Is respect important in a marriage? What can you do if you are feeling disrespected in your relationship?
In his book, The Marriage Clinic, Dr. John Gottman summarized several different studies to discover the motivations behind people getting divorced. If you didn’t know, Dr. Gottman is one of the premier researchers when it comes to relationships. He found that the reasons for divorce boiled down to not feeling loved, liked, or respected. In our work at Marriage Helper, we have seen that most couples agree with this assessment, saying it’s either one, two, or all three that are causing their issues. So today, we’re going to focus on that last aspect: respect.
What Is Respect?
To try and understand why respect in a marriage is such an important piece, we need to understand the word itself. Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. How does that translate to a relationship?
In a relationship, respect means that we are equals; neither partner has control or holds sway over the other. Respect means that we both have our individual talents and abilities that we bring to the marriage to make it whole. And while these talents might be different and unique, we blend them together as a partnership and work as a team. We see each other as equals, being valued, lovely, and lovable, and we treat each other that way.
Measuring Successful Relationships
Robert Norton developed his Quality of Marriage Index back in the early 1980s. Norton developed his index using data constructed from 430 people across four states. He used this data to do precisely what it sounds like, determine the quality of marriages. For example, one of the things his index measured was how much a couple saw each other as a team. The more that the couple thought in terms of we and not I, the better the quality of the relationship was.
Dr. Mike Johnson at Penn State University did some work a few years ago trying to determine what leads a person to be committed to another. He discovered that people tend to want to be with people they feel are teammates. Dr. Johnson called thinking in terms of we instead of I, “relational identity.” In other words, we want to be around people where we feel seen, heard, and feel important.
These observations of a couple working as one, thinking together as we instead of I, mean not always agreeing on everything but finding a way to unite to retain an emotional connection. This type of connection cannot occur if one person is being disrespected. The connection can’t happen if one person is constantly being told what to think, feel, and do and then punished if they don’t give in. That is showing disrespect toward your partner.
Getting Respect When You Are Feeling Disrespected In Your Relationship
People expect to be treated in a certain way in a relationship, fairly and equally. Can you demand that respect if you are feeling disrespected in your relationship? Yes, if you can do it respectfully yourself. You can’t yell, scream, or threaten your significant other if you feel disrespected because then you’re no better than they are. Meeting disrespect with more disrespect is not the way to fix the problem.
If you can calmly let your partner know that you have your own thoughts and emotions, you can start an open dialogue about changing their behavior. Let them know that while you might not see eye to eye on certain things, you still want to be with them, but you need their behavior to change. It is no longer acceptable for them to try and control your thoughts and actions.
While you might be very respectful in opening this dialogue, it doesn’t mean that your significant other will be responsive to it. If your significant other doesn’t respond to it, you have to determine your next steps in the relationship carefully. Don’t allow yourself to be a doormat in the relationship. It doesn’t have to lead to an argument but calmly explain your expectations.
Where Do I Find Help?
Remember, if you’re feeling disrespected in your relationship, don’t take that as an excuse to return that disrespect to your partner. Be calm and let them see that you value them but that you also value yourself. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, and you might need some help. If you’ve been in a disrespectful relationship for a long time, you may have developed some bad habits that need to be broken.
At Marriage Helper, we’re here to provide any assistance we can. If you’re looking for strength, knowledge, or just want someone to be on your side, you can call us at 866-903-0990. Ask to speak to one of our client representatives. They’re not counselors or therapists, but they’ll listen to what’s going on in your marriage. They can guide you to the right resources that fit your specific needs. You can also request to get in touch with one of our client representatives here.
We also offer many resources here on our website. For example, we have the “How To Get My Spouse Back” FREE mini-course. Or you can find out about our intensive, three-day workshop where we get you and your spouse, either in-person or online, grouped with other couples just like you to understand what respect means and how to change the feelings of disrespect in your relationship.