Gain Respect in Relationships
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When someone mentions the term “healthy relationship”, what words come to mind? Trust? Love? Affection? Gifts? Sex?
Okay, okay. Maybe A LOT of sex.
But what about respect? Perhaps the most important component of a relationship, yet the most overlooked, a lack of respect is usually the reason why many relationships fail.
The Reality of Respect
We live our lives in constant interaction with those around us. Whether in a business, school, or social setting, we always aim to earn the respect of our co-workers, peers, and friends. Some of us may gain the respect of everyone we come into contact with, while the rest of us gain a varying level of respect from our fellow human beings. Examples of this truth are all around us. I’m sure you know at least one person who gains the respect of everyone he/she interacts with, heck; even YOU want this person to like you.
Self Respect as a Boundary
Let’s call this person John (if you’re female, call this person Julie). Whenever you greet John, you get a calm “what’s going on”, or “what’s up”? He’s not in your face seeking your approval, he doesn’t care if you approve of him or not, and he always maintains his composure. He knows what he stands for, and doesn’t need the approval of others to define his own identity. Whenever you violate one of John’s standards, he lets you know immediately. If you continue to violate his standards, he won’t hesitate to walk away.
What’s going on here? John’s self respect serves as a boundary that protects him from anything and anyone who chooses to disrespect his clearly communicated standards. This boundary is visible to people around him. When people notice this boundary through John’s body language, tone of voice, or actions, they look at their own weaker boundary and choose to respect John.
How strong is your boundary?
Personal Boundary as a Border
I like to think of my personal boundary as the foundation for my self-respect. Without it, I wouldn’t know what to stand up for or how to defend my ideas and self-esteem. Try to imagine the border between the U.S and Mexico. It’s heavily guarded, and there are only select entry points people can pass through (although there are numerous gaps in the 2,000 mile border that compromise its integrity).
Think of your personal boundary as the border between two countries. You need to guard it as well as you can, and have as few gaps as possible. The better you do this; the better protected your self-esteem and ideas, and the more respect others will give you.
Building Your Boundary
Each of us has some semblance of a personal boundary we have developed over the years. Maybe your boundary is laden with many gaps, or maybe it resembles a circle, with very few gaps.
To fill in the gaps, you need to know what you like and what you don’t like; you have to have preferences. Ever heard the saying, “to get what you want out of life, you need to first know what you want out of life”? The same applies with building a strong boundary.
To give you a simple example of what I mean, think about your preference of car brands. You may prefer Porsche, but not Hummer; or you may prefer Ford, but not Dodge. These preferences influence the way you lead your life. If you prefer Ford over Dodge, you aren’t going to go out tomorrow and buy a Dodge; you’ll buy a Ford.
Let’s extend this example to include preferences such as “I will only accept first class behavior from myself and from others; I will never tolerate second class behavior from myself or others.” This is one of my personal beliefs and I find it to be extremely empowering.
When you adopt preferences such as these, your life begins to revolve around them. Any time you come across someone who violates your standards, you won’t hesitate to walk away. I don’t waste my time on people who don’t have enough self-respect and high enough standards to hold themselves responsible for acting with first class behavior.
Know what you stand for, be picky. When you’re picky, you won’t settle for anything less than what you know you deserve. The higher you set your standards, the higher the quality of your life.
I suggest you pull out a piece of paper, or open a word document right now. Begin to list all of your preferences. Start with easy things such as “I prefer (favorite car brand here) over any other type of car”, or “I like [favorite color here’ more than any other color”. Work your way up until you begin to define your preferences having to do with your relationships with other people. Once you have clearly defined as many preferences as you can, choose to never settle for behavior or actions any less than these standards.
Respect and Relationships
For some reason, many people forget the importance of respect when starting a relationship with that “special someone”. Perhaps it’s those initial butterflies that cause you to forget; or maybe your significant other is so damn attractive that you just don’t care! Overlooking this component may be fine at first, but it will soon catch up with you and bite you in the ass. Let me demonstrate what I mean through personal experience.
