Men Need Love And Women Need Respect

Some say that the Bible teaches that men need respect while women need love. I heard it again just a few weeks ago, with the speaker relying on this verse.

However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33.)

The speaker went further and said this verse is not just about marriage but about all men and women whether married or unmarried: men need respect, women need love. He said it even applies to men in relation to other men. What all men need from each other is respect.

He’s wrong.

He’s not wrong about people needing respect and love. He’s wrong about it being gender or sex specific.


For one thing, using Ephesians 5:33 to teach that all men need respect while all women need love rips the verse from its context. The overall passage starts several sentences earlier with teaching on mutual submission, everyone to everyone, then moves into the sub-context of marriage before discussing other types of relationships. In a marriage, the passage says, the couple is to remember the relationship of Jesus and the church and how they are united. The passage then gives emphatic examples of how Jesus loves his people.

The Bible never says that God loves his people and in return we are not to love God but to respect him. Rather, we are told that the greatest commandment is to love God with all we have. If married couples are to consider their relationship in the context of Jesus loving his people and his people loving him as well, then it is clear that men and women are to love one another.*

The Weight of Bible Authority

Another error in the sermon I heard is that it tries to teach a doctrine – God created men so that they need respect while women were created to need love – from a single verse when that doctrine is itself contradicted by the whole of Scripture.

For example, when it comes to respecting people the Bible teaches this without regard to whether the person to be respected is male or female.

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. (Leviticus 19:32.)

Show proper respect to everyone … . (1 Peter 2:19.)

When it comes to love, this too is for women and men both. After all, in his last night with his friends Jesus told them over dinner:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35.)

There is not one word of how these friends, all of whom were men at that dinner, should respect each other as a sign of their fellowship in Jesus. Rather, it is all about love. This was so important that John, one of the men at dinner that night, decades later reminded his friends – men and women both – of the same.

For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. …

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.** If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:11, 16-18.)

The weight of Scripture, then, teaches not that men need respect while women need love but that men and women are to respect one another and love one another. This applies whether you are married or not; it comes in whether you are relating man to man, woman to woman, woman to man and man to woman; it is the norm for Christians whatever the relationship might be. Anyone who teaches that men need respect because they are men and yet women need love because they are women denies the Gospel of Love itself, as expressed in 1 John 3:16.

Love and respect are universally called for from you and universally needed by everyone you meet.

So show the men some love and the women some respect. And vice versa.

Love & Respect


*Regarding the instruction for wives to respect their husbands, this is an aspect of their love just as a husband’s love for his wife is an aspect of the submission called for in the passage’s introduction. (See Trevor Sykes’s Wives, “Respect’ Your Husbands for one look at how this instruction would have applied to homes among the churches who would have read Ephesians.)

**The Greek word adelphōn, found 21 times in the New Testament, is translated in the NIV as “brothers and sisters” when called for by the context of the passage (as in 1 John 3, above) while more literal translations (such as the King James and the ESV) read “brothers” or “bretheren” in various places where adelphōn is found. But even if we go with these more literal translations, then John apparently considered men loving each other (as opposed to respecting one another) as of utmost importance.


You knew this was coming, right?


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50 Responses to Men Need Love And Women Need Respect

  1. Anonymous2 says:

    My guy friends say they want to be adored just as much as women do. I believe them.

  2. There’s a marriage Bible study that has this view as its center. We did it a number of years ago. It wasn’t bad, but we always felt like it was just a bit to simplistic. We always felt that both men and women needed and wanted both love and respect. Of course this is assuming you can really love someone without also respecting them, as they seem pretty connected in my mind.

    • Tim says:

      I don’t know how you separate them either, Jeremy.

      • egleason2014 says:

        There are different levels of respect and different types of love.

        I respect the President because of his position but I don’t have any deep personal affection / love for him, except of the basic “love your neighbor” sort that we should have for all persons because they are persons made in the image of God.

        In that sense, there can be respect w/out an intimate sort of love.

        And every parent knows what it is to love a baby or small child, to cherish them and be willing to do anything to protect them. Again, one respects that person because they are made in the image of God and yet they have no particular role or accomplishments or character development that commands respect.

        So, one can also love deeply where there is but the most basic sort of respect.

        But in a partnership of EQUALS, how can there be a deep and intimate love without respect for the loved one’s character? And how can there be respect without love and appreciation for the uniqueness of who they are?

        Which makes me wonder whether those who tie love and respect to sex differences are asking women to give husbands a distant role based respect and husband’s to give wives an indulgent and protective love that is more akin to what one gives a vulnerable child? Instead of the rich, multi-faceted love and respect that exists between partners who know each other deeply, help each other in areas of weakness, and encourage each other in areas of strength.

