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When Respect Is Lost In Your Couples Relationship! 3 Ways to Build Respect

A biracial couple is sitting together in their home. The man is sitting on a hair with his hands together. The woman is sitting on the floor leaning on his leg as they look at each other.

When Respect Is Lost In Your Couples Relationship! 3 Ways to Build Respect

A biracial couple is sitting together in their home. The man is sitting on a hair with his hands together. The woman is sitting on the floor leaning on his leg as they look at each other.

Respect is a fundamental pillar of any healthy and thriving relationship. It forms the foundation for trust, love, and communication. In our Woodland Hills couples therapy sessions, we tend to hear from people that they know when they feel respected (or disrespected) but have a hard time articulating where those exact feelings come from and how they identify respect. Regardless of how tangible respect is, it is an imperative aspect of any interpersonal relationship.

Most people would agree that, in theory, they would never be with a person who doesn’t respect them. However, there are times when respect can wane, leading to feelings of resentment, frustration, and disconnection. This can be due to misunderstandings, to incompatible methods of communication, and to a lack of established guidelines and boundaries that set you up to feel safe and connected in your partnership. If you find that respect has been lost in your relationship, addressing the issue promptly is crucial so that you can develop methods of supporting one another.

Why Respect Is Important in a Relationship

A biracial couple is sitting beside each other in the living room on the couch. They are high-fiving each other as they smile. In front of them is an open laptop.

Respect in a relationship goes beyond mere politeness or consideration; it encompasses a deep-seated appreciation for each other’s individuality, values, and boundaries. Both partners feel valued, heard, and understood when respect is present. It fosters a sense of safety and trust, allowing each person to be their authentic self without fear of judgment or rejection.

3 Ways to Build Respect

1) Practice Active Listening:

Active listening is one of the most effective ways to rebuild respect in a relationship. This means truly hearing and understanding what your partner is saying, without interrupting or formulating your response while they’re speaking. You might not have had active listening modeled for you when you were growing up, either because you were raised by a single parent, or because your caretakers hadn’t developed that skill. Even if it takes time and practice, it is worth it to make that effort so that you and your partner truly see and hear one another.

A lesbian couple is sitting together on the couch. Both of their feet are up on the couch as they smile and talk.

One of the common mistakes couples make when communicating with one another is to assume that just because one person is speaking and the other isn’t, that there is listening going on. Active listening means that you are obtaining information in order to understand better, not just to respond. It means you are curious about what the other person is saying rather than jumping to conclusions about where the conversation is going. Staying present at the moment can be tricky; you might remember times in the past when you talked about this subject or something similar and be tempted to recall that conversation instead of paying attention to this one.

Unfortunately, no matter how close we are to someone or how much we care for them, we can all get stuck in the trap of assuming the worst when we are on the defensive. When you are not feeling like your best self, you can be quicker to misunderstand, misinterpret, or hold judgment about the other person. Check-in with yourself during conversations; are you taking your partner at their word? Do you understand what they are talking about? What could you use clarification about? Ask questions when you need to in order to make sure, so that you can both carry on with the conversation without being distracted, confused, or lost in your own thoughts.

Our clients who see us for couples therapy in Woodland Hills often note that active listening is a game-changer in their relationship. One of the tools they utilize is paying attention to non-verbal cues as well as what their partner is saying. Take note of your partner’s body language: do they seem closed off and self-protective? Are they fidgeting? Or are they seeming relaxed and/or confident? Does their body language seem to match what they are talking about? While you can’t always have face-to-face conversations with your partner, the times when you are together can be improved by paying attention to their tone of voice, movements, and overall demeanor. Active listening is also about minding your own body language. Do you lean in or away? Are your arms folded? Do you make eye contact?

Whenever possible, have important conversations intentionally. Set aside a time to talk that isn’t likely to be interrupted when both of you feel ready and able to communicate. Day-to-day information sometimes has to be relayed via technology or in passing. Making sure to prepare for the more significant subjects can go a long way toward making sure each other feels heard in spite of how busy life can sometimes get.

Taking an active stance in conversations includes feedback and confirmation. For example, you might say, “I hear you are saying…” and explain to your partner what it is you’ve surmised from what they were saying. This is your opportunity to confirm your comprehension and your partner’s opportunity to know that you were taking in what was being said and interpreting the information as best as you could. When we feel misunderstood and get the sense that we are not truly seen, we begin to feel neglected and underappreciated. This lack of care can turn to feeling disrespected very quickly.

2) Show Appreciation and Gratitude:

A senior couple is cooking together in their kitchen. The husband is feeding the wife with a wooden spoon. They are both happy and smiling.

No matter how long we’ve been with someone and how many times they’ve told us what they like about us, that they’re committed to us, and that they appreciate us, it is important to continue to do so. It is far too easy to feel underappreciated when our partner become complacent about showing us they notice what we do for them. Regularly expressing appreciation and gratitude can significantly enhance respect in your relationship. Acknowledge the small and big things your partner does, and let them know you value their efforts.

