There is a book called, Love and Respect, by author Emerson Eggerichs, PhD., in which he details with research that a woman has one overarching driving need—to feel loved, and when that need is met, she tends to be happy. Similarly, a man has one driving need—to feel respected, and when that need is met, he tends to be happy.
Though we all need love and respect equally, our felt needs differ. The "Crazy Cycle", as he describes it, is the futile pattern of communication which results when he feels disrespected and responds in ways that feel unloving to her, meanwhile she is feeling unloved and responds in ways that feel disrespectful to him.
As a man and a husband I can speak to two things. First, I agree with Dr. Eggerichs that a man has a deep need to feel respected. For example, as a father I struggle most with my response toward our kids in times of their deliberate defiance. Why? It's flat-out disrespectful! Second, I have seen how my wife feels and acts when she is feeling loved and conversely when she is feeling unloved. There is a big difference. Are these two respective things THE biggest hot buttons for each gender? I don't know. But I do know each is really important.
In a relational sense, however, the question becomes……who goes first? Should I, as the man, wait until I feel respected by my wife to begin to show love to her? Or, should I begin loving my wife first hoping that she will begin treating me with more respect? Now, this can be seen like a bit of relational roulette, I know.
The first thing I would highly encourage is a candid conversation about what you're feeling and discuss what options might be good approaches to reversing the trend. Second, would be to examine your motives. If by your actions you are trying to manipulate your partner into the behavior you would like then it's coming from wrong motives. However, if you genuinely want to treat the other with more love or more respect then you're on the right track.
Who should go first? In my eyes it should be the man. We should seek to love our wives in a way that elevates them to first position in our lives - and they should emotionally feel that men. It is elevating them to a place of honor daily. It goes back to those words you recited in front of people - you promised that you would "love, honor and cherish" her, right? I'm not saying every day is filled with roses without difficult moments. That's not realistic. I'm saying in the midst of difficult times there should still be an attitude of love toward her. Hard? Yes. Possible? Yes.
So, what would that look like in your home? What would that look like in how you spend your time? Where does placing her as the #1 priority fit into your day? How might you change some things to help that process begin to happen or happen more regularly? The answers to these kinds of questions will make all the difference.