As you know, the Bible instructs husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. This doesn’t mean that husbands are free to disrespect their wives or that wives need not love their husbands; rather, the commands are ordered to each one’s needs. Men are blessed when they are respected by their wives, and women are particularly blessed when they are loved by their husbands.
As it turns out, these commands are also ordered to the weaker sides of each sex. Men naturally function in terms of respect, and so they often need to be reminded to love their wives. And women naturally function in terms of love, and so they often need to be reminded to respect their husbands.
And what do these commands mean? Love is defined by the gospel. It is sacrifice for the good of the other, but it is thoughtful, intentional sacrifice aimed toward a goal. Christ did not die on the cross in order to put a generic pay check on some cosmic counter. He died for particular people, to pay for their sins, to make them clean, to bring them to glory. His love took thought for the needs of His particular people, and His love went out of its way to make a way for them. Husbands, this is what love does.
Respect is defined by the response of the Church to this love, and that is primarily embodied by glad submission and obedience. Respect looks up to, honors, speaks highly of, is eager to serve. In Peter’s letter, he points to Sara’s example with Abraham, calling him “lord.” While this need not be applied in a wooden way, the spirit must be applied. And in our common parlance, perhaps the closest we have to such an address is the word, “sir.” When we say “yes, sir” we express respect and honor for a man. And the point is that respect is leaning in with a readiness and gravity and eagerness to follow. What are his preferences? What does he like or dislike? Respect thinks highly of those inclinations, just as the Church responds to Christ’s love.