A healthy, happy relationship can’t exist without trust and respect.
While trust is the firm belief in your partner’s reliability, truth, or ability, respect is showing consideration for their feelings, thoughts, and wishes as well as having a deep admiration for who they are and what they do.
By definition, there are two types of respect.
The first type is the one you’re expected to (or should) give everyone solely on the basis that they’re a human being just like you — the consideration for their feelings, thoughts, and wishes.
The second type is the one that, in my opinion, you have to earn from others and only give to others after it’s has been earned — the deep admiration for who they are and what they do.
Why is respect important?
A healthy, happy relationship needs both types of respect to maintain and thrive — especially the latter.
Without respect, a person will disregard your feelings, thoughts, or wishes when taking an action. They might nitpick you, talk over you, undermine your achievements, make demeaning jokes of you, repeatedly push your boundaries, or straight up ignore you like you don’t exist.
When you can sense that they don’t respect you, interacting with them will erode your self-esteem and well-being. And if you don’t know how to set things right or are too attached to a disrespectful partner, your relationship can easily slip into an abusive pattern.
Building respect is a crucial part of the dating process that not many people talk about. Even when you’re already in an established relationship, it’s important to keep making effort to strengthen trust and respect between two partners.
What differentiates a mediocre relationship from a great relationship is that the latter has deep respect as part of their foundation.
Here are 10 ways to gain deep respect from your romantic partner (and the people around you.)
1. Say what you mean, mean what you say
In the early stages of dating, your partner needs to know who you are as an individual in order to have a deeper respect for you. And one way to communicate yourself most sincerely is by being honest and consistent in your words and actions.
When you say you’re going to call them, call them. When you realise you don’t see a future with them, tell them. Soon, they will learn that your words and actions carry meaning and weight — they won’t doubt you or push you. Even if they don’t like what they hear from you, they will respect you for having integrity.
2. Have boundaries
Having boundaries shows others that you respect yourself and you won’t deal with them unless they respect you.
The boundaries you have with others (external boundaries) teach them how to treat you. They know that, in order to have a relationship with you, they can’t just act in any way they want — Respect is non-negotiable.
On the other hand, the boundaries you have with yourself (internal boundaries) demonstrate self-awareness and a strong character — it’s not something anyone can do, which can elicit deeper respect from others.
3. Have clear values
When you have clear values, it will shine through every step of your way. Your partner will know exactly who they’re getting into a relationship with, and they will respect your judgments and decisions because they know you have a clear “why” — your values.
Ask yourself “What do I value in life?” or “What qualities do I admire in others?” — that should help you identify your core values. Make them known in daily conversations and interactions with your partner. Remember that your values are the centre of who you are — they should be stronger than the urge to please others.
If your partner doesn’t agree with your values, take it as a sign that you’re not compatible — don’t change your values for anyone except for yourself.
4. Make independent judgments and decisions
It’s hard to respect someone who always agrees with everyone without their own reasons or relies on others to make decisions for them.
If you want deeper respect from your partner, you need to be able to form your own views and take actions without the heavy influence of others. You need to be able to lead when called for and stand up for yourself when challenged.
Next time if your partner asks you something as simple as “What should we have for dinner?”, give them a specific answer, or have a plan ready. If they suggest something you don’t like, tell them exactly that and propose a different plan.
5. Have a life outside of the relationship
When you have a life of your own — for example, a job you do and hobbies you pick up that have nothing to do with your relationship — your partner will know that you have more to yourself than just being their significant other, and that will help build attraction and respect between you two.
By spending time doing the things that make you better, you show others that your well-being and happiness are important to you and deserving of respect. You don’t have to rely on anyone to meet all your needs and no one can control you — you’re your own person.
Without deprioritizing the relationship, schedule some time alone, or sign up for a new hobby that requires weekly commitment, for instance. It will help you feel more balanced and allow you to give back to the relationship even more.
