Despite cultural paradigms of masculinity and all of the pressures we put on men (intentionally or not) to be tough, there’s plenty of emotion going on under the surface – even if he doesn’t show it.
A big part of those emotional needs (and probably wrapped up in some influences that make men keep quiet about them) is respect. Perhaps even more than love, men want the respect of their friends, coworkers, peers, and especially their spouses.
It’s not necessarily a matter of utmost respect at every moment, it’s about staying away from being disrespectful. Men and women both need love and respect in a marriage (or any relationship), but males tend to react a little differently when they’re being disrespected.
If they don’t feel useful to you, if they’re talked down to, if they are treated like children or like they can’t make their own decisions, and so on – they’re going to pull back from the relationship. Marriage expert and author Dr. Emerson Eggerichs has a revealing quote about this dynamic:
“Without love from him, she acts without respect; without respect from her, he acts without love.”
This goes back to that vicious cycle that happens in so many areas of marriage, from communication to sex to basic interaction: when we withhold from one another or act negatively, the other person reacts in a similar fashion – then the other person reacts back, and again and again until the marriage is in tatters.
So, what can you do to make your husband feel respected?
First and foremost: listen to him! One of the biggest causes of such feelings is not being paid any attention. This is particularly true in moments of conflict, but happens even in everyday conversation. If you’re paying more attention to your phone or the TV than him talking to you, if you simply gloss over what he has to say and change the subject to something of your interest, if you’re tuning him out for whatever reason – it feels like you simply don’t care!
As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, your tone of voice can say as much (or more) as the words you use. A sure fire way to make a man feel disrespected is to treat him like an idiot. We’ve all got our shortcomings, but when he feels berated for his mistakes, it hurts.
Even if you’re angry, remember that he is your adult partner, not a child to be reprimanded. You can teach him things without making him feel stupid, and you can communicate your concerns without belittling him. Making a little bit of effort to control the way you speak to him can save a great deal of conflict in the long run.
Another way men (and really, all people) feel disrespected is when they feel taken for granted or taken advantage of.
Again, this is NOT to say that you need to shower with him praise for every little thing. This is more about avoiding problematic behavior – and that means being aware of your own actions (or lack of action). If you’ve just come to expect the things he does around the house, and only mention it when they don’t get done… If he comes home from a long day of work and you’re immediately on him about some unfinished chore… He may begin to feel taken for granted.
Acknowledge what he does to contribute and express your gratitude when you notice he’s doing something that benefits you. Far too often, couples simply get used to each other’s “role” in maintaining the household, and while you may remain acutely aware of your own responsibilities, it’s pretty easy to expect results – but totally overlook the work your partner does to produce them.
Be observant and express gratitude, even if it’s just a pat on the shoulder or a simple “thank you.” It will truly make a difference.
Respect is essential for a healthy marriage. If you love each other, you should be treating one another with respect, but bad habits are hard to break, and if either of you has started down the cyclical patterns of disrespectful behavior, it can be hard to get things back on track. If these problems sound familiar, and you aren’t treating your husband with respect… Hit the brakes right now!
Stop the patterns before they get worse, recognize that you may be driving him away, and start working to improve the way you treat your spouse…. Starting today.