Jul 172013 16 Responses

Respect: A Necessary Ingredient for a Successful Marriage

The absence of respect is a key indicator of a marriage in trouble.

If silence is the Warning Sign of a Bad Marriage You Might Miss, the absence of respect is the obvious warning sign you might ignore.

As a pastor, one of the most heartbreaking sights I see is when a couple no longer recognizes the most base level of human dignity in one another. Skepticism and hurt blinds their eyes to such an extent that they are incapable of giving any respect to one another.

An absence of respect kills one’s heart.

I see it every day.

Men who do not know what it is like to be valued by their wives.

Women who are seen as something lower than an animal by their husbands.

No couple intends to get to that point, yet far too many couples end up in my office unable to look at the person next to them like a real human being who at minimum deserves the basic common courtesy of being treated decently, spoken to properly, engaged like a human being, and valued as a spouse.

Those marriages are a wasteland of dead hearts.

Yet where respect exists, there is hope.

No matter the circumstances.

No matter the mistakes.

No matter the struggles.

Where respect is present:

  • value is felt
  • human dignity is offered
  • hope for a better tomorrow is real because where respect is present, problems can be solved

Do not ignore an absence of respect in your marriage. Nourish it. Figure out what your spouse needs to receive it and give it. Communicate how you receive it and hope to experience it.

Marriage is built on respect.

Never marry someone you can’t respect.

Always find a way to respect the person you marry.

When respect is destroyed, the marriage is not far behind.

In his book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman names contempt as one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse which can destroy marriage. Often cloaked in sarcasm or cynicism, contempt is the outward symptom that we do not respect our spouses.

Why is respect so important? It’s how we communicate value.

We respect what we value.

When we fail to respect our spouses, we are communicating we do not value them.

Many people make the false dichotomy that men need respect and women need love.

The truth is both men and women need love and respect.

  • Imagine a wife saying to her husband, “I respect you, but don’t love you.”
  • Imagine a husband saying to his wife, “I love you, but don’t respect you.”

Both love and respect are the cornerstones for a good marriage.

How do we develop respect in a marriage:

First, stop disrespecting.

  • Stop talking down to your spouse.
  • Stop feeling superior to them.
  • Stop overestimating your value and underestimating their value.
  • Answer when you are spoken to and answer in a voice which is loud enough to be heard but quiet enough so you aren’t yelling.

Second, start respecting.

  • Say “thank you” and “please.”
  • Recognize when your request demands something from them and communicate your awareness of that fact.
  • Assist your spouse in accomplishing their goals and dreams.
  • Communicate when you feel your spouse respects you and inquire when they feel most respected by you.

Third, fixate on your spouses strengths.

  • Focus on their successes.
  • Vocalize your support.
  • Overlook minor flaws.
  • Find the good.

The easiest way to maintain respect is to continually dwell on your spouse’s positive qualities. Disrespect often results from over-thinking our spouses negative qualities to the exclusion of their positive ones. While we shouldn’t deny the faults of our spouses, we also shouldn’t fixate on them. Focus on their strengths and respect will grow.

I’ve never seen a successful marriage which wasn’t built on true respect and admiration for one another.

16 Responses to Respect: A Necessary Ingredient for a Successful Marriage
  1. Wes Reply

    I just wanted to say thanks for this post. I have been struggling with this issue this last week and the post helped renew my focus.

  2. Maureen Austin Reply

    I have been happily married for 19 years and people all the time ask me what the they key to us being together so long is (and I realize 19 years is really not that long:). I could never really articulate it- but you just did. Thank you for a really well written piece.

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  9. CC Reply

    If I did talk someting totally disrespectful to my husband during we fought and cause he left. How to make it up?

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  12. Alma Reply

    My husband says he does not respect me. He has been in abuse related treatment for 9 months and his anger, name calling and rage have gotten more frequent. He has been this way for 5 years. We tried counseling. He raged enough in counseling to intimidate and scare the therapist. I asked him to leave and he has. He is still in treatment but is demeaning and contemptuous to me. I can wait this out if there is any hope. But I don’t see anything to be hopeful about. Advice?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      I wouldn’t be in a relationship with someone who is violent or abusive.

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