Written by Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, the Marriage in a Box blog shares insights into common relationship struggles, gives ideas for moving beyond the roadblocks, and helps you find your path to happiness – both individually and within your relationship.
There is an emotional connection that occurs when couples like, admire and respect each other. They talk to each other. They laugh together. When they speak to others about their partner they tend to brag about how great they are. Some couples stop talking, laughing and admiring each other and the emotional bond becomes frayed.
Though difficult, it is possible to restore respect. If you once cared for the person or held them in high regard, it is possible to return to this state if you choose to.
- Regaining respect is a choice
You have to want to regain the respect you once had for your partner. You might prefer to justify your reactions rather than to be the one who rises above the anger. To make the shift, you first have to consciously and genuinely choose to find your way back to respect. The angrier you are, the harder this will be.
- Understand what respect is and is not
To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve. Your task is not to control the other person or try to change him or her in a direction that you desire but he or she does not.
- Respect each other’s efforts.
The biggest way to show respect is to support and appreciate each other’s efforts. Compliment and thank your partner. We all like to be praised for the efforts and gifts we bring to the relationship, even if it is our role. This restores respect because being noticed and valued is important.
- Listen with compassion
We all need someone to hear us vent and express our feelings from time to time. Listening to your partner when they're speaking is one of the most essential signs of respect within a relationship. Be there for each other if one of you is having a difficult or tough time. Listen without trying to fix the problem.
Listen with the intention to recall what you once appreciated about your partner, to feel his or her goodness and love, and to reconnect with the relationship you once had. Remember the person is doing the best he or she can, working through humanity’s struggles just like you.
- Respect each other’s opinion, viewpoints and feelings
Decisions that affect you will often affect each other. The first step on respecting your partner’s opinion is to ask for it. When you involve your partner you are demonstrating respect and honoring their value.
Disagreements are normal and healthy in a marriage. Vicious personal attacks at your spouse’s character or personality are not! You can disagree without belittling or hurting someone. Everyone has a right to their own feelings and viewpoint and all feelings are valid. For respect to be present you need to validate each other’s feelings and point of view, even if you do not agree.
Start treating your spouse how you would like to be treated and respect will return to your marriage.
In a healthy relationship, partners are equals, which means that neither partner has “authority” over the other. Each partner is free to live their own life, which can include deciding to share some aspects of their life with their partner. Respect also means that, while we may not always agree with our partner/s, we choose to trust them and put faith in their judgment. This trust can be built over time as your relationship progresses and you learn more about each other.
How Do You Show Respect in a Healthy Relationship?
Respect in a relationship is reflected in how you treat each other on a daily basis. Even if you disagree or have an argument (and arguments do happen, even in healthy relationships!), you are able to respect and value each other’s opinions and feelings by “fighting” fair. Respect isn’t about controlling someone or making them do what you want them to do. Respect is actually about the freedom to be yourself and to be loved for who you are.
In a healthy relationship, respect looks like:
- Talking openly and honestly with each other
Communication is one of the most important parts of a relationship, and one of the hardest. That’s because being open and honest with your partner means being open and honest with yourself. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind reader. If you’re upset, it’s important to talk openly about what’s bothering you. Don’t be accusatory. Use “I” statements, like “I feel really ignored and unimportant when you cancel our plans at the last minute,”
Everyone disagrees sometimes, and that’s totally ok. When you do, don’t disappear or shut down communication. At a minimum, tell your partner that you’re upset and need some time to cool down and process your thoughts before you talk. This way they don’t feel like you’re disappearing on them, or ignoring their feelings.
- Listen to each other
Listening is a skill that many people lack in today’s world of multi-tasking and obsession with technology. If you want to show your partner true respect, then you should make an effort to truly listen to them when they are talking to you. This doesn’t mean interrupting, offering advice when you aren’t asked, or waiting for your turn to speak, but truly taking the time to pay attention to the things your partner is saying to you and appreciating their thoughts, experiences, and ideas.
