Just because men react to disrespect by feeling rejected, unlike Emerson Eggerichs, it doesn’t mean that it is the responsibility of a wife to show respect to her husband. After all, respect must be earned. It is more likely that if a man feels disrespected by his wife, he lacks that respect for himself in the first place.
It is often when I am coaching men who feel they are being disrespected in their relationship that they lack their own self-respect and struggle with low self-esteem. A lack of self-respect and having low self-esteem is the quickest way to attract disrespect and rejection into your life, for we cannot expect others to respect or accept us if we cannot respect or accept ourselves.
Men with low self-esteem and lack self-respect create never-ending and unrealistic expectations in their relationships, often resulting in a dependency on their wife to validate them. This places a lot of pressure on their wife to “lift them up” or make them feel good about themselves with praise and encouragement.
Subsequently, it creates an imbalance in the marriage and ultimately leads to the wife building resentment against her husband and ultimately losing respect for him.
When coaching couples, we see this imbalance in the marriage when one person “chases” after the other looking for attention, validation, approval, recognition, acceptance, and respect. Although these may be valid needs in a relationship with each partner giving them freely to each other, when one person “expects” these needs to be met by their partner, it transforms the intention from a gift into a demand.
John Gottman, a leading researcher in couples relationships, describes a pattern of relating that exemplifies this chase called the Pursuer-Distancer pattern. This “dance” of one moving towards and the other moving away has been identified as a leading reason for divorce. When this concept is applied to men seeking respect from their wives, one can see a similar effect.
When men energetically “chase” after their wives for respect, this sets in motion a response of distancing on the part of the wife. It can feel “smothering” or “engulfing” when a person places this expectation upon you and the natural response is to create distance. However, instead of creating more breathing space, this can have the opposite effect and prompt the “pursuer” to “chase” even more closing the distance.