My previous two posts on respect – Blindly driving a marriage to its death, and then blaming the victim and Hitting a nerve with the ladies – have elicited a lot of comments and e-mails.
It seems the issue of perception and reality is huge. If I feel you don’t respect me, does that mean you do not respect me? NO, it does not. What you feel, and what I think you feel, are two different things. I could be wrong both ways – feeling disrespected by someone who does not disrespect me, or feeling respected by someone who actually does not respect me. To me this is far from an irrelevant issue!
Let’s look at two possibilities if I feel you don’t respect me, when in fact you do:
- If I say, “I don’t feel respected” that gives us something we can work with. You can ask why I don’t feel respected, and when you understand you can choose to change what you do because you want to communicate what you actually feel.
- If I say, “You do not respect me” you can either drop the issue or try to change my mind. However, if I am convinced you respect me, your words may have no effect. So I am then accusing you of something that is not true, and accusing you of lying when you deny it. That does not make you feel good – in fact, it makes you feel disrespected! You are left with no good choice, and you might just write me off as unreasonable.
The second one happens to more than a few wives, and it leaves them with good reason to see their husband as unreasonable and impossible to please. Rather than being able to deal with the things that make him feel disrespected, they are stuck arguing whether or not she respects him. How is she supposed to work with, much less respect, someone who tells her what she thinks and accuses her of lying when she is not lying? All of this because he decided his feelings were facts rather than admitting they are just feelings.
If you feel disrespected when your wife does something, you can state as an “indisputable fact” that her actions show disrespect, or you can tell her that her actions make you feel disrespected. To me the second option is clearly better! Aside from being more open to a solution, you are stating a fact about you, rather than telling her something about herself that very well may be false.
As to gender, I think the reason I see far more of this from men than women is that women are relational and feeling, while men tend to be more analytical. Most women readily accept that the same thing can evoke different feelings in different people, and that the intent behind an action can vary from person to person. Men are far more likely to see things as one-size-fits-all: action ABC always means intent XYZ.
Tomorrow – what to do about it.