As Lauryn Hill once said, "Respect is just a minimum." But even if you'd never disrespect your partner on purpose, there are many subtle ways you could be disrespecting your partner that you didn't realize you were guilty of.
Subtle disrespect can often be a relationship killer. When I spoke with couples about creating healthy relationships, both as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and a Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, there was often an undercurrent of unhappiness that neither partner could put their finger on. Just something that seemed off.
As we dug a little deeper, the couples often realized there were years of built-up resentments from small, everyday acts of subtle disrespect. Disrespect of each other's time, feelings, hobbies, intelligence, and even personal property had created a toxic divide between two once-loving individuals.
These acts may have seemed too small to bring up at the time, so they were brushed off until they couldn't be brushed off any longer. With better communication and a little mindfulness, you can start to clear through these annoyances and prevent a lot of future disrespect. Relationships are a lot of work right? Luckily it's the good kind of work.
Here are some of those little ticking time bombs that you might be planting in your relationship.
1. Making All The Decisions
Taking the lead is hot. To me, anyway. But even when I'm all about that "you go ahead and take charge" life, I still want my opinions acknowledged. I still want to give input. I want to know that you know that I have a voice and that you care about that voice. Taking charge can come across as cold, bossy, and condescending sometimes, leaving your partner feeling like they don't matter. Make sure you're letting your partner contribute, even when you're taking the lead.
2. Using That Tone
Oooh, that tone. You know the one I'm talking about: That tone that screams "you're an idiot and I hate you" even if you're actually saying words about love, kittens, and rainbows. Or that tone that's all "I'm so smart and you're so dumb!" It doesn't matter what you say, or how nice it is, if you're saying it in a snarky, condescending, or sarcastic tone. And when you do it every day, you could be making your partner feel like nothing they don't measures up. It can be more hurtful than you realize.
3. Being Lazy
One partner being cleaner than the other happens. It's when one partner does all the cleaning and the other shows no effort or appreciation when it becomes a problem. And housework isn't the only way to be lazy. Do you ask your partner to get you every drink, snack, phone charger or bottle of nail polish that pops into your head? Love is not a game of fetch. When one partner has to do more than their fair share, it's not just aggravating. It's disrespectful. Even if you'll never be as neat or together as your partner, you can show an effort. Genuinely trying matters.
4. Joking Too Much
My momma always said there was a little truth to every joke, and I believe her. If the jokes you tell tend to cast your partner as a dimwit, even if they're called for and funny, you could be eroding their self-esteem. Be especially aware of jokes about the same subject. For example, if all your jokes tend to be about how bad your partner's cooking is, then at some point, your partner is going to get insulted. Save the some-what insulting jokes for lighthearted, silly situations when you're reasonably sure you'll both laugh.
5. Not Acknowledging Accomplishments
Everyone cares about something. For your partner, it might be grades, work performance, keeping a nice, clean home, cooking... anything at all really. If you never ask about what your partner cares about and you never acknowledge their achievements, they'll feel like you don't respect their time and talents. When that goes on long enough, they'll feel like they don't matter. Even a simple "the house looks great" can be enough. Not all wins require a champagne toast — but some totally do.
Interrupting is the worst. Nothing says "I don't care what you have to say" like cutting someone off mid-sentence to be heard. I have adult ADHD, and interrupting is something I commonly do, so if you're an interrupter, I feel your pain. And even though you might not be perfect at it, especially when you're excited or upset, showing effort counts for something. Oh, and interrupting isn't just about cutting people off mid-sentence. It could also be stopping you partner in the middle of doing something or demanding attention at an inopportune time. You gotta respect your partner's time, too.
As the world of a long-term relationship turns, there will be times when you disagree and times when you think you know a better way to do something. How you convey this information is critical for your status as "respectful partner." I've been in relationships where my partners were overly critical, and mostly because they meant well. It just made me feel dumb. It's even worse when you're criticized in front of others. So if you're a criticizer, learn the subtle art of constructive criticism. Constantly disrespecting your partner's intelligence in the name of "helping" is anything but helpful, I promise you that.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will make you pause before you open your jaws or infuse more of your actions with loving kindness. I bet your partner is totally worth it.