We often hear that mutual respect is one of the pillars of a solid marriage. So if you feel your husband doesn’t respect you, you may assume that your marriage is over. But don’t jump to this conclusion too quickly. While respect is foundational to a healthy relationship, it takes effort to earn and maintain.
Take a closer look at what might be causing your husband’s lack of respect and you might uncover a problematic dynamic or a fundamental disconnect. A lack of respect may be the result of a lack of awareness or poor communication. Either way, you can course-correct and strengthen your marriage in the process unless there is an emotional cut off or issues of sexual orientation which we will cover in future blogs.
The 3 L’s Of Romantic Relationships
Romantic relationships are based on what I like to call The 3 L’s: Like, Love, and Lust. The interplay of these 3 components is what makes marriages work. While Like, Love, and Lust all need to be present, they’re not always perfectly balanced. Sometimes there’s more Love than Like. Other times Lust overshadows Like and Love. The balance can and will shift as your marriage evolves, but all 3 L’s need to coexist for a marriage to thrive.
Respect is most closely tied with “Like”. So if your “Like” could use some upkeep, it doesn’t mean your marriage is falling apart. But it does mean that it’s time to make some changes and rebalance your 3 L’s.
Respect and The 3 L’s
All couples love each other. But if there’s a lack of respect, it probably has to do with not enough “Like”. This is not unusual. Take a moment to think of someone you love but whom you do not particularly like. This usually happens with a family member. You love them, but wouldn’t necessarily be friends with them if you weren’t related. The same dynamic can occur with spouses. You’re still bonded by love, but you’ve lost track of why you like each other. Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve had any fun together.
Many couples I’ve counseled struggle with the “like” in their relationship. One spouse may dislike that the other holds grudges, keeps score, or lays blame. Some find their partners are “control challenged” and want things done or not done to their rigid specifications when it comes to household chores or parenting. This rigidity comes across as lack of trust and respect and drives a wedge between spouses.
If you don’t feel respected by your husband, you may also question his love for you. Chances are your love is still intact. But what you both need to do is fine-tune the way you communicate with and relate to one another.
How To Nurture Respect
Respect grows out of active listening and empathy between spouses. If your husband expresses frustration or criticizes the way you do something, he’s responding to a trigger. Whether or not you agree, what he says is real to him. Don’t take it personally but do try to figure out what’s behind his reaction.
Similarly, it’s common for men to jump in and try to fix a problem instead of sorting out the reasons behind it. This is likely unintentional. Your husband may simply be trying to resolve a situation quickly and efficiently. It just hasn’t registered that his approach makes you feel disrespected or diminished.
See if you can model understanding and listening. You don’t need to take any action. Just hear your husband out and guide him toward more constructive ways of expressing himself when he’s frustrated or upset. Here are a couple examples:
“I notice that whenever I try to help you with the yardwork you get impatient and start yelling. I’m out there trying to help but your criticism makes me feel like you don’t appreciate me. I’m happy to have you teach me how to use all the yard tools and we can work as a team. But please speak calmly and be patient when I’m lending you a hand.”
“When we agreed that I’d stay at home with the baby instead of returning to my office job, I thought we both felt good about it. But I’m feeling like you’re holding my being at home full time against me. I may not be bringing home a salary but I’m working very hard taking care of the baby and the house. I would feel so much closer to you if I felt your appreciation or your acknowledgement of my contributions to our family and household.”
Good communication, as well as teamwork, is key to fostering respect. So if you feel less than respected, it’s time to reboot, clean up, and be present. The effort you’ll put into creating an empathetic and mutually respectful dynamic between you and your husband will breathe new life into the 3 L’s of your relationship.