Being the best partner — 14 August 2008
How to verbally convey your respect for your partner

One of the more painful sentences a partner may utter is: “I just don’t respect you”. Since respect is one of the basic tenets of love, loss of it seriously damages the couple’s connection. Not only do mates have to feel and act upon their respect for each other, they are also wise to verbally state it on a regular basis.

The dictionary definition of respect is: ”a holding in high estimation or honor”. Respecting another encompasses many types of high regard: valuing another’s intellect and judgment, physical and mental being, actions, emotion, character, and his/her primacy in your life. Mutual validations of each of these areas help both mates feel esteemed and loved and fosters deeper closeness between them. Conversely, the absence of acknowledgments of respect erodes confidence and creates distancing within the relationship. In worse case scenarios when the respect is lost, contempt may surface which can seriously threaten the union.

As with every worthwhile treasure, relationships require ongoing maintenance and upgrades. Allowing the original high regard for each other to wane, or to not be repeatedly extolled interferes with emotional closeness.

Some people who deeply respect their mates are at a loss for words to express their positive regard. Others talk of feeling awkward, embarrassed or vulnerable when affirming their spouse. Valuing your partner does not dis-empower you; it only accentuates your personal-esteem and maturity.

Here are a few examples of how respect can be easily conveyed.

Respect for intellect and judgment: “ I appreciate your ideas.” “I like having a partner with whom I can discuss issues so well. ” “ I defer to you in this area, you are so knowledgeable about it.” “You have a great mind”. “I support your decision making process.”

Respect for competency: “It was not a stupid choice, it made complete sense under the circumstances, even if it did not turn out well.” “ I can always count on you to handle whatever comes up with the kids really well. I am a lucky to have you as the children’s mom/dad.”

Respect for partner’s wellbeing: “How was your day?” asked with sincere interest, eye contact and attentive closeness. “You look really tired, I’ll take care of the kids while you take a nap.” “ What did the doctor say?” “I am so sorry for your discomfort. How can I help?” “It is so wonderful to see you feeling well and happy.”

Respect for actions and competency: “You are so organized, I admire how well everything runs when you manage it.” “Your employer is so lucky to have you. You are such a competent, hard working, creative and loyal employee.” “What you accomplish in one day most people can’t do in a week.” “I can not think of anyone I’d respect more to manage our funds, you do such a great job.” “ I love to listen to you, you are a great story teller.”

Respect for your partner’s emotions: “I can certainly understand why you got upset about it, you were not treated well by this person.” “It is not silly to laugh about it, I, too find it really funny.” “Your friend, who did not acknowledge your help, erred in failing to appreciate your kindness.”

Respect for your partner’s character: ”You are such a loving person and enrich so many people’s lives.” “Your sense of humor is so unique and refreshing.” “Everyone admires your honesty and truthfulness.” “ When you speak, everyone listens because you are so wise.”

Respect for the primacy of your partner to you: “If you are uncomfortable about this party, we will not attend.” “Did I tell you lately how lucky I am to have you as my wife/husband?” “How can I help make your life better?” “You have always been and still are the most important person in my life, now and forever.”

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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