere.
Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the bestseller The Five Love Languages, says that every couple should do one thing each year to work on their marriage.
This year my wife Bethany and I went to a Love & Respect conference.
I don’t agree with everything in the Love and Respect material, and some things I dislike entirely. But that said, I have learned a lot from the concept.
The gist of it is this:
- Women are motivated by unconditional love (for who they are, regardless of actions).
- Men are motivated by unconditional respect (for who they are, regardless of actions).
In contrast to the popular understanding that love is the single key element in any relationship, Dr. Eggerichs posits that love is the most critical felt need for a woman, and respect is the most critical felt need for a man.
This is based on Ephesians 5:33, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.”
Apparently, scientific studies have backed up this idea.
We asked 7,000 people this question: when you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved or disrespected? 83% of the men said “disrespected.” 72% of the women said, “unloved.” Though we all need love and respect equally, the felt need differs during conflict.
There were certainly times during the conference when Bethany and I turned to look at each other and asked, “Is that true, do you really feel that way when I do such and such?” The reply was usually, “Yes!”
I think the most powerful part of the concept what Dr. Eggerichs calls “The Crazy Cycle.” It’s the concept that if a wife isn’t feeling loved, a natural reaction may be to (subconsciously) withhold respect from her husband. If a husband isn’t feeling respected, his natural reaction may be to (subconsciously) withhold love from his wife.
This starts a cycle where each spouse is waiting for the other spouse to get their act together before they start treating them well. Since each spouse is waiting for the other, the cycle is never ending, and spirals farther and farther downward.
I’ve seen that happen in so many relationships.
The cure is for someone to be the one to break the cycle. Offer love unconditionally—because of who she is, not because she “deserves” it. Offer respect unconditionally—because of who he is, not because he “deserves” it.
It’s unnatural to think that way, but if one person in the relationship breaks the cycle, then both can start to heal.