If your spouse has been disrespectful to you, most likely your feelings were hurt. Whether that disrespect was conveyed verbally, in written form, through a facial expression or through any sort of action, disrespect makes you feel, well, disrespected. That's obvious.
Now let's reverse the scenario. Is your spouse any different? If YOU are disrespectful and use the excuse that you are simply reacting to them rather than acting on your own initiative, does that make it OK? Of course not. And yet somehow everyone feels that when someone else misbehaves, that person is showing their true character. When we act poorly, however, we make excuses and justify our behavior. Suddenly, circumstances are everything.
Your partner is certainly counting on you to demonstrate your love. Respect is certainly one key way to show it. But we all make mistakes. So when you behave disrespectfully, apologize sincerely. And mean it.
Yes, REALLY mean it.
If instead you think it's OK to be disrespectful, then consider this metaphor: there are two halves that represent your spouse - one with respect for you and one with self-respect.
In a healthy relationship where you are being respectful to your beloved, their respect for themself and for you are both in sync and rise. Your actions are then like a hot air balloon, lifting both of you up.
If you are not respectful, then your partner's sense of respect for you and their self-respect are at odds with each other. When one goes up, the other goes down. Here your actions act like a counterweight. By belittling your spouse, you may think more highly of yourself in comparison to them, all while crushing their respect for themself. In order for your partner to maintain their respect for you under these circumstances, they have to tacitly agree with your assessment of them and diminish their self-respect. If instead, they maintain their self-respect, their respect for you plummets owing to your behavior. Either scenario is a lose:lose situation. Of course, the reciprocal happens when they are disrespectful to you. Again, another lose:lose situation.
Is there an alternative? Obviously. And so the question arises: if an alternative exists, why would either of you prefer a lose:lose or win:lose situation to a win:win? The answer, I would suggest, is that your partner, or maybe both you, don't believe that a win:win situation is possible. Why? Where would that philosophy of life come from? I think it starts very early in life.
Let's consider this: a baby cries in the middle of the night because it is hungry. The parent who is exhausted wakes up and feeds the child. Win:lose in the immediate sense but the lesson is clear. The baby is reassured, comforted and happy. And you lose some sleep (begrudgingly maybe but eventually your child will sleep through the night).
So what happens a few years down the line as this child is maturing? Maybe they're introduced to a new baby sibling. Soon, they have to share toys, give up what they want to make the other person happy. Lose:win. So, there's conflict. What about the increase in joy that comes from having a playmate? Too abstract at such a tender age.
Fast forward many years and the child is now an adult looking for a job. For every position, there is competition. You will lose if one of the other candidates gets the job. If you win, other candidates will lose. Not great either but, assuming there are enough available jobs in the economy to go around, eventually everyone can win by continuing to proactively look for work and by maybe adjusting some of their expectations (salary, travel time, benefits, etc.). As an adult, one can choose to move beyond the limiting 'if you, not me' to 'if you now, me eventually.'
Now let's apply this to our marriage: when conflicts arise, as they are bound to, and we respond with respect to our spouse even if we're feeling 'down' (angry, frustrated, frightened), we accomplish a win:win situation: our partner appreciates our respect for them despite the challenges we're facing, they are compelled to respond in kind despite their feelings, and together, we go forward positively and efficiently, joining our strengths to resolve the difficulty.
Know this: as adults, there's enough respect to go around for both partners IF we wisely choose to acknowledge that we are a team of two supporting individuals, not two players pitted one against the other. The choice to be respectful is obvious and the benefits are exponential for each partner individually and the marriage as a whole.
If you're having trouble with respect in your marriage, share your thoughts below and I'll gladly share my suggestions on how you can move forward to a more positive and loving marriage.