respect in marriage
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How to Get Your Spouse’s Respect and Keep It

Personal integrity, positive relationship building, and effective responding will create the respect you have been hoping for.

get your husband's respect
You can earn your spouse’s respect with respect building behaviors

Let’s start with a simple truth: If you are not getting respect from your spouse now, then what you are doing to get respect is not working. Successful people know that when what they are doing is not working, they need to do something else instead.

Make this the day you decide to stop doing ineffective things. Make this the day you take charge of your relationship instead of waiting for your spouse to make it better for you.

One thing that will not get you respect is telling your spouse what you don’t like about his or her behavior. Some people call this sharing, some people call it being open and honest. I call it criticism. It results in defensiveness and possibly resentful compliance. It never results in respect and it damages relationships rather than builds them.

Anything you do that is ineffective will result in loss of respect from others. This includes your spouse, your children, your friends–everyone. And, if you start becoming effective, you can also get respect from everyone.

An important thing you need to learn about respect is that…

Respect is earned (and demanding it just loses you more respect)

We can’t demand respect, just like we can’t demand love. If we want someone to respect us or love us, we need to talk and behave in such a way that respect and love will be the natural result. As a relationship coach, the most frequent things I help people to do are to get love and respect by changing the way they interact with their spouse.

I never encourage my clients to talk about their feelings of being disrespected or rejected because although it might feel better to express it, it makes it harder to change it. Just like telling a bully that you don’t like to be teased and picked on, your open communication will make things worse.

Open and honest negative sharing creates conflict. If you believe otherwise, just look at what it is doing to your relationship. The truth speaks for itself.

Conflict is the enemy of love and respect. The more conflicted a person’s relationship, the less love and respect they will have. Since all of the needy behaviors foster conflict, overcoming neediness is a key element to getting respect.

If you have been following my teaching, you will remember that we can only have success by doing the right steps, in the right order, at the right pace, and that relationship problems come from a failure to do the right steps in the right order at the right pace.

Just trying to directly change your spouse is not part of relationship improvement, even if your spouse is causing all the problems.

Like other relationship problems, we have the power to change things by changing the way we present ourselves and interact with our spouse.

You will be treated according to your behavior

Many people have a welfare mentality toward their relationships. They think they should get love without having to be loving, agreement without having to be agreeable, and respect without having to behave respectfully. The Bible tells us we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). You can’t sow corn and reap wheat, and you can’t sow conflict and reap respect.

So, the first step to ending disrespect (or getting more respect) is to see where you might be sowing disrespect with your behavior…

The top three needy behaviors that foster conflict and lead to disrespect are:

  1. Criticizing,
  2. Complaining, and
  3. Talking about relationship problems.

These are three ways to negatively be open and honest. All three of these behaviors magnify differences without improving relationships. They are ineffective in creating lasting change. They make you look bad.

I am not encouraging you to be dishonest. I am encouraging you not to be open with your negative sharing, unless you are going to do something effective about it.

I don’t like having to clean up your messes, will not get you respect.

I don’t like having to clean up your messes, so if you don’t start doing that by one week from now, I will hire a cleaning service, will get you respect.

Get the point? Don’t say negative things about your spouse, to your spouse, unless you have some effective plan to deal with your spouse. Or, you will lose respect and the problems will be worse.

(If you are having difficulty being secure, my book, Overcome Neediness and Get the Love You Want, will help you get started with the changes you can make to improve your relationship.)

One effective action prevents a thousand ineffective arguments.

Did you know that secure people don’t argue? Do you know what else secure people don’t do? They don’t avoid dealing with problems. So, what do secure people do?…

Secure people earn respect

In addition to not using ineffective methods like negative sharing without action, secure people live in such a way that earns respect from others.

(The right steps in the right order right? So, take care of that negative sharing, then work on this step of earning respect.)

How to earn your spouse’s (or anyone’s) respect

Respect is earned by:

  1. Living according to our professed values,
  2. Doing what we say we will do, and
  3. Not allowing others to mistreat us.

If you are not respected, it is because you are not earning it in at least one of these three areas. If we say we are Christian, for example, yet don’t reflect that in our talk or behavior, we are seen as hypocrites. You don’t score any points with God or people by saying you are something that you obviously are not.

Jesus addressed this issue in Luke 6:46: Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

God and people both respect honesty, which means that your behavior has to match your words.

Do as you say and say as you do and you will be taken seriously.

Threatening your spouse with things you would never actually do is a sure way to lose respect. It might work once or twice, but will contribute to long term credibility issues. How can we trust someone’s promises if they sometimes don’t do what they say?

One of the needy behaviors that I talk about in my book on overcoming neediness is making promises. Promises are a way to try to get credit in advance of your actions. But, what if you don’t follow through for some reason? You will be discredited. You will be called untrustworthy. Even if you did 90% of what you said you would do, that 10% you didn’t will make you into a liar.

