When two people meet and fall in love, they almost always treat each other with respect. They also genuinely feel respect for the other person. Why? Because the relationship is so fresh and exciting that their new love is perfect, in their eyes. You know... rose colored glasses.
But as time goes by, the novelty of the relationship wears off and the couple begins to see how the other reacts to life circumstances and challenges. That's when the level of respect the couple has for each other can start to change. It can go one of two ways: gained or lost. And if it's lost, that's a problem. A big problem. A problem that can ultimately lead to divorce.
Here's an example. You are with someone for two years and everything is going great. That person then goes through a very difficult time. Let's say he or she loses their job or their parent dies or they become ill, God forbid. You might watch the way he or she handles it and be impressed, thereby causing you to respect him or her much more than you even did before. It can also make you love that person even more.
But unfortunately, the opposite can happen. Over time, people can start to see their spouse's flaws and when bad things happen, they end up losing respect for the way he or she handled it.
The thing is, we are all human and most of us are ashamed at how we acted during certain times in our lives. In some cases, the love between two people is so strong and the commitment so deep, that the person is understanding of the bad behavior and the respect comes back eventually. But that doesn't always happen. Sometimes the respect is lost and it's very difficult to come back from that feeling.
Loss of respect could possibly be the biggest factor in people falling out of love and deciding to get divorced.
Am I saying that if there is a lack of respect in your relationship that you are for sure heading in that direction? Not at all. But for two people to be truly happy in their romantic relationship and continue to grow together, they have to maintain respect, which might mean working hard to gain it back if you feel like it's gone.
What I mean by that is, you have to talk to the person and say, "I feel like you don't respect me anymore." Not in a mean, confrontational way, but rather in a non-threatening way that says, "You are hurting me by the way you treat me -- disrespectfully."
Being vulnerable is the best way to get someone's defenses down so you can have a real conversation that doesn't end in shouting, door slams and then the silent treatment. Maybe ask, "Why don't you respect me? What can I do to be treated with more respect by you?"
Otis Redding knew the need for respect. He wrote about it in his 1965 song "Respect." (Later sung by Aretha Franklin who turned it into a smash hit, earning her two Grammies and an entry into the Grammy Hall of Fame).
"What you want, baby I got. What you need, you know I got it. All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)..." -Aretha Franklin
Another important aspect of respect is, if you don't have respect for yourself it will be extremely difficult for your spouse to have respect for you. I see a lot of men and women saying they don't feel respected, when in reality, they don't respect themselves.That's a problem that will ultimately affect a romantic relationship because how can you expect someone to have respect for you when you don't respect yourself?
In closing, lack of respect is a relationship killer. If both spouses don't have respect for each other, and they don't treat each other with respect, it is impossible for the couple to be happy. But respect is tricky. It's not like love. You have to earn respect from your spouse. How do you do that? By making choices you know are right and ethical and the best for your family. And, by treating your spouse the way you promised to when you first fell in love.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.