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If My Partner Doesn't Respect Me, What Should I Do?

same sex couple respectfully communicating

First of all, ouch. That is a painful place to be! As there are two faces of every mountain, so is true with any relational issue. Your partner's display of disrespect is partly their stuff, and partly your stuff together as a relationship. What is tricky, is you can't start by pointing out their stuff. That is a hot recipe for immediate defensiveness. Here are 5 tips for building respectful relationships.

  1. Get out a piece of paper and write out all of the behaviors that make you feel disrespected. Are you participating in these same behaviors? Make a goal for yourself to model the behavior you want your partner to perform. You might even say something to them along the lines of, "Hey, I've realized that I've been asking you for a few things that I also need to work on. I just want you to know that I am actively trying to improve on these specific things. Is there anything else that would help you feel more respected in our relationship?"

  2. What do you do when you feel disrespected? Depending on the dynamic of your relationship, you might be retaliating due to feelings of being disrespected in more passive ways. He leaves his dishes in the sink for you to clean so you "forget" to pick up your dirty clothes. It is understandable that sometimes we just want our partner to feel how we feel, see how the shoe fits, so to speak. Ultimately, this doesn't solve anything. When you feel disrespected, it's ok to just say that you feel that way. That is the mature approach to test if your partner will respond to your needs.

  3. Examine the ways in which you have felt disrespected by others throughout your life and share these experiences with your partner. When I was younger my parents never listened to my feelings and then expected me to care about theirs. Or maybe, My last girlfriend used me as the butt of the joke often, and now I don't like any jokes at my expense. Whatever it is, this could be your other side of the mountain. Perhaps some of what you are feeling isn't really about how your partner is treating you, rather the specific things you are sensitive to that come from your past. A good partner is going to be sensitive to things you are sensitive about. They might not get it right 100% of the time, but they will try.

  4. Learn about boundaries. Many people misunderstand boundaries as things you dictate to another person. A boundary is an action you decide to take when someone shows you that they do not care about your needs. Again, write down on a piece of paper behaviors that violate your needs. An easier way to define this is to think about what is ok, and what is not ok (thank you Brene Brown for helping us with this one!). Sometimes we think we are setting a boundary when really we are just walking around with a giant red sign on our forehead that says, "NO". Setting a boundary is as much an opportunity to invite good things as it is to be firm about things that are harming you. Don't take advantage of boundary setting. It will backfire. It's not a boundary if you're taking advantage of someone else.

  5. Respect is an essential relational wellness element. You can't have connection without it. You can't have real intimacy (in-to-me-see) without it. If respect is broken in your relationship, and you do everything you can to be respectful to your partner and it is not reciprocated, you have to be prepared to walk away. Unfortunately, most people will only respect us up to the point we respect ourselves. This step is a two-parter. First - develop and cultivate respect for yourself. Treat yourself well. Show others that you care about yourself by taking care of your needs even when they don't. Second - be confident that you deserve to be treated with respect. Respect is required for love. Let me say that again in a different way - a person who says they love you, but does not respect you, does not love you. It is ok to expect respect when you know that you are delivering it.

If you think you need supporting in cultivating respect in your relationship, schedule an appointment today.

DD Love, MFTC - (970) 852-0687 -

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