Earning Respect – Assume Love

Respect is just as important as love for a healthy marriage, and maybe even more important. Contempt (the opposite of respect, reflected in eye-rolling, a wrinkled nose, or a “yeah, right”) is a clear sign your marriage is in trouble, according to John Gottman, one of the best-known relationship researchers.

When Jennifer R. Frei and Philip R. Shaver at the University of California Davis ran a study with college students to define respect before they measured it in relationships, they reported:

[R]espect is an attitudinal disposition toward a close relationship partner who is trustworthy, considerate, and accepting, and this conception holds across a variety of close relationships.

After their third study, looking at relationships in an older and more varied group than just college students, they concluded:

[T]he new respect scale predicted relationship satisfaction better than scales measuring liking, loving, attachment-related anxiety and avoidance, and positive and negative partner qualities.

If you’re one of those spouses who feels respect must always be earned, let me give you something to think about.

Presumed innocent until proven guilty

– Sir William Garrow, 1791

This was not the first time that respect (the presumption that someone’s character and motives are good until proven otherwise) was codified into law. You’ll find it in ancient Hebrew, Roman, Islamic, and the law of Louis IX of France in the 13th century.

If your spouse has not recently done something that made you abruptly question his or her underlying trustworthiness or moral character, trying looking for evidence of reasons to trust your partner’s judgement. And let him or her know you noticed. In addition to increasing your own marital satisfaction, you just must create more reasons to admire your guy or gal:

Praise makes us brave.

– Barbara Sher

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