Q. I recently had an epiphany during my therapy session. Love without respect is worthless. Why did it take me two failed marriages and a series of dating to finally get it?
A. I think the fairy tale is more about falling in love. The movies are more about love. The commercials proclaim that “Love is in the air.” Love is both wonderful and addicting.
But is it enough?
I think if love was enough the divorce rate would not be so high. There would be less couples in therapy. There might be less substance abuse and activity abuse. There might be less fighting.
Saying “I Love You” is easy. They can be the most beautiful words or the most damaging. The words by themselves with no respect attached are for the most part……..meaningless. It is sad that we have not made the connection sooner.
I have talked with many couples who are approaching divorce and still say they love each other. But they share MANY examples of disrespect. They love each other but do not like each other. When disrespect wipes out the relationship it takes a lot of work to repair it. Many of the resentments that develop are directly connected to lack of respect.
It is as if the two people “in love” become adversaries. If one of the partners does share that something is annoying and that person continues to do it…….why wouldn’t that person feel disrespected?
One good example is the following: Melanie and Rick shared in their counseling session that sex was rarely happening. Melanie stated she told Rick that she did not like him making advances while she was doing housework. She said if he would help get the chores completed then she would have sex. When they left therapy Rick said he would help out more and avoid his previous behaviors because he wanted physical intimacy with Melanie.
Two weeks later when they returned, Melanie shared that nothing had changed. Rick continued with his annoying behaviors and she did not want to have sex. Rick just shrugged his shoulders when asked why he disrespected his wife’s request.
There has not been enough importance placed on respect. If there was more respect there would be less resentments. If Rick really cared about Melanie, then being attentive to what works for her would be more of a priority. We cannot meet every want and need of the person we love but I think we can tune in more to the necessity for respect.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
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