We hear it from our coaching clients, newsletter readers, friends, family, neighbors and even complete strangers. Everyone from Aretha Franklin to Rodney Dangerfield and many more have sung, joked and given speeches about it.
We’re talking about respect.
It is a basic human need to feel respected– especially by those closest to us. Marshall Rosenberg lists “respect” as a need we all have as he lays out his method of Non-Violent Communication (NVC). Abraham Maslow (whom you may have learned about in an intro to psychology class) includes “respect” as essential to self-esteem in his hierarchy of needs.
In order to not only reach our potential, but also to develop healthy self-esteem and connect with others, respect is required. When respect is perceived as weak or missing in a relationship, communication and trust break down which puts the relationship itself in danger.
What’s not as clear is what it means to show respect. When your partner alleges, “You don’t respect me!” This may be confusing. Perhaps you believe you ARE being respectful. Your reaction is likely to be defensiveness and resistance to trying new ways to show respect.
When you feel disrespected, it can be just as perplexing. The words you want to hear or the ways you want your partner to respect you seem obvious. The fact that he or she isn’t treating you as you want to be treated is wounding and may cause you to question your own value and why you’re even staying in this relationship.
Believing that you’re not respected or that you’re being blatantly disrespected hurts and it can eventually kill your relationship.
The effects are clear, but figuring out how to effectively infuse your relationship with genuine respect can be bewildering.
What are the right words to say?
How often should you tell your partner that you respect him or her?
Which actions convey a sense of respect?
How specific should you be when asking your partner to show you respect?
Should you even have to ask for respect anyway?
Ideally, respect is naturally expressed in both words and actions. It just happens and it is received with appreciation. In real life, things are more complicated and messy. Resentments build up, disagreements happen and competition gets in the way. You and your partner DO respect each other, but you don’t always let that show.
Or you or your partner think you already are being respectful, but the other person is looking for something else. Something more.
What is full-respect loving?
We recommend a practice of full-respect loving to anyone who wants a happy, close and connected relationship. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with or even like every single thing about your partner and his or her habits. It DOES mean that you feel respect and allow that sense of respect to guide the choices you make in your daily interactions. You respect that the one you love is doing the best he or she can. You value the contributions your partner makes to the relationship (even if they aren’t perfect or exactly what you had in mind).
Remember, you’ve got to give it to get it. Stop waiting around for your partner to be the first one to say, “I value you” or “I’m proud of who you are.” Get the respect flowing with your own sincere words and actions.
What’s even more wonderful about this is it isn’t just for the benefit of your partner or even for the well-being of your love relationship or marriage.
It’s for your own personal growth too.
You see, in order to feel and show authentic respect for your partner, you’ve got to feel it for yourself too. As with most things, this is a practice that starts from the inside and becomes easier the more you feel it from within.
Make the decision to be and receive full respect.
This is a process and you might not be there yet (few of us actually are). Full-respect loving starts with a decision to open up to your partner’s value and to keep opening up more and more every single day. Appreciate how your life is richer, sweeter and better because of what your partner adds to the mix.
Being more respectful also includes a willingness to receive the expressions of respect your partner offers to you. What kind words and tender touches are you brushing off, discounting or even negating as “wrong?” How is your love extending him or herself to you? Get curious and observe and then invite yourself to receive what feels supportive and good to you.
Demonstrate for your partner how you’d like to be respected by talking about and treating yourself with acceptance and a sense of honor. Show that you like who you are (even as you’re working to change certain habits or improve in particular ways) and your partner will follow your lead.