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Mutual respect, crucial to marriage

By Josephine Oguntoyinbo
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Respect is necessary for relationships to thrive. Mutual respect is one of the cornerstones of all successful relationships. The loss of mutual respect can destroy a marriage quickly, or more often, lead to a painful, stressful and unhappy life for couples.

 Mutual respect is a very simple concept. It means that you treat your spouse or partner in a thoughtful and courteous way. It means that you avoid treating each other in rude and disrespectful ways,, you do not engage in name calling, and do not insult or demean your spouse or partner.

It also means that you do not talk sarcastically to, or ignore or avoid your partner. Finally, mutual respect means that you view the opinions, wishes and values of your partner as worthy of serious consideration.

While this sounds very simple, it takes a consistent effort to treat your spouse or partner respectfully. You must be doing things such as: considering his or her opinion, consulting with your partner before making decisions that affect your partner, taking an active interest in your spouse’s or partner’s life (work, daily activities and interests),compromising and negotiating with your partner about important issues that affect both of you and your family. While this list is far from exhaustive, it captures the essence of a respectful marriage or relationship.

Speaking with a marriage counselor, Mrs Tolu Famuyide, she affirmed that respect is established when you consistently consider and value the feelings and opinions of your partner, talk to and treat your partner in ways that you would want to be treated, and also negotiate with your partner.

“Respect can slowly be eroded due to day to day stresses and strains. If you or your partner is stressed or struggling with your own issues, you may become irritable and act negatively  or vent your frustrations on your partner. This cause disrespect to each other.

 “Similarly, an inability to resolve or manage conflicts or differences can lead to anger and frustration, which if expressed in negative and blaming ways can start the same cycle of negative interactions and result to loss of respect. These are only a few of the ways that disrespect can evaporate in a marriage or relationship.

“Sustaining respect during the course of a relationship takes effort. We are all human, and if someone begins to treat us negatively, inconsiderately, and disrespectfully, we often tend to respond somehow. This pattern of mutual disrespect feeds on itself. The more one partner is rude and inconsiderate, the more likely it is for the other spouse or partner to behave in similar ways. Thus, respect cannot strive  where most interactions are characterised by sarcastic, inconsiderate, blaming, criticism , and demeaning behavior”, she stressed.

 However,  lack of respect is not always so obvious. Spouses or partners can show their disrespect in more subtle but equally corrosive ways, for example, ignoring the spouse or partner, responding with indifference to the partner.

Once a couple has fallen into a pattern of treating each other disrespectfully it is often difficult to change. If both spouses or partners are angry and hostile towards each other a standoff may ensue, with neither partner willing to change his or her behavior until the other changes. Similarly, if one person makes a good faith effort to change things, this effort may go unnoticed or may even be rebuffed. For couples to re-establish respect, they  must work on changing their own behavior.

It is unlikely that either you or your partner can effectively influence each other. Instead, both of you should  focus on your own behavior: follow the golden rule, and treat your partner as you would like to be treated.

In addition, the temptation to correct your partner’s behavior may be great, but it is unlikely to work, at this stage. Once a greater level of respect has been established couples can then begin to work on how they can communicate more effectively, make requests, solve problems, and accept differences.

 Re-establish or create a more respectful relationship. Once a more respectful environment or atmosphere is established, you can begin to focus on helping yourself and your partner to identify difficult issues, and find ways to talk about these issues directly without triggering anger and disrespectful behaviors.

Creating a respectful relationship is essential if you are going to be able to effectively address difficult issues and differences.

Couples must recognise, accept and appreciate differences, part of establishing and maintaining a respectful relationship is learning to accept differences. Partners need to accept the ways in which their spouse or partner is different, whether this involves values, aspirations, or temperament. Tolerating and accepting (and even appreciating) how your spouse or partner is different from you is a key part in maintaining a respectful relationship.

 Couples must recognise each other’s strengths and understand that differences do not have to threaten a relationship, but can in fact strengthen it.

A marriage where partners lack respect is bound to fail.  Your critical comments become personal instead of informational if you are disrespectful .Disrespectful criticism can spell the end of your relationship if you continue to deal negatively with conflict.

When couples switch from admiring one another to denigrating judgments, respect is on the way out. Respect likes and affirms your spouse for who and what she or he is. Personal criticism fuels and escalates conflict. When you lose respect for your spouse, you treat him with contempt and believe you are superior.

Once the marriage is hit with criticism and contempt, you will always be defensive, you will not take responsibility for the problem but cast blame on your spouse for whatever issue .

Likewise, avoidance behaviors such as ignoring your spouse, expressing indifference to his or her thoughts is not healthy for marriage or relationship therefore, avoid it.

Owena Press Limited (Publisher of The Hope Newspaper), Akure

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