To restate the old colloquialism: marriage is hard work.
Great marriages don’t get thrust into existence magically. Great marriages are built, fixed, improved, and cherished. They are curated, changed, and strengthened over time. If you are called to marriage (not everyone is), being in a successful marriage is one of the most meaningful, fulfilling, and treasured experiences in life. On top of that, having a strong marriage is an amazing gift to your children. But you cannot have an enduring marriage without respect for your spouse. It is absolutely a key factor, and everyday there are opportunities to show respect to your spouse. Of course on the flip side of that, there are also many ways we inadvertently disrespect our partners. Read on to learn the importance of spousal respect, and how to respect your spouse including practical, applicable, and meaningful ways to improve and strengthen your bond with your partner.
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What NOT to do when showing respect for your spouse:
1. Do not show violence toward your partner.
This is doubly important if you have children. Your behavior is a model for your child’s behavior, and no one wants their child to be violent or think that violence is acceptable even in jest (play fighting, slapping, etc.).
2. Do not make sarcastic or passive aggressive comments.
Instead, say what you mean. If you have something to say or something you want them to know: say it. Don’t wait for it to come up in conversation. Don’t wait for them to magically guess it. Tell them. Put your adult pants on and deal with the problem actively. No digs. EVER.
3. Do not build yourself up by cutting your partner down.
In a marriage, you should want you partner to succeed. If you’re rooting for them to fail in order to make your success look more impressive, that is a problem.
4. Do not use hyperbolic statements during an argument such as “You always….” or “You never….”
These types of statements are almost never completely true. There are very few things people ALWAYS do or NEVER do. If there is a behavior your spouse tends to repeat that upsets you, communicate your needs and feelings to them in a logical and realistic way.
5. Do not throw the past in their face.
Forgiveness is a choice. You must actively choose to forgive someone for their wrongdoings. Forgiveness doesn’t just happen after time or come from thin air; you create it consciously and consistently. Part of choosing to forgive someone is accepting that the mistake happened and cannot be undone. If you forgive someone, you cannot come back later and use their mistake as ammunition. That is not what true forgiveness means.
6. Do not gossip with other people about problems in your marriage.
The exception: if you are in an abusive situation, please absolutely speak to someone about it. (You can find information about domestic violence here). But for everyday marital issues (arguments, disagreements, sex, etc.), don’t pour over every detail with your mom or your best friend. There are many aspects of marriage that are private and should be kept and communicated about with your spouse or trusted therapist only. Speaking about shortcomings in your spouse, arguments, and sex is gossipy and disrespectful.
7. Do not make insulting or passive aggressive comments about your spouse to your children.
This is hurtful on so many levels and is truly unhealthy for your kids. Children learn by observing, and if parents are disrespecting each other in front of their children, their children will learn to show disrespect toward their parents and others.
How to show respect for your spouse:
1. Follow through with what you say you’re going to do.
I am a big fan of “under-promise and over-deliver.” Don’t agree to things or make commitments if you aren’t serious about seeing them through. When you say you will do something: do it. If you think it’s possible you may not be able to get it done: don’t commit to doing it. Following through shows your spouse that you respect your promises and teaches them that you are reliable.
2. Acknowledge your own mistakes and short comings and ask for forgiveness.
EVERYONE make mistakes. Admit when you’ve done something wrong. Be up front, and tell your spouse about your mistake before they discover it for themselves. Apologize and take responsibility for what you’ve done.
3. Maintain your respect independently from your spouse’s.
We are all human, and most people occasionally say things or react in ways that are less than ideal when we are cranky or in distress. If your spouse makes a less than kind comment, don’t respond in the same way. Try to reset the conversation by remaining calm and respectful.
4. Be a champion for your spouse.
Sing their praises far and wide. Broadcast their accomplishments. Point out their strengths to others. Compliment them publicly. And most importantly: stand up for your spouse. Don’t let other people trash-talk your spouse ever. Be their champion like you would want them to be yours.
5. Be on time.
Being late is one of the best ways to show disrespect. When someone shows up late, they are broadcasting the message that their time is more valuable than yours or that there was something more important than you that kept them. Most people are late once in a while for reasons beyond their control. But being consistently on time shows your spouse that you are reliable and you value your promises and commitments to them enough to responsibly manage your time.
6. Accept your partner for who they are without making them feel embarrassed or ashamed.
Being in a marriage allows you access to all the cooky, intimate, and sometimes just weird details of someone else’s personality. This is a gift! If your partner is allowing your to see their strange side, it means they trust you enough to let you in. Accept and love all the strangeness because it’s what makes your person YOUR PERSON.
I am sure there are more things that could be added to these lists, and there are likely things that are not on here that are important to your spouse. The best way to make sure you know how to respect your spouse is to ASK THEM. Open the lines of communication and find out what is important to your partner specifically. Ask if they have ever felt disrespected by you. Ask if there is anything you could do to be more respectful. Getting information straight from the horse’s mouth is always your best option, and after all, communication is key to a strong relationship.
Mom (and wife) on!
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