I got an e-mail from a male reader asking, “What is your advice for a person whose partner has no respect for them any longer?”
Ugh. This made my heart sink. Why? Because I believe that respect is one of the most important aspects of a healthy, loving relationship. And, lack of respect is a relationship killer.
When two people meet and fall in love, they almost always treat each other with respect, and really, the love is so new and strong that they probably do feel like they respect one another (at that time.)
But as time goes by and the novelty of the relationship wears off, and people begin to see how the other reacts to life circumstances, or as I call it, “shit happening.”
Shit happens to everyone over time and when it happens to your spouse, you will either gain or lose respect for him or her. For example, if two years goes by and you are living with your spouse and you see that person endure a very difficult time—let’s say he or she loses their job or their parent dies or they become ill, God forbid. You might watch the way they handle it and be impressed, thereby causing you to respect him or her much more than you even did before.
But unfortunately, the opposite ends up happening more often. Over time, people see their spouse’s flaws and when shit happens, they end up losing respect for the way he or she handled it.
Listen, we are all human and most of us are ashamed at how we acted during certain times in our lives. I think in some cases, the love between two people is so strong and the commitment so deep, that the person is understanding of the bad behavior and the respect comes back eventually. But that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the respect is lost and there’s no coming back from that feeling.
Loss of respect could possibly be the biggest factor in people falling out of love and deciding to get divorced.
Now, am I saying that if there is a lack of respect in your relationship that you are for sure heading in that direction? Not at all. But if you want to save the relationship (and be happy again) you have to nip this in the bud.
What I mean by that is, you have to talk to the person and say, “I feel like you don’t respect me anymore.” Not in a mean, confrontational way, but rather in a non-threatening way that says, “You are hurting me by the way you treat me—disrespectfully.” Being vulnerable is the best way to get someone’s defenses down so you can have a real conversation that doesn’t end in shouting, door slams and then the silent treatment.
Maybe ask, “Why don’t you respect me? What can I do to be treated with more respect by you?”
Otis Redding knew the need for respect. He wrote about it in his 1965 song “Respect.” (Later sung by Aretha Franklin who turned it into a smash hit, earning her two Grammies and an entry into the Grammy Hall of Fame).
“What you want, baby I got. What you need, you know I got it. All I’m askin’ is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)…” –Aretha Franklin
Another thing I will say about respect is, if you don’t have respect for yourself, it will be extremely difficult for your spouse to have respect for you. I see a lot of men and women saying they don’t feel respected, when in reality, maybe they don’t respect themselves.
So, to answer to my reader’s question, my advice is to talk to your wife and get this issue on the table today because the bottom line is, respect is just as (if not more) important than love in a relationship. If both spouses don’t have and treat each other with respect, it is impossible for the couple to be happy.