With due respect (Part 1)

This three part series aims to discuss one of the key cornerstones for any healthy relationship – Mutual Respect.

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Scenario 1: Your husband returns from work in the evening. After he’s freshened up, you talk to him about your day or tell him something important that has happened to you. Mid-way, without telling you to excuse him or giving you any hint, he gets up and walks away to do something else. Or perhaps while conversing, you realise that he has a glazed look in his eyes indicating that he’s moved on to thinking about something else.

Scenario 2: You’ve had a hectic work week and waiting for the weekend so you can relax. Your husband says that he’s invited his office colleagues’ home for dinner on Saturday evening. You ask that he pushes it to the next weekend instead. He informs you that he’ll be travelling on work the entire of next week and wants to keep the weekend free to recover!

Scenario 3: At a party you’re all discussing about something and you want to share your point of view. Your husband shushes you in front of people, or reacts angrily at your suggestion or simply disregards your view by ignoring and continuing the conversation as if you hadn’t said anything important.

In each of the above scenarios, the prominent underlying factor is a clear lack of mutual respect between partners.

Mutual respect in marriage is one of the strongest bonds that keep couples united. The slightest put-down can push them apart. Even though love can keep a marriage on track, the feeling of being respected by your partner is crucially as important. Loss of mutual respect is not only painful but can potentially destroy a marriage.

Respect can be demonsrtated in various ways – being listened to, being acknowledged for something you’ve done, not being taken for granted, understanding physical boundaries, protecting each other and showing consideration.

Respect is subtle in expression. Doing things without thinking of how it might impact your partner or just thinking of your own personal needs and not compromising or adjusting to their needs even when they openly bring it up – all lead to feelings of being unimportant and worthless. You might do it unconsciously but for the partner it means being slighted. For example, your partner tells you a humiliating secret and without a thought you blurt it out at a social gathering.

During an argument not allowing your partner to express their views and opinions without judgement, ignoring their reasoning as baseless and just pushing your own agenda – are all signs of being disrespectful. It doesn’t necessarily need to become physical or verbal abuse to be made to feel like you’re nobody.

Sometimes not including your partner in the things that you do, or not sharing your day, thoughts, and feelings (even after your partner asks you), when you walk away to do your own thing by yourself even though your partner suggests that both of you spend some quality time at home talking, not necessarily about children, work or family matters – indicate a lack of intimacy in the relationship.

The questions that arise here are – do you fail to do as your partner suggests because you fear that this means participating actively in a conversation when all you want to do is relax? You feel you’ve done loads of work in office, or had to participate in unpleasant conversations there and now really want to be left alone with your own thoughts. Or is it that you have nothing to say and when your partner says ‘talk’ it feels like a task?

If left unexplained, then it makes your partner feel unsure of where they stand with you, or they struggle to adjust to your new ways and in the absence of anything tangible from you, they feel lost.

Relationships change over time and every now and then it helps to bring focus back to one another or else people tend to build walls and live in their own world, meeting only when they’re left with no choice but interact. Even then, you might not see eye to eye and communication might break down because all you’re doing is making assumptions and remaining expectant.

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In With due respect (Part 2), Anuttama Dasgupta, part time urban design consultant, full time mother and soon to be pubished author, shares her personal understanding of respect in a relationship.

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