Respect may best be defined as the way you show true appreciation for another person. Respect is an action, not just a feeling. It’s a declaration of value for someone. We demonstrate respect by how we behave toward another person.
And it’s fairly easy to recognize when someone respects (or disrespects) another person.
The show of respect is usually thought of as coming from a place of inferiority. Pictures come to mind of soldiers standing at attention when high-ranking officers enter the room, or of hard-working employees speaking highly of their boss.
Respect in a healthy marriage is different, though. It’s a two-way street. Both parties in the relationship crave and deserve equal respect from the other, and rightly so. Respect is shown in marriage not because one person is more superior than the other, but because each person recognizes the value of the other.
In marriage, mutual respect matters.
But why? Why does mutual respect play such a critical part in a healthy marriage?
Here are four reasons:
Mutual respect eliminates the fear of being different. Let me explain. In your marriage, you and your partner each come to the relationship as individuals. You have your own personality traits, talents, quirks, past experiences, and interests. Showing mutual respect demonstrates an appreciation for each other—differences and all. Your respect toward your spouse gives value to the differences they bring to the relationship. When mutual respect is given, it opens up a vulnerability for each person to be who they are without the fear of being devalued or judged unfairly.
Mutual respect upholds healthy boundaries in the relationship.Even the healthiest marriages reinforce proper boundaries. When you show respect—appreciation for your spouse, you recognize certain needs. For example, I’m the kind of person who really has to have some time alone each day just to recharge. My wife respects that (even though she doesn’t have the same need), and so she knows when to give me some space. It’s important to my wife that there’s no name-calling between us, even if it’s in jest (because often things can go too far or easily be misinterpreted). I try to respect that, even though playful name-calling was a part of my upbringing. Mutual respect gives strength to uphold these boundaries.
Mutual respect compels you to “check your jersey” when you have disagreements. I love this phrase (which I borrowed from Kyle Benson, a blogger for The Gottman Institute). In the heat of a conflict, it can be easy to fall into the false notion that your spouse is working against you in this team effort called marriage. Respect doesn’t take away the chances that disagreements will happen; they will, even in the best of marriages. But when you practice mutual respect in marriage—and practice it often—you are more confident that, despite the conflict, you know you and your spouse are on the same team and working toward the same thing. You can see more clearly that you’re wearing the same jersey.
Mutual respect strengthens the friendship between you and your spouse. Relationship researcher John Gottman says that long-term vitality and connection is grown through intentional friendship in your marriage. In other words, marriage is healthy when you and your spouse deepen your friendship. Because it shows appreciation and value for your partner, showing mutual respect provides the space for friendship to grow. Why? Because it takes the fear of vulnerability out of the equation. My wife is my best friend because it’s with her that I can be the most vulnerable. That can’t happen without mutual respect.
★ But wait… there’s more!
BONUS REASON why mutual respect matters in marriage!
Mutual respect needs to be modeled to children. If you and your spouse are parents, no doubt you want to raise them to be respectful adults. A child’s primary source for lessons on respect come from watching how their parents behave toward each other. My wife and I have two daughters, and I think it’s important for them to understand how husbands and wives should treat each other—with warmth, care and respect. Hopefully, they can see that in us. Mutual respect in a marriage is essential for teaching kids to be respectful.
Mutual respect matters in your marriage. 🔎 Find the ways to appreciate your spouse—differences and all—and show that appreciation on a daily basis. Declare your spouse’s value in your actions. You’ll be better friends, better parents, and better teammates.
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***