What Does Respect in a Relationship Look Like?

“She doesn’t respect me, so why should I have to respect her?” Dillon leaned forward, certain I’d agree with him.

But Jayla cut in with a shrug of her shoulders, “I’d respect him if he started acting like a man instead of a teenage boy.”

Dillon looked to me, “See what I have to put up with?”

I knew that if I said nothing, they’d go straight into fighting over the same thing they always fought about. Outrage over what he did. Indignation over what she did.

An image flickered through my mind of another couple, sitting in the same place Dillon and Jayla were sitting now. On the surface, they seemed completely different. Honey was a big personality, and she kept her man in line.

“He don’t dare disrespect me,” she declared with confidence.

The man sitting next to her didn’t say a word, but I could see the tension in his hunched shoulders. Maybe Honey had trained him to respect her, but I wondered if his submission was hiding feelings of resentment.

Respect is a big issue in relationships. And for good reason.

There’s no love without respect.

Some psychologists even believe that respect is MORE important than love.

You can grow to love someone you respect deeply. But feeling disrespected by someone erodes the very foundation of your relationship.

So what exactly is respect?

We’d normally say it’s a feeling of admiration towards someone. You hold them in high regard. That doesn’t mean you think they’re perfect; sometimes they do or say things that are wrong. But their human imperfections don’t diminish the light you see shining in them.

Many spiritual traditions encourage respect towards all living beings. In this broader view of respect, you don’t even have to like someone to respect them. You choose to treat others with respect, regardless of how you feel about them personally.

It’s this view that I believe is most useful in relationships.

Dillon and Jayla believed that respect had to be earned, that you couldn’t respect someone who didn’t deserve it.

What I hoped to teach them was that respect was like love: best when it’s mutual, habitual, and as unconditional as possible.

If there’s disrespect going on in your relationship, don’t fight about it. Talk about it.

Here are the 3 Respect Principles you should be discussing.

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3 Signs He Wants a Relationship But is Scared to Commit

3 Signs He Wants a Relationship But is Scared to Commit

Jade came to me with a clear focus for what she wanted to work on.

“I want to show my boyfriend that he can trust me,” she said. “He had a really toxic relationship with his ex, and now he says he’s scared of getting close to anyone else again. How can I help him get over his fears?”

Jade was the kind of woman any man would feel thankful for. She radiated warmth, generosity, and dependability. She was determined to improve herself and make a wonderful life for the man she’d eventually marry.

“Did anything happen to make him doubt you?” I asked.

“No, not that I know of.”

“What are you doing right now to help him overcome his fears from the past?”

“Like, everything!” She threw her hands up in frustration. “I give him plenty of space. I don’t push him. I don’t ask much of him. But it’s not working. He says he needs more time.”

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard a story like this.

There are a lot of men who won’t get close to a woman because of their troubled past.

For some, it’s because their parents divorced and they’re afraid the same thing will happen to them. Others won’t get close because a nasty breakup soured them on relationships. Still others are afraid of being rejected or used or letting someone down.

These men are lucky to find partners like Jade who are willing to work with them.

Jade wanted to help her boyfriend get over his fears. She had so much love to give him. But he had to be willing to receive it.

In a moment, I’ll give you 3 questions that will help you decide if his desire for a relationship is greater than his fears.

But first, let’s see if we can get inside his head.

Have you ever really wanted a relationship…

But felt scared?

If so, what were you afraid of?

Were you afraid of getting hurt? Of giving away all your power to someone else? Of making a fool out of yourself? Of messing up your one shot with someone you really respected?

If you take relationships seriously, then of course you’re going to be nervous. The more you want anything, the more frightened you’ll feel of taking that first step. Once you start, it feels like there’s no going back.

For some, the dream is so big and attractive that it paralyzes them. It’s easier to wish and hope than actually do something about it. Never trying means you’ll never fail.

Some men fall into that camp. They’d rather fantasize about a relationship than do anything about it.

Because you’re reading this, I don’t think that describes you. 😉 I think you’re more than willing to do the work to get a great relationship, even if it means you might get rejected or dumped.

But is he willing?

Holding back from you may be his way of protecting himself.

