Maybe it's just me, but I've always found it to be interesting (that's the word I'm gonna go with for now) that, whenever you see a rom-com or read a book on relationships, most of the focus is on cultivating love. Chile, after years of marriage life coaching, what I've realized a lot of people need to focus on more is mutual respect.
Real talk, when I stop and think about the core reason for why a lot of married couples struggle, it's not that the love isn't still there; it's that either one or both feel totally disrespected on some level. And when respect isn't fully presented and accounted for in a relationship, it's just a matter of time before things go from uncomfortable to bad to I'm about one foot out of the door.
That's why I thought it would be a good idea to share some examples of what it actually means to respect your spouse. While these seven signs don't cover all of the bases, I'm fairly confident that if you and yours are willing to make these a priority, you will be creating a marriage that is truly able to go the distance. Because after all, if love and respect are there, you are in a really good, healthy, happy and stable place.
1. You Are Intentional About Affirming Your Partner
If you go to the Classic Amplified Version Ephesians 5:33 of the Bible, when it speaks of wives respecting their husband, one of the words that is brought up is "esteem". I really like that word because it means "to regard highly or favorably; regard with respect or admiration"—and yes, if you have chosen to vow to be with someone for the rest of your life, you most definitely should hold them in high regard, respect them and, to a certain extent, even admire them (since admiring is about approving of someone and taking pleasure in them in some way and on some level).
One way to express all of this is by affirming your partner, on a consistent basis. Matter of fact, one of the biggest issues that I encounter with the couples that I work with is the fact that they don't affirm their partner much at all. Instead, what they do plenty of is complain, nag, nitpick, berate and find all kinds of ways to verbally beat their partner down. And as we've just seen from the breakdown of esteem, whether they realize it or not, all of that is actually a form of disrespect—and who wants to be in a relationship where they constantly feel disrespected?
Affirming someone is about positively stating what is true about them. What I also like about the definitions of affirm is it also means to uphold and support an individual. So yes, every time you verbally state something positive about your partner—whether in their presence or out—what you're essentially doing is showing your support of them.
Now, if you just read all of that and thought, "I'll affirm them when they've got something worth affirming"—tell me, how did you end up choosing a partner who you can't say anything positive about? Mmm-hmm. The answer to that question will reveal volumes. If you let it.
2. Their Needs Are Valid. Even If They Differ from Your Own
If you're a single person who happens to be checking this article out, it's important to know that a need is a requirement, and if there are certain things that you require in a relationship, it's best to state those, upfront, before saying "I do". Now for those who may think that "require" is extreme, at the end of the day, all a requirement is, is a need—and if you're not getting what you need from your spouse, you're gonna be very uncomfortable, if not flat-out miserable, in your relationship.
I know a couple, right now, who have been struggling for a few years and it's all because the husband needs sex more than he's getting while the wife needs romance more than she's receiving. Both of them look at the other like they are being ridiculous. Why? Because the husband sees what the wife desires as a want, not a need, while the wife feels the same way about her husband. It's another article, for another time, just how essential sex is in a marital union. For now, what I will say, is it's not really up to us to tell someone what they do or do not need. What is our responsibility in a relationship is to either honor that need or find a way to come to a compromise in meeting the need.
Now please believe that I'm not saying that we need to succumb to every whim (because sometimes things aren't based on need but greed). However, when you truly care about someone, when you respect them as a person, along with the place they hold in your life, you don't try to invalidate their needs just because they may differ from your own. You listen, you remain open and you encourage them to do the same for you. Meeting needs in a marriage is paramount. Please make that a top priority in your own.
3. Anything That Concerns Them Is Up for Discussion
Wanna know a clear sign that someone is disrespectful as hell? It's when they are dismissive. It's when you bring up a concern to someone and, because it's not important to them, they treat it like it's not important at all.
I was actually just having a conversation with a husband about this very point, not too long ago. He's the kind of guy who, while he has some pretty solid décor taste, he's also fine with the bare minimum. For example, as long as his living room has a comfy couch, a coffee table and an entertainment system, he's all good. Meanwhile, he married a Black Martha Stewart who isn't happy unless each room looks like it should be in an interior design magazine.
On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal but oh, has it become one. When discussion of the household budget comes up and she wants to get some extra things, he's quite flippant and yes, dismissive. Meanwhile, this husband is a musician. And so, whenever he wants to get some new equipment for his home studio, that is important and must be purchased. Yet when his wife wants to get some throw pillows and art? To him, those are totally irrelevant and a waste of money. Why? Well, since décor isn't something that he's particularly passionate about, he doesn't deem it as necessary.