        • Tim says:

          “Which makes me wonder whether those who tie love and respect to sex differences are asking women to give husbands a distant role based respect and husband’s to give wives an indulgent and protective love that is more akin to what one gives a vulnerable child?”

          I’ve wondered the exact same thing, but never been able to articulate it as well as you just did. They really don’t see men and women as equals when the practical reality of their teaching is that they want women to be coddled and men to be looked up to.

        • Lisa says:

          Very well said. 👍

        • 3blossommom says:

          Well said.

  3. I have to wonder what the person’s agenda is in insisting on this respect-love classification. It certainly seems like he’s using the verse to fit the agenda rather than looking at the whole passage to see how it can help us live together as spouses and as Christians in general.

    • Adriana says:

      ShaZAM! Jeannie, I think you nailed it.

    • Tim says:

      It was agenda driven, Jeannie. Taking the verse to mean that men and women are so different that the men need respect in a marriage more than love, and vice versa for women, was part of his male leadership in the home theme overall.

  4. Angie says:

    Great post. Loving behavior is respectful and respectful behavior is loving.

  5. keriwyattkent says:

    This is a heresy made popular by Dr. Emmerson Eggerich’s perpetual best-seller, Love & Respect. He’s strongly complementarian–he basically says women need love, men need respect. Although, in an interesting move, he wrote a spin off book called Love & Respect in the Family: The Respect Parents Desire, the Love Children Need. So apparently, women need love, unless they have kids, and then they need their kids to respect them. And men need respect, unless they are children, and then they need love. (Do boys outgrow that? Really?) Seems like that contradicts his thesis. Here’s a helpful critique of his book:
    What’s interesting to me is so many pastors use this book as the lens through which they view and interpret Scripture.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the link, Keri. Eggerich conflates his view of cultural norms (which are themselves suspect) with what the Bible teaches, and when he’s done the cultural norms end up dictating how he interprets the biblical record.

    • Whiterock says:

      His view that women and children need love but men and parents need respect seem to only confirm for me that he sees women as childlike and men as parental. Only he is not uniformly consistant in expressing it.

  6. LorenHaas says:

    Looking back, the “Love and Respect” series my former church presented was one of the best things that ever happened in our marriage;
    Showed us that we needed to find another church.
    One in which both husbands and wives are encouraged to show each other love and respect. Fortunately we did and our love and respect is on another level.

  7. jocelyne says:

    Excellent again. So appreciate hearing this.

  8. Sarah says:

    I like to tease my husband. So when he says, “I love you!” I sometimes tell him, “I respect you!” in response. He does not appreciate it. Why not???

    Because he wants to hear that I love and cherish him the way he loves and cherishes me. Not rocket science.

  9. Pastor Bob says:

    One commentary had within its covers -years ago that this was written not as a guide, but more of a balancing point, since men were respecting their wives and women were loving their husbands,

    Reversing this -eh?

  10. Bill M says:

    Thanks Tim, I’ll add “Love and Respect” to the many phrases I’ve often heard but have never bothered to question before. I love to be loved, and now that I think of it, it is illegitimate for someone to suggest I prefer respect more that love, especially when it come to being around the woman I’ve shared life with for 40 years.

  11. Thank you! I remember my pastor preaching around those two words several years ago, and it seemed impossible to me to be able to split the two up like that. If I love someone, I will respect them, and if they love me, they will respect me, too.

    • Tim says:

      Precisely, Typo. They are inextricably joined.

      • Phil says:

        Back to the original text, why would the Apostle Paul specifically instruct husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbsnds rather than telling them both to love and respect each other?

        • Fiona Carroll says:

          Because in those days no one had any respect for women . Women had to respect their husbands by doing as they were told.

        • Tim says:

          From what I understand, it was not expected that husbands actually love their wives. Telling them to do so would have been a radical departure from Grec0-Roman cultural norms.

        • Verse 33 may well do just that. It has a difficult construction which leaves some options open for translation. Strictly put if we translated it word for word, it would read- Nevertheless, also, all of you, every individual the wife of him let him love, even as himself , and the wife in order that she might respect her husband. This is obviously needing some decisions about how it should move over to English. I have spent considerable time looking at this, and I believe it may be translated as follows:Nevertheless let each individual among you also love his wife, even as himself,…..[then comes a crucial point, where the Greek says only “and the wife”…. I translate this as “and so for the wife” because this phrase is standing as an apposition, and an apposition is often translated this way in English.] (resuming v. 33) and so for the wife, [i.e. the wife loving her husband as she loves herself] in order that she may respect her husband. [the “in order that” is known as a “hina clause”, thus named for the Greek word, ἵνα, and is translated “in order that” in practically every place it appears.] This would indicate that she should LOVE her husband in order to respect him. —– After all is said and done, I think Paul was not trying to be so precise with different kinds of relationships needing different approaches. Rather, he is being general and poetic. He is not trying to write a systematic theology.

