How to Talk to Your Spouse When You Feel Disrespected

These steps can help you express yourself so you can feel heard.
By Reggie Madison
February 3, 2021

Feeling disrespected by your spouse can be one of the most conflicting feelings ever. Part of you wants to believe the person you love truly loves and values you. On the other hand, it can be demoralizing and hurtful to live with someone you feel dismisses you or doesn’t appreciate you. 

Not dealing with disrespect can make you feel less confident, less important, and downright angry. Trying to deal with the pain alone can make you respond to your spouse in destructive ways. That’s why talking with your spouse is the best medicine. 

Talking about it can be oh-so hard—especially if you’ve experienced major or continual disrespect. But you can do it, and you can do it well. Here’s how to talk to your spouse when you feel disrespected in your marriage.

Before You Talk…

  • Clearly and precisely identify what they said or did that you felt was disrespectful. John Gottman, marriage researcher and therapist, says you can often tell how a conversation will end by how it starts. 
  • Identify how the disrespect impacted you. Did it make you feel unimportant, inferior, betrayed, etc.?
  • Ask your spouse for a good time to talk. You may say, “There’s something important I’d like to talk with you about. When’s a good time for us to have some uninterrupted alone time to talk?” Pay attention to your tone because if you convey anger toward your spouse, it’ll probably put them on the defensive. BUT, if you can show a genuine desire to solve issues together as a team, it’s way more inviting.

When You Talk…

  • Ask your spouse to hear you out for a moment. Assure them you aren’t trying to make them feel bad or prove that someone is right or wrong, but that you simply want them to understand how you feel.
  • Avoid statements like, “You never,” “You always,” “You should.” Instead, focus on the specific actions and how they made you feel. (You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s worth repeating.) Use “I” statements as much as possible. “When you said _____, I felt disrespected. I felt unimportant and unheard.”
  • Be open to understanding your own feelings, but don’t let them control you. Emotions are real and powerful. We should express them, but using them to punish our spouse doesn’t help the marriage relationship.
  • When possible, be open to your spouse’s perspective. This doesn’t mean you let them justify what they did, but could it be there was a misunderstanding? Your feelings and experiences are real, and they shouldn’t be denied. Still, try to give your mate the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, your spouse simply did something disrespectful, and they aren’t generally trying to be a disrespectful person.

Set some helpful ground rules.

  1. Either person can ask for a timeout if the emotions get too heated for a healthy conversation. Schedule a time to resume—ideally, within 24 hours.
  2. No attacking or belittling each other. You’re on Team Marriage. The goal isn’t winning, nor is it to crush your spouse. 
  3. Avoid defensiveness. It’s natural to justify, prove, or defend yourself, but it’s usually not helpful. 
  4. Try to express your thoughts, emotions, and desires calmly so your partner can hear and understand where you’re coming from. This may take time, and you may have to revisit the conversation. Some people process differently.

If you feel your spouse has disrespected you, these steps can help. Still, it doesn’t mean they’ll immediately understand and agree.

If you’re experiencing emotional or physical abuse, get help now. But for smaller forms of disrespect, kindly letting your partner know can help you respect each other more.

It may take several conversations to see how something was disrespectful. And it may be challenging to make healthy changes and get that mutual respect flowing in a way that makes you both feel valued and appreciated. But pushing through those hard conversations is vital to a thriving marriage.

You. Can. Do. This.

***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 someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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  1. Steve Cheng
    Steve Cheng says:

    Good points in the article .. need to stop my spouse from disrespecting me and my family at large. emotional abuse is insidious.


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