Respect in a relationship is one of the most crucial cornerstones of a strong bond between romantic partners. If you rank all the elements of a successful relationship, mutual respect features right at the top, alongside love and trust, if not trumping them. After all, you cannot have one without the others.
But defining respect in a relationship isn’t always straightforward. What does it mean to respect one’s partner? How do you know that you do? And more importantly, how do you show it? In a partnership of equals, respect doesn’t exactly fit the realm of reverence. Nor can it be unwavering, unquestioning obedience. So then, what is it exactly?
When it comes to love, things can often appear to be more complicated than they actually are. And for good reason too, as there seems to be so much more at stake. Let’s take a look at the significance of respect in a relationship and how you can inculcate it in yours.
Importance Of Respect In A Relationship
While love is considered to be the basic tenet on which any intimate connection is built, respect is the foundation of any relationship. Love without respect has no value. In fact, it won’t be a stretch to say that real love cannot exist in the absence of mutual respect in relationships.
Only when you respect your partner and they respect you, will you be able to build a relationship where you both have the space to grow as individuals as well as a couple. Only through respect will you be able to support each other in making important decisions, and not put each other down when something goes against your wishes or expectations.
In a relationship where partners have no respect for each other, feelings are hurt and opinions ignored. There is no inhibition in belittling the other for the sake of one-upmanship. And even if both partners feel intense love for each other, they cannot build a healthy relationship in the absence of respect.
Think about it, when your partner doesn’t value your opinion, you’re never going to feel heard. Your conversations may even feel like your partner was just waiting for you to be done talking, so they could start talking again. The importance of mutual respect in a relationship is clear to see, and not having it in yours could potentially ruin the whole thing.
Love and respect in a relationship is closely intertwined. Here’s is why the importance of respect in a relationship cannot be stressed enough:
- Through the good and bad: Respect is the foundation of any relationship because it not only helps partners stay connected during the good times, but also helps them stick by each other through the rough patches
- Respect is key to patience: Be it putting up with a partner’s flaws, fighting fair during arguments or valuing the opinions you don’t agree with, respect in a long-term relationship is key to handling the not-so-nice aspects of your partnership with patience
- Respect makes you tolerant: Mutual respect in relationships also makes you more tolerant toward the changes in each other’s personalities as you grow and evolve individually, thus helping couples from growing apart
- Respect nurtures trust: Love without respect has no value because it is respect that serves as the backbone of another cornerstone of a successful relationship – trust. When you respect your partner, you trust them to never do anything to deliberately hurt you
By now, it must be pretty apparent that without respect, there is no love. In the initial stages of a budding romance, conversations around respect may not even materialize. But as time goes by, a lack of respect will make itself apparent. Fights will get dirty and conflict resolution will be a distant dream.
When respect is lost in a relationship – or if it had never existed in the first place – things can go downhill quickly. Though it may look like one of those things that either exist or just don’t, that’s not always true. There’s a lot you can do to mend a disrespectful relationship. Let’s get into the elements of how to respect in a relationship.
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21 Elements Of Developing Respect In A Relationship
Relationships are complicated as it is. It takes constant work from both partners to stay in love, in tune with each other and focused on building a life together. That effort cannot be sustained without mutual respect in relationships. That’s why the importance of respect in a relationship cannot be stressed enough.
When two people respect each other for who they are, they become equal partners in true earnest. It means neither partner dominates the relationship and both are equally heard. Respect in a relationship creates space to co-exist without fear of judgment, rejection in love, or a desire for revenge.
The essence of defining respect in a relationship lies in allowing romantic partners to be their own person, pursue their interests and passions, and yet, find common ground to foster a sense of love, joy and adventure.
Now, that may sound too idealistic to be true, but by focusing on these 21 elements of developing respect in a relationship, you can build a bond that is as close to this Utopian ideal as possible:
1. See each other as respect-worthy
The fact that you chose each other as partners is a testament to the fact that you do admire something about one another. If you see signs of lack of respect in the relationship, introspecting about why that is the case can be a good starting point.
Perhaps, there are certain unresolved issues between you and your partner that have eclipsed the good that you once saw in each other. So, take some time to reflect on your the positive qualities of your partner that you can respect them for.