When I began my first relationship, I was young, naive, inexperienced, and overwhelmed by all the feelings associated with a new relationship. I assumed these feeling meant I was in love, asked no questions, and led a happy life for nearly seven months.
Painfully, this all came tumbling down when I realized the person I was with had no sense of self respect. I’m the kind of guy who can’t respect people who have no sense of self respect (so if that’s you, stay away! Just kidding). I’m sure you can guess where the relationship went from here. I unconsciously began to do what I pleased, when I pleased. We fought all the time, largely because I didn’t listen to or believe anything she said, and eventually we broke up.
This is a common situation in most relationships. One person has a stronger sense of self and self respect than the other person. Sooner or later, the stronger person realizes this is the case, and either unconsciously takes advantage of the weaker person, or decides to pack up and leave.
Looking back, I realize I made a number of mistakes while leading this relationship. First of all, if my boundary was strong enough, and I had higher standards, I would’ve never settled for this person in the first place. Secondly, if I did have a strong boundary, my actions would have demonstrated this fact from the get-go, and the girl would have either been too intimidated to talk to me, or would have constantly been striving to meet my standards.
Using Your Boundary in Relationships
How do you utilize your boundary in a relationship? You utilize it to build respect. And how exactly do you do that? Well, since your boundary is a “wall” which represents your standards and preferences, you must allow only certain things to permeate this “wall”. If you have a solid wall of preferences, and have no ability to let certain things in, then you will be unable to compromise. I’m not advising you to be a stubborn, uncompromising person. I’m suggesting that you live your life by certain standards, and never settle for anything less than the highest quality of behavior from the people in your life.
Any time you come across someone who does meet your standards, let them in and out of your “wall” selectively as long as they act in accordance with your standards. Make sure that you do not tolerate too many violations of your standards; otherwise the other person may begin to lose respect for you, and may think you just talk the talk and can’t walk the walk. To instill respect, your partner must understand that you will not stick around no matter what.
Demonstrate Your Standards
It is important to lay out your standards in plain view for your partner to see from the beginning. Take as many opportunities as you can to demonstrate your standards to your partner. If this means telling them a story of someone who previously violated one of your standards, go ahead. For example, one of my pet peeves is people telling me they will call me back, but then never calling back.
I view this as second class behavior. So I would tell my partner a story that goes something like this. “Yeah you know, I hate it when people don’t call me back. A few weeks ago, Johnny said he was going to call me back but then he never did. I told him I didn’t like it, but he still did it again. After the second time, I never spoke to him again.” This is a true story (the person’s name wasn’t Johnny), and it demonstrates one of my many standards. You can be sure that whoever hears this story early on in our relationship will never fail to call me back.
Another way to demonstrate your standards from the get-go is to be particularly picky. When the person of interest suggests something that isn’t in line with what you want to do or what you believe in, tell them “no” and suggest another idea.
This is what you should be doing anyways if you have a strong, well-defined boundary. Would you be wasting your time doing things you don’t like to do and tolerating second class behavior when you expect more? No, you wouldn’t be. Instill respect in others by standing up for yourself. Hold people to the highest standards, and you will find that they will always be working to meet these standards.
Summing it All Up
Remember, when you are looking to start a relationship with that special someone, it is important they respect you and your boundary. If you have well-defined preferences and standards, your actions and words will demonstrate these standards. Your special someone will understand violating this boundary will lead to your disapproval, and eventually will lead to you walking away. Assuming all of the other elements of a relationship are in place (attraction, connection, trust, etc.), the last thing they would want is for you to leave.
If you have absorbed this entire article, you will become more conscious of the strength of your own boundary. I have spent a lot of time defining my own preferences, and I keep defining them more clearly every day. If you make a commitment to yourself to consciously and actively define your preferences, while choosing to never tolerate any behavior out of line with these preferences, you will notice the quality of your life will improve drastically.
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