You can gain respect or get it back in your relationship. Learn how respect is lost. And, an antidote to arguing or giving in with your spouse.
Why is respect important in marriage? Along with attraction and emotional connection, it helps love to flourish. And, just like attraction and emotional connection, it takes ongoing work. We must work to keep it and our spouse’s love. If you feel that his or her love for you is slipping, take a look at how you may be losing respect. There are some good things you can do to get it back.
There are various ways to lose respect in a relationship
Respect can be lost in a number of ways:
- allowing someone to treat you badly (dependency)
- agreeing with behavior which damages your relationship (codependency)
- not living according to your own standards (hypocrisy)
- needy behaviors designed to control your partner (insecurity)
The fastest way to lose respect is by allowing someone to treat you badly, such as with verbal abuse, physical abuse, neglect, or threats. Verbal abuse could include shouting at you, demeaning you. Neglect could include refusing to talk or be nice to you. These are healthy needs. When our spouse’s deprive us of them, they are neglecting us.
Another way to lose respect is to agree or put up with things that you know are damaging for the relationship. If you agree with something damaging your partner is doing, it becomes apparent that you are either afraid of your partner, or you are afraid of losing your partner. This could include an addiction your spouse has. Or perhaps your spouse has flirtatious and secretive behaviors which undermine trust.
Your fear helps your spouse feel free to continue damaging behavior and also makes your partner disrespect you. Needy behaviors like criticizing and arguing also make our spouse’s disrespect us. These are some of the most destructive things we can do in any relationship.
How to be respected and loved
The recognition that you could leave, if you chose to, helps your partner to continue to court you instead of take you for granted. This is the same condition that kept your partner courting you when you were first dating. If you tolerate anything, your spouse will feel that he or she could never lose you. This would promote disrespect and result in his or her not working on the relationship.
My wife could leave me, if she chose to. She is a very capable and attractive woman with a successful career. She treats me well, but would leave me if I mistreated her. That makes me feel special since she wants to be with me. It also makes me respect her. She has my love and respect because she is loving to me and would not tolerate misbehavior on my part.
Another way of thinking about it. Imagine you felt like you would never lose your job, no matter what you did. You might start showing up late or not at all. You might put little effort into it and ignore your supervisor’s requests. Knowing you need to perform well to keep your job keeps you enjoying your job and keeps you being respectful.
What to do instead of arguing or giving in
You will never get respect by arguing, but neither will you get respect by giving in. You will get respect by refusing to argue and by sticking to your boundaries. Boundaries are not threats and they are not attempts to control someone else’s behavior. They are what we do to protect ourselves or our relationships.
Two weeks of good boundaries will accomplish more than years of argument. Complaining, blaming, arguing, and even discussing may seem like the best way to stop your spouse’s damaging behaviors, but the fact is that they don’t work. Boundaries do.
“What are some example boundaries?”
- Leaving immediately every time your partner calls you a bad name, even if means taking a taxi home from a restaurant.
- Taking separate vehicles rather than riding with a spouse who has temper outbursts while driving.
- Having backup plans if your partner frequently makes promises that he or she doesn’t keep.
- Hiring a babysitter, if your spouse refuses to share the parenting, so you can have some time off.
“If I do such things, my partner will be upset.”
I have no doubt about that, but I also know that allowing such behavior to go unchecked can severely damage your relationship. What would be likely to happen for each of the above examples if you argued about it or just let it go on? You would:
- continue to receive verbal abuse from your spouse
- be stressed out whenever you rode with your spouse
- feel unimportant and distrust what your partner says
- become resentful because you are doing all of the parenting
The damage caused by the lack of boundaries would be ongoing. Your partner would not respect you, even though he or she got to continue the damaging behavior. Using boundaries will cause your spouse to be temporarily angry, but then will end the damaging behavior. The end result is improvement to the relationship. Are there areas that you need to use boundaries in order to stop damaging behavior and to build your partner’s respect?
Which type of problem do you have?
Insecurity problem (neediness)
There are two basic reasons why people find it hard to use boundaries to build respect. The first type of problem is an underlying fear of being unable to survive without the relationship. If I believe my life would be terrible without you, then I will not do anything that risks you rejecting me. I will know that, you will know that, and the damaging behavior will continue. You won’t respect me and I will feel unhappy and resentful. We may stay together, but with each of us carrying a resentment toward each other. Relationships like this are ten times more likely to end than secure, stable relationships. The solution for the insecure person is to first work on overcoming neediness to become able to do things to stabilize and strengthen the relationship.
Lack of skills
The second type of problem is a lack of skills for creating appropriate boundaries and creating a loving connection. Relationship skills aren’t taught in school and many of us did not have good models for love and respect when we were growing up. The solution for a lack of skills is to learn more skills. Many people have been able to make significant improvement in their relationships with the help of my articles and books. I also have marriage and relationship coaching packages for those who would like to work one on one with me. What level of help do you need at this point in your relationship?