How to respect your mate (even when you don’t want to)

Have you ever felt so angry, frustrated, or hurt by your mate that you feel you don’t even respect them—or want to? It’s a pretty rotten feeling. After all, deep down you know that mutual respect is one of the fundamental building blocks of a relationship.

Fortunately, at times when you might feel you’ve lost respect for your mate, it’s often illusory, temporary or both. But as with so many relationship struggles, it helps to put the situation in perspective by looking at the bigger picture.

Say your husband makes a classic, almost comical (but not) mistake like putting the car in drive instead of reverse when pulling out of a parking space, thereby slamming into a brick building and costing a fortune in repairs. He’s embarrassed and apologetic—while you’re ostensibly understanding and forgiving—but inside, you seethe. How could he do that? Didn’t he notice the car was moving forward before he slammed on the gas? Doesn’t he realize that money was going towards our summer vacation? And on and on. But when you’re honest with yourself, you know it could have been you—and probably has been. What about the time you left your new iPhone on the roof of the car and sped off? Or absentmindedly left the back gate open, so the dog ran out into the street and went missing for a week? We all regret the dumb mistakes we make in life, especially the ones that hurt others as well as ourselves. Now is the time to empathize, not criticize, and assure him it’s not the end of the world—because it’s not.

In other cases, a particularly heated argument may cause a mate to withhold respect as a form of self-defense. Who wants to respect a man or woman who has hurt their feelings, cast doubt on their judgment or otherwise caused offense? But you can reject your mate’s angry remarks without losing respect for your mate. When calmer heads prevail, you may realize that what felt like unfair criticism was intended as constructive advice. On the other hand, your mate may decide he or she was being a jerk and say so. Either way, arguments are temporary, and the best case scenario for no one to lose respect for the other before, during or after.

Meanwhile, whatever it is that causes you to question your respect for your mate, it’s rarely a good idea to share those feelings with anyone other than a trusted family member or friend—if at all. The last thing you want is for your anger about your husband smashing his front bumper or the ugly words exchanged during your latest argument to become grist for the gossip mill. That’s a sign of disrespect, and you can only imagine how you’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot and you learned your mate was discussing you like that with his buddies.

Finally, the most important lesson is that in spite of whatever ugliness has recently transpired between you, you can still remember all the wonderful, kind, smart things your mate has done in the past and will continue to do in the future. It doesn’t change who they are as a person. So unless you’re talking about a pattern of problems—or you find you simply can’t get over a mate’s mistake, in which case it might be time to seek help from a professional relationship counselor—he or she is still worthy of your love and respect, however grudgingly it’s given at the time. Remember: respect is not a short-term gift bestowed when you happen to feel like it. It’s part of a lifelong commitment, just like love itself.

Through marriage counseling at the Relationship Center of Orange County, we will work together to help you improve communication issues, increase trust, reduce arguing and enjoy your relationship again.

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