The word "respect" can mean different things to different people. But when it comes to
having more respect in your relationship, the overarching theme is often the same for everyone. "Often the definition includes recognition of inherent worth, the awareness that someone should be treated appropriately and knowing what is/isn't appropriate, [and] to be thoughtful and considerate with what you say or do" life coach Ryann Pitcavage tells Bustle.
That all sounds easy (just be a good person, right?) but there are so many little habits that may get in the way, and ruin any sense of respect you may have had for each other. This may be things like
ignoring each other's boundaries, canceling plans, not listening, or arguing in unhealthy ways. If you two do these things on the regular, it may be that your relationship isn't entirely healthy.
There is good news, though. If you suspect there might be a lack of respect in your relationship, there are ways to get it back. "Respect is built by doing things like practicing gratitude, remembering that you're on the same team instead of tearing each other down with criticism and blame, and at times prioritizing your partner's needs and desires ahead of your own,"
marriage counselor and dating coach Samantha Burns tells Bustle. Here are a few more tips to keep in mind, if you're on a mission to create a healthier relationship.
Work On Yourself As A Person
Yes, you'll want to put time and effort into your relationship. But the best way to bring good things to your partnership is by focusing on
yourself, and what you can do to feel more accomplished and whole.
"It's not enough just to try and make someone else happy,"
author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle. "Part of a fulfilling relationship is in doing things that make you a better or more successful person." Because, as we all know, you can't take care of someone else if you aren't taking care of yourself.
Figure Out What Makes Your Partner Tick
For a relationship to work, you'll want to try to get on the same page emotionally, and learn more about what makes each other tick. As Myra says, "A key to earning respect from your partner is to show that you understand the way they think and the things that are important to them. And also that you know what is important to you." Obviously, people are complex, so you'll never know everything there is to know about each other. But the more often you listen, the more in tune you'll be.
Be Reliable And Dependable
If you say you're going to do something, make every effort to actually do it. "Respect is often tied to being viewed as reliable, dependable, and trustworthy," says Burns. "You ultimately create this sense of security in your relationship when your actions match up with your words. You build respect with your partner over time when you show that you'll do what you say and that your behaviors are in line with the verbal messages you tell your partner.
Argue With Each Other In A Healthy Way
How you two act and what you say during an argument can have a pretty big impact on your relationship, as well as how you view each other. Do you yell and scream and call each other names? Or do you discuss things a little more civilly? As Burns says, "Respect isn't just saying sweet and loving things in the calm moments, but how you handle yourself in conflict and when things aren't so peachy." It can say a lot about who you are as a person.
Check In With Yourself, Mentally
You and your significant other may want to spend some time reflecting on how you handle yourselves emotionally in your relationship. If you have been arguing, or you have been feeling disconnected, it may be time to address the underlying cause — such as stress or anxiety. As
clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow tells Bustle, "For yourself, it might be going to the gym, eating healthy, taking time to be quiet and reduce stress, further your education or knowledge, etc." Checking in with yourself can mean having a healthier relationship.
Be Supportive Of Their Goals
Is your significant other going off to grad school? Did they get a new job? Or are they simply trying to eat more veggies? Even though you have your own things going on, always make the time to cheer them on. And to feel genuinely happy for them. As Klapow says, a sense of respect in a relationship often comes from the care and effort you put forth into supporting your partner. And vice versa, of course.
Life can be pretty darn distracting. But one easy way to show your partner how much you care is by actually
being with them, when you're with them. "Put your phone away when your partner is speaking with you, ask them how they are doing, and really listen when they come to you with issues," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW tells Bustle. Doing that, versus zoning out or staring at you computer, can really be like night and day in terms of how your partner feels.
Honesty is huge when it comes to having a respectful, trust-filled relationship. So resist the urge to keep vital things from your partner, at all costs. As Hershenson says, "[i]t is important to be open with your partner and not have secrets. Sharing your feelings or what is going on in your life will help the relationship grow."
Set And Keep Your Boundaries
If you're constantly stepping all over your partner's boundaries, like not respecting your partner's need for alone time, or your partner forgetting you always need space after a fight, your relationship may come crashing down. "Boundaries demonstrate what respect looks like to each of you and enforcing [them] emphasizes that it is not 'optional' to respect those boundaries," Pitcavage says. If you can keep keep your partner's needs in mind, the whole tone of your relationship will change for the better.
Apologize In A Meaningful Way
Let's say you do have a big blow up argument or, maybe you say something rude, and later realize it was wrong. The best and most mature way to handle it is with an apology — especially one that's meaningful to your partner.
"We all deal with apologies differently and need different things to move on and feel secure," says Myra. "Learn what this means for your partner so you can rebuild trust and intimacy quickly."
As Pitcavage tells Bustle, the best way to get respect is to give it. If you're constantly crossing your partner's boundaries, lying to them, or canceling your plans, you can't expect them to be much better.
If you want to create a relationship that's chock full of love and respect, it'll have to come from both of you showing respect, and giving it in return.