beingagentlemanWhat is respect to you? What does it mean to have respect in a relationship? Can you gain it? Can you lose it? And if you do lose it, can it be regained?

To respect a person means “to hold them in esteem or honor”. It also means “to show regard or consideration for and to refrain from intruding upon or interfering with”. But if we look beyond the definition, I would argue that respect could also be associated with a feeling. We have all felt respected or disrespected at some point in our lives. The most pain can be felt when a partner disrespects us because it delivers an unsuspecting punch that knocks the wind out of the intimacy in your relationship.

Disrespect is delivered through dysfunctional, abusive or belittling communication. This can be anything from name calling to embarrassing your spouse in front of a group of friends to get a laugh. It is also delivered through suspicious, abusive or sexual behaviour such as constantly texting members of the opposite sex with no regard for how your partner feels, or not being completely truthful about the activities in your day. Believe it or not, disrespect can even be subtly delivered when your partner doesn’t stand by you in a family disagreement or doesn’t correct someone who makes an out of line comment about you.

When you have respect for someone, you have a very high regard for him or her. You give them the benefit of the doubt–you defend them in public and discuss it later in private. Essentially, you have their back in any situation and you don’t kick them when they’re down and tell them “I told you so” like every other onlooker.

Respect is something that cannot be demanded; it can only be earned. I have seen couples demand respect out of a desire to control or manipulate the other person’s decisions. For example, a partner that demands you delete people of the opposite sex from your address book out of an act of respect for them. That’s not respect; that’s control. There is a distinct difference.

A controlling person is exercising restraint over your actions where a respecting person will show regard and consideration. Respect is offered to another person, done of freewill and choice. It is not a demand placed in order to achieve a particular outcome.

The lack of respect in a relationship can emasculate a man or make a women feel worthless. When both parties are respectful and honouring to one another, it enhances the sense of intimacy and closeness. You both feel loved instead of belittled and disregarded.

I challenge you to analyze the way you speak and act towards your partner this week. When you are angry, do you place blame and name call? Do you act out of spite towards them or say hurtful words that you can’t take back?

Every couple has disagreements and arguments but there is a way to “fight above the belt.” Next week we will discuss some ways to resolve conflict without resorting to fighting dirty.

This article was originally written for and posted on Liveabundantly.ca