What he doesn’t realize is that he’s protecting himself from love as well as heartbreak.

You need to know whether this man can get over his fears so he can love you the way you deserve … or whether he’ll choose his fears over you.

Find out by asking yourself these 3 questions.

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Feel like Giving Up on Love?

Feel like Giving Up on Love?

“Don’t do it!” they’ll tell you. “You’ll find someone. You just haven’t met the right one yet.”

It’s nice that they’re so concerned about you. But you’re not sure if their concern is warranted.

After all, giving up on love feels like such a relief.

No more worrying about what men think.

No more worrying about whether you’re good enough.

If you tell your girlfriends you’re giving up on love, they’ll rush to hug and reassure you.

No more pressure to spend precious leisure time on dating.

If people ask you why you’re still single, you can answer honestly:

“I’m not looking for anyone right now.”

Words that taste like freedom.

It’s Okay to Take a Break…

Some people give up on love because they’ve had their heart broken. They don’t know if they can go through it again.

Despite what your friends say, it can be enormously healing to take a break from love. It gives you time to focus on yourself and remember how much you enjoy your own company.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be on your own for a while. Ironically, feeling comfortable on your own makes you even more attractive. You are less insecure, more relaxed, and able to just be you.

Some women have even found that the minute they’re no longer interested in dating, men come out of the woodwork.

An uninterested woman is a challenge. You may find yourself having to fend men off. Not exactly the result you’d expected, but rather nice all the same!

Just Don’t Give Up

Taking a break from love is not the same as giving up on love.

When you give up on love, you allow those feelings of anger and bitterness to run the show.

You’re sick and tired of putting all that effort in, risking your heart, and sacrificing for a man…

Only to have him shove that love right back in your face.

You’re mad.

And rightly so.

Feeling discouraged and angry after a major setback is a universal human experience. It doesn’t just happen in love. It happens at work. It happens with health. It happens to anyone with goals or aspirations.

The road to getting what you want is often rocky.

But here’s the key:

The more that goal means to you, the more you’ll face those challenges with determination instead of despair.

If you want something enough—whether it’s a happy marriage or career achievement—and you use that desire to fuel you when times get tough…

Then you’ll succeed where others fail.

That’s what psychologist Angela Duckworth discovered in her research on grit.

And it’s a secret superpower when it comes to dating. So let’s talk about the power of grit.

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The Lesson Oprah Learned about Men

Even Oprah used to sit by the phone waiting for a guy to call.

She’d stay off the phone in case he tried and got a busy signal. She wouldn’t go out to dump the trash or start a bath in case she missed hearing it ring.

This was decades ago, when she wasn’t the powerhouse she is today.

But she still had powerful friends…

And one of those was Dr. Maya Angelou.

The award-winning poet, author, and civil rights activist who would go on to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Angelou wasn’t a woman to pull any punches.

She listened patiently to Oprah complain about her bad relationships. Waiting for this guy to ring. Waiting by the window for that guy to show up.

Then Dr. Angelou said:

“When a person says to you, ‘I’m selfish,’ or ‘I’m mean,’ or ‘I am unkind,’ believe them. They know themselves much better than you do.”[1]

The moment was captured on camera for The Oprah Winfrey Show, and it became one of the defining lessons of Oprah’s life.

Oprah sums up what she learned like this:

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

It sounds so simple.

But it’s not.

How do you know someone just showed you who they are? You don’t want to jump to conclusions. You might be mistaken about what you saw. You don’t want to come down too hard on someone, especially if they’re doing their best. What about second chances?

Dr. Angelou’s message goes right up against the most powerful rule of being a good person:

See the good in everyone.

Do you look for the good in the men you date?

Or do you, like Dr. Angelou, look for the truth?

Ideally, you want to do both. Seeing the best in him makes him feel good. But his words and his actions may not align. Protect yourself by paying attention.

There’s a knack to balancing the two. See if you have it by trying this little quiz.

A man promises to call but doesn’t. Do you think:

  1. “He didn’t call. What a jerk! Good riddance,” or
  2.  “Hmm, he hasn’t called. Interesting,” or
  3.  “Why hasn’t he called? Maybe he got busy. Or something came up. Or his phone got disconnected.”
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