Unless you see each other as worthy of respect, you cannot foster it in your relationship.
2. Offer validation to build respect in a relationship
Validation from a loved one can work wonders for anybody’s self-esteem. When romantic partners make it a habit to validate each other’s feelings, goals and values, the connection between them grows that much stronger. This must be prioritized to build everlasting respect and love in a relationship.
Validation doesn’t mean being in absolute agreement at all times, but knowing how to disagree or differ in your perspectives without discrediting each other’s feelings or notions. Without validation and support, the lack of respect might be made apparent. And without respect, there is no love.
3. Be attentive to your partner’s needs
Wondering how to show respect to a woman in a relationship? Or how to respect your man? A small change like being attentive to your partner’s needs, expectations, desires and concerns can go a long way in making them feel valued, and be a great way of showing affection as well.
When they express their thoughts to you, listen to them without seeming distracted or uninterested. Pay attention to their behavior to gauge their state of mind and offer a comforting hand if you notice that they’re troubled or distraught. What role does respect play in a relationship? It simply promises a better future, one where your partner doesn’t feel uncared for.
4. Show that you trust them
Trust and respect in a relationship go hand in hand. It is not humanly possible to respect someone you cannot trust or trust someone you don’t respect. So, demonstrating your trust in your partner can be effective in making them feel respected.
Now, trusting doesn’t mean repeatedly telling them that you know they would never cheat on you. It also shines through in the little actions like not calling or texting them repeatedly to enquire about their whereabouts, sneakily checking their phone or social media activity or confirming their account of the day with friends or co-workers.
5. Be a partner they can depend on
Respect in a relationship is a two-way street. That’s why making an effort to gain respect in a relationship is just as important as giving it to your partner. One simple way of ensuring that is to be dependable.
If your partner asks you to do something, make sure you deliver. And do so sooner rather than later. Forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning ahead of an important event or not booking that doctor’s appointment despite being asked to can make your partner feel that they are either not heard in the relationship or their words aren’t valued.
A person who doesn’t feel valued or respected in the relationship cannot reciprocate those very emotions.
6. Steer clear of hurtful jibes
To inculcate respect and love in a relationship, you must learn to measure your words and be mindful of what you say to each other. Now, there is no denying that it is equally important to have fun in a relationship. And some playful teasing and light-hearted banter are essential to creating some light moments that go on to become precious memories.
But in doing so, you must always be aware of the fine line that divides harmless jokes from hurtful jibes. Do not have fun at the expense of your partner’s vulnerabilities or weaknesses. That can not only make them feel disrespected, but also create a rift in the relationship.
Related Reading: A Successful Marriage Needs Not Fleeting Love, But Lasting Respect
7. Be grateful for your partner
Expressing your gratitude for your partner is another simple yet effective way of nurturing respect in a long-term relationship. Go beyond expressing your appreciation, acknowledgment and gratitude for what your partner brings to the table.
Or the things they do for you and your relationship. Make it a point to tell them that you appreciate them for who they are and are grateful for their presence in your life.
8. Steer clear of comparisons
Comparison is one of the most glaring signs of lack of respect in a relationship. If you’re always comparing your partner with others, you’re essentially telling them that they’re not good enough.
“Look at Martha’s husband. He makes it a point to plan a romantic getaway every other month. And you just couldn’t be bothered to take an initiative in our relationship.” Or, “Jonathan’s girlfriend manages to stay in great shape while juggling a high-pressure job, home responsibilities and raising two children. You should try to be more like her.”
Such comments can crush a person’s sense of self-confidence and make them feel unappreciated, and of course, disrespected in the relationship. That’s why it’s important to be mindful of the fact that love without respect has no value.
9. Respect your private life
To foster respect in a relationship, neither partner must violate the sanctity of their private life. Sharing with a friend something that your partner told you in confidence or airing your dirty laundry in public is a big NO.
Couples in a healthy relationship know better than to open their private life to the scrutiny of outsiders. This includes your parents, siblings and friends as well as your partner’s. If you have children, it is best to keep them looped out of what you share as a couple unless it impacts their lives directly and significantly.
