I deal with a good number of home sales that are precipitated by divorces; so, I get to hear about the issues that caused those failed marriages. One such conversation brought up the topic of respect for each other as a key (in that particular case probably THE key) to the success or failure of a relationship or marriage.
Leading up to that conclusion from my discussion partner, I had shared my observations that marriages, in order to be successful over time, had to be based upon things more substantial than the initial physical attraction that may have led to the marriage in the first place. I hadn’t really put a word to those things before, but respect seems to be an appropriate choice.
Couples who don’t respect each other end up in unbalanced relationships. One partner may come to think of their partner as somehow a junior partner intellectually or in terms of contribution to the marriage, because they don’t respect the thoughts, opinions or feelings of their mate or don’t put much value on the things that they are contributing to the marriage on a daily basis. This type of marriage usually results in one partner dominating the other in ways that eventually become so onerous that the marriage dissolves. It is not that hard to tell when one partner had no respect for the other; but it is hard to take over time. Marriages involving a so-called “throphy-wife” come to mind. There is often little respect involved in those unions.
So, instead of just tossing off a casual “I love you” from time to time; try saying “I respect you” and then stop to think about what saying that entails. You are saying, I value and respect your opinion on things and want to hear it before we make decisions about things that are important in our lives. You are admitting that the things that you do to make out home what it is and to raise our children are as important, maybe even more so, that the things that I may do at work each day to earn our income. In two-income families you’re really saying that I respect the job you have and the contributions that you make to our livelihood. You are also saying that I recognize and admire the things that you do every day for me and I hope I can do some things for you, too. Self-esteem is how you keep yourself together; respect is how you keep your relationship together. Both are essential to a happy married life.
Respect in the marriage also means that you must understand and appreciate that your partner needs to have their own time, their own interests and their own privacy, when they want it; that they have not given those things up entirely to enter into this relationship with you. You need to respect them as their own person just as you expect that respect for you. It’s not all about me or even all about us as a couple; it’s really all about mutually respecting the two individuals who have chosen to go through life together. You both have feelings and thoughts and opinions that the other needs to respect, even if they can’t quite understand them. Accept them, respect them and move on together. Also remember that respect in a relationship is a 2-way street – you don’t earn it unless you give it.
So maybe Aretha Franklin had it right in her rendition of the song RESPECT – all you need is a little bit of RESPECT to make things work. Give some thought to the level of respect that you currently have for your life partner and make the effort to examine your own expectations, behavior and efforts in making things in your relationship work. If you can’t say that you respect your partner, perhaps you are in a union that will not work over the long run. If you can honestly say that you respect your partner, then you have a great chance of making the relationship work.
Have a great and respectful relationship!