For all of the potential problems that can arise in a relationship, from checked out spouses to affairs, financial woes to substance abuse problems – there’s one very significant marriage-killer that often goes overlooked: lack of respect.
And while respect comes in many forms, and is shown in many ways, a lack of respect is glaringly apparent to the person feeling slighted. It comes in the form of getting walked all over, taking on responsibilities for the household thanklessly, being talked down to, being taken advantage of, or even being ignored.
A lack of respect feels like your problems or concerns don’t matter, like your contributions to the household (or even the relationship) are completely taken for granted.
From time to time, we receive emails and letters describing just this kind of situation. It eats away at the marriage, and drives couples apart – usually through resentment. Even worse, this lack of respect (or even blatant disrespect) can get into people’s heads over time, and make them begin to question their own self worth, or start to think they deserve the disrespectful treatment.
So, if this situation hits close to home, what can you do? How can you get the respect that you (and any person) deserve?
It all starts with respecting yourself – either learning your own value, or breaking the cycle of low self-esteem that disrespect has caused. If you want others to see your worth, you have to see it too. <3
Now, this doesn’t mean going to the opposite extreme, and demanding the utmost respect from everyone around you, or seeing your role in the marriage (or other parts of your life) as the most important. Being respectable doe NOT mean disrespecting others or belittling their contributions. However, to find your own self worth, start by taking stock of all the things you do – it could be chores around the house, responsibilities with the kids, your income, managing your family’s budget, or anything else. Be proud of what you bring to the table!
When you’ve reminded yourself of your own value, how do you get others, particularly your spouse, to recognize it as well?
This is something of a fragile issue. On one hand, causing more conflict won’t really help the marriage. On the other, you simply have to stand up for yourself, even if it causes a little bit of disruption. The very first rule of strong, happy marriages is communication – you need to tell your spouse how you feel.
One of the best ways to avoid blaming (and empower yourself at the same time) is to use “I” statements. This means framing your problems in the way YOU experience them. Instead of saying, “you don’t respect me,” say, “I feel underappreciated.” Instead of saying, “you ignore me,” say, “I feel like we’re not connecting as much as I would like.”
This can be an uphill battle because, as the saying goes, old habits are hard to break.
Ideally, your spouse will realize the damage they are doing to the relationship, and be willing to change their ways. If they don’t understand at first, stick with it! No one deserves to be treated with disrespect, and a marriage cannot thrive if one member of the couple feels unappreciated by the other.
Above all else, be confident and be honest. Communicate your needs to your spouse. Let them know how important it is to you, and how much damage is being done by the current pattern of behavior.
This is a problem that can be overcome, but it takes the confidence to stand up for yourself and speak your mind. Don’t let a cycle of disrespect eat away at your marriage.