Early on in our marriage, my husband said, “I don’t feel like you respect me.”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
He then tried explain, “It’s about making me a priority!”
“You are a priority!” I retorted.
But it didn’t matter what I felt because that’s not how he felt. He felt like I didn’t respect him, and he wanted to feel respected.
I didn’t understand how I wasn’t giving it to him. I show him I loved him all the time. I stop what I’m doing to listen to him when he’s talking to me about his day. I go to him whenever I had trouble and listen to his advice. I thank him for all of the things he does for me and my children.
But I’m pretty critical. I can also be independent, headstrong, self-centered. I hate letting people do things for me, and while I may listen to your advice, I’m going to do whatever I decide to do.
I’ve always felt people need to earn my respect and keep earning it. You’re a jerk one day and you better be kind for weeks before you get that respect back from me again. But that’s not fair in a romantic relationship. No one should have to spend weeks earning love or respect back just because they had one bad day.
That’s where it finally clicked for me: I needed to show my partner regular respect.
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love & Respect, suggests trying the following test to see if respect is what your partner wants:
1. Think of a list of things that your partner does that you greatly appreciate. Your partner likely does a lot of things that you are so grateful he does. He mows the lawn, gets down and plays with the kids, does the cooking, or loves folding laundry. Make sure to have a list in your mind of all of the things that your partner does.
What really struck me is how wrongly I’d been thinking about some of the things my partner does that are really great. My partner routinely neglects himself for the sake of me and my children. He will skip going to the gym, eating, bathing, etc. if it means we are taken care of. I could be hard on him for this (and I have been), but at the end of the day, it comes from such a good place that I can’t ignore.
2. Wait until your guy isn’t busy and then casually say something along the lines of… “I was thinking about you today and several things I appreciate about you, and I just want you to know that I respect you.” Then walk away to do something else.
3. See what happens. Depending on his reaction, you can gauge just how much your partner longs to hear and feel that you respect him.
When I did this with my own partner, he didn’t allow me to walk away. He followed me into the laundry room and said, “Really?!? Like what?” I then told him my list, and he was soft with me for days after. His reaction made it so easy to keep complimenting him, and I’ve since made it a regular practice.
Here are 5 ways you can begin to show your partner respect.
1. Affirm him.
Let your partner know how much you support and appreciate his efforts, may they be at work or at home. Let him know that you see how much hard work he’s putting in and how much you appreciate him for it. Tell him the lawn looks amazing or that you can tell he’s lost weight.
2. Ask him for advice.
When you find yourself struggling with work, the kids, a friendship, ask your partner for feedback and listen to his feedback. Consider his advice thoughtfully and thank him for his input.
3. Take time to be friends.
The best romantic relationships are also the best friendships. Hang out with your partner. You pick the movie this time, and he picks it next time. You suffer through a hockey game and then he has to watch an episode of The Bachelor. The important thing is that you’re making time together that shows that you value each other and what each other cares about.
4. Let him be a leader.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses, so let your guy be a leader in his areas of strength. My guy can’t handle paying the bills on time, but I can depend on him to get a late charge taken off or negotiate an upgrade. Thank your guy too for his efforts.
5. Be physically intimate with him.
I realize that sounds awful, like I’m telling you to lie down and “just take it.” Please don’t think that. Please don’t do that.
Physical intimacy is an important part of any healthy romantic relationship, and men and women needs to develop and sustain a relationship that they are both comfortable with. The way to do that? Honest and open communication as well as both partners prioritizing it.
Since being more active about showing my husband respect the way hewill see it, he feels so much more appreciated and understood. I also see his actions in a different light that gives me a lot more insight into his intentions and movitations. He, in turn, has been so much more loving and present with me. It’s been a win-win.