Relationships are, well, complicated to say the least. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am by no means saying they are not worth their challenges merely that there are so very many challenges that often times love feels, quite simply, overwhelming.
However, creating and fostering a relationship built on mutual respect and trust seriously helps to make love the fun adventure that it should be.
Before we even dive into the how to develop respect in a relationship, I want to make sure that we get very clear on the definition.
Respect is one of those crazy English language words that can be used as both a noun and a verb. Because English is just plain confusing. However, both definitions essentially focus on having admiration and showing regard for the abilities, thoughts, feelings, qualities, traditions and rights of others. With respect to relationships, respect means honoring your partner for who they are and also receiving the same from them.
I know that sounds all hunky dory on paper and at this point, you may be thinking, “yeah definitely not that simple.” But I promise, it doesn’t have to be as challenging as it may seem at times.
Below are some easy ways to reframe how you think about respect and help it to grow within your relationship.
1. Define What Love Means to You
One of my closest friends told me a story recently of the first time she told her now husband she loved him. She was the first one to drop the L word and when she did, instead of saying it back, he asked her the BEST QUESTION EVER. He said ‘what exactly does love meant to you?’
I know that is not the most romantic fairytale moment but in reality, if we all responded that way the first time our partner said I love you, we would be in much healthier relationships. You cannot expect to grow a relationship based on mutual respect if you don’t understand the way your partner views love and relationships in general.
I always encourage every single one of my clients to sit down with their partners and define what love means to both of them. It provides you not only with a deeper understanding of what your partner needs and desires, but also gives you both clear and defined things to work on and for in the relationship.
However, it is not just enough to define what love means to the both of you, you both must also act on what you discuss in order to continue to foster a deeper and more meaningful connection. This means asking any questions that come up and continuing to check in on your definitions of love on a regular basis as they very well may change and grow as you do.
2. Communicate About Your Actual Feelings
One of the biggest factors in a relationship created and based out of mutual respect is communication. Specifically, communicating your thoughts and feelings in a way that is both effective for your mental well being AND of your partner’s well being as well.
I am by absolutely no means saying to stuff your feelings down if you think what you are experiencing may hurt your partners feelings but, there is a way to communicate your needs and thoughts without making your partner feel alienated if they don’t necessarily agree.
When you first start truly communicating with your partner about your genuine feelings, it is important that you are not triggered when beginning the conversation. You cannot expect to have a productive conversation where both people are respected if you go in guns blazing. Instead, talk about your feelings in a way that doesn’t involve the story of how they came about.
For example, let’s say your husband keeps interrupting you in front of other people. Instead of talking to him about it by saying:
‘Yesterday at dinner when I was talking about the day I had at work you totally talked over me and completely didn’t care what I was saying;’
‘Lately there have been a few times when you have spoken over me and it makes me feel like you don’t value what I have to say. It is important to me to feel valued.’
Do you see the difference? As opposed to getting involved with the story which will only cause your partner to want to jump to their own defense, as defending yourself is the natural human response. If you communicate with the focus on your feelings and needs, it creates a conversation based on deeper understanding not on surface level occurrences. It also provides your partner with sincere information on how to help you going forward.
3. Don’t Let Fear Dictate How You Treat Your Partner
I had to learn this one the hard way. Like many people, I had the unfortunate experience of an abusive relationship which caused an imprint of relationship trauma on me. Because of this, when I got into a healthy relationship, after doing some healing on my own for a few years, I found that all the fears my abusive ex had instilled in me came rushing back like an avalanche.
Through a lot of work, I was able to overcome them and have the healthy relationship I dreamed of. But in order to do this, I had to work through a lot of my fears around love. And most importantly, I had to ensure that my fears did not determine the way I treated my new partner.
Even if you have not been in an abusive relationship, we all have past relationship trauma. Whether it is from being cheated on, a bad divorce, or even abandonment issues from childhood, we all come to love with our own set of fears about what love may entail. And, because most of us are not taught how to handle our emotions from an early age, we often let those fears come out all over our partners.
A relationship based on mutual trust cannot be built if both partners don’t acknowledge their fears and separate them from the current situation. Not only that, but if you notice yourself wanting to react to your partner from a place of fear, it is important that you share that with them. This will help you not only keep your fear from poisoning your love, but also help to grow your understanding of each other and deepen your connection.
In order to continue to grow the respect between you and your partner, it is important that you both work on not only acknowledgement of your fears but conquering them. Whether this be done through your own methods, therapy, or a coach, don’t be afraid to learn how to not be afraid.
4. Establish and Enforce Boundaries
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. They are a hot topic of the relationship world and, in all honesty, they are incredibly important. If you are anything like me, you see all the pretty quotes about how important they are but can’t seem to nail down exactly how to establish them, let alone ensure that they are followed.
I could write, and probably will, another entire article on this topic but, here is a quick trick to finding where a boundary needs to be and enforcing it be followed.
It is important to note that having and enforcing boundaries starts with you. You cannot expect your partner to respect you and your boundaries if you don’t enforce them with yourself. So, before ever communicating your boundaries to your partner, look at yourself. Where are you letting yourself down? Where are you not honoring your feelings and needs? Where are you pushing your wants aside in order to please others?
Answering these questions is the first step in figuring out what your boundaries are and where they lay. After you figure out the answers, communicate the answers to your partner by asking them to help support you by honoring the boundaries you are holding for yourself.
As I mentioned before, communicating your needs and wants is based on you, NOT on accusing them. You cannot expect your partner to live up to expectations that you don’t hold yourself to.
The next step is to actually enforce your boundaries with yourself and therefore, with your partner. Showing yourself that respect will help to show your partner how you need to be respected. And also, be sure you support and honor their boundaries as well.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
No one is perfect at relationshiping. Everyone makes mistakes and miscommunication is inevitable. So never be afraid to ask your partner what they need or how you can help support them through something. You should never be expected to automatically know how to respect and honor your partner, and vise versa; it is something that you learn together.
And remember the act of creating mutual respect is a bonding and growing experience. Ask questions to make sure that both of you are on the same page and, make sure that you communicate if for some reason that ever feels like not the case.
The beauty of relationships is that you are not doing them alone, so don’t be afraid to rely on each other to help the love move forward. And, if you need help laying the ground work of respect, don’t be afraid to reach out and get it.
Remember, you both are in a relationship because you genuinely care about the other person, honoring your love for each other is your first step in creating the respectful relationship of your dreams.
More About Healthy Relationships
- 12 Powerful Habits Of Happy Relationships
- 10 Ways to Keep Your Relationship Happy And Healthy
- 7 Secrets of a Happy Marriage Revealed by a Relationship Expert
Featured photo credit: Vince Fleming via unsplash.com
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