In the 15 years I’ve been married, I’ve learned several important things. One is that marriage is a dynamic relationship, not a static state. My husband and I have had our ups and downs, but because both of us are committed to making our relationship succeed and thrive, our ups outnumber the downs. One thing we’re both trying to improve upon lately is respect. Here are some ideas we’ve been discussing and trying.
Accept your spouse as he or she is
Ideally you were aware of your spouse’s weaknesses and your incompatibilities before you got married. Don’t waste time and effort trying to change your spouse. Instead, accept and love her as she is. If your spouse initiates positive changes in behavior that will benefit your relationship, ask how you can help and be supportive. Be sure to tell your spouse specific things you love about her, and acknowledge actions you appreciate.
Don’t speak with contempt
Dr. John Gottman, a leading relationship expert, identified several predictors of divorce. One is speaking to your spouse with contempt. When you speak with contempt, you act superior to your spouse and treat them with a lack of respect. This was an eye-opener for me. I have been working on the voice and tone I use when my husband and I disagree.
If you respect your spouse, you won’t have any secrets. Your spouse will have access to your email and social media accounts, phone and text messages and friendships. Financial decisions should be made together after discussion and budgeting. My husband is an accountant and tends to be more frugal than me. Working on a budget together has helped us argue less and compromise more.
You and your spouse are on the same team. Your goals for your relationship and your family should be aligned. Common marriage advice states wives should not talk unkindly about husbands to their mothers, sisters or friends. This advice goes both ways. Your friendships with others should not detract from your marriage. Be willing to stand up for your spouse and support him or her through good times and bad.
The Bible teaches charity suffereth long and is kind. It also envieth not, and is not puffed up. This is how our relationship with our spouse should be. If we have respect in marriage, we want to be kind and show charity, which sometimes means giving our spouse the benefit of the doubt or refraining from being angry or annoyed.
Most spouses disagree or argue on occasion. If you find yourself thinking of the perfect comeback instead of listening to what your spouse has to say, you may need to improve your communication skills. If you respect your spouse as an equal partner, you won’t dominate conversations or need to be right. You will calm your emotions and listen to your spouse, then choose your words carefully in response.
Love them in the ways they prefer
Loving your spouse in the ways that make them happiest shows you respect them and know them. My husband would rather spend time with me and have physical affection than have a gift. I would rather have a gift or have him help around the house than have words of affirmation. If you’re not sure how your spouse likes to be loved, try taking this quiz about the five love languages and discuss the results with your spouse.
I look forward to celebrating every wedding anniversary with my husband. It’s a time for us to reflect upon our marriage and how we’ve grown and changed. A terrific marriage takes time and effort, but the rewards are immeasurable. Make sure your marriage is moving in a positive direction by cultivating greater respect.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.