R-E-S-P-E-C-T… All I’m askin’… Is for a little respect when you come home (Ooh).
They were the catchy lyrics that came to mean so much more than a frothy pop song usually amounts to.
Set against the context of the civil rights movements in 1967, the song that tells the story of a relationship on the brink quickly became a roaring anthem to a generation of women fighting for equality.
After all, it’s all anyone really wants. So sock it to me.
If there’s one person in this world who should treat you with the utmost respect, surely it’s your partner.
Sadly, things don’t always work out that way.
All too often respect can slip from our grasp in a relationship and be replaced with its dangerous nemesis: Contempt.
You’ve probably seen it before among your friends, when one half of a couple can barely veil their disgust in their partner – making snide remarks, rolling their eyes… a big show to let everyone know what an idiot they think their partner is. It makes for uncomfortable dinner parties.
And it’s toxic. The experts all agree: Any relationship that is to survive needs a healthy dose of respect at its helm.
But what does that mean when translated to real life?
It’s a two-step process. You need to first have respect for yourself, and then you also need to respect your partner.
Having a modicum of self-esteem will protect you against any disrespect aimed from other people. Because if you respect yourself, you simply won’t allow anyone else to compromise on that.
You have your own standards, moral codes and boundaries about how you want to be treated. They should be communicated to people around you – including and especially your partner – and enforced.
This in turn helps others build respect for you.
Building up a wall of self-esteem is a good thing. You can deflect others’ bad behaviour with it.
But sometimes, we let our partners get away with violating our standards.
Let someone chip it once, and then twice, and so on and you can easily make the mistake of allowing them to pull the whole thing down around you.
How you talk to each other is a good example. It’s easy to lose control and say the wrong things in an argument.
I decided early on that wasn’t for me – I’m not the type who can cop nasty words being hurled at me and then forget about them later when the argument has died down.
I set a boundary in all my relationships that we respect each other enough to not be abusive, even when we’re fighting. I will not and do not allow people to call me names.
Sure, we can still swear and vent, but it’s never vitriolic and it’s never aimed directly at each other as a personal attack – always at the other’s actions, which is a different thing altogether.
In contrast, the way some of my friends talk to each other during arguments is downright alarming.
It’s important to demonstrate your standards to your partner. If you don’t like to be kept waiting, if you hate it when people don’t return your phone calls, if you want your opinion considered, then communicate that.
If your partner truly cares, they’ll be more than happy to uphold your standards as a display of their respect.
In return, you partner also deserves your respect.
Treat them the way they would like to be treated. Never compromise their emotional or physical wellbeing. Be considerate and acknowledge them often.
You’ll make Aretha proud.