- Learn to tolerate and appreciate differences
As you move forward in your relationship, you will find that there are some ways in which you and your partner are fundamentally different. Maybe your partner is a neat freak while you’re messy; maybe you’re really social while they are more on the shy side. Though you can change a bit to suit each other, you can’t change completely, and you have to learn to accept and appreciate your differences if you want to truly respect your partner.
- Learn to Compromise
Another way to respect your partner is to be able to compromise on the things you disagree about. When you’re making a decision together, the most important thing is that you both first listen to each other and make sure you understand exactly where the other person stands on the issue. Then, you should be able to discuss the pros and cons of the situation in a respectful manner and to find a resolution that can make both of you as happy as possible.
- Speak kindly to and about each other
One way to majorly disrespect your partner is to be mean or to criticize them in public, especially in front of your friends and family members. You should look at each other as a team; if you have any issues with them, you should raise them in the privacy of your own home, not in front of other people. Saying mean things to them in front of others or snapping at them in public will make them feel terrible and resent you, and it will make your friends and family uncomfortable.
- Supporting each other’s interests, hobbies, careers, etc.
If your spouse cares about something, you must care about it too. You may not feel the same as your spouse does about sports, fashion, or what a particular person says or does, but you can care about it because you care about your spouse and the impact that issue, person, or situation has on them.
- Build each other up
If you want to respect your partner, then you should want only the best for them. You should be there to help your partner reach his full potential and to realize their dreams. You should be there to tell your partner she’s going to do great before a job interview, that he’s going to break his personal record during his next marathon, and that they are capable of finishing that novel they started five years ago.
- Honor each other’s boundaries
Everyone has their own boundaries, and if you want to truly respect your partner, then you have to know what theirs are and be willing to respect them. Maybe your partner is really private and hates it when you look through old photos of him or talk about his past in front of others; maybe she really doesn’t like it when you tease her about how she was overweight as a child. Whatever those boundaries are, you have to recognize them and be caring and respectful enough to respect them.
Wanting to win, to be right, is natural; it makes us feel strong and safe and gratified. It's also disastrous for a relationship. Consider the following argument:
Alice says, "You're always working. You don't spend enough time at home. I feel like a work widow."
Rodney says, "Nothing is ever good enough for you," he said angrily. "I'm always working because you're always spending so much money."
Alice says, "At least I'm at home with the family, not married to my job. I might as well be single. In fact, I am."
Rodney says, “Well at least I’m not a selfish shrew, bankrupting the family.”
Personal attacks on the other person. Accusations and name calling. The issue is not being defined and discussed and no resolution is being looked for.
When the goal is winning instead of understanding, partners are more likely to ignore, or trample, each other's feelings. That launches a spiral of escalating resentment and hostility leading to alienation—a troubling distance from each other that can become unbridgeable when communication breaks down completely.
Be more interested in understanding your spouse than in winning.
Winning makes some people feel—for a moment—safe and triumphant, and these short-term gains fool them into thinking that they've chosen the right tactic. But, paradoxically, going for the win is the course of action least likely to get them what they really want.
How can you understand your partner vs. win the argument?
- Physically distance yourself from your partner. An argument is a time of heightened emotions. Because it can be difficult to think clearly, physically distancing yourself can help your emotions to settle. However, never leave without giving an explanation or without agreeing to resume the discussion at some later time.
- Begin your communication with the mind set of listening and understanding one another. As you attempt to clarify the conflict, repeat, using your own words, your mate's position. Actively listen and understand what your mate is saying. In turn, this slows down the process and allows each person to feel heard and understood.
- Create a “win-win” solution. This doesn't necessarily mean compromising. Sometimes compromising creates a quick-fix solution where no one is pleased with the outcome. Furthermore, important issues may be overlooked. Instead, in a "win-win" situation, needs are met on both sides. Win-win solutions can be created in a variety of different ways. Techniques like "brainstorming" and "pros vs. cons" lists work great.
