Last week a reader left a comment in response to the post I wrote about marriage being really fucking hard.
It was a comment from a male reader, and in it he said:
What I do know is this, wives want to be loved and they want their husband to validate their love for them often. I personally don’t do this very well! Men on the other hand want to be respected! Let me say that again! Men want to be respected. I would rather be “respected” first and “loved” second.
I’ve heard this before and I agree 100%.
The tricky thing about this though, is that you are in a Catch-22 situation.
Because when women feel loved, I think they are more likely to respect their husbands, and husbands are more likely to work to make their wives feel loved when they feel respected. But when one partner in the relationship isn’t doing one of those things, then you are in a marital shit storm.
You are in a tit for tat situation. The disrespected husband doesn’t give a crap if he does much of anything to make his wife feel loved. The wife feeling unloved could give a flying fuck about showing her husband any respect.
You’re in a Mexican stand-off, and nobody wants to make the first move.
Conversely, and like that male reader continued in his comment,
…when I’m able to let my wife know how much I love her and appreciate her, almost 95% of the time she finds a way to show me some respect which makes me want to love her more.
Just as a lack of respect or the absence of validation causes an increasingly growing rift in the relationship, the opposite is true.
It takes a concerted effort, but when one person steps up to the plate, the other one is much more likely to do the same thing.
I think we women are very often unaware, though, of the ways in which we might be disrespecting our husbands.
And I think this happens because it’s partly a societal thing. There are plenty of commercials and sitcoms that portray men as complete buffoons who cannot function without their eye-rolling wives to remind them how fucking clueless they are.
But also, if it’s what was modeled for us by our parents, well, some of us don’t really know any differently.
And maybe we aren’t doing it on purpose, but we are still doing it, nonetheless.
Women can be very, very hard on their husbands.
And while they may think they are just totally justifiable in their actions, they aren’t.
It can be difficult to take a good hard look at yourself and how you treat your spouse. Because most of us are not intentionally trying to disrespect our husbands or make our wives feel unloved.
Most of us think we are doing a good job and that the problem really lies with the other person.
But the problems lie with both people.
And to come to that realization, to acknowledge that you have been doing stuff that’s been damaging to your relationship (when at the core you are well-meaning) feels kind of shitty.
I’m guilty of it.
I hate to admit it, but I know I am.
Showing my husband more respect is something I need to really work on if I want him to make more of an effort on his end.
How do you do that?
Another reader wondered the same thing:
I know what I need to do. It’s not the knowing. It’s the implementing that’s the hard part for me.
But what about the women like the one who wrote this comment:
How does a wife show her husband respect? I don’t even know what that means and I am curious. Is it just listening or is it giving praise. I would love some examples. I think I have a good marriage but don’t know if I actually show my husband respect. I am just curious what that means from a man.
What about the women who aren’t sure whether they are respecting their husbands or not?
I spoke to my husband about this, and I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this subject also.
First I can tell you what disrespect looks like.
It is rolling your eyes at your husband.
It is making him out to be a bumbling idiot who is incapable of properly taking care of the kids.
It is publicly shaming him on Facebook or reprimanding him in public in front of your children or your friends or anyone, really.
A while back I saw someone on Facebook posted a video of her husband snoring and she complained about how she couldn’t sleep.
All I could think was Whoa. If my husband posted a video of me doing that I would be mortified. And pissed. And I would definitely feel disrespected.
If you are doing any of these types of things, there is a very good chance your husband is feeling disrespected.
So then what does it look like when you do show your husband respect?
1.You listen to him.
Really listen to him. Not just nodding your head, throwing in some uh-huhs, and waiting for him to stop talking.
Listen to him the way you would listen to one of your best friends or to one of your children if they really had something they needed to talk to you about.
And then, consider what he says. And then move on to Number 2.
2. You acknowledge his point of view. And then consider that he may actually be right.
In Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, there is an exercise in paradigm shifts.
And you are asked to look at this picture:
And then this one:
In the second picture you see a beautiful woman wearing a fancy hat with a feather in it and a fur coat, looking away from you.
You show your husband the same picture, and he says, What the hell are you talking about? That is a picture of an ugly, old woman!
You launch into him, telling him he’s wrong. How can he not see that this is a picture of a beautiful woman???
And what the hell is he talking about??? An old woman?
He’s not just wrong. He’s fucking crazy! He’s completely out of touch with reality!
Or is he?
Take a look at this picture:
Now look at that second picture again:
Your husband isn’t crazy.
In fact, he’s right.
So are you.
You are both right.
You just have different perspectives on a situation.
How often do things have to be done “your way?”
(Because your way is the best way, right)?
Your way might not even be the best way as far as you are concerned.
It might be the only way.
What works best for one person may not work at all for another.
I think the loading of the dishwasher is a classic example.
I am guilty of this.
I will very often rearrange the dishes in the dishwasher because my husband hasn’t done it my way.
I know. I know you are able to fit more dishes in there than he can.
But does it really matter? Does it really matter if you can fit five more dishes in there than he can?
I know if things were the other way around, I’d feel pretty annoyed.
Showing your husband respect is acknowledging that his way of doing things, while different from yours, is not the wrong way.
And ultimately, what is it that you want him to do?
Do you want him to load the dishwasher correctly?
Or do you just want him to continue to help out?
3. You tell him what you appreciate. And you say thank you.
Let’s stick with the dishwasher.
And your thing may not be the dishwasher.
Maybe you want your husband to plan a date night or to initiate sex or to fold the laundry or to help with driving the kids around.
Whatever. The specific thing doesn’t really matter.
But I bet if you said to him, I really, really appreciate it when you load the dishwasher. Thank you so much! — I bet if you said that to him he’d be much more willing to help out in the future (and he might even do it without you having to hint at it) than if you were to sigh heavily, roll your eyes, and then (loudly) rearrange every single thing in the dishwasher.
4. Include him in plans and decision making.
Some men are happy to have their wives make all the decisions regarding the kids. But I think many of us often just assume this.
Sure, if women are the ones spending more of the time with the kids and doing the majority of the planning and logistical gymnastics we are going to have to make some decisions on our own, but many husbands want to at least be filled in on what is going on and given the opportunity to weigh in on decisions regarding their children rather than just being told what is happening and where and when they must be somewhere.
5. Trust their judgment.
Your husband is a grown man. He is still alive. He has navigated life successfully so far. He has kept the children intact.
He’s completely capable.
You did, after all, have faith in him when you married him.
Which brings me to the last thing.
6. Make your husband feel like a man.
I know. This might seem a little 1950’s for some of you.
I’m an independent and strong woman. I don’t need a man to do anything for me. I don’t need a man to complete me.
But I definitely like it when my husband takes care of me.
I like it when he does chivalrous things like gives me his coat when I’m cold or opens the door or carries something heavy inside for me. Even though I’m fairly certain I could kick the ass of pretty much anyone if I needed to, I like feeling protected by my husband.
And your husband likes knowing you feel that way.
This isn’t to say that women don’t want to feel respected by their husbands, and this isn’t to say that men don’t want to feel loved by their wives.
Of course we all want that, too.
But whether you are a man or a woman, a husband or a wife, if you are feeling unloved or disrespected, chances are if you change the way you approach your spouse, you will find the way he or she treats you will change significantly, too.
If you are missing something in your relationship, if you are unhappy or feeling unfulfilled, invalidated, or disrespected, take a good hard look at what you are bringing to the table. And take a look at what you aren’t.
Then, be the bigger person.
And make the first move.
Because when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.