“Without respect, relationships are lost, and if someone can’t value your difference, and respect your values and beliefs, then they don’t deserve a front-row seat in your life.” – Riya Raj
People have a different opinions about what the word “R_E_S_P_E_C_T” means. Often, it is referred to as the difference between the level of authority, such as with our parents, school teachers, or even police officers. Sometimes, it is used to admire someone essential or inspirational to us. Respect is a give and take. We give respect freely to show how we want to be treated and so that boundaries can be heard and understood.
Respect in every relationship builds feelings of trust, safety, and wellbeing. Partners have neither authority over the other. It is important to convey respect and create a safe place for the other person to express their thoughts and feelings so that conflict does not spiral out of control.
Respect is conveyed in how we communicate. Research done through the Gottman Institute in Seattle has shown that four specific communication patterns can occur during conflict that are corrosive to relationships. They are called the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (Gottman, 1999), and they are:
Criticism. “Any statement that implies that there is something globally wrong with one’s personality, something that is probably a lasting aspect of the partner’s character."
Defensiveness. “Any attempt to defend oneself from a perceived attack. Defensiveness includes denying responsibility for the problem, and this fuels the flames of marital conflict because it says the other person is the guilty party.”
Contempt. “Any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts oneself on a higher plane the one’s partner. Contempt is the most corrosive of the four Horseman and will destroy trust in the relationship the most quickly.”
Stonewalling. “Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction. Stonewalling occurs when one party becomes emotionally flooded and is in fight or flight.”
While no relationship is perfect, it’s a step in the right direction if you can begin to recognize these Horsemen when communicating.
Aside from learning how to communicate in a way that conveys respect, it is also also about learning to have patience and tolerance.
Patience is the virtue of taking time with circumstances and people. We need time to sort things out and also to avoid getting frustrated when things are not going our way. In a relationship, we are constantly managing different perceptions…. You know, the saying: there’s your truth, my truth, and then the truth? Try to leave the idea about absolute truths to the side, and work at understanding your partner’s reality.
Tolerance reminds us to understand that every person is different; nobody is perfect. We grow accustomed to our partner’s attitude and moods, but during conflict this can get tested.
Tolerance is also about learning to accept the bad and see more of the good side, such as your partner’s beauty and flaws, the positive and negative attitudes, the mood swings, and the ways he/she does things. While in a relationship, as we grow and experience things together or apart, we change. It is normal to outgrow certain attitudes and feeling for each other, but there is always a common factors that pull you together: love and respect.
Remember to be tolerant not only with your partner, but also with yourself.
Respect nurtures Trust – For example, when we each respect each other’s decisions, opinions, and act in ways to avoid purposefully do things that can hurt each other’s feelings. These are examples of how respect fosters trust.
Though it is essential to respect your partner, you must save some for yourself. Self-respect is critical to establish confidence and maintain a lasting relationship. Know your value and your worth. Avoid comparing yourself with other people, because everyone has a different background, upbringing, and status.
Every relationship is unique and has its phases of difficulties, problems, and challenges wherein you can reach the point where you want to give up. But, with love and respect at the center of your relationship, it can be much easier to face these lows together and get back in track.
Your therapy friend,
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