Why You Need Respect to Have a Happy, Loving Relationship
Respect is almost an old fashioned word. We don’t speak of it often. And yet, it is one of the cornerstones of happy loving relationships. It is what we offer when we accept another’s individuality. Not just accepting, but honoring their uniqueness.
We show respect by the way we treat each other: by our tone of voice, our willingness to listen, to accept the inevitable differences of personality and behavior. We show it by our love and our kindness; by the empathy we feel and the warmth, safety and comfort we give.
Respect starts with empathy – from being able to put ourselves in another’s shoes. The more we can identify with them, the more this can happen. The further away from our family, the less we identify with people, and the further away from our own species, the less we identify. Polar bears beat snail darters, and we identify with plants and rocks even less.
Our identity spreads out like a mountain on a plain, and the ones we are close to, our nearest and dearest, are close to us precisely because we recognize ourselves in them, in that we see and understand how they think and operate. That, of course, is a huge simplification. There are so many points where differences occur, whether of kind or degree, but the net effect is of comfort at understanding and being understood, and at the same time accepting differences. In other words, honoring individuality, and that is where respect comes from.
Respect starts with empathy – from being able to put ourselves in another’s shoes #quote Click To TweetNonetheless, it is often in our deepest relationships, the ones where we feel most loved – parent/child, husband/wife, dearest friends, where we feel safest and most comfortable, that instead of respect we show our more churlish side. With rolling eyes, raised voices, arguing and frustration the very opposite of acceptance and honor is expressed. Perhaps the sense of safety brings out those things that are normally restrained.
Unfortunately, this form of behavior often leads to a change in attitude toward our loved ones as well. When we speak and act without honor or respect, our attention shifts and more and more we see the negative and become critical. Without realizing it, our focus can change and that which we love recedes behind the screen of the imperfections we are looking at.
People do this because the relationship is a safe place for them to act negatively. One explanation for behavior like this is that they grew up in a family with a similar emotional dynamic, and by bringing strife into their adult relationship, they are trying to recreate something that is familiar, in both senses of the word.
Regardless, this type of behavior does not usually feel good. It does not feel good to the one acting in this manner or to the one being treated this way. On the other hand, feeling loved, honored and accepted feels wonderful.
To return to your feelings of love and regard, start listening to yourself. Are you expressing the love that you feel? When was the last time you expressed that to your partner, friend, relative? What is it you really feel toward them, and is it being communicated in your words and actions?
Whether you are the person who is being criticized or the one acting in this manner, the same inner listening is required. Work with yourself. Listen to yourself. When those irritations arise, use them to examine your own quirks and expectations. You really can’t change others (nor should you try!), so that only leaves you to work on.
Once you have truly reviewed and become aware of your own inner feelings, compare them to what you are saying and doing. Do they match? Are you showing the respect you feel for that person? Do you spend time letting them know all the beauty and goodness you see in them? Are you showing love in the way you treat them?
Honest communication spoken without blame, with the true intention to share what you feel and think, leads to intimacy and union. Without this, criticism and lack of kindness in word and deed lead to estrangement and distance.
For most people, it feels good to express appreciation and regard to those we value. Similarly, constantly complaining and pointing out the negative fills us with bad feelings and dissatisfaction. So do not treat those who are in your inner circle of love as adversaries. The more you practice this with those you truly honor and respect, the easier it will become to spread that kind of acceptance to those you are not as close to.
Make it a practice to speak your regard with words of appreciation, a tone of voice of respect and honoring of the other person. This will make you feel as good as it does them!
Photo credit: Phil Mayes
Photo note: Detail of a wood carving of ours
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