Can I let you in on a little marriage secret?
Respect is hot stuff.
The more I build up my husband, the better our marriage.
The more I speak rudely, backseat drive, nitpick, bully, backseat drive, complain, and unleash my control freak by backseat driving, the worse our marriage.
He lives with me, so no one bears with my disrespect more than my husband. Why is it that the ones closest to us are so often the hardest to treat with kindness and courtesy?
But since I began meditating on the issue of respect and praying for an increase of respect in our marriage, I have seen not only my own behavior improve, but our tenderness as well. My respecting him more has spiced up our marriage.
More tenderness. Makes sense, right? Our spouses desire our respect, and, in charity, we owe it to them. But, more than that, we want happier marriages, and happy marriages rest on a foundation of mutual respect.
So how do we build respect?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Eleven Tips For Spicing Up Your Marriage
1. Mind your manners. If the Pope, the President, and the Queen all showed up for dinner, we’d be sure to chew with our mouths closed, use our inside voices, and (here’s preaching at myself) soften our blunt speech. Our spouses deserve similar treatment. While home is the place where we relax and let our guard down, we still need to retain those common courtesies which show how much we respect one other’s time, tolerance, and personal space.
2. Speak well of your spouse to others. Nothing helps you increase your own respect for your spouse than building him up with others. That’s not to say you tax your girlfriends’ patience with tales of your spouse’s particular awesomeness, but when the opportunity arises for you to toot his horn, toot away!
3. Don’t complain or bicker in public. The corollary to the above tip is to keep the bad stuff about your hubby to yourself and, as necessary, trusted advisors. Nothing sows disrespect for the other so well as airing the dirty laundry in public. When faced with a public disagreement requiring immediate attention, try the phrase, “You may be right, but I’d feel more comfortable if we did this.”
4. Remember that blood is thicker than water. Your in-laws might have fallen off the turnip truck from outer space, but that does not give you license to complain about them. Chances are, even if your spouse complains about his own family on occasion, he might feel defensive listening to your own in-law gripes. Look for the best in his family, find diplomatic ways to address disagreements and set boundaries, and, when all else fails, keep your mouth shut. Honoring his family is another way of honoring him.
5. Sweep your own side of the street. Speaking of that turnip truck, what part of your frustrations – any frustrations – are caused by your own wackiness? Before giving vent to any and all your frustrations, take time to discern and examine the root cause of your criticisms of and resentments toward your spouse. You may discover that the greater problem lies not with him but with yourself.
6. Be willing to make amends. Showing disrespect is a form of pride: we think we’re better, have better judgment, or have an excuse for treating another with unkindness. But an “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” not only addresses the hurt feelings of the other, it reminds us that we’re not always better, or right, or well-intentioned. Abiding in the truth is at the root of humility.
7. When expressing anger and hurt feelings, do so without accusation. Few people boast mind-reading skills. Unless your honey is another St. Jean Vianney or Padre Pio, you’re going to have to tell him the whos, whats, and whys of your being upset or in need of something. But hurling accusations at your spouse is insulting and belittling. Instead, use “I” statements. For instance, rather than, “You did this,” try, “When this happened, I felt like I was betrayed,” or, “To me, it seemed like I wasn’t being listened to when you did that.”
8. Practice gratitude for the other. Form the daily habit of thanking God and your spouse for his love and presence in your life. When marriage troubles arise, be even more deliberate and concrete about counting your blessings in the person of your spouse. That’s not to say you ignore the issues that make him, for the moment, a World-Class Jerk, but practicing gratitude for his good qualities can go a long way toward resolution and forgiveness.
9. Be more deliberate about asking his counsel. Seeking your spouse’s opinion shows him how much you value his judgment and leadership. Not all the decisions we daily face require consultation with our husband, but oftentimes we come up against a situation about which we lack clarity or that affects the family as a whole. Before rushing in with a solution, talk to your spouse. He might see the situation in a different light and suggest an alternative solution. Taking the time to listen to him not only helps you make correct choices, it shows that you esteem him.
10. Don’t nag. Nagging is a not-so-subtle form of manipulation. Don’t manipulate; ask. Ask for what you want, politely, stating clearly your expectations, and then let it go. Accept his answer (yes or no), and give him time to address the situation in his own way. If, after a reasonable wait, the situation remains unresolved, employ the tactics of Tip #7 above.
11. Pray for greater respect. My current prayer for my own marriage is, “Increase our love, our affection, and our mutual respect.” The days I ask God for this, I find I have greater patience and self-control. God is quick to answer this prayer, I think, because He wills love, affection, and respect for every marriage.
Try choosing one tip to put into practice for two weeks. Pray and journal about it every day and include it in your evening examination of conscience. When we bring the practice of respect to the forefront of our prayer and personal reflection, we further allow God to transform our hearts and our bad habits for the betterment – the spiciness – of our marriages.
Copyright 2013 Rhonda Ortiz