How To Develop A Relationship Based On Love And Respect
By Jon Jaehnig
Updated April 30, 2020
Reviewer Stephanie Chupein
Relationships can be hard. They're even more difficult when you feel disrespected. When you start a relationship with a foundation of love and respect, you and your partner can create a relationship that builds you both up to be stronger, happier, and more fulfilled. It all starts with respecting your partner.
Relationships are often seen as the norm. As a result, many people feel they need to be in a relationship, so they may rush into one. This can lead to people being in unhealthy relationships that don't meet their needs. Furthermore, because it seems like everyone is in a relationship, it can be difficult to know with certainty what constitutes an unhealthy relationship. Thinking that a bad relationship is better than nothing is incorrect and dangerous. Another common misconception is that, if being in a relationship is normal, it must be easy. The truth is relationships are hard, and everyone has problems with them from time to time.
Luckily, that doesn't mean they're impossible to navigate. In fact, divorce rates are declining, especially in younger couples, possibly because they tend to marry later in life than members of previous generations did. This suggests that more people are taking the time to find healthier relationships based on love and respect rather than getting hitched as soon as possible and trying to make it work. The first step to building a healthy relationship based on love and respect, is understanding these two dynamics.
What Is Love?
Everyone knows what love is; they just don't know how to describe it. Several psychologists have developed theories to explain love and what it means in our lives. For example, Freud described true love as finding your "ego ideal," a substitute for one's perfect image of oneself. More recently, Sternberg devised his Triangular Theory of Love. It depicts a triangle as the totality of a love relationship with the peaks of the triangle representing intimacy, passion, and decision. Most people seem to have an ideal vision that includes qualities such as give-and-take, mutual attraction, compassion and caring, and respect for each other. While no relationship is perfect, it is possible to have a healthy, satisfying love relationship.
What Is Respect?
Respect is a feeling of admiration you have for someone. It means you deeply admire their abilities, treasure their qualities, and appreciate their achievements. To feel respected is to feel safe, accepted as you are, valued, and encouraged to be your highest, truest self. When you feel respect for someone, you naturally want to act in ways that honor them. When you're with them, you show them kindness, courtesy, and consideration. You don't try to force them to be like you because you appreciate them for their differences and accept them as they are. Because you respect them, you treat them fairly.
Why Respect Matters
Respect is important in all human relationships. If you can't respect someone for what they've done, you can give them basic human respect or respect the role they play even if you don't respect the person. True respect, however, is especially important in love relationships. Because lasting love relationships help define who you are as a person, it's crucial that the relationship is a healthy one. When you and your partner respect each other, you create a healthy relationship in which you can both mature and gain personal strength throughout your lifetime.
When you fail to respect your partner, you prevent yourself from getting honest respect from them in return. Your failure creates an environment where your partner can't be their best. Just as important, you put yourself in that same environment, where love is more like a disease and a burden to both of you.
The Value of a Respectful, Love Relationship
Prioritizing respect isn't just about avoiding a bad relationship. It offers many positive benefits for you individually and for your and your partner as a couple. A respectful love relationship can help each of you as individuals by:
- Giving you an emotionally safe space
- Building your self-confidence
- Allowing you freedom and independence
- Fostering your personal growth
- Increasing your motivation to excel at what you do
- Bringing you feelings of self-worth and acceptance from another
- Helping you see the world in a positive light
- The same type of love can also do the following for you as a couple:
- Improve communication within the relationship
- Empower you to deal with conflict in healthy and productive ways
- Help you make better decisions as a couple
- Let you enjoy each other's company more
- Help you work out differences without ending the relationship
Keys To Developing Respectful Love
When you truly love someone, you want the best for them. If you want to give them your best, it stands to reason that you have to give them your utmost respect. How do you do that? You do it by the way you think about them, express yourself, and behave toward them.
Another key is one that we often take for granted: wait to get into a relationship until you meet someone that you respect. When we face pressure to be in a relationship from friends, the media, or even from within ourselves, it can be easy to start a relationship with someone that we don't really love or respect. Sometimes these relationships can work out, but it makes a lot more sense to stay single until the right person comes along.
