Every wife sets out intending to respect her husband. She thinks she is being respectful, she wouldn't dream of doing or being otherwise! The high divorce rate has shown, however, that most wives do not understand what respect looks like, or what it even means to her man. Nor do they understand that feeling respected is as life-giving to him as breathing oxygen.
Sit-coms and Hollywood portrayals of men and husbands are just a few aspects of our modern culture which have undermined wives and women's understanding of respect and just how emasculating and harmful disrespect is for a man. The feminist movement has also served to pour fuel on this gross misunderstanding. Focused on our right to be right, and screamed at that we must communicate and say how we feel, we have lost the wisdom and vision of dignified, simple respect.
Give it a go. How would you describe what it looks like to respect your man? What if you disagree with him or surely know better than him? What if you truly believe he needs your help to succeed? What if he has done something to un-earn your respect?
Ramona Zabriskie, author of Wife for Life and the Wifesaver podcast, holds that respect, "First Respect," as she calls it, is the first principle resulting in a healthy and happy marriage. Indeed, restoring respect for your man in your marriage relationship is the first outreaching skill espoused by Laura Doyle, world-renowned relationship expert and coach. She teaches unrelentingly that respect is the best aphrodisiac for men! Respect to a man is all about trusting and listening. It is choosing intimacy over choosing to control. It is choosing intimacy over choosing to be right.
Let's talk first a little about trust. Trust can be tricky, especially in situations where your man may have said or done things that have lost your trust in the past. The key here is to exercise grace, and remember that he is a mere mortal man and you are a mere mortal woman and that neither he, nor you, are perfect. He may have made mistakes. He almost certainly has! They may have been huge and painful or financially ruinous. He may have broken your heart. Restoring trust is key to respect. People tend to live up to our expectations, especially men with their wives. So begin showing up in a trusting way to your man in these ways:
1) "Faith" it until you make it. Even if you feel like it's a lie, get off the fence and commit fully to showing him you trust and respect him by:
2) Stop doing anything for him that he can do for himself. That's right- stop helping him. Stop doing things for him, and instead, focus on doing things for yourself and caring for yourself in ways that you love and enjoy! If leaning on you to make decisions in his behalf is familiar to him, he may bait you by asking for your help or opinion. Laura Doyle suggests a "cheat phrase" to show respect. One is a response to use whenever you are tempted make choices for him or the two of you which you've always taken the liberty to make (because you, of course, know best): "Whatever you think." The subtext here is "I trust you. You've got this." Even if he's not baiting you, he may just be thinking out loud about a problem/solution for himself or for the two of you. Resist the temptation to voice your all-knowing opinion, whether out of control or fear, and turn the thinking and decision-making over to him, expecting the best outcome. As a bonus, you won't have to take on difficult things that aren't your responsibility, and you can let him do more things for you- and say thank you when he does! (Important: if he is actually asking you about your desire, such as where you would like to go out to eat, be sure to express your desire so he can please you. You will learn to differentiate between the out-loud problem/solution thinking or baiting, and his asking for your desire.)
Now let's break and talk about listening. When committing to respect your man, Laura Doyle suggests to begin practicing by listening for an hour- or more- to your man. You may at first think he will never talk. The silence on your date or on the couch will just go on and on. But keep quiet and listen, and you will be surprised what starts to happen. If he has been disrespected in the past, he may be slow to open up. Listen, and become that safe place for him to land.
3) Listen to him and observe him without criticizing him, contradicting him or dismissing his ideas. Instead, try another of Laura Doyle's "cheat phrases." After all, as Laura reminds us, you do not have to agree with him, you only have to bear witness. When he is expressing ideas or opinions, simply responding with "I hear you" lets him know that you, well, hear him. You don't agree. You don't disagree. You witness his ideas, thoughts and desires. You are trading being right and being helpful (controlling) for intimacy. It's one or the other- it cannot be both! Hear him. This is very respectful. Sometimes, when he is doing or saying something his way, very different from your way, instead of giving your opinion or giving into your fear, try zipping your lips and trusting him. Laura Doyle calls this "duct tape," or simply keeping quiet and respecting that his way might be just as good, or better than yours. Value intimacy and respect over being right, opinionated and ever in control.
