R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The great singer Aretha Franklin sang about it. Tomes have been written about it. Respect as a concept is essential to any successful relationship, platonic or otherwise. But what does showing respect mean? Some consider it to imply admiration. Others refer to it as a basic human right. Respect in a relationship – of the romantic kind – implies the equality of both partners. It prescribes a situation where no one person is “superior” to the other. Both people accept the other as they are and value their uniqueness.
If you do not trust, prioritize, and respect your partner, you can be assured that a loving relationship will not develop. Healthy relationships necessitate mutual respect. However, it’s as important to cater to one’s own needs as it is to build respect for your partner’s boundaries and personal space.
What Does It Mean To Have Respect In A Relationship?
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In a study on respect in close relationships, the Gottman model for relationships was discussed especially in relation to the absence of the role of respect. A marital researcher mentions, “Most couples I have worked with over the years have wanted only two things from a relationship – Love and respect.” There are several ways of looking at respect and love in a relationship. Let’s look at the different schools of thought on this topic:
- Daily treatment of a partner: Some people say that respect is in how two people treat each other on a daily basis. Less arguments, more love
- Fighting with love: Some believe that a healthy relationship does not mean no arguments or zero conflict. The crux lies in how these disagreements are addressed
- Value for the other’s opinion: Is there mutual understanding about what the other brings to the table? A respectful partner values the other’s opinion and indulges in active listening
- Freedom: Day-to-day life in a relationship must allow for a sense of freedom and individuality. Many people consider this the epitome of a respectful relationship
- Self-respect is more important: One school of thought says it is crucial to have a strong sense of self-respect. Without self-esteem and maintenance of one’s own boundaries, it’s impossible to build healthy relationships with others. Believe that you are worthy of your high standards. Be secure in your own feelings and self-perception. Listen to your own needs, look after your well-being and mental health, and honor the whole person you intrinsically are
Related Reading: 15 Core Values In A Relationship For A Happy And Lasting Bond
A research paper on respect and love in romantic relationships explores what respect means to different people. According to their findings, “The definition depends on the setting and type of relationship.” It says that respect basically means regarding “someone as worthy of investing one’s time and energy. Respect is an important aspect of human relating, both in intimate, personal relationships and in more formal role relationships, where respect is part of interpersonal civility. In fact it is implicitly tied to nearly all relationships (e.g., partner, family, friends).”
Building respect in a relationship — An 8-point checklist
To help you and your partner understand what respect means for you both in your relationship, go through this list of questions with each other:
- What does it mean to you to develop respect in the relationship with your partner?
- Do you have any hard boundaries that cannot be crossed?
- Are you open about your feelings? Can you communicate honestly?
- Do you share feedback and enjoy open communication?
- Do you trust your romantic partner?
- Do you give your relationship the time and effort it deserves?
- What, according to you, is controlling behavior?
- How can you demonstrate respect? Give some examples of respect in a relationship
What Makes Respect Most Important In A Relationship
Every new relationship should begin with a conversation about each partner’s expectations and by discussing some respectful behaviors in a constructive manner. In this way, you can set the relationship up for success. And what does it say about someone’s relationship when you see mutual respect between the partners? Here’s what it indicates:
- The existence of two respectful partners in a relationship implies a deep sense of love
- When both individuals feel respected, it means they accept their partner for who they are, flaws and all
- Respectful behavior indicates an already established level of patience and honest communication
- A relationship showing respect will entail trust and self-expression
- There is no room for ego when your partner’s achievements are as important as your own
Related Reading: 24 Inspiring Respect Quotes to Make Your Motto
Benefits of respecting your partner
Having a solid foundation of respectful behavior can change your interactions and provide a deeper connection with a partner. Once the foundations of a respectful relationship are laid, several benefits emerge as a result. Following are some advantages of having respect in a relationship:
- Loyalty: Respect for your partner usually encourages fidelity and long-term commitment
- Sexual intimacy: A happy relationship based on mutual respect can only improve your sex life
- Individual growth: When you maintain respect for your partner, you tend to encourage their goals and create a supportive environment within which you both can flourish
- Boundaries and conflict resolution: A strong partnership results in mutual understanding of each other’s boundaries. A deeper connection due to honest and open communication helps you see each other’s perspectives. Respecting boundaries in a relationship also allows for healthy arguing styles and conflict resolution
- Better mental health: Increase in happiness and self-esteem leads to overall well-being of both individuals
- Teamwork: By moving the focus from your own needs to the needs of your partner and the relationship as a whole, you end up making better choices together
- Self-expression: A relationship based on mutual respect enhances trust and creates a safe space for all feelings and self-expression
- Self-care: It helps you feel valued, encouraging you to take care of yourself. When you practice self-care, you invest in yourself and your romantic relationship as well
And the cherry on top of the veritable cake is that a recent study concluded that respect in a relationship leads to a higher chance of longevity and commitment too.
