What is respect in marriage?
If you’re asking yourself that question, kudos to you. It means you recognize the importance of respect in your relationship.
You’re way ahead of where I was when my marriage was on the fritz. I had no idea that respect is like oxygen to men. And that I was depriving our relationship of oxygen.
No wonder my husband didn’t want to be around me so much anymore. Or open up to me and have the deep conversations I longed for. Or share the physical intimacy I missed.
But I drew the line at him disrespecting me.
If you’ve been criticized, insulted, yelled or cursed at, you know you deserve better!
When respect is lost in a relationship, it’s a lonely place to be. I felt so hurt and frustrated as I kept trying to tell him how to give me the love and respect I needed.
But it never got me the connection I wanted. I learned the hard way that demanding respect does not work. Here are four ways I softened my approach and saw amazing results with my husband.
1) Follow the Golden Rule of Communication
Have you ever shared an issue with your man, just wanting to be heard and validated, but he jumps straight into fix-it mode, telling you what to do? As if you couldn’t figure it out for yourself.
Argh, talk about annoying!
Yet how often do we go straight to knowing better and wanting to “help” him when he shares something, rather than giving him that same chance just to feel heard?
If you’re ready to try something different, something that will have you feeling heard and him opening up to you more and more, I have three magic words for you.
Are you ready?
“I hear you.”
Valerie was feeling hugely disrespected when, as she was innocently giving her boss an update, he laid into her and started criticizing her in front of thirty-five other people.
While she wanted to run the other way, she managed to eek out the words “I hear you” (somehow more than once).
She was amazed by what happened next.
Her boss apologized to her. In front of thirty-five other people.
She saw what a shiny mirror she is. When she showed up with respect, he mirrored the same thing, restoring respect himself.
Valerie’s other superpower that day involved some ordinary duct tape.
Picturing it over her mouth empowered her not to react or defend or RSVP yes to the fight her boss was picking with her.
As the Chinese proverb says, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”
Want to cultivate your own superpowers of respect?
Here’s an experiment for you: Try listening to your man with your duct tape handy, saying only “I hear you.” No agreeing or disagreeing, being helpful or even giving your opinion. Just listen; give him the gift of listening respectfully. (As you’ve probably gathered, the “Golden Rule of Communication” I was referring to is to communicate less and listen more–a lot more.)
Try this experiment for a whole hour.
Try it for as long as you can, and soon enough he will.
2) Listen for His Heart Message
Leslie had a cute habit of mowing the lawn wearing her showercap so burrs wouldn’t stick in her hair.
One day, she forgot to take it off when she came back inside. Her husband caught a glimpse of her and sounded none too kind as he said, “When you tell me I only love you when you’re skinny, look at you now–look at you now, and I still love you.”
Yikes, sounds a lot like he just called her fat and ugly!
She would have been well within her rights to point that out and start a fight. Instead, she was able to smile and walk away.
Yes, we have another superheroine on our hands. But how did she manage to stay so dignified and even pleasant?
She knew that those words were bait that could lure her into reacting. And that she didn’t have to even nibble at it. Sure, she could have, but that would cost her the connection she really wanted. To her, it just wasn’t worth sacrificing the intimacy.
Plus, she knew that a heart message often lay hidden even beneath words that seemed hurtful on the surface.
In this case, the heart message was loud and clear: Her man adored her, no matter what she looked like!
Keeping her duct tape handy gave her the space to hear it–and to avoid a cold war.
3) Set the Stage for Self-Respect
Are you ready for the crucial ingredient that will make the odds of being able to summon your own superpowers way higher?
It’s like Popeye opening a can of spinach, and it’s called self-care.
Believe it or not, it requires getting rid of your superwoman cape.
If you’re working all day, dealing with carpool and juggling activities, only to be greeted with a pile of dirty laundry and having to make dinner, again, then clean up and get the kids to bed then crumple in an exhausted heap and do it all over again the next day, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
I know, I know–I grew up learning that I could do it all too!
They just left out the part about the burnout and resentment that would come with carrying so much on my shoulders. Especially when I felt like the only grownup in the house since I was married to a big Loser Pants lying around on the sofa.
Yes, you can do anything. But you can’t do everything.
Being overwhelmed made me feel (and act) like my mother on her worst day–not conducive to showing up as my best self. At all.
Naturally, my husband did not want to get too close to that prickly porcupine of a wife, much less be intimate with her.
Something else goes missing when we’re trying to keep everybody else happy: our own happiness.
When my happiness went missing, I was able to get it back, but it took some practice…
Practicing getting facials, napping, playing volleyball, going to the bookstore, and playing Words with Friends.
We teach others how to treat us, based on how we treat ourselves.
How are you treating yourself?
How would it fit to treat yourself to something luxurious today? Whether it’s a massage, window shopping, coffee with a girlfriend, or just taking a timeout to lie down and kick your feet up for ten minutes?
The more I started kicking my feet up instead of doing the dishes, the more my husband stepped up to do things to make me happy. In fact, he does all the dishes now!
4) Get Your Friends and Family in on It
Avoid male bashing.
This one seems easy, right, like it goes without saying?
Yet how many times have you heard women joke, “I have four children, including my husband”?
Or roll her eyes behind his back?
Or bemoan that men are stupid and lazy?
What you focus on increases. If you keep repeating the story that your man disrespects you, that increases.
Not to mention–and I know that this is going to sound bad but–those closest to us aren’t always the ones rooting for the relationship to succeed. Loved ones hate to see you in pain and will do whatever it takes to stop the pain, even if that means telling you to call it quits.
Even if your own vision is for a peaceful, playful, passionate marriage.
Enrolling friends and relatives in a relationship story they can’t root for makes it way harder to keep focusing on–and increasing–your own vision.
And you shouldn’t have to go it alone, especially at a time you most need support.
Sometimes you do need to vent (just not to your husband). Having a community of like-minded women can make all the difference in making your marriage magical again. Check out my FREE Roadmap.
Now that you have four ways to inspire the respect you deserve, which will you try first?
I can’t wait to hear about your royal treatment!