- The resolution process isn't complete until you've made sure that forgiveness has taken place. This step is so crucial because emotional injury can occur when resentment or anger continues after the conflict has ended. Although feelings may be hurt once the argument has finished, it's important not to let the sun go down on your anger. Try to identify your own contribution to the problem and seek forgiveness from your mate.
All couples argue or fight at some point in their relationship. It’s not whether you fight or not that is important, It is how you fight that ultimately determines the fate of your marriage.
When you fight unfairly with your spouse you are, maybe unintentionally, sending them negative signals that can be way more harmful and hurtful than whatever it is you are arguing about.
When you fight in a way that deeply hurts your spouse their behavior will change. They may do whatever it takes to avoid a fight and become closed off. Telling you less about how they feel for fear of a fight and letting more problems build, furthering resentment. It is an endless cycle that makes the relationship more difficult to repair. Ultimately, this can end in feeling distant, alone, and possibly lead to divorce.
So how do you fight fairly?
- Establish a “time out” word that lets your partner know that you need some time out to cool down because you re bout to lose control. Maintaining control of your emotions during an argument is critical to successful resolution of your issues. You need to learn to recognize when you are bout to lose control and call for a time out before thinks escalate.
- Don’t interrupt your partner. When you interrupt your partner while they are talking, you are not listening to understand the issue and their feelings. Instead you are listening just long enough to think of a response. By interrupting, you are taking control of the conversation and signaling to your partner that you are not interested in what they have to say.
- Don’t get off track by bringing up the past. Most people feel the need to be “right” and, when irritated or in a marital fight, they bring in details of a partner’s past slights or transgressions.
- Attack the issue, not each other. Don’t belittle your spouse by name calling, hurling insults or bringing them low with attacks on their personal character. This is not constructive and won’t fix the problem. Talk about the issue, not the person.
- Take responsibility. If you are to blame for the issue or problem, take responsibility for hurting your partner and apologize. This restores your bond with your partner and lets them know how important your marriage is to you.
Those couples that practice fair fighting tend to argue and fight less in their marriage and generally stay together. The bond grows stronger and a more loving relationship is established.
Psychological research tells us that women are more likely to be nags than men. It is possible for husbands to nag, and wives to resent them for nagging. But women are more likely to nag, experts say, largely because they are conditioned to feel more responsible for managing home and family life.
Have you ever thought about what nagging is?
Nagging is finding fault with someone and criticizing them. It could be nitpicking every little thing your spouse does, like how he folds the laundry or how he eats soup. Often times nagging takes the form of commanding or demanding that your spouse do things and repeating it over and over again until they do it. In addition to words, nagging can include non-verbal body language such as eye rolls folded arms and angry stances.
Why Nagging Doesn't Work
- Even though your gripes may be valid, nagging makes your spouse resentful.
- Nagging makes your spouse defensive.
- Nagging puts you in the parent role and your spouse in the child role. This isn't healthy for your marriage relationship.
- Nagging is disrespectful.
- Nagging is often perceived as criticism, so your spouse may tune out making what you are saying ineffective.
- When your spouse is being nagged, he/she probably feels attacked personally.
- Nagging can make your spouse feel inadequate.
Three Ways to End Nagging
- Gratitude. Instead of worrying that your spouse did not do something they way you expected, thank them for what they did do. Chances are they will be more likely to want to do things when you ask them to.
- Ask Lovingly. Instead of telling our spouse to do something 5 times in the same encounter, we need to kindly ask him/her for what we need. Then, we ask him/her for an approximate time frame that he/she thinks he/she can complete the task–if our spouse says he/she can do it at all. And, then we wait. This shows our spouse that we trust him other to follow through on the task.
- Sit down with your spouse and tell them how you feel and what you need.
One person, no matter how much you love and trust them, can never meet all your expectations and needs. People will not change for you — and more importantly, you should not ask them to. Love, unconditional or otherwise, should never require supplication or submission, no matter how compelling the reason.
Nagging can make you lose track of who you are: two people who love each other and struggle with an ineffective communication habit. Think about changing your habit before you dream about changing your partner.
