RESPECT is a vital ingredient for any successful relationship and is particularly important for the creation of a happy, healthy and satisfying marriage, de-facto relationship or, in fact, for ANY relationship.
Respecting your partner means acknowledging and accepting them as an individual with their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, strengths and frailties, all of which may be very different from yours. Respecting your partner does not necessarily mean agreeing with their beliefs and values. It does mean, however, recognising those things as belonging to them and as being an important part of what makes them an unique individual.
It's essential to acknowledge these aspects as valid even if we fail to understand them. We must not belittle them, should never make fun of them and resist any urges we may have to punish our partner for them. This, by the way does not mean that we should never challenge our partner’s attitudes or behaviour if it negatively impacts on us. However, for this kind of challenge to be effective it needs to be made in a respectful manner that separates our partner’s actions from who they are as a person and to do so in a way that leaves their dignity intact.
For a love relationship to thrive respect needs to be mutual. Being treated with respect is vital to a person's internal well-being. Respect tells us that we are a valuable and worthwhile. It increases our self-esteem and fulfills our need for relational security. Mutual respect is also essential to effective conflict resolution, which is a particularly important aspect in blended families.
To illustrate this point, let’s look the following scenario:
Sandy’s partner Tom believes that in order to retain a good relationship with his children from his first marriage he best let them to do as they please. After all, they only visit every second weekend and only spend one week-night at Sandy and Tom’s house. Sandy strongly disagrees with Tom’s views and feels that by not creating any limits for his children he is not only doing them a disservice but is also demonstrating a lack of consideration and love for her.
Sandy and Tom have had many heated arguments about this issue. They’ve had angry confrontations during which they’ve called each other hurtful names. Doors have been slammed, tears have been shed and a variety of ‘punishments’ have followed these run-ins from Sandy giving Tom the cold-shoulder treatment to Tom refusing to come home until the early hours of the morning. Despite the fact that Sandy and Tom love each other dearly they often are miserable and plain unhappy.
How could this be changed in an atmosphere of mutual respect?
Sandy would acknowledge that whilst she definitely disagrees with Tom’s view on how to deal with his children she accepts there is a reason for which he has this view that, no doubt, makes sense to him. The moment she demonstrates this kind of respect for him Tom no longer needs his wall of defence. In the safety of knowing that he won’t be ‘attacked’ for his view, he can now explore the whys and wherefores of the belief he holds regarding his children. Doing this without his defences in place there is a good chance that he recognizes, and is even able to admit, that his views are based on fear and are neither wise nor helpful to his relationship with his children or with Sandy. Recognition leads to understanding. Understanding leads to acknowledgement. Acknowledgement opens the door to change. Alternatively, Tom could ask Sandy why she feels so strongly about this issue and why she interprets it as a lack of consideration and love for her. If this is asked in the spirit of ‘I really want to understand what’s going on for you’ Sandy is able to verbalise her thoughts and feelings with honesty and without getting too fired up in the process. She is able to tell him how she sees his unwillingness to place limitations on his children impacting their sense of safety, security and emotional health; how this is making any weekend planning impossible; how frustrated and powerless she feels when he gives the children permission to do as they please whilst in their home; how it feels as though she has no rights and, in fact, has no place in her own home whilst the children are there. In an atmosphere of mutual respect these comments are made without acrimony and are received without the walls of defence going up. Tom accepts that Sandy’s feelings are valid and that in order to retain their relationship he will need to make some changes.
Can you see the importance of mutual respect as a foundation block for your relationship? If you can and feel that this is not yet in place or perhaps isn't not strong enough to withstand the stresses and strains of everyday life, it's vital that you make the all-important decision to, together with your partner, work on this issue. It is never too late to implement new ways of relating and it is the kind of investment in your future that will pay rich dividends.