A relationship is hard enough. It’s even more difficult when you feel disrespected. When you start with a foundation of love and respect, you and your partner can build a relationship that builds you both up to be stronger, happier, and more fulfilled. It all starts with respecting your partner.
What Is Love?
Everyone knows what love is. The problem is, we don’t all agree. Several psychologists have developed theories to explain love and what it means in our lives. Freud wrote about true love as finding your “ego ideal,” which he described as a substitute for one’s perfect image of oneself.
More recently, Sternberg devised his Triangular Theory of Love, which depicts a triangle as the totality of a love relationship, with the peaks of the triangle representing intimacy, passion, and decision.
Most people seem to have an ideal vision of what looks like that includes give-and-take, mutual attraction, compassion and caring, and respect for each other. While no relationship is ideal, it is possible to have a healthy satisfying love relationship.
What Is Respect?
The philosopher Kant argued that everyone deserves basic respect just by being human. Respect is a feeling you have about someone, but it’s also the way you behave and express yourself regarding that person.
As a Feeling
Respect is a feeling of admiration you have for someone. It means you deeply admire their abilities, treasure their qualities, and appreciate their achievements. To feel respected is to feel safe, accepted for who you are, valued, and encouraged to be your highest, truest self.
As An Action
When you feel respect for someone, you naturally want to act in ways that honor them. When you’re with them, you show them kindness, courtesy, and consideration. You don’t try to force them to be like you, because you appreciate them for their differences and accept them as they are. You feel respected when someone treats you fairly.
What Is Love Without Respect?
What would love be without respect? You’ve probably had some experiences that would qualify. Most people have, especially when they were young and just learning to navigate the dating scene. The kind of love that might happen without respect could only be an unhealthy kind of love.
Going back to Sternberg’s theory, you love someone if you feel close to them, passionate towards them, and decide to love them. So, you can love someone without respecting them by that definition. What about respect, though? How does it fit in?
For many types of love, such as infatuation or love, at first sight, respect might or might not be a part of the equation. But, if you want true and lasting love, respect is vital. In fact, for those who want the best love life has to offer, love is respect.
Why Respect Matters
Respect is important in all human relationships. If you can’t respect someone for what they’ve done, you can give them basic human respect. Respect is especially important in love relationships.
Because lasting love relationships help define who you are as a person, it’s crucial that the relationship is a healthy one. When you and your partner respect each other, you create a healthy relationship in which you can both mature and gain personal strength throughout your lifetimes.
When you fail to respect your partner, you bar the way from getting honest respect from them in return. Your failure creates an environment in which your partner can’t be their best. Just as important, you put yourself in that same environment, where love is more like a disease and a burden to both of you.
The Value Of A Respectful Love Relationship
The value of respect isn’t just in helping you avoid a bad relationship. It offers many positive benefits for each of you individually and as a couple.
A respectful love relationship can help each of you as individuals by:
- Giving you an emotionally safe space
- Building your self-confidence
- Allowing you freedom and independence
- Fostering your personal growth
- Increasing your motivation to excel at what you do
- Bringing you feelings of acceptance from another and self-worth
- Helping you see the world in a positive light
The same type of love can also do the following for you as a couple:
- Improve communication within the relationship
- Help you deal with conflict in reasonable ways
- Let you enjoy each other’s company more
- Make better decisions as a couple
- Help you work out differences without ending the relationship
Keys To Developing Respectful Love
When you truly love someone, you want the best for them. If you want to give them your best, it stands to reason that you have to give them your utmost respect. How do you do that? You do it by the way you think about them, express yourself, and behave towards them.
See Your Partner As Deserving of Respect
If you don’t see anything to respect about your partner, why would you be with them? You probably do believe there’s something admirable about them. Perhaps you just haven’t thought much about it before. If not, now’s a great time.
First, remember that they deserve basic human respect. Then, consider the things you admire about them specifically. Think about their qualities. Are they naturally friendly, humorous, wise, serene? What about their achievements? What have they done that impressed you? What are they good at? Are they a great artist, parent, businessperson, home decorator? Are they able to do things others can’t?
You set the stage for treating them with respect by focusing on what makes your partner the unique combination of abilities, achievements, and personal qualities that only they are.
You’ll never know just how admirable your partner is if you don’t take note of what they do, how they behave, and what they accomplish. Build your respect by noticing their triumphs. Notice which of their achievements makes them happiest. Be aware of their unique characteristics. Everyone has value and something good in them. If you’re paying attention, you’ll see more of what makes them who they are.
Appreciate Your Partner For Who They Are
Most people have an idea of what their perfect partner would be like. This ideal image doesn’t help you build respect for your partner. Set it aside and enjoy your partner for who they are. Instead of complaining that they aren’t what you would like them to be, celebrate who they are.
Communicate Your Respect
Your respect only means as much to your partner as for how well you communicate it. Let them know what you admire about them. Show them how happy you are with them when they accomplish something impressive to you.
You can communicate it through words or looks of approval. Don’t stop with complimenting them directly. Tell others how much you value their accomplishments and personal character. Sometimes, hearing from their friends how you feel can be just as pleasing as hearing it from you.
Treat Your Partner as Inherently Valuable, Not A Means To An End
Your partner may help you in many ways. They may encourage you to do your best. They may help you in practical ways, too, like supporting you while you advance your career. No matter what they do for you, though, don’t lose sight of their value in just being who they are.
Certainly, you need to let them know you appreciate what they do for you. Go beyond that, though. Let them know that even when they aren’t doing anything for you, you admire them in their own right.
Choose Respectful Actions
Every action is a choice. Think before you act. Choose behaviors that show your respect. Give them a reason to feel safe with you by not attacking them verbally or physically. Make time to be with them. Join them in celebrations of their achievements. Be polite to them. Honor their choices even when they don’t benefit you.
Be Authentic With Your Partner
At this point, you may be thinking that you’ll have to pretend to be someone you aren’t to build respect and love. You don’t! All you need to do is build your respect for them. When you do, the rest is just a matter of learning the right ways to show how you feel about them.
Learning these new thought and behavior patterns can be challenging. A therapist can help you discover the respect you have and can have for your partner. They can guide you in developing the behaviors that show that best.
If you decide you would like help in developing a respectful relationship, you can talk to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp.com for online counseling. After filling in a short questionnaire, you’ll be matched with a counselor who can meet these needs.
When you learn to admire your partner more, the relationship will make you happier. Then, when you learn how to show it, you’ll not only appreciate them for who you are. You’ll also be able to show your respect in an authentic, genuine way.