It was only about a hundred years ago that people married for a specific purpose such as to fulfill a financial arrangement, political alliance, social expectation or to procreate. I was not about emotion. However, in this century, marriage is based on passion, happiness, and fulfillment. Despite the change, many married couples are currently living sexually unfulfilling lives, In a recent survey conducted regarding couple’s sex lives, 46% of the couples surveyed stated that their sex life had flatlined.
Many modern couples see their sex life crowded out by the relentless demands of children, work pressures, not enough time alone -- and just not enough time. Allowing your physical relationship to fall to the bottom of a frantic "to-do list," experts say, can lead to dissatisfaction, loneliness, separation, and even divorce.
Sex is a powerful tie that binds and a pleasurable act for both partners. It should be an intimate connection to your partner that makes you feel alive and valued. It defines their relationship physically, emotionally and spiritually.
What can you do to get that spark back?
Focus your communication on what you want in bed
Many couples find it difficult to talk to each other about sensitive topics, so years go by with both of them skirting around issues until something breaks and the bitterness spills out.
Communicate well with your partner is essential. Think about what has aroused you in the past or about the things you wish your husband would do when the two of you are under the covers. Do you hear yourself thinking, "I wish he'd touch my neck or breasts?" If so, fill him in the next time you are getting snuggly. Don’t be too embarrassed to speak up about what you don’t like. Faking it encourages your partner to keep doing it wrong and cheats you out of being satisfied. Try saying “ I like it when you gently massage and kiss my breasts instead of squeezing them.”
- Sit and talk through your feelings about sex to prevent him/her from feeling rejected or hurt and to gain support.
- Have conversations that discuss what each partner would like from their sex life.
- What one thing, if it were eliminated from your sex life, would improve your sex life?.
Reinstate Daily Touching
Remember when, early in your relationship, just brushing your partner’s hand could send an electrifying spark through you. As the years go by, physical contact can become less and less or more routine. Make it a point to sneak up and hug your partner, hold hands while watching TV, rub your partner’s shoulders after a hard day, etc. Kiss your partner before heading out the door for the day.
As you starting reaching out to each other more, the connection will re-establish, and you will feel more loved and more inclined toward intimacy.
Create the right setting
An excellent sexual approach made appropriately and in a healthy environment has the best prospect of succeeding. Spruce up your room and reduce the clutter so you are not distracted and can focus on other things. Try dressing a little sexy. Put scented or perfumed candles in the room as your sense of smell plays an important part when it comes to sexual arousal. A warm bedroom -- with soft lights, if possible and low music -- makes for a good and healthy sexual environment.
Try something new
Rather than doing the same old things between the sheets, try something a little different and unique. Try new sexual positions or merely change the order of your routine. If you find that you are always too tired for sex before going to sleep, start having sex in the morning.
More foreplay during sex will stimulate orgasms.
Either in a warm bath, using soap or oil, or in a warm bed using lotion to make your hands glide smoothly, massage each others' bodies all over.
People have different attitudes towards sex toys and games, but most are sure to find a few sex aids with which they are comfortable. Aphrodisiacs -- asparagus, oysters, champagne, and chocolates -- may help get you in the mood.
In serious long term relationship, sexual intimacy thrives on the overall connection of the couple. So get busy addressing the issues that are damaging your connection and consciously build positive experiences with each other, and you will boost your sex drive.
According to a marriage study conducted by the University of Georgia, approximately 15% of married couples are sexless: Spouses haven’t had sex with each other in the past six months to one year. If a couple doesn’t have sex, but they both feel satisfied, then there is no problem. The issue is when there’s a mismatch in desire.
Sex drive can be affected by a number of things, including depression, medication, stress, health, affairs, previous sexual trauma, pornography, and pain with sex, medical issues such as erectile dysfunction, and relationship dissatisfaction.
Each partner deserves to be happy in the relationship, and to have his or her needs met. People are not naturally made to be celibate. If a partner is not getting what they need sexually from the relationship, it opens the door to adultery, divorce etc.
