The Tone of Love and Respect Matters


Wives, do you have a tone that sounds disrespectful? Husbands, do you have a tone that sounds unloving? Those tones do not accomplish anything positive! They derail relationships.


When I was 2 ½, I watched my dad attempt to strangle my mom. This was just one of many incidents of chaos in my home growing up, but that scene as a tiny boy stands out vividly. When I was 11, I learned my Dad committed adultery. My parents divorced, remarried one another, and then separated again. (Love & Respect in the Family, pages 9-11).

The pain from this ongoing instability created such hurt and anger within me that my Mom sent me away to a military school from ages 13 to 18.


I know relationships can feel complex because of abandonment, adultery, abuse, and addictions. I get that, because I lived it.

But couples do not marry saying, “I hate you and you hate me, so let’s get hitched.” Two people care deeply for each other but at some point too many couples begin to come off the rails. I believe my mom and dad were derailed.

What derailed them? They did not understand the two foundational concepts that insure a meaningful relationship in a marriage.


The University of Washington studied 2000 couples for 20 years. In their study, they “recruited couples from a wide range of backgrounds who had been married twenty to forty years to the same partner. Despite the wide differences in occupations, lifestyles, and the details of their day-to-day lives” there was “a remarkable similarity in the tone of their conversations. No matter what style of marriage they … adopted, their discussions, for the most part” were “carried along by a strong undercurrent of two basic ingredients: love and respect” (Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, p. 61).

I like that comment, “the tone of their conversations.” In other words, when they talked, they sounded loving and respectful.


The Bible summarized the key to marriage as love and respect. We read in Ephesians 5:33, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband” (NIV).

The Bible gives us the key to a successful marriage!


We asked 7000 people this question, “When you are in a conflict with your spouse, do you feel unloved or disrespected at that moment?” Eighty-three percent of the husbands felt disrespected and seventy-two percent of the wives felt unloved. Though all of us need love and respect.equally, the felt need differs during conflict. Ephesians 5:33 recognizes this.


In the early years of my mom and dad’s marriage, they missed this “tone” of love and respect. Dad had a tone of hostility, which is the opposite of love. Mom had the tone of contempt, which is the opposite of respect. These tones undermined their marriage.

Sadly, dad heard mom’s disrespect, not his sounds of hostility. Mom heard dad’s anger and harshness, not her sounds of contempt. These tones derailed their marriage. I wish someone had told my parents about their tones. I could have escaped the wounds from their divorce, their rocky remarriage, and their 5 years of physical separation. The dissonance shook my little world.


The good news is that as a result of my experience, I am on a mission to help couples change their tone for the better.

May I ask you a question?

  • As a wife, when your husband fails to be the man you expect, do you have a tone that sounds disrespectful?
  • As a husband, when your wife falls short of your wishes, do you have a tone that sounds unloving?

If so, please consider Ephesians 5:33. Those tones do not accomplish anything positive! They derail relationships.

I wish my mom and dad had considered Ephesians 5:33, and I wish the same for you. Why be tone deaf in marriage?


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