4) Trade habitual complaining for the worthy work of expressing your pure wants and desires. Complaining is extremely disrespectful to your man. The subtext is that he cannot EVER make you happy. And newsflash: men literally cannot hear complaints, except for the damaging subtext. Complaints are just as effective as talking at a brick wall. They fall, literally, on deaf ears. If you take a hard look at yourself, you will likely find that you have learned, by example and default, to complain when things aren't going your way. Miraculously, under every complaint is a hidden pure desire- the way things would go if you could wave a magic wand and get the very best outcome. In order to express these pure desires, you must do the worthy work of unburying them from underneath your lazy complaint. Discover your desire, then vulnerably express it with this very effective "cheat phrase." "I would love [fill in the blank].." (Beware that this phrase cannot be used followed by "you," as in: "I would love it if YOU..." but everything else is fair game! So when you are tempted to complain, take the extra time to nobly find the buried desire. Then inspiringly express it to your man. You will be doing yourself- and him- a huge, respectful favor. Because it is extremely respectful for you to tell him EXACTLY how to make you happy.
5) Apologize for being disrespectful when you are. Again, you are a mere mortal woman and you will make mistakes and disrespect your man, even if it is unintentional or only habitual. Your practice will bear fruit, but along the way, clean up any mess with a simple apology. When you finish his sentences, talk for him, tell him what to wear, say you shouldn't to go out to eat in order to save money, tell him he needs to make more money, or roll your eyes at him- apologize. The most effective phrase to use to do so is "I apologize for being disrespectful when I [fill in the blank with your disrespectful words or actions]."
6) Keep all verbal communication with your man to short, simple and vulnerable phrases- expressing ONLY gratitude, appreciation and pure desires. Expressing gratitude and appreciation along with your pure desires is very respectful to your man. That's right, ladies- save your long drawn-out stories and expressions of your feelings and worries, and all the processing of your complicated emotions- for your mom, your sisters and your girlfriends - or your diary. That's right- your man is not your emotional processing center. It is very disrespectful to expect him to be! When he has hurt you- and he will- don't just suck it up- share your hurt with a trusted friend or write it in a thought-dump notebook to process it. Use these short, vulnerable "cheat phrases" to let him know where you stand. When he says something short or hurtful or treats you badly, simply say "Ouch!" When you feel neglected or that he isn't spending enough time with you, say "I miss you." And when you feel he expects you, or you expect yourself to carry on responsibilities or burdens that will result in your feeling resentful or unsafe and will not allow you enough time and space for self-care, simply say "I can't." Continue to search out your pure desires (hidden underneath all those lazy, useless complaints) and express them often to him (#4) and make it an indispensable practice to express 3 things to him daily that you are thankful he has done for you. When you find yourself collecting evidence of the negative, "drop and do 10,", as Laura Doyle would say- 10 gratitudes. This is the practice of listing on paper, digitally or in your mind at least 10 things you are thankful for about your man. Make sure to, each day, express at least 3 of them to him. Knowing how to communicate respectfully is a lost art, and you will be so attractive and wonderful to him when you learn how to do so respectfully! And bonus: what you focus on grows! So focus on what's going well.
7) Say yes to sex. Honoring this unique part of your relationship is very respectful to your man. After all, it is the only aspect of your relationship that differentiates it from any other friendship or relationship on earth. It is a feminine trait to want to be desired and pursued, and it is the essence of femininity to receive. Don't be fooled by the lie that sex is yet another thing you are being asked to give him, or expected to do, when you already give so much. Sex in marriage is the ultimate act of receiving- his affection, his pleasure, his time, his attention. Keep this mantra foremost in your mind - receive, receive, receive- and it will change so much for the better the way you make love and the way you experience and think about sex with your man. It is also true that you aren't always in the mood when he desires to give this gift to you, but if you commit to stay open and receptive to his desire to please and spend time with you, you will nearly always get there. And this is doing him- and yourself- such a respectful favor!
Perhaps the most amazing thing about respect in your man's eyes, is that you alone hold the key. You would never lock your man in a room without oxygen! And now that you understand respect- and that it is just as important to your man's survival as breathing oxygen, you will never deprive him of it. Instead, you will find every opportunity to restore plenty of respect into your relationship, to replenish it often, and to use your power - the key only you hold- to unlock the bonds of disrespect created by an ignorant and apathetic society so that intimacy in your relationship and peace in your home can thrive.