Why would someone stay in a sexless marriage?
- Too embarrassed to talk about it.
Many people are embarrassed about sex and have difficulty talking about it –even with their partner. So they just go along pretending that things will get better over time.
If a problem is never acknowledged, it is not very likely that it will get better with time. There is nothing embarrassing about having sex, enjoying sex or wanting better and more sex. Sex is an important aspect of a marital relationship. If you love the person you’re with, then the sooner you speak up, the better. You can’t expect the other person to read your mind.
- Fear that you are not doing something right.
Good sex is something that can be learned or in some instances taught. If you have an open and honest relationship with your partner, it should be fairly easy and even enjoyable teaching each other what feels good and what doesn't. Exploring each other’s body is sensual and most importantly, it bonds you both in an intimate, deeply meaningful way.
When a marriage is sexless because one partner simply does not want sex, it can lead to deep hurt for the other partner. They can feel unattractive, unwanted, and ultimately unloved. Most people assume it is the wife who does not want sex, but in 35% of marriages, it is the man who does not want to engage in sex.
You don’t have to settle for a sexless marriage.
The first step is to understand why your relationship is sexless.
You may no longer feel physically attracted to your partner or vice-versa. You may just not set aside time to be intimate because you and your partner have numerous commitments and responsibilities. You may find sex boring because it doesn’t feel good to you.
No matter what the reason, you and your partner need to communicate with each other to determine the reason.
Spend time together and do things together. Over time, many couples drift apart and, although they live together under the same roof, they live separate lives. Start taking an interest in something your spouse does and join in. As you spend time together, you will talk and your friendship and relationship will build. The rest will come naturally.
The third step is to take it slow with your partner. While many men can get aroused immediately, it usually takes a woman several minutes of foreplay to begin to get aroused. Cuddle, touch, kiss and whisper things you love about your partner into their ear. Often times, affection and caring can arouse your partner into sex.
Every part of a successful relationship takes work and attention. Sex is no different. It’s as important as keeping good communication going and showing one another care and affection. They are all interconnected. As you work on your relationship, you will find your feelings will develop and grow and sex will become an enjoyable and natural part of your marriage again.
Trust and Respect go hand in hand in a relationship. If you respect someone, it is easy to trust him or her, and if you trust someone it means that you respect him or her as well. Respect is a precursor to trust, it has to come first. Trust is earned after there is already some level of respect there.
When you respect someone, you hold him or her in high esteem.
Listening to your partner and trying to understand their perspective is a key way to show respect in your relationship.
It’s OK to disagree. Don’t try to persuade them to change their mind about things that are important to them. In a healthy relationship, both partners will have mutual respect for one another. Just because you don’t always see eye to eye, it doesn’t mean that one person needs to change their mind in order for your relationship to work. You can disagree with someone and still respect his or her opinion. Part of what makes relationships awesome is the differences!
Boundaries. Another key way to establish respect in a relationship is to be considerate of your partner’s privacy and boundaries. You are not entitled to know everything that your partner does and everyone who they interact with. We all have personal boundaries on what makes us feel good, comfortable, safe, etc. In a healthy relationship, you should feel 100% comfortable communicating those boundaries and know that they will be respected (and vice versa for your partner).
Safeguard your partner’s feelings. It also means being mindful of your partner’s feelings and not doing things that might really hurt them, like keeping things that are supposed to be private just between you two.
When you trust someone, you believe him or her to be a person of high character that will do things that are in your best interest.
Trust is an important component of any healthy relationship. If your relationship lacks trust, it's hard to get close to the other person and rely on him or her for support. Trust does not happen automatically. It is created gradually, over time and across a series of interactions.
Safety. When you trust someone, you believe him or her to be reliable, you feel safe around him or her both physically and emotionally.
Sharing. It’s easy to share both your dreams and disappointments with someone you trust.
Dependability. You know they will be there for you, without judgment.
Showing trust and respect may sound complicated, but it’s really not. It all comes down to doing what you say you are going to do, listening to your partner, and being kind to them.