Have you ever watched the show Everybody Loves Raymond? It’s a great comedy about a three-generation household where everybody deals with their family relationships. The show would be perfect if Deborah, the wife, didn’t call her husband an idiot every two seconds. (Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but her words are a clear sign of a lack of respect!) It’s hard to say we practice loving unconditionally when we don’t also practice respect.
Like a mother’s love for her child, unconditional love is a love that doesn’t have to be earned. It is a love that serves without expecting anything in return. And we think that part is hard! As we love, we also need to show respect to our partner even if we feel that they haven’t “deserved” it. That can be tough, but unconditional respect allows us to be empowered to win over others’ hearts, and is the place from which love can blossom.
Respecting our spouse no matter what happens doesn’t make us a doormat. It simply means that we show consideration and confront issues in a mature way, honoring each other’s potential to change. Here are some ideas and habits that can keep the wheels of respect turning in our relationships:
Talk about it. It’s often the small things that tear us apart in relationships, isn’t it? In this blog post, Cody lists the top 10 arguments he has with his wife, and most of them are small matters such as cleaning or his exercise habits. He praises the practice of not “venting [their] pent up frustrations.” After a while we might just sigh on the inside (we may or may not blow up later on), but if we don’t bring these up, then simply tolerating our partner’s bad habits or clashing characteristics can actually be a sign of disrespect. The lack of communication prevents the relationship from moving forward. It’s important to deal with the feelings, using words like “I feel,” not “you make me feel”. Create a quiet setting and then try to talk about even the small things. Bring it up, as it comes up.
God’s viewpoint is the bigger picture. It’s just so easy to look at life through our own eyes and then point at the other person’s faults, isn’t it? Showing respect is a lot harder than we want to admit, but it’s easier when we can see the bigger picture. There’s a perspective far greater than our own one-sided view: God’s. Say your partner comes home from a long day at work and doesn’t want to do anything but gaze blankly at a TV screen. You might underestimate how hard they worked that day and assume that he or she is being lazy, but once we step out of our own minds and take God’s and our partner’s point of view, we can empathize much better with whatever they are going through.
Serve your partner. Wouldn’t you agree that the best way to love and respect someone is to show them? Nothing shows love and respect—or generates it—better than service. Father Moon tells us that love is put in motion when we serve others willingly. He says, “Which comes first, love or living for the sake of others? Living for the sake of others comes first.”
Let go of pride. We often think we are right—or simply don’t want to be wrong. This tendency in us is a class-A barrier to happier, more respectful relationships because it’s a self-centered feeling that makes us close off to our partner. It’s not about being right, it’s about making it right. It’s about asking ourselves, “What would happen if we were both on the same side?” Next time you and your partner are in a clash over something, try applying this thought to the situation, and see how that changes your actions and motives. If you come out of the situation feeling that you both understand each other better, then you have succeeded.
Give them a chance. Isn’t it usually true that we might offer or admit more to our partner if we simply had an open window to do so? When we feel welcome and are treated with patience, we tend to be more open ourselves, and we want to be our best selves. Just the same, by giving our loved one space and trust, we honor his or her potential to change. Give your spouse time to think, reflect and take responsibility for their actions, and they will feel your respect for them.
When it comes down to it, all of these practices are about fostering a habit of respect. Father Moon encourages us to create new habits—ones where we love and respect people for their true identity, whether we see it or not.
If we want to grow our relationships, love and respect are key. In a way, it’s about being to our spouse who God is to us. Every person is a unique expression of God; we’re each a piece in the grand puzzle of humanity, and our spouse is that one person with whom we’ll discover this is infinitely true. Father Moon teaches that by giving unconditional love and unconditional respect to our partner, we honor the God in them and allow them to change and grow.
Do you know a couple for whom expressing respect is rather difficult? What would you tell them?