As author wrote in his book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs, women want love in their relationships, and men want respect.
Although I disagree with the author and believe that the desire to be respected by your spouse is universal and transcends gender, there is something to say about how respect affects men specifically. When it occurs, men are left wondering what to do when they feel that their wife does not respect them and struggle with this on their own.
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Feeling Disrespected in Marriage Affects Men Differently
For the sake of this article, we will be exploring how respect—or rather, disrespect—affects men in relationships. As mentioned above, respect affects both men and women in a marriage. However, the assertion is that it affects them in different ways. To do this, we first need to start with the definition of respect.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, respect is defined as the “admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities.” This would be extremely important to feel from your spouse and as mentioned earlier, both men and women would equally desire this from each other in their relationship. When men, however, feel that they are disrespected in their marriage, they react differently than women and feel rejected.
Men React to Disrespect by Feeling Rejected
Rejection is one of the biggest fears men have in relationships. Men will seek out easy sexual conquests, stay in dysfunctional relationships, keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, and run away from relationships altogether to avoid being rejected.
Even though remaining single seems that it would minimize the risk of being rejected, a study by the University of Manchester found that remaining single only resulted in men feeling more lonely and more sensitive to rejection.
Is Your Wife Disrespecting You or Do You Have Low Self-Esteem?
Just because men react to disrespect by feeling rejected, unlike Emerson Eggerichs, it doesn’t mean that it is the responsibility of a wife to show respect to her husband. After all, respect must be earned. It is more likely that if a man feels disrespected by his wife, he lacks that respect for himself in the first place.
It is often when I am coaching men who feel they are being disrespected in their relationship that they lack their own self-respect and struggle with low self-esteem. A lack of self-respect and having low self-esteem is the quickest way to attract disrespect and rejection into your life, for we cannot expect others to respect or accept us if we cannot respect or accept ourselves.
Men with low self-esteem and lack self-respect create never-ending and unrealistic expectations in their relationships, often resulting in a dependency on their wife to validate them. This places a lot of pressure on their wife to “lift them up” or make them feel good about themselves with praise and encouragement.
Subsequently, it creates an imbalance in the marriage and ultimately leads to the wife building resentment against her husband and ultimately losing respect for him.
Low Self-Esteem Leads to an Imbalance in the Marriage, Resentment, and Disrespect
When coaching couples, we see this imbalance in the marriage when one person “chases” after the other looking for attention, validation, approval, recognition, acceptance, and respect. Although these may be valid needs in a relationship with each partner giving them freely to each other, when one person “expects” these needs to be met by their partner, it transforms the intention from a gift into a demand.
John Gottman, a leading researcher in couples relationships, describes a pattern of relating that exemplifies this chase called the Pursuer-Distancer pattern. This “dance” of one moving towards and the other moving away has been identified as a leading reason for divorce. When this concept is applied to men seeking respect from their wives, one can see a similar effect.
When men energetically “chase” after their wives for respect, this sets in motion a response of distancing on the part of the wife. It can feel “smothering” or “engulfing” when a person places this expectation upon you and the natural response is to create distance. However, instead of creating more breathing space, this can have the opposite effect and prompt the “pursuer” to “chase” even more closing the distance.
This distancing behavior by the wife is almost always experienced by men as rejection, which, as explained earlier, is one of the biggest fears that men have. The cycle is then reinforced as the man is motivated to avoid his fear and seeks to find reassurance from his wife, which in turn prompts her to distance even more.
Wives Respect Husbands Who Respect Themselves
In the book, The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire, author David Deida asserts that women despise and distrust men that are dependent upon them for their own happiness. He goes on to say that when men make their relationship the top priority, they lose the respect of the woman in their life.
If we are to learn anything from this, it is that if a man wants to gain the respect of his wife, he has to respect himself first. Men who seek out respect from their wives are only going to be met with distrust and disrespect, defeating the purpose of what they want in the first place.
This approach to gaining respect in a marriage is echoed on a grander scale in a quote by Mahatma Gandhi. He once said, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
7 Ways Men Can Increase Self-Respect
Now that we’ve discussed how important self-respect is for a wife to respect his husband, here are 7 ways you can increase your self-respect so your wife will respect you, too.
1. Find Your True Purpose and Meaning
Why not begin with the loftiest goal? After all, if we are not aware of what our true purpose and meaning are in this world, how can we expect to respect ourselves and in turn have others respect us?
Finding your true purpose and meaning obviously starts with a whole lot of soul searching and ultimately may not lead us to the final answer, but asking the questions starts us on the right path.
2. Give Freely Without Strings Attached
When we give to others, it makes us feel better about ourselves, as long as we don’t have any ulterior motives. Giving with strings attached—that is, with expectations—never feels genuine for the giver or the receiver, and it diminishes the original intention.
3. Carve Out Time in Your Life for Hobbies and Activities That Help You Grow as a Person
Spending time with your partner is important to learn and grow within a relationship. However, growing as an individual is just as important as a priority. Challenging yourself to learn and experience new things adds to your own confidence and self-esteem.
4. Remove Negative People From Your Life
Trying to change for the better is hard enough as it is. Trying to change among people who are critical or negative about you making changes in your life is detrimental to evolving as a person.
Limit the amount of time you spend around people who hold you back from success.
5. Say ‘No’ When You Mean It
One of the quickest ways to erode our self-esteem is to go along with what others tell us to do. Saying no when you don’t want to do something will result in some pushback from others, but it will not count against your own self-esteem.
6. Celebrate Your Accomplishments
People with low self-esteem and lack self-respect are often reluctant to celebrate their accomplishments. They are afraid to come across as arrogant or braggadocio. However, celebrating our accomplishments motivates us to accomplish more and to continue growing.
7. Surround Yourself With Motivating and Inspiring People
In addition to removing negative people from your life, it is equally important to surround yourself with successful, motivating, and inspiring people. Raise the bar so high and then become the person to achieve it. Do this by becoming inspired by others’ achievements.
Each couple must take responsibility for their own part in their marriage, and although every relationship expert would recommend that a couple work together to create a happy and healthy marriage, it is still the responsibility of each member in the relationship to work on themselves.
Men seeking respect from their wives have their energy focused in the wrong direction and must pivot to focus on improving their own self-respect. It is only then—when they feel confident about who they are and are clear on their direction in life—that other peoples’ opinions will cease to matter, and they will then gain the respect that they deserve from the people in their lives.