Maybe you read the title of this blog and thought to yourself, “I respect my spouse. I am very kind in the way I speak to him/her.” That’s good and we all should be mindful of the way we speak to each other. However, respect is more than just the way we speak to each other. In fact, in marriage, respect is felt at a much deeper level and it must be mutual.
The dictionary says that respect is “esteem for or having a sense of worth or excellence of a person.” When you think of respect like that, suddenly you realize that you can speak to a person respectfully but actually have no respect for them at all. I’ve watched it happen over and over. A couple will come to meet with us and the husband will say, “She doesn’t respect me.” Instantly, the wife will say, “Yes I do! I speak to you very respectfully and watch the things I say.” The husband will continue with, “Yah, you might do that but there is something else going on here because I don’t feel respected by you.” That’s really the key isn’t it? Respect is something we feel not just seeing behaviors from another person that appear to be respectful. Now, don’t get me wrong….respectful behaviors are important but if we do not respect underneath the behaviors, then the other person will sense that and know that we are just going through the motions. This means that respect is one of the hardest things to fake.
Why is it so hard for us to respect our spouse? It has to do with being deeply hurt and trust being broken. It’s difficult to respect someone when we feel that there is no trust in the relationship. Trust can be broken in many different ways but the bottom line usually relates to spouses not keeping their word; not doing what they said they would do or doing what they said they wouldn’t do. Respect may have been a part of the relationship at one time but once trust is broken (whether in a small way or a big way), respect begins to break down. If we don’t deal with the central issue of the hurt and the broken trust, then we will never fully respect our partner again. Respect is something we give to each other and we can’t give away something that isn’t there.
How would you measure the respect in your relationship? Do you feel that you are both giving respect to each other or do you feel that respect comes and goes? Maybe you give respect on the surface but underneath, you know it isn’t there. If you see that respect is an issue in your relationship, take some time in the next few days to identify why the respect is lacking and then find a time to sit down and talk to your spouse about this. Respect doesn’t just come back to a relationship, you have to fix the “break” and then respect can be given again.