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Respect Yourself: Improve Your Relationship

In counseling, we frequently hear concerns expressed about a lack of respect hurting relationships. Many people think that if their partner would just conform and do things the way they want them done, that they would then feel respected. Respect is an important foundation of any healthy relationship. But it begins with self-respect. Ask yourself, Am I easily offended? Do I justify my anger at my partner by thinking things like, if only s/he would change then I could be happy, feel respected, etc? The reality is that the better we feel about our self the less likely we are to be offended and angry at the behavior of others.

It is very empowering and freeing to NOT be dependent on the behavior of others to feel respected or loved. When our self-respect and self-esteem are high we are far less reactive to the behavior of others. When our self-respect and self-esteem are low and someone does something that we see as disrespectful we can feel a loss of control and respond with anger.

In the long run, it is our behavior, not our partner’s that determines how we feel about our self. The more we guard our integrity by making good choices, rather than choices of convenience or appearance, the better we will feel about our self. The better we feel about our self, the less likely we are to over react to our partner’s behavior. When we feel good about our self, we are more likely to be patient, understanding and generous with our partner.

Choices of appearance are those you make to make yourself look good or keep yourself out of trouble. Choices of convenience are based on what feels good in the moment, rather than on what you know is right or good. Whenever we make choices that go against our values, when we do what we believe to be wrong, we hurt our self-respect and self-esteem.

The greater our sense of self-respect, the less we will crave and demand respect from others. The more we are in control of our self, our behavior and feelings; the less we will feel the need to control and manage others.

When Your Partner Says Hurtful Things

In a perfect world partners would always be kind, considerate and thoughtful toward each other. The reality is that partners sometimes, due to stress, fatigue or down right meanness do not always treat each other with respect. What are you to do with the cheap shots from your partner or others?

There are three possible types of responses when someone verbally assaults you. 1. Withdraw 2. Counterattack 3. Stand your ground


The first two responses only make matters worse. When you withdraw, you make yourself and easy target and it is only a matter of time before resentment will start to build. On the other hand if you counter attack things can get really ugly quickly.

Standing your ground involves first checking to see if you have misinterpreted what they said. Try saying something like, “Ouch, it sounds to me like you are saying that I am stupid. Is that what you are trying to say?” Or, “When you said _____, what are you trying to say?”

When you respect yourself by standing your ground, others will respect you as well.

However the best way to neutralize verbal attacks is to fortify the target. When you feel good about who you are, you will be far less affected by other’s comments. I ask, clients who are very distraught because their partner has said hurtful things to them, to think about how they would feel if their partner called them a purple dinosaur. Most of them respond that that would not bother them at all. I ask them to think about why that would not bother them. They say things like, “Well, it’s ridiculous.” Or “That’s just silly.”

The point is that it does not hurt because it is not true. There is not one little bit of them that on any level believes that they are a purple dinosaur. But often people, on some level, some part of them, do believe that they are stupid, ugly, a bad mother, or horrible person. Those beliefs create ready targets for verbal attacks.

Feeling good about yourself removes the ammunition from your partner’s arsenal. You need to hang onto yourself and give yourself the validation that you need, rather than depending on your partner to make you feel good about yourself.