It may seem like a no-brainer to show your partner you appreciate them, but it’s actually one of the things that can be the first to go out the window when you’re navigating your daily life. Because our brains like predictability, the everyday aspects of our lives can fade into the background. If you take the same route to work every day, if you eat the same breakfast, if you have certain clothing you wear for certain events, those things become part of your routine. New sensory information, events that break the routine, stand out more. If your partner makes you coffee every morning, that act can easily get filed away into your “daily predictable life” folder. When something is a given, it’s harder to step back and think about what it really means to you. But this is exactly what you should be doing. A great rule of thumb is to say “thank you” at the time when it comes to the ‘everyday things’, and to also make a point of bringing it up out of context. You might say, “I was thinking today about how much I appreciate that you make coffee for me every morning. Thank you for doing that.” Those words don’t take much time to say, but they can go a long way toward making your partner feel appreciated.

Many people keep a gratitude journal, where they write a certain number of things per day that they are grateful for. If you were to keep a gratitude journal about your partner, what would it say? Do you take the time to notice those things; do you communicate them to your partner?

Being mindful and present helps us to notice the everyday things about the people in our lives. When you aren’t thinking about what happened yesterday, or planning what you’re going to do in an hour, you are able to take in your current surroundings. Yes, there will always be times of acute stress where you aren’t able to be as present. The goal is to make those times the minority of your life. The rest of the time, when you are paying attention to the world around you and really taking note of it, you are setting yourself up to experience your life in a more real way.

Being grounded means that you are able to notice every time your partner takes out the trash, calls a maintenance person for a repair, makes you a snack, shows interest in your day, makes you laugh, comforts you, impresses you, and more. All the little pieces of every single day with this person form a whole picture, but they are still individual pieces.

If you and your partner have different love languages, you may struggle to take note of the ways they show up for you, and they may struggle to take note of the way you show up for them. If your love language is acts of service, and theirs is words of affirmation, you might not notice how often your partner is communicating affection and respect for you because it’s not being said in your default love language. This can be a challenge, but it’s not an insurmountable one. You can both work on speaking each other’s language a little more, both in showing love the way they prefer, and in receiving it the way they prefer.

3) Establish and Honor Boundaries:

A couple is hugging each other in their home. The woman is smiling as she tightly grips her husband.

Boundaries are essential for maintaining respect in a relationship. They help each partner understand what is acceptable and what isn’t, fostering a sense of safety and respect. If you struggle with boundaries, you are not the only one. As a marriage counselor in Woodland Hills, I hear a lot from people who have a hard time identifying their boundaries, communicating them, and upholding them. You may find that this applies to all relationships in your life, not just your romantic ones.

When you attend in-person or online marriage therapy, you may want to devote some time to talking about boundaries. In the past, if you’ve had partners who didn’t respect your boundaries, you may have given up communicating them, or even lost track of what they exactly were. It may feel challenging to voice your needs now, or you might be tempted to let your boundaries go rather than affirming them. When you know and uphold your own boundaries, you respect yourself. By communicating this information to your partner, you give them the tools to respect you, too.

While there are always times in our lives when we have to compromise here or there, it is important not to always be forgetting or adjusting your own boundaries. Recovering from having your boundaries crossed requires you to take from the emotional bank of your relationship. Over time, your deposits of happy memories and feelings of emotional safety will be depleted. Staying firm about what matters to you is your way to staying firm about wanting to be in a healthy and functioning relationship.

Your boundaries might be about language and tone of voice. For some, boundaries around yelling or name-calling are non-negotiable. How and when you two communicate, and the subject matter that is discussed, is something that can take a lot of practice. For example, if there are certain issues that are triggering for you, your partner should take care as to how (or even if) they bring it up to you.

You may have needs regarding time management. If you are out with a friend for a couple hours and want to give that person your undivided attention, a good boundary to set is that you will make contact on your way home, and won’t be available to communicate outside of any emergencies until that time. If your partner cannot respect that you have a life outside of your relationship with them, that can leave you feeling disrespected and devalued. Similarly, if you can’t ever get a hold of your partner when you are apart, you might experience the same distress.

Not only is it crucial to understand your boundaries and your partner’s boundaries, but to figure out how you will convey when they’ve been crossed, and recover from it. We are all bound to make missteps in our relationships, and dealing with another person’s boundaries is rife with opportunities to slip up. Having a plan in place for discussing the issue and then moving forward as a team can help you both to feel confident in your commitment to staying together and maintaining the health of your relationship. It is crucial in all relationships to know how to apologize.

A biracial couple is riding bikes together on the sidewalk at the beach. They are both laughing together as they ride side by side.

Because everyone is different, has been raised differently, and has different priorities and love languages, two people in a relationship can have wildly different ideas of what constitutes respect. You may wish to make time to discuss how each of you interprets respect in couples therapy. Keep in mind that there are many ways to show respect: respect of time, resources, body, ideas, feelings, and more. If the two of you approach mutual respect from different perspectives, you can still learn to adapt to one another’s wants and needs. What matters is putting in the effort to foster a dynamic and an environment in which your relationship is one of mutual respect, through the easier times and the harder times.

Couples Therapy In Woodland Hills

By the time you reach outto a marital counselor, your relationship may feel broken and disconnected. Often, couples report years of conflict and lack of trust before reaching out to a couple’s therapist. We understand the fragile place your couple’s relationship is in by the time you book an appointment with us. We want to take accountability for the past while also being hopeful for the future. With Couples Therapy in Woodland Hills, CA, our Gottman-trained couple’s counselors will guide you in mapping out the strengths and the weaknesses of your relationship. Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team today!

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