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 withBoundaries 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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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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The conversation about sex and intimacy often neglects the experiences of individuals with disabilities. Society's misguided notion that individuals with disabilities are devoid of desires for love, intimacy, and sexual fulfillment is not only preposterous but also damaging, but one disability activist is here to challenge that narrative.
"Society's perception of disability has greatly influenced my own understanding and expression of my sexuality," said author and disabled influencer Tylia L. Flores. "The stigma associated with my disability made it difficult for me to express myself freely, leading to self-esteem issues during my teenage years."
Born with Spastic Cerebral Palsy, Flores refuses to let her condition define her love life or limit her aspirations. As a passionate advocate for her community, she's on a mission to shatter misconceptions and pave the way for a more inclusive understanding of sexuality within the disabled community.
Misconceptions About Sexuality for the Disabled Community
Ableist misconceptions cast shadows over romantic pursuits for disabled individuals. These misunderstandings can lead to assumptions and judgments that hinder their ability to explore and experience love fully.
For instance, Flores revealed that most believe her caregiver, her mother, or another abled-bodied individual has total influence over her decisions with a partner. Contrary to popular belief, Flores wants the world to know she has complete control over her emotions and decisions regarding her dating and sex life.
"By educating others about sexuality and disability, I challenge these stereotypes and break down barriers. By being open about my experiences and advocating for inclusivity, I hope to inspire others to see beyond misconceptions and embrace diverse experiences within the disabled community," Flores stated.
Another misconception is disabled characters in movies, shows, or books cannot be the main character of affection or have sex. Media representations often portray disabled characters as either asexual or objects of pity, reinforcing harmful stereotypes and perpetuating that disabled individuals are not sexual beings.
"The only way we could create a more inclusive world for Black women with disabilities is to have more Black women come out and voice their truths in the mainstream media and literature, and that's my whole goal as an author," said Flores. "I want to see more disabled characters have sex on TV screens and express themselves sexually like abled-bodied characters."
Ignoring The Suggestion of ‘Limited Romance’ in Partners
The stigma surrounding disability and sexuality finds its roots in deeply ingrained societal biases and stereotypes. Throughout history, people with disabilities were systematically marginalized and desexualized, relegated to the fringes of society. This pervasive attitude stems from a misguided belief that disability diminishes one's humanity, erasing desires and needs deemed as "normal" for able-bodied individuals.
"As a Black woman with cerebral palsy, I have faced challenges in navigating intimate relationships. One challenge has been the lingering belief among many that individuals with disabilities should be limited in their romantic choices by only dating or being intimate with other disabled people," Flores explained. "This suggestion is based on assumptions that individuals with physical disabilities are not capable of having fulfilling relationships."
She overcame this by putting herself out there and actively sharing her life and experiences with others. The author also noted that she doesn't have a "type" limited to African Americans or disabled. She prioritized finding love based on shared values, compatibility, and sexual desires. Additionally, she recommended showing yourself without fear of judgment or prejudice when it comes to dating or having a sexual relationship. The right person will value and respect you, disability and all.
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