I was talking to my friend Kelli Anderson last week about maintaining a healthy marriage while raising a child or children with special needs when our discussion turned to resources. Lord knows, it is tough enough to get on the same page as a couple when life has its typical ups and downs. Add to that mix a child with special needs, and you had better have a relationship that strives to communicate effectively as well as one that practices mutuality. Couples raising special children need that extra ounce of support. This is why our ministry has several resources that we like, not the least of which is the wisdom of our friends, Cindi and Joe Ferrini. Yet, there is one book which seems to stand apart in my mind.
I shared with Kelli that there was a book that became a total game-changer for my marriage, LOVE AND RESPECT: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs.
“That book went flying across the room so many times while I read it,” I told Kelli. “It made me so mad because it was so right. I threw it more than once.”
Why would a book make me so angry that it had me hurling across the room like a badly behaved coed in a sitcom? Among the many core points Eggerichs makes in this book is the biblical mandate that calls men to love their wives without condition, and wives to respect their husbands without condition. In other words, husbands are to love their wives even if they don’t deserve that love with how they are behaving. Likewise, wives are to respect their husbands whether they deserve that respect or not. He admonishes husbands to love their wives even if the wife isn’t giving them the respect that they need. He also tells wives that they should be respecting their husbands even if they are not receiving the love that they need.
Of course, I could agree with his premise about husbands. I want mercy as a wife when I don’t meet his needs. But I thought Eggerichs was outrageous in expecting wives to respect their husbands even when they aren’t loving. This is so counter-cultural! Besides, why should I always be the one sacrificing for the marriage?
“This was the bullet between the eyes for me,” I explained to Kelli. “The one quote that got me right where I was and convicted me deeply was when the author says something to the effect of, ‘Wives always say they will respect a man when he has earned that respect. Ladies, how would you like it if men said, I’ll love her when she earns it?” Ouch! That went straight to my wicked heart.
I am not going to lie to you and tell you that I have the picture perfect marriage after reading LOVE & RESPECT. In fact, it continues to be a very difficult one with a husband who has the same diagnoses as one of our children. This can leave him very emotionally disengaged. Yet, one of the many reasons I put forth the effort to hang in there and make the marriage work, albeit imperfectly, is because I have the lessons that this flying book taught me engraved upon my heart.
If you are looking to support parents and marriages through your ministry, I highly recommend this book. It can be really helpful as a small group study. I also recommend seeing Emerson Eggerichs and his beautiful wife at one of their appearances or simulcasts. They are wonderfully funny and tremendously wise.
What is your favorite book on marriage for those living with special needs in the mix? We would love to hear!