1. What specific actions and words make you feel respected?
What is respect? According to the Oxford Dictionary, respect is “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” When we are shown respect, we feel valued and acknowledged.
We particularly want respect from the one person we love the most, whose opinion and regard are so deeply important to us. Feeling respected is different for every individual. What makes your partner feel respected might not mean as much to you. Talk to each other about where you need to feel respect and how your partner can best show you respect.
2. How have you been disrespected in the past, and how did it make you feel?
Part of understanding our own desires for respect derives from the ways we might have been disrespected in the past. If we are ignored, diminished, teased, or criticized for whom we are, what we value, or what we’ve achieved, we carry wounds that make us bristle when the behavior toward us is repeated even slightly. You can help yourself and your partner understand your need for respect by examining where you’ve lacked it in the past.
3. Am I doing anything now to make you feel disrespected?
Part of the discussion about respect needs to include any ways in which either of you might make your partner feel disrespected. This might be unconscious and perfectly innocent behavior, but if it causes your partner pain, you need to alter the behavior or language. Discuss this openly with each other and offer your partner a safe space to let you know about any feelings of being disrespected he or she might harbor.
4. Are there any ways in which you feel undeserving of respect?
We can unconsciously foster an attitude of disrespect from others when we don’t respect ourselves or don’t feel deserving of respect. You can send signals to others, including your spouse or partner, that you don’t value yourself and therefore aren’t worthy of their respect. Do you see yourself in this way? Often these feelings come from low self-esteem, or perhaps there is a valid reason you’ve lost respect for yourself. Your partner can offer you the compassion and love to safely reveal your feelings and discuss how to regain self-respect.
5. How can I support you in feeling more respected in this area?
When we lack self-esteem and self-respect in some area of our lives, it is immeasurably comforting and reassuring to have someone in our corner, willing to help us regain our footing. Sometimes it takes the tender care of our beloved to help us see our own worthiness. If your spouse or partner is lacking self-respect, find out how you can support efforts to rebuild and maintain it going forward.
6. What acts of kindness from me mean the most to you?
You’ve heard the saying, “It’s the smalls things that count.” Small acts of kindness often communicate the strongest expressions of love and respect. These small acts add up to make our partners feel appreciated and cherished. Find out from each other which acts of kindness are most valued. Find out if there are any small acts your partner would like from you that you haven’t offered before.
7. How have I unknowingly been less than kind to you?
We might not mean to wound or neglect each other, but we can say or do things that cause our partner to bristle or feel pain. It’s hard to hear that we might have unknowingly wounded our partners, but it’s important to address these small paper cuts before they cause deeper wounds or resentments. Gently share any unkindness with each other, and discuss the reasons behind the pain or irritation.
8. How should I let you know that I feel you’re being unkind?
Often unkind words or actions occur when we’re tired, stressed, worried, or distracted. We all have those moments, no matter how hard we try to be loving and kind all the time. On those occasions, it’s hard to be corrected or reminded of unkind behaviors. How would you like your spouse or partner to let you know you are acting in an unkind way or speaking unkindly so that you can avoid a conflict or defensive feelings?
9. Do you see me as a kind person to you and others?
Kindness is such an important trait to foster, not only toward your partner but also with anyone you encounter. It isn’t hard to speak with kindness or to offer small acts of kindness daily. Unfortunately, in this busy, competitive, and demanding world, kindness isn’t a highly regarded trait. We forget to be kind, because we aren’t always rewarded for it. If you see the value of being kind and expressing it to others, and you want to be a kinder person, your spouse or partner can reflect back to you whether or not this is one of your strengths. If it’s not, ask your partner how you could be more kind in general and how to develop this part of your personality.
10. What acts of kindness or service could we perform together that would strengthen our relationship?
It feels good to be kind to others, and if you value kindness as a couple, it provides another wellspring for intimacy and connection. Do you have a neighbor or friend who needs support? Is there a young person in your lives who could benefit from having you as mentors? Is there a cause or project that is meaningful to both of you? Talk about ways you can share in acts of kindness that would be fulfilling.
Follow-up: Are there any behavior adjustments you’d like to request from your partner related to respect and kindness? What specific action steps will you both take to help your partner feel more respect and kindness? Write these down and determine how and when you will initiate these changes or actions.