By: Julie Caldwell, MS LMFT
The foundation of a happy and healthy relationship is respect. It’s such a simple concept, yet so difficult to carry out at times. As adults, in long-term and committed relationships, so many layers of our lives intertwine. Sharing so much of our lives enhances the richness of relationships, but can also create more opportunities for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. When everything is going smoothly, respect comes easy. The challenge is to practice respect in our attitude, feelings and behavior even we are experiencing the bumps of life.
Practicing respect starts internally, with our attitude.
A respectful attitude, which is the base for our thoughts and interpretations, is the belief that we have inherent worth, value and preciousness. Inherent worth means our value as people
cannot go up or down when we have good behavior or when we make mistakes. Even when we’re doing our very best, we will all still make mistakes. It is a necessary part of being human and being relational with our loved ones.
Our attitude directly impacts our feelings of love.
When it comes to loving one another, the very MINIMUM expression of “love” is respect. So, if we are saying to each other, “I love you”, at the very least, and even in our worst moments, we should be treating each other respectfully. It’s important to strive for excellence in this area, but also remember that none of us can do this perfectly. Maturity in relationships means we choose to be loving towards each other, even when we don’t feel like it and even when the other person is misbehaving.
Our feelings motivate our behavior.
Respectful behavior in relationships is treating others the way you would want to be treated. Being respectful to others is a natural outflow of respecting yourself and living out of your own inherent worth, value and preciousness. Sometimes we fall into thinking that respect must be EARNED. Not true. Others’ behavior can either make it easy or difficult to practice respect, but it is never earned because it is based on the truth of who we are at the core, our inherent worth.
Practicing respect requires a high commitment to accountability.
It is much easier to recognize what someone else is doing wrong, then to see it in ourselves. It’s painful to recognize our own misbehavior. If we admit we’re wrong, it can feel like we’ve lost our sense of worth. The truth is, when we own up to our mistakes, we are being honest about who we are, which leads to true joy and contentment. When you can believe your worth and value is inherent, and not based on how perfectly you can go through life, accountability becomes both an act of self respect and respect towards others.
When couples who are raising children model respect in their households, children learn to do the same.
As adults, we are always striving to do at least “one better” for our children. A friend of ours says our ceiling will be the floor for our children. If we are deciding that respect is going to be the foundation in our families, just imagine what could happen for our kids in their future relationships. The sky’s the limit. When I think about the possibilities, we can create for the next generation, it gives me chills from head to toe. What a humongous responsibility and wonderful opportunity. Are you ready to raise the roof?
Julie Caldwell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She lives in Anthem, with her husband and two children, and enjoys the family-centered lifestyle of the community. In her private practice, workshops and seminars, Julie counsels individuals, couples, and families in the North Valley. To learn more, visit www.juliecaldwellcounseling.com, or contact Julie at (602) 791-0894.