As a new bride, I never really understood what it meant to be respectful to my husband.
I wasn’t sure why I would want to go so far out of my way to respect him when I was absolutely certain that I was smarter, more efficient and had more common sense than he did anyway.
I mean, what if he was inconsiderate or lazy or rude? Should I respect him then?
But WOW! Do I ever see things differently now—like night and day.
First of all, it doesn’t feel good to be disrespectful. It feels hairy and dirty.
Secondly, I’m not as super smarty pants as I once thought. And funny thing—my husband seems a lot smarter than he did back then.
Finally, I want a respectful relationship, so I figure it’s up to me to bring the respect. I love the playfulness and passion that shows up when I do.
Respect is a key ingredient for that to continue. I know because I tried leaving it out, and things did not go well around here. At all.
But even if I’d wanted to be respectful in the bad old days, I probably wouldn’t have known how. It didn’t come all that naturally for me, but leaning on certain phrases helped me get there.
Saying these phrases didn’t just get a better response from my husband. They also softened my heart. They made me into my best self. I use them all the time, to this day, because they’re how I made my marriage so much fun.
And they changed the way my husband treats me too. He knows I think highly of him (I really do now!), and he acts like that man I think so highly of.
Here are the 4 cheat phrases that helped me become the respectful wife I am today:
1. “Whatever you think”
When my husband is thinking out loud about something he’s taking care of for both of us (e.g., “I wonder if I should call the IRS and tell them I already paid this bill?”), I love leaning on this handy phrase: “Whatever you think.”
Those words are magical for me because they keep me from taking on problems that I really don’t need to solve but sometimes get tempted to. They also let my husband know I have complete faith that he’s going to handle the situation really well.
Instead of arguing with his thinking or getting into a debate or even a fight about something silly, I’m showing that I trust him.
I’m expecting the best outcome from him—not the worst.
One time I wouldn’t use this phrase is when he’s asking what I want, like which restaurant to go to. It’s up to me to figure out my desire and tell him. But anything that he’s handling—even if I’m afraid he won’t do it right—I can use this phrase to demonstrate my faith in him.
2. “I apologize for being disrespectful”
There are dozens of ways to be disrespectful, and sadly, I’ve tried them all.
I’ve rolled my eyes at his idea, interrupted what he was saying, tried to explain to the waitress what he meant, walked away while he was talking, asked him why he bought iceberg lettuce when it’s devoid of nutritional value, told him he couldn’t wear that combo out of the house, and instructed him not to order a Coke at dinner to save money.
And if you’d told me years ago that those things were disrespectful, I would have scratched my head and said, “How do you mean?” It all seemed justified and valid to me.
But, all of that was ridiculously disrespectful.
I don’t go there much anymore, but when I do I know how I can clean it up in a hurry, thus restoring the connection and my own dignity.
These are the magic words: “I apologize for being disrespectful when I…” (Fill in the disrespectful words or act.)
So it might be, “I apologize for being disrespectful when I asked why you were keeping the holey Yankees T-shirt.”
Notice that I’m talking about myself: I was being disrespectful. That’s not who I want to be. And my husband loves that about me.
3. “I hear you”
Sometimes, out loud, my husband will explore possibilities like throwing his work phone into the ocean so no one can ever reach him again.
Or he’ll talk about how we should build a second story so we can have a slide from the upstairs to the downstairs.
Or he’ll be talking about how he’s going to solve a technical equipment problem I don’t even understand.
In those situations, I don’t have to weigh in with my opinion, tempting though it is. I can just let him know I heard him—that I’m listening.
One great way to do that is to say nothing but “I hear you.” I’m not agreeing. I’m not disagreeing. I’m just listening.
We all have a deep need to be heard and understood, so just listening is a nice gift to give the man you love. It’s also a great way to be respectful and to resist commenting on things you know only a little about anyway.
4. Duct tape
I’m controlling by nature.
I just happen to think I know what’s best for everyone all the time. But that hasn’t turned out to be as helpful as I first thought.
So when my husband is doing something his way, and it’s totally different than my way, I’m sometimes still tempted to tell him what he should do instead that would be sooooo much more efficient, cheaper, or faster.
But mostly I don’t.
These days, I usually say “Whatever you think” or “I hear you,” or I put metaphorical duct tape over my mouth and just say…nothing.
It’s still not always easy. Sometimes it takes everything I’ve got to just put some imaginary duct tape on my mouth and let him do things his way—even when he’s exercising his right to be wrong.
Why would I do such a thing? Because today, I value the emotional connection above being a smarty pants. And I’ve found that the two don’t go together.
Just because I think I know best doesn’t mean I actually do. Sometimes when I’m wearing duct tape, I learn something.
Being respectful has made my marriage so easy, fun and sweet that I can’t imagine life without it.
That’s what motivated me to want to be respectful in the first place, and it worked to revitalize my marriage.
But something else wonderful happened along the way: I became a respectful woman, and I like hearing myself speaking respectfully more than I liked hearing myself sighing in disgust, barking orders, or shrieking at my husband.
The unintended consequence of being respectful is that I’m happier, humbler, and more pleasant to be around—even for me.
Will you be trying these phrases out in your relationship? I’d love to hear how you feel when you do.
I’d also love to hear the ways you bring respect to your relationship. Please comment below and let me know.