How To Show Your Partner Respect
Before we get into the hows and whys of showing respect, let’s be clear: Being respectful does not mean being a pushover. When you show respect for someone you love, you can still retain your own identity. You can still maintain your personal boundaries, be assertive, and be in a loving and strong partnership. By being sensitive to your partner’s feelings and your own, you build a healthy relationship that can go far.
Here are 9 simple ways to show your partner respect in day-to-day life:
1. Listen and learn
Priyanka Chopra said before she married Nick Jonas, “Truly, this is what worked for me; he has to be someone who respects you … Then everything is so easy because you give each other credit for your intelligence; you give each other the benefit of the doubt because you trust each other.”
Some respectful behaviors in any healthy, strong bond between couples:
- It’s a sign of maturity and growth when you can converse with your partner who isn’t steeped in judgment
- You are open to each other’s perspectives and ready to listen without jumping to defend your position or arguing mindlessly
- When you are ready to listen to what another person has to say, you can validate your own feelings without excessive control
- You appreciate what your partner brings to the table and you make them feel heard. This adds appreciation and effort to any relationship
Related Reading: The 7 Fundamentals Of Support In A Relationship
2. Respect in a relationship means checking in on your feelings and your partner’s
Life moves fast. Those early, heady days of a romantic relationship can all too easily get stuck in a rut of chores and monotony. But it’s important to set aside time to check in on your feelings and your partner’s efforts. Ask yourself the following things:
- Are you and your partner respecting boundaries in a relationship?
- Are you respecting time in the relationship that you both get to spend with each other?
- Are you being proactive and doing the little things that make them happy?
- Are you making an effort to appreciate your partner’s achievements?
These things may not seem like much, but they add up and create a supportive environment and a respectful relationship. In a study on the common reasons for feeling disconnected in marriages, the researchers note, “Marriage requires consistent, clear communication about all aspects of life. Making some decisions without discussion or one-sided, secretive, hidden habits can diminish trust, connection, and closeness.”
3. Learning to communicate effectively shows respect for someone you love
Honest communication that’s not framed as an attack – That’s the dream, right? Communicating effectively and respectfully can look like this:
- Show up, whenever you can, when your partner asks for something
- Forgive easily, and take accountability for your own actions
- Show gratitude for your partner through words and actions
- Be playful and teasing, but do not stray into abusive behavior and excessive criticism
- Paying attention to your partner’s strengths is important
- Never violate confidentiality and trust
- Replace sarcasm with positive language. Remove all forms of contempt in your behavior
- Support their choices. Be encouraging even through their mistakes
- Make room for your partner’s unique way of tackling life
- Declare your respect for each other in front of others
Related Reading: 21 Signs Of Lack Of Respect In A Relationship
4. Put each other first
When you put your relationship at the top of your list, you demonstrate respect for your partner. Prioritizing each other is a simple way to show that the other person matters. That their well-being is important to you. And that you will be present and accounted for when needed. It is a human desire to be wanted and appreciated. When you show your significant other that they are the most important thing in your life, you provide a sense of security to them, and the bond is reinforced.
Another way of looking at this is to give each other the space to choose. In a Reddit thread about day-to-day concrete ways to show respect to your husband, a Reddit user said that one way of doing so is to respect his schedule and timing. This works both ways, regardless of gender. One needs to accept other commitments in each other’s lives but still understand that through it all, the other person comes first.