Secure people don’t make promises. They simply make changes. As long as you didn’t promise some improvement, you get credit for whatever you do. But, if you promise to make changes, you get discredited for every slip-up. Making promises is a good way to lose respect.

Work on changing everything you think you should without ever telling anyone that you are. Don’t try to impress people with your intentions–impress them with your success.

What about those damaging things your spouse is doing?…

Not allowing mistreatment or damaging behavior will get respect and improve your marriage

We need to allow our spouse to do some things we don’t like. Otherwise, our lack of acceptance will make them feel not good enough and lead to their no longer loving us. But, there are some things we just shouldn’t allow (not that we are going to argue about it).

Do not accept and do something about:

  1. Any behavior which will cause you to no longer love your spouse.
  2. Any behavior which endangers you or your children.
  3. Neglect or abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or financial.
  4. Unfaithful behavior.

There may be some other things you shouldn’t accept as well, but the main idea is to prevent anything which, if continued, would lead to long term damage to your relationship, or to the people in your family, including your spouse.

We have to love our spouses enough to take actions which will preserve our love for them.

The problem most people have is trying to convince their spouse to stop rather than not actually allowing the behavior. God’s charge to Christians is for us to love our spouse, not please our spouse. Where loving and pleasing are the same thing, do it. Where loving and pleasing contradict, go with loving, even if it makes your spouse upset.

Only effective actions earn respect. Telling your spouse what you don’t like is not effective for creating lasting change, so will lose you respect.

Effective action for ending hurt and harm is using boundaries.

Boundaries are not what we tell others to do–they are what we do or don’t do. Telling your spouse to do or not do something is not a boundary. It is an attempt to control your spouse. Boundaries are about controlling our own behaviors so that other people’s actions no longer harm us.

For example, telling your spouse that you don’t like shouting or not to shout does not stop the shouting. Walking away at the very first instance of shouting, and doing it consistently, on the other hand, is very effective in ending shouting–provided your spouse cares about your relationship.

For this reason, you must stop any damaging behavior of your own and use pro-relationship behaviors before using boundaries (the exception would be where safety must be prioritized. Staying safe is more important than maintaining a relationship).

There are as many ways to have boundaries as there are bad behaviors. Another example would be not riding with someone who loses their temper in the car. Or, going out with friends whether your spouse likes it or not. A common mistake people make with boundaries is not returning to being relaxed and friendly as soon as possible after using a boundary.

Love your spouse, but deal with the behavior.

There is a lot that can be learned about boundaries, far beyond what I can present here. My coaching package for dealing with a difficult partner offers more extensive help in boundaries for difficult situations.

You may be able to do much on your own by following some good guidelines…

Here are some guidelines for using boundaries:

  • Be sure you are not using any needy behaviors,
  • be sure you are doing things which help your spouse to feel connected and attracted to you,
  • make a positive request rather than criticizing,
  • if positive requests don’t work, decide if more long term damage would be done by using a boundary or by allowing the behavior to continue,
  • use a boundary if allowing the behavior to continue would create long term damage,
  • use only one boundary at a time to minimize the stress it will cause,
  • explain your boundary only if your spouse would otherwise be confused by it,
  • use the boundary the first instance the damaging behavior occurs,
  • do not have any discussion about your boundary–just do it,
  • expect your spouse to be angry when you use your boundary and be okay with that,
  • use the boundary every time the damaging behavior occurs, no matter how inconvenient it is,
  • be sure to continue secure and loving behaviors whenever not using the boundary.

The correct use of boundaries in a good relationship stops bad behavior typically in less than two weeks. The wrong use of boundaries creates conflict, but does not stop bad behavior. And, using boundaries in a bad relationship will just make the relationship worse.

Never just depend on boundaries to improve a bad relationship!

The right steps in the right order mean stopping your damaging needy behaviors first, helping your spouse to enjoy your relationship and be attracted to you, and then using boundaries. The right pace is important as well. This could mean months in a very distant relationship.

You can really and truly have a good relationship by sticking with the basics for a good relationship and avoiding all the crazy anti-family rhetoric. The Bible can help keep you grounded, as can reading or listening to a daily devotional. The one I listen to every morning is found at intouch.org. Find what works for you and is consistent with God teaches.

The right beliefs and skills make all the difference between good relationships and bad ones

Behaving in ways that help your spouse to look forward to being with you is one of the most important things we can do to maintain our relationships. Those are connection skills. We can’t get our spouses to be more loving or intimate with criticism, neglect, or threats. Those are needy behaviors.

Sometimes though, even when we are using good connection skills, our spouses have bad behaviors due to old habits and personality issues. When that happens, we need to use good boundaries to end them. When we do, our relationship improves for us and our spouses. The purpose of boundaries is never to punish, it is to improve.

If you get stuck getting all the way to a relationship you and your spouse enjoy, I would be glad to help you get the rest of the way. Both coaching packages and consultations are available.

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