  12. Pingback: The Secret To Love, And How To Do It Right | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  13. Fiona Carroll says:

    It’s a bit like having a dog. Most people would say they love their dogs but few would say they respect their dogs. They expect their dogs to respect them and do as they are told.

  14. Lisa says:

    Bravo! I have been shaking my head about this one years. Great article, Tim!👍

  15. GM French says:

    Could you give me your thoughts on the DC Talk lyric: “Love is a verb.” I ask because I tend to feel loved by my husband when he does things around the house: our dishes, our laundry, our car washing, our paying bills and budgeting, which to be honest tends to go undone until I’m upset about his lack of initiative and then he makes a noticeable effort. It’s the in between that frustrates me. His understanding of love is felt when we can be alone, cuddle, watch a show together, exclusively one on one and to be honest intimate time. All this means I have to submit my evening plans to his ideas or he gets a bit pouty. If he likes a movie or show he wants me to watch all of it and then we can be intimate. When I ask him to watch a show I like he usually falls asleep which feels like to me there’s a double standard with needs. He works in an office: I’m at home with our 3kids 4, 3 and 1 yr old. Do you think how we perceive and understand love complicates the messages we are sending to each other about love being a verb?

    • Tim says:

      I remember that song, and agree love is shown through actions. I don’t know your family well enough to evaluate what you’ve described, though.

  16. 3blossommom says:

    I had just returned form living overseas when Love & Respect first came out. I remember being shocked by how the church latched on to it as the miracle for marriage. I thought to myself, does Mr. Eggerich really believe that he has found a miracle in this verse that somehow the church fathers and countless ministers had missed for 2000 years? I could only imagine the arrogance. I looked to myself and thought, no, I don’t need love (well I do), I really would just appreciate if my husband would respect that I’m a person. Then I compared the way the US church consumes doctrinal fads to the church I had seen overseas. When people don’t have money to spend on endless publications loaded with miraculous promises, there are a whole lot less of both. Here in the states, on the other hand, we need but find one miraculous verse, write a fairly coherent book, get Focus on the Family to discuss it on air and viola! New doctrine, new miracles, and lots of income.

    • Tim says:

      I saw the same when I attended church in England. It was a small campus chapel that had no frills but much of God’s grace and love.

  17. Prayerful Wife says:

    These are exact quotes of a domestic violence advocate whom I reached out to secretly today through the domestic violence hotline. She said two things to me that saddened me even more, “There are a lot of learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege that must be combated,” and “a truly healthy relationship is about an exchange of love and respect, equally on both sides of the relationship.”

    My husband and I do love each other but both of us do not have healthy role models of marriage to look up to. Both of us grew up in abusive households watching our parents model toxic relationships for us. We want to be different but we don’t know how. We signed up for the Love & Marriage Conference which will be held at our local church in hopes of learning something of value that will help us break free of the chains of toxic relationship cycle we are both stuck in. We do not want to give up on each other. Divorce is not an option for either of us. As soon as I started finding out more about how Dr. Eggerich only focuses on blaming me, the wife, for the problems within my marriage I’m losing hope. I was praying the conference will teach my husband and me both how to love and respect one another equally but it seems like Dr. Eggerich thinks I don’t need respect as much as my husband does. My husband is entitled to respect while I am not. I don’t think my husband can love me unless he respects me too. A lot of time I feel like he does not respect me at all otherwise he would not hurt me repeatedly as he does. I know he sees me as a doormat because he is aware I love him unconditionally. So he’s not worried about love. He does feel disrespected but that’s because he expects full control over our marriage. He feels slighted and attacked when I question his authority when I can clearly see he’s abusing it. I know he loves me. He loves me like he loves his possessions. As long as I keep performing well enough he’s happy. He only gets angry when I don’t do as he expects. Dr. Eggerich is wrong. I don’t need love at least not in the sense he thinks I need it. I need love that also shows respect. Otherwise I’m not human. I’m just an object.

    Wish someone fair and balanced would offer marriage conferences that help both husbands and wives how to be better partners. So far all the religious advice I’ve been given seems one sided: more about telling me how to be quiet like Sara and keep submissively praying my husband will one day live up to God’s command of leading me as a Godly husband. Not once have I seen one single pastor I’ve turned to quote bible verses to my husband to teach him to how be a better husband.

    • Tim says:

      The Eggerich teachings hold men don’t need to respect women. They’re wrong. I hope you can find a different resource than the conference your church is hosting.

  18. MeganC says:

    Yes! So much love and respect for this post! 🙂

  19. Carol Noren Johnson says:

    As a substitute teacher I try to win respect. I often use this rap.

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