SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham explain the two different types of respect and how to influence people to change themselves.
Over the years my spouse has picked up many bad habits that annoy me and make it hard to respect him. I am very disciplined and clean while he plays video games and is, in my opinion, lazy. The problem is as I lose respect for his choices, I lose respect for him and it is making me less and less excited about our relationship. I don’t want to leave my marriage and I know I can’t change another person, so what can I do? Is there love without respect? Any advice would be great.
There are some things you can do (and change in yourself and your thinking) that could improve how you feel about your spouse and your marriage. There is also a way you might even encourage him to change a bit. Before we give you that advice, we want to explain what love and respect are:
Love is actually appreciating who someone is, as they are, wanting the best for them, and wanting to give to them to make them happy. Just because you love someone, though, doesn’t mean you should necessarily live with them, stay in a relationship with them or that you will respect (or agree with) their choices.
Respect is defined as the condition of esteeming or honoring another. We believe there are two different kinds of respect though:
The first is conditional respect and is based on their choices. If people make choices that you deem as good, according to your value system, you will naturally esteem them more and have more conditional respect for them. When they make choices that you deem as bad, according to your values, you may not respect or esteem them. This seems like the kind of respect you have lost for your spouse.
The second is unconditional respect and it involves respecting another person’s right to be who they are, where they are in their life classroom, and honor their right to think, feel, and choose to live the way they want. We should give this unconditional respect to every person in our life.
Having said that, it does not mean you have to agree with them or enable the behavior. It might mean you love and unconditionally respect them from afar, if that choice feels right to you. But understand, real love includes unconditional respect, and if you really love your spouse, you should choose this kind of respect, even if you aren’t feeling much of the other.
In the book "Anna Karenina", author Leo Tolstoy wrote, "Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be."
So, when you are having trouble loving someone, you might want to try some unconditional respect instead. Focus on gaining empathy for what they have been through, what their upbringing was like, and how their personality is different from yours.
As life coaches, we believe personality tests and subconscious thinking assessments can make a huge difference. They can help you understand yourself and the people you love at a whole new level.
When you understand how your partner is wired, what they value most, what they fear most, how they think and see the world, how their personality differs from yours, and how these factors drive your and their behavior, it’s a game changer.
Peter Grey, Ph.D wrote in Psychology Today that "to respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product. In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve.”
Now, this can still be a problem if you don’t like what they want to achieve and you don’t conditionally respect their choices. You may still want them to change. The good news is, even though you cannot make another person change, you can sometimes influence them to want to change themselves. And if this happens, everyone wins.
You do this through encouragement, not criticism. Instead of complaining, nagging and begging them to behave the way you want, figure out how you would treat them if they were behaving the way you want them to — and then start doing and saying those things now.
Start complimenting him and commenting on how he is really being productive and getting more done lately, and helping around the house, and that you are so happy being married to such a responsible guy. Say these things even if he isn't doing them yet. This isn’t lying — it’s seeing the potential in him before he even realizes it’s there. This works great with kids, too. Here is a KSL.com article I wrote in 2015 about this encouragement technique.
If you will learn to understand how and why your spouse is different from you, and keep encouraging him to be the person you know he has the potential to be, we believe things could get better fast.
You can do this.
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