6. Act respectfully
It goes without saying that you should act in a respectful manner towards your partner if you want them to grow their respect for you.
It means watching the language you use with them, not talking behind their back, factoring their opinions when making a decision that concerns the relationship, being considerate of their feelings, asking them questions to ensure they’re comfortable in a certain situation, and so on.
7. Listen well
In a conversation with your partner, instead of waiting for your turn to speak, really listen to them. Show them that you’re interested in what they’re having to say and ask them thoughtful questions to get a deeper understanding of their feelings and thoughts and encourage them to share more.
When they open up to you about their problems, don’t jump to give them a solution — simply be present with them. Try to identify their underlying needs and meet them the best you can. Express your care and compassion.
This signals that your emotional strength is immense, and anyone would respect you for that.
8. Own up to your mistakes
Being able to own up to your mistakes shows maturity and a healthy ego.
When you’re in the wrong, admit it to yourself, and be honest with your partner about it. Reflect on your mistakes and propose an appropriate solution.
Even if you haven’t yet to see how you’re in the wrong but your partner tells you that your actions hurt them, acknowledge their feelings, and apologise first for how you make them feel.
It means that you put them before being right, and you’re big enough of a person to do that. In fact, the conflict might become an opportunity for you to get closer.
9. Have your own opinions, but stay open-minded
Just like being able to make independent judgments and decisions, having your own opinions will gain you respect from others.
However, it will cost you a lot more if you get stuck in your own way and insist on being right while shutting others out.
When you keep your mind open and show consideration for your partner’s opinions to make a well-informed decision together, it sends a message to them that you respect them, are mentally flexible, and can act as a team, which makes you a very desirable partner.
10. Be willing to change
Changes are not easy. Being told that you might need to change is even more difficult to hear and act on.
But that’s exactly why the willingness and ability to change for the better, whether it’s as simple as trying new activities or a bit difficult as forming a healthy habit, indicates significant strength and growth.
Certainly, you shouldn’t just change because your partner wants you to — the change should come from your own self-awareness and careful thinking about your self-development.
What to Do When Your Partner Disrespects You?
What if you have done all of the above and your partner still shows disrespect towards you or simply doesn’t treat you with the level of respect you think you deserve?
First, you need to remember that it’s a reflection of them, not you. Secondly, you might have to accept that the relationship doesn’t work for you and stop trying to fix it or gain their respect in vain. Frankly, if they can’t appreciate you, they’re neither right for you nor worth your effort.
Respect is fundamental in a good relationship — it’s not something you should ever brush off or make excuses for. It will affect both the quality of your relationship and your long-term well-being and happiness, so get it right from the beginning.
Show respect for yourself.
You show respect for yourself by acknowledging that the way your partner treats you doesn’t meet your standards and you would like it to stop. Know what you deserve and don’t settle for less.
Call them out immediately.
The moment they show disrespect towards you, point out exactly what it is that they do and how it makes you feel. Propose what you would like them to do instead.
Establish your boundaries.
If they don’t get it, you have to enact your boundaries, meaning that you won’t continue interacting with them unless they treat you in a way that’s acceptable to you and show remorse for their disrespect.
You need to make sure they understand clearly what they did and why it is not okay — better yet, they should say it in their own words.
Consider ending the relationship if required.
If their disrespect towards you is intentional, happens repeatedly, or comes from more complicated issues such as misogynist, racism, or alcoholism, you need to consider breaking up with them. It’s not your job to convince them of your worth.
Ask yourself “Why do I want to gain their respect?” because the truth is, not everyone’s respect is worth earning. Some people deserve to be out of your life altogether, and whether they respect you or not is none of your business.
Personally, I’ve been in both types of relationships — one that constantly made me doubt myself and keep my guard up vs. one that shows me my best self and blossoms from deep respect. I’m telling you the difference is night and day.
You deserve to be with someone who treats you like you’re the best thing that has ever happened to them. Please believe it.