What Does Respect Mean in a Relationship?

Respect is an excellent foundation for a relationship.
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Everyone wants respect, but not everyone is prepared to give it. Part of the reason is that it's hard to know just what respect looks like. It goes much deeper than speaking politely to a teacher or obeying your parents. True respect seeks to validate the other person and makes your loved one feel safe and affirmed within the relationship.

1 Respecting Boundaries

In a solid relationship, both parties respect one another's boundaries. A boundary is a line that a person does not want crossed. For instance, if a girl tells a guy that she is not ready for intimacy, he shows his respect by honoring that boundary and not pushing her to have sex. Two weeks of showing and respecting good boundaries will accomplish more than years of arguing, notes therapist Jack Ito on his personal website. Boundaries lay the foundation for a healthy and respectful relationship.

2 Not Having to Be Right

In a respectful relationship, understanding one another comes before the need to be right. If you're wrong, admit it. Doing so shows that you have confidence in your own self-worth. If you're not, consider compromising. At the very least, agree to disagree. Whether your girlfriend is right about her opinion is not what is important. What is significant is that the two of you listen to one another and value what each other has to say. When you do disagree, choose your words carefully. Words have power and can convey a great deal about respect or a lack thereof.

3 Following the Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is a standard for behavior that is found in almost all cultures around the world. It states that you should treat another person as you wish to be treated. Doing so promotes equal treatment of others, a must in any mature relationship that is to be successful and foster the growth of both people. Implementing it may not always be easy, as doing so requires emotional restraint. For example, if you would not like your boyfriend to call you an ugly name, you should not do so to him. If you follow this rule, you won't fail to show the respect your relationship deserves.

4 Valuing the Other

Valuing each other's opinions is a key component of respect, according to the Iowa Coalition Against Violence. While you don't have to agree, using active listening skills to determine where your loved one is coming from will help her feel valued and respected. Once you've reached a level of understanding, affirm her emotions by saying something like, "I can see why you're upset about me talking to my ex-girlfriend. What can I do to show you that you're the most important person to me?" This type of open, nondefensive dialogue will lay the groundwork for an atmosphere of respect within your relationship.

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.