5. One of the key examples of respect in a relationship: Always maintain boundaries
Respecting these boundaries is a way of communicating that you value each other and that the space you have created as a couple is safe. It means listening to what is and is not acceptable by your partner and honoring these wishes. If you value another person and want to remain in their life, you must get into the habit of respecting each other’s boundaries. Their self-expression and confidence can develop and flourish as a result.
Here are some scenarios where boundaries are respected:
- Being specific about the time and date you’ll meet your partner. This shows respect for them as it’s in alignment with what they told you earlier, which is – They are not okay with vague plans
- A boundary can mean not raising your voice when you argue because your partner expressed to you beforehand that they will not accept loud voices during conversations
- Needing quiet time after a long day of work and asking for space is a valid boundary to have. If your partner lets you be and then interacts with you or tells you about an issue only ‘after’ your me-time is over, it shows how much they respect you
- Same with needing time before you get intimate with your partner and them not making you feel about it. Rather, they encourage you to be completely present during sex by taking the time you need
6. Give them the space they require
In a Quora thread on how to show respect to someone you love, this point was reiterated often. Contributor Cassie explains that you can do this “by having their back but also trusting them to do fine on their own.” Let your partner forge their own path. Other examples of a respectful relationship that honors space:
- Giving each other the freedom in the relationship to make individual choices
- Allowing for the autonomy of personal likes and dislikes
- Making decisions based on your own judgment
- Trusting each other to be present and invested in the relationship but not by overcrowding
- Not trying to control each other through abusive patterns or disrespectful behavior
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Fight Respectfully With Your Spouse
7. Express commitment to one another as the ultimate show of mutual respect
If you are invested in a romantic relationship and want to demonstrate that you value what you both have, there is no better way to communicate respect than to be faithful and committed. And while this may take effort on both parts, it shows a focus and dedication to the partnership that cannot be taken for granted. When you respect your partner, you also decide to be open about your relationship with your loved ones.
Being committed also implies a sense of vulnerability and creating a supportive environment for your loved one. When you expose your true, authentic self to another and promise to stick with each other through “sick and sin,” there’s a sense of courage and determination that is deeply comforting.
8. Take responsibility for your own role in the relationship
Being in a long-term, committed relationship is never a smooth ride. Even the happiest of couples stumble. We all make mistakes and poor choices. There will be mood swings and angry words. Boundaries may be crossed, and there may be (unintentional) disrespectful behaviors. However, treating these as the end of your relationship is unnecessary.
Instead, take the opportunity to apologize (and mean it). If you are honest with yourself, you will make sure you take responsibility for your actions and take the necessary steps toward remedying the situation. It takes maturity and respect to do this and to still show up for your partner with love.
Related Reading: 35 Serious Relationship Questions To Know Where You Stand
9. Make time to celebrate
Respect and love in a relationship include getting through the times with dignity and grace and celebrating the high points by spending time together. Happy relationships revel in the other’s accomplishments. The results of a study concur that emotions such as elevation, gratitude, and admiration motivate self-improvement and better relationships. When you express admiration for goals reached or hard work completed, you tell your partner that you know what they are going through and acknowledge their strength and perseverance. Taking the time to celebrate even the smallest of milestones is a great way to show your partner the respect they deserve.
- Respect in a relationship is essential for its success and longevity
- When you learn to respect yourself, it becomes easier to demand respect from others
- Respectful behaviors include active listening, honest communication, and prioritizing your partner
- Unhealthy relationships without respect can veer toward abusive behaviors and infidelity if not checked and addressed at the earliest
- If you are stuck in a disrespectful relationship or an abusive one, please contact a clinical social worker or a mental health practitioner to work out the best coping strategies for your situation
These nine guidelines are just that — Guidelines. Treat them as a framework to add your experiences and ideas. Look into your own life and your relationship and dig deep. Ask yourself the tough questions needed to move on to the next step, and give yourself a healthy dose of grace while doing so. After all, nothing is more appealing than two partners working toward a goal together, right?
If a safe, healthy, secure relationship is what you aspire to, there is no escaping the need for respect. As we have discussed, it is as important to love and respect yourself as it is to treat others with grace. Keep your head held high, your boundaries firmly in place, and a hefty dose of self-love and appreciation for all that you do. The rest will follow.