See Your Partner as Deserving of Respect
If you don't see anything to respect about your partner, why would you be with them? You probably do believe there's something admirable about them. Perhaps you just haven't thought about it much. If not, now's a great time. First, remember that they deserve basic human respect. Then, consider the things you admire about them specifically. Think about their qualities. Are they naturally friendly, humorous, wise, or serene? What about their achievements? What have they done that impresses you? What are they good at? Are they a great artist, parent, businessperson, or home decorator? Are they able to do things others can't? You set the stage for treating them with respect by focusing on what makes your partner the unique combination of abilities, achievements, and personal qualities that only they are.
Be Observant. You'll never know just how admirable your partner is if you don't take note of what they do, how they behave, and what they accomplish. Build your respect by noticing their triumphs. Notice which of their achievements makes them happiest. Be aware of their unique characteristics. Everyone has value and something good in them. If you're paying attention, you'll see more of what makes them who they are.
Appreciate Your Partner for Who They Are. Most people have an idea of what their perfect partner would be like. This ideal image doesn't help you build respect for your partner. Set it aside, and see your partner for who they are. Instead of complaining that they aren't what you would like them to be, celebrate them as they are.
Communicate Your Respect. Your respect will impact your partner more when you communicate it well. Let them know what you admire about them. Show them how happy you are when they accomplish something that impresses you. You can communicate through words or looks of approval. Don't stop with complimenting them directly. Tell others how much you value their accomplishments and personal character. Sometimes, hearing from their friends how you feel can be just as pleasing to your partner as hearing it from you.
Treat Your Partner as Inherently Valuable, Not A Means to an End. Your partner may help you in many ways. They may encourage you to do your best. They may help you in practical ways, too, like supporting you while you advance in your education or your career. No matter what they do for you though, don't lose sight of their value in just being who they are. Certainly, you need to let them know you appreciate what they do for you. Go beyond that, though. Let them know that even when they aren't doing anything for you, you admire them in their own right.
Choose Respectful Actions. Every action is a choice. Think before you act. Choose behaviors that show your respect. Give them a reason to feel safe with you by not attacking them verbally or physically. Make time to be with them. Join them in celebrating their achievements. Be polite to them. Honor their choices even when they don't benefit you.
Learning to Improve Your Relationship
At this point, you may be thinking that you'll have to pretend to be someone you aren't to build respect and love. You don't! All you need to do is build your respect for them. When you do, the rest is just a matter of learning the right ways to show how you feel about them. Learning these new thought and behavior patterns can be challenging, but a therapist can help you build a more respectful love relationship.
If you decide you would like help with your relationship skills, you can talk to a licensed counselor at BetterHelp. After filling out a short questionnaire, you'll be matched with a counselor who can meet your needs. The idea of online counseling can seem strange, but that's okay. If you're not sure if it's for you, consider the following reviews from real BetterHelp users.
"Sharon Valentino has helped me through so much! Since we started working together just a few months ago, I already feel like I have more power and control over my life. I have let go of some very painful things, I have moved away from abusive relationships, and I'm really gaining the skills and tools I need to keep myself safe and happy. She has taught me that I have the power to control my thoughts, my anxiety, and most of all my company. I really like how direct she is; it helps me get grounded and connect to myself. I can't wait to see where I am after working with her a year!!!"
"A year ago I was experiencing difficulties in my relationship, which highly affected my psychological state and interfered with my work. At one point, I decided to try Betterhelp.com. My counselor Dr. Brewer helped me to see some things I couldn't on my own and encouraged me to prioritize myself. It was a huge help for me at that point, which led to the decisions I am happy about."
A Final Word of Advice
When you learn to respect your partner more, you'll be happier in your relationship. Then, when you learn how to show your admiration, you'll not only appreciate them for who they are, but you'll also be able to show your respect in an authentic, genuine way. Ultimately, developing a healthy, respectful relationship with your partner can lead to a lifetime of love. Take the first step today.