10. Be supportive of each other
Respecting a significant other means trusting them to make the right choices, be it in their personal or professional capacity or concerning your relationship. To drive home the point that you recognize the importance of respect in a relationship, work on being supportive of each other.
Even if you don’t agree with your partner’s choices, let them know that you’re with them every step of the way. It’s perfectly okay to voice your concerns and apprehensions in such situations. But expecting your partner to always conform with your views is not.
Being there to support each other even if you don’t see eye to eye on the subject at hand, highlights the importance of mutual respect in a relationship. Without it, your beloved might just feel abandoned.
If they don’t see things the way you do, you must find a way to get onboard with the choices they’re making. Particularly, in the case of personal or professional decisions.
11. Be accommodating of divergent views
The “my way or highway” approach is not a reflection of respect in a relationship. When two partners truly respect each other, they also respect each other’s views and opinions. Letting your partner know that while you don’t agree with what they’re saying, you can appreciate where they are coming from can reassure them of their place in your equation as a couple.
It also lays the groundwork for acknowledging that respect is the foundation of your relationship, thus strengthening your bond. By being respectful of each other’s views, you are respecting one another, simply by incorporating this important value in your dynamics as a couple.
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12. Communicate honestly
Respect is the key to a successful relationship, and the only way to harness it is through effective and honest communication. Honesty is the bedrock of trust and respect in a relationship. That’s why you must focus on weeding out any communication problems to build mutual respect. Find ways to put your point across respectfully but firmly.
Create space to allow your partner to do the same. When they do, hear them out completely before responding. Cutting someone off mid-sentence, dismissing their take on any given issue or negating the way they’re feeling are all red flags of disrespect.
13. What does respect really mean in a relationship? You don’t let resentment take hold
You cannot respect someone you resent deeply. If your partner has said or done something to hurt you, voice your feelings at the right time, in the right way. Don’t avoid or suppress how they’ve made you feel, hoping that it’ll all go away.
It won’t. It will only become internalized to a point where you start resenting your partner for their actions. And they may not even be aware of it at all. When respect is lost in a relationship, it can create distance over time. You cannot respect someone you resent, so it’s imperative to make sure that this negative emotion doesn’t take hold in the first place.
14. Dial back on the contempt to improve respect in a relationship
When you’re in a long-term relationship, little irritants do crop up. After all, no one is perfect. Your partner too will have their share of quirks and less-than-pleasant habits or personality traits that begin to annoy you over time.
Be that as it may, don’t let these irritants become a source of contempt in your relationship. Rolling your eyes when you hear them chew loudly, chiding them for their “annoying laugh” or using aggressive gestures to reject their opinions are all signs of lack of respect in a relationship.
Find a nicer, gentler way to talk to them about things that you just cannot put up with and learn to not sweat the small stuff. How to respect in a relationship doesn’t always involve talking about major concerns – sometimes you just need to discuss things like how loud your partner chews.
15. Learn the art of healthy conflict resolution
The element of respect in a relationship, or the lack thereof, comes to the fore most strongly in times of conflict. How do you react when you find yourselves on the opposite sides of a divide? Do you resort to the silent treatment, giving each other the cold shoulder, or engage in shouting matches? Or do you sit across from each other and voice your opinions and reservations without trying to bring your partner down?
Hearing each other out, not resorting to manipulation or mind games, and preventing fights from becoming abusive or toxic are the hallmarks of healthy conflict resolution which indicates mutual respect between partners. If you find yourself lacking on this count, work on fixing problematic tendencies to establish respect and love in a relationship.
If you’ve been wondering, “What does respect really mean in a relationship?” the manifestation of it often comes out during the ugly fights. When you value your partner, you won’t be quick to shoot out irreparable jibes that may cause permanent damage. Instead, you’ll pick your words wisely – even during the nastiest fight.
Related Reading: 10 Critical Emotional Needs In A Relationship
16. Don’t hold mistakes over each other’s head
How do you show respect to a woman in a relationship? Or to a man for that matter? Not being excessively critical of them is one way to make your SO feel respected and valued. We all make our share of mistakes, be it in relationships or life.
