Respect – take three

Round three ... FIGHT! © Verapol Chaiyapin |

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.

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5 Comments on “Respect – take three

  1. If I may have the audacity to add to your words: I think the other big advantage of saying, “I don’t feel” opens up the possibility that the problem may lie with me, not my spouse.

    To give a real-life example of what I mean: I was recently playing Mario Kart with my family. I normally win at any computer games. My 5 year old won. He leapt up and shouted “YES! I beat daddy!” This is a completely normal, understandable etc. reaction. But I responded to it *very* badly. Fortunately, this was a (rare) case where I was able to realise that it was not “My son has done wrong” but “What my son did made me feel bad.” In fact, all that my son was “guilty” of was using language that, unfortunately, resonated very strongly with some issues I have in my past from school days, and my negative reaction was nothing to do with him, and everything to do with those issues. Realising this enabled me to apologise to my son, but also to acknowledge that we had to work together on this. In this case, I told him he can always be happy for winning, but if he could avoid saying “I beat daddy” it would help me. He agreed.

    I know that example involves my kids, but it’s the same with my wife too: often I realise (usually after a heated argument) that my reaction is actually a result of my wife’s words are action happening to resonant with issues in my past. It’s not her fault. BUT, because she loves me, she is involved in the solution. Until I grow up enough to realise that how I feel doesn’t mean it’s what she meant to make me feel, we’ll keep on having these moments (and arguments).

    • @Phil Evans – Exactly – it might be “me”.

      If it is me, love should still motivate my bride to try to accommodate me, but I need to understand that it is me, and that her accommodation is a loving gift that is costing her something.

  2. I think this comes closer to the mark.

    I think all need to keep in mind that feelings are largely impervious to facts. We all read that if something makes your bride feel bad, knock it off.

    If something makes your husband feel bad…

    If something makes your wife feel unloved…

    That was the idea I was trying to convey a few days ago.

    While I think I was saying it, I didn’t pick up on the, “I feel…” part of the message. I was asking things like if this is going on, will the husband feel or perceive it to be respect?

    I learned a great form to bring these things up. When you ______, I feel _____, I think ______, so I am asking that you ________.

    So an example might be, “When you leave your shoes out in front of the door I feel disappointed, I’m thinking about the agreement we had with respect to the shoes and the baskets, so I am asking that you find a way to not leave a pile of shoes in front of the door.

  3. @Tony – The form you suggest is a good starting place, as long as the other person is free to reply with an alternative suggestion. If not, then it’s just the man making rules and the wife being expected to obey. [I am not saying you are suggesting that!]

  4. This post reminds me of some great advice I was given years ago: ‘never put blame on your partner, explain to them how their actions make you feel.’

    So, instead of yelling at them “you never pick up your clothes from the floor and you never help with the washing up”, you need to tell them how it makes you feel. Explain ” when you don’t help me around the house, it makes me feel that I don’t have your support and it takes me twice as long to do. This takes up time that I could be spending with you.”

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