What to do when you feel disrespected

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R E S P E C T – find out what it means to ME!

One more post on disrespect. As pointed out in the comments, the fact that a woman does not mean disrespect does not help the man who feels disrespected. I have suggested, strongly, that a man needs to see his feelings as just that – feelings, not as fact. Once that is done – and in my mind only once it’s done – then he can to deal with the issue with his bride.

Both love and respect are about feelings, and those feelings need to be given and received; communicated and heard. Loving your bride is of little use if she does not feel loved, and being respected by your bride is of little use if you don’t feel respected. Beyond that, if your spouse is not willing to work to make you feel loved or respected, something is wrong. This is the point I made in Tuesday’s You don’t care about what I want? post. The suggestion I made in that post for dealing with “wants” works for respect as well: make a list of things that make you feel disrespected, and mark the things on the list in order of how much they cause you to feel disrespected.

One warning – focus on attitudes, not actions. Yes, actions flow from our attitudes, but some things are difficult or impossible to do. For example, if you have several small children and you claim a messy house means your bride does not respect you, you have created a near impossible situation. Short of locking the kids in their rooms, the house will get messy from time to time. The other problem in this example is the action expected from the wife is beyond her full control – if one of the kids dumps something in the living room as the husband is walking into the house, there is a mess, and she is “guilty” of disrespect for the action taken by the child. Only when an action is in her power, and not exceedingly difficult, can an action its self be used as a barometer of respect.

You will note I paired love and respect above. As someone suggested in the comments today, men tend to feel a need for respect, while women are looking for love. This is the premises of the excellent book Love & Respect Workbook: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs (also in Kindle Edition ) by Emerson Eggerichs. Lori and I used this book for a twelve-week group study several years ago, and it was a big help to the couples involved. I highly recommend the book for couples or as a group study.

For those who don’t get the picture… (specifically 1:45)

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3 Comments on “What to do when you feel disrespected

  1. Hi, I think what I’m quoting below is an important facet to the respect issue, as well as control issues and other garden-variety conflicts that arise in marriage. I hope you agree and can ad to this.

    Why We Fight: THE FEAR-SHAME DYNAMIC in Relationships…

    “Couples don’t fight about what they THINK they fight about. It’s not ‘the big four’ they identify in surveys: Money, Sex, Raising the Kids, or In-Laws.

    “Most couples fight BECAUSE THEY INADVERTANTLY CAUSE SHAME AND FEAR IN EACH OTHER. As long as this unconscious fear-shame dynamic is active, talking about the issue is likely to make it worse.

    “There is a survival-based mechanism observed in most social animals, in which FEAR and ANXIETY of female members of the pack serve as an automatic alarm system to stimulate aggressive-protective behavior in the males. (The better sense of smell and hearing of females makes them more sensitive to danger and more suited to be social alarms.) When the females get scared, the stronger males form a defensive/aggressive perimeter around the endangered pack.

    “The human brain is more socially structured than that of any other animal. In us, this primitive interactive mechanism takes on more complicated forms that secretly undermine intimate relationships.

    “Confronted with the anxiety or fear of a woman, a man typically responds with protection/support. But if he does not know how to protect/support, or feels like a failure as a protector, he is likely to turn the aggression instinct onto her, usually in the form of criticism, ‘superior reasoning’, control, etc… or rein it in by withdrawing in frustration, by stonewalling or going quiet.

    “Anger or withdrawal by men OFTEN STIMULATES ANXIETY, FEAR OF ISOLATION, OR FEAR OF DEPRIVATION in women, even if his anger or withdrawal has nothing to do with her.

    “In general, a man is likely to stonewall, be critical, defensive, or contemptuous if he experiences, or is trying to avoid the experience of FAILURE AS A PROVIDER, PROTECTOR, or LOVER.

    “A woman is likely to be critical, defensive, or contemptuous if she experiences, or is reminded of having experienced FEAR of HARM, ISOLATION, or DEPRIVATION.

    “If the couple does not understand this unconscious, interactive dynamic, they will think they merely have a ‘communication’ problem. They will likely CONTINUE TO PROVOKE ANXIETY AND SHAME IN EACH OTHER as they try to talk. They will begin to think that they have a bad, insensitive, or selfish partner, and eventually give up on the relationship without understanding the primitive emotional mechanism that did the real damage.

    “What can help?

    “The best way to DISARM the Fear-Shame Dynamic is to recognize when it occurs, which is just about every time you FEEL BAD about interacting with each other. Identify it as something that is HAPPENING TO BOTH OF YOU, rather than pain that one person is INFLICTING on the other.

    “Declare that your CONNECTION is important to you, and do what it takes to compassionately reinstate it. Once you make connection, the fear-shame dynamic DEACTIVATES. Connected, you can solve the problem that activated it. (Usually it’s money, sex, raising the kids, in-laws, or control issues.)

    “If you remain disconnected, even your well-meaning and highly skilled attempts to solve the problem will run a high risk of accidentally stimulating more fear or shame in your partner and casuing further disconnection.

    ~Steven Stosny, Ph.D.

  2. @Jeff – Good stuff, thanks. I would say that in addition to causing shame and fear, we trip over existing shame and fear that pre-dates our time with our spouse.

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