There is no right or wrong here. Well, except for the fact that it's pretty arrogant to assume that just because something doesn't concern you, your partner shouldn't care about it either. So yeah, another clear sign that you respect your spouse is you make the time to be invested in what matters to them—simply because they matter to you. Signing up to be a husband or wife means that everything ain't about you. Some things are going to have to come up that you couldn't care less about. Maturity says you care anyway. Because your spouse needs you to do so.
4. Certain Things Within the Relationship Is NO ONE ELSE’s Business
Something that I have in common with most of my closest friends is we're all pretty open people. What I mean by that is, the types of things that others may never want people to know, we'll discuss pretty freely (check out "14 Lessons I've Learned From 14 Sex Partners", for example). Yet, at the same time, there are a few topics and/or situations that we keep, 100 percent, between us. The information is private. Sacred even.
Another way that married people show that they truly respect their spouse is coming to the mutual conclusion that not everything is open season for the information hotline. I don't care if it's their mama, their bestie or a co-worker that their partner has never met before—when two people decide to share their lives with one another, it should automatically be a safe space and with safety comes confidentiality. By the way, the only way that you and yours can get on the same page about this is by discussing what both of you find to be private. Also, if one of you thinks that something isn't that big of a deal while the other does, respect says, that you concede to the one who would prefer that topic not come up.
I actually know a few married people who don't tell their partner a lot because they think they talk (and tell) too much. That's super unfortunate because, if there is one place where a spouse should be able to freely share…whatever it is that they want to, it should be with their partner. Remember when Alicia Keys once sang, "I won't tell your secrets/Your secrets are safe with me/I will keep your secrets/Just think of me as the pages in your diary"? Your spouse should be able to feel this exact way about you, just like you should be able to about them? Can you?
5. You Both Have Mutually Agreed Upon Boundaries
There are actually a lot of books that I recommend for married couples to add to their library. As it relates to this specific topic, I'd go with Boundaries in Marriage: Understanding the Choices That Make or Break Loving Relationships. Boundaries are limits and while limits differ from couple to couple, in order for a marriage to succeed, every union needs them.
What I just shared about couples keeping certain things confidential, that's a boundary. Doing whatever is necessary to prevent an affair—including an emotional affair—from transpiring, that is a boundary. Not letting a relative or friend have more power or influence in your marriage than your own spouse does, that is a boundary. Keeping the explicit details of your sex life to yourself, that is a boundary. Setting mutually agreed upon limits that basically say, "this is as far as something or someone should go" (even with one another, I might add) is an ultimate form of respect. Breaking boundaries? That is disrespectful like a mug.
6. Feeling Connected Is the Utmost Importance to You
Genesis 2:24(NKJV) says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." I Corinthians 6:16(Message) says, "There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, 'The two become one.'" If you really pay attention to both verses, they share the same premise that marriage is about oneness. That's another word that I personally dig because oneness is all about "unity of thought, feeling, belief, aim, etc.; agreement; concord" and "a strong feeling of closeness or affinity; union".
While being married definitely doesn't mean that you give up your individuality, what should happen is you and yours are able to come together and complement each other very well. Your strengths should help each other to become stronger. Your weaknesses should balance each other in a way where you both can hold each other accountable. You should communicate on a level where you both feel heard and your sex life should help to solidify the emotional bond that already exists.
Being proactive about making sure that you and your spouse are good is a form of respect because it means that you acknowledge their value and worth in your life. No matter how much may be on your plate, it is imperative that you make strides, on a daily basis, to make you and your partner feel connected to one another. Both of you doing this makes it very hard for either of you to feel "less than" or, yes, disrespected.
7. You Honor Them and Your Marriage. In and Out of Your Spouse’s Presence
Did you know that one definition of honor is "high respect"? Actually though, the definition that I want to close this article out with is "honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions". The reason why is because, when I refer to the importance of honoring your spouse as well as your marriage, it should be about being honest with them, approaching matters with them from a place of fairness and having a sense of integrity when it comes to keeping your marriage vows and also doing what you say you're gonna do—no matter how many years you've been together.
There are some married people I know who are the same way whether their spouse is around or not. Why? Because they are genuine individuals with absolutely nothing to hide. Then there are folks who literally seem like they have split personalities because they are "on one thing" in their partner's presence, then they're about something totally different whenever their spouse isn't around. To give a false impression of yourself is not only dishonorable but disrespectful because, again, when you sign up to become a "oneness partner", you're not only representing yourself but your spouse—both in and out of their presence.
An honorable marriage is one that can be respected—by you, your spouse and those you come into contact with—because it is one that is reliable, secure, real and true. And a marriage that is described in that way is one that is made up of the good stuff. One that will last for years and years to come. And who can't respect that?
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