How Respect Bulletproofs Your Marriage
There's one question I like to ask whenever I have a new client coming to me for relationship issues and it is the following:
Do you respect your partner?
That may seem like an obvious thing, but what I often hear is "Yes, but..." while they list a bunch of things that they actually don't respect about their loved one. So in actuality, they don't respect their partner. They just say they do.
Why is respect so important? Because if you do not respect someone, you will not treat them well. If you feel "better" than your partner for some reason, you will likely not be very nice. If you do not feel grateful to be with them, your behavior will reflect that belief. Many people lose respect for their husbands or wives due to their own assumptions and entitlement. It often is nothing that the other person has "done, " but instead is an inability to look at one's OWN issues and instead place all the blame on them. When the other person has done something wrong (or we feel they have), respect is definitely lost, and instead replaced by resentment. Respect is lost in both cases. Communication about these feelings is crucial in processing this loss of respect instead of ignoring it and allowing the anger to build. If you feel yourself being disrespectful towards your partner for any reason, you need to talk about it both with yourself (introspection) and with the person you vowed to love forever.
Besides taking the time to talk, there are also simple ways to repair lost feelings of respect. For my clients, I recommend they make a list of all the things they find unique and endearing about their partners. Not things that made them fall in love, rather things that keep them in love. There is a difference. People change, so clinging to someone's characteristics from 10 years ago can be really disappointing! His brown hair will turn gray, he will abandon his love of making your breakfast every morning, and he will let go of his dream of making it in the music business. You will stop staying up until 1am to watch his favorite old movies, your pants will get bigger, and you will give up learning French so you can talk to his grandmother.
Loving someone unconditionally means understanding that they will change. We all do. We can lose respect for someone if they fail to live up to the person we (or they) thought they would be. Making a love list actually reminds us of why we are staying in the relationship. It adds perspective as well. We all can get caught up in our own egos and begin to take someone for granted. Some people even go so far as to look elsewhere or breakup entirely with someone they love when they really should have looked internally at what was "wrong" with their dynamic.
Finally, I encourage my clients to share their lists with their significant others. Why? In openly talking about what you both still find attractive about one another you both remind each other of why you're together. You will also grow closer in sharing things you love about each other that you wouldn't normally share in everyday conversation. Couples need to have these discussions. I have seen way too many relationships that end up on the brink of collapse due to neither person really taking the time to appreciate their spouse. The grass is usually not greener, aside from those who leave an abusive relationship which is a completely different situation.
Most of the time people just drift apart slowly, so slowly that you don't even notice it until you wake up one day and you're an ocean apart. No boat will ever get you back together. Bulletproof your marriage instead and practice daily respect for one another. Apart from the list exercise, make an effort to listen, refrain from name-calling, cut down on the sarcastic comments, never give the 'silent treatment,' and in general let your partner know how much you love them and appreciate them. All of these things communicate respecting someone you love. You chose to be with them and they you. So why not let them know that you feel lucky to be theirs?