So, when your partner makes less-than-ideal choices or you see their decisions backfiring, don’t make them feel worse about it by adding your critique or ‘I told you so’ remarks to the mix. Kicking a person when they’re already down is definitely not a mark of respect.
Instead, focus on lifting them up and reassuring them that one wrong choice isn’t the end of the world. Choose words like “It’s okay, we all make mistakes” over “I told you this would happen but you never listen”.
17. Voice your concerns only to your partner
There are always things we wish we could change about our partners, our relationships and even ourselves. It’s not always easy to be forthcoming and upfront about it. But making a third-person – even if it is your BFF – privy to any concerns or complaints you may have about your partner is a sign of disrespect in a relationship.
Besides, it doesn’t serve any purpose. So, rather than venting to a friend or confidante about all that needs fixing in your relationship, voice these concerns to your partner alone. When you do so without decimating their self-esteem, you may even find a way to iron out these cranks.
Plus, you’ll also be making sure that communication in your relationship doesn’t suffer. The more you’re able to tell your partner what’s really bothering you, the better you’ll be able to address it. What role does respect play in a relationship? It’s often multi-faceted and includes enhancing communication and trust.
18. Prioritize forgiveness
Want to show your partner that you respect them? Want to gain their respect? Forgiveness in relationships plays an important role in cementing the foundation of mutual respect. If your partner messes up, don’t hold their mistakes over their head. Or use them as a tool of manipulation.
If they are sorry for their actions and it’s a mistake you can move past, be the bigger person, forgive them and move on. Respect in a relationship doesn’t solely revolve around how much you value your partner; a huge aspect of respect is how willing you are to look past mistakes they might have made. Respect begets trust, trust begets love.
19. Take pride in your partner
Making a person feel appreciated and cherished is the best way to let them know that they’re respected. So, every once in a while, make it a point to tell your partner that you’re proud of them. For their achievements in personal and professional spheres of life. For their values of empathy and compassion. Or even for the kind of partner, spouse, son/daughter, parent, or friend they are.
This is a simple yet effective way of inculcating mutual respect in relationships. It doesn’t even have to be much, a simple compliment or a kind gesture can often let your SO know that you value them.
20. Be respectful in front of others
You and your partner may have reached a comfort level that promotes a certain unbridled carefreeness in the way you behave with each other. While that’s a great thing to have in your private space, it may not be appropriate to let that reflect in your behavior as a couple in public.
A casual remark made in jest can come across as rude and derogatory to others who may not understand your couple dynamics. Their reactions can make your partner feel disrespected. Humiliated even. To foster respect in a relationship, you must ensure that your conduct as a couple is respectful.
Related Reading: 15 Signs Of Relationship Compatibility Between You And Your Partner
21. Be a partner worth respecting
You cannot ask for respect in a relationship. You have to earn it. That means becoming a partner worthy of respect. Treat your SO well. Give them your love, attention, adoration. Steer clear of lying, cheating, manipulation or other toxic relationship tendencies that can make your partner resent you.
Respect is the key to a successful relationship and the only way to earn it is to become a better partner yourself. The more you look after yourself and become someone who deserves respect in all spheres of your life, the more your partner is going to value you as well.
If you’ve wondered, which comes first love or respect, the writing is on the wall: love without respect has no value. The importance of respect in a relationship cannot be stressed enough. But it is not something that can be fostered overnight. Nor is it a static element that once achieved will last forever. It’s a continuous work in progress. Both partners have to be committed to upholding and nurturing this core value, day after day, for it to sustain.
Respect is as important as love and trust in a relationship, if not more. Without one, the other two cannot exist. And together these three become the cornerstones of a healthy relationship.
You cannot demand respect in a relationship. Respect has to be earned through your actions. Treating your SO well, giving them love, attention, adoration are some ways to do it. At the same time, you must steer clear of lying, cheating, manipulation or other toxic relationship tendencies that can make your partner resent you.
You can respect someone without loving them, but you cannot possibly love someone you don’t respect. In that sense, respect is the foundation that helps love between partners grow and last.
A relationship without respect cannot be healthy or fulfilling. While it is possible to drag on unhealthy relationships, you cannot build a meaningful connection with your SO in the absence of respect.