Respect in a Relationship: Learn from Each Other

Respect for each other is very important for a healthy relationship.

One way of showing respect is by valuing the differences between us.

Part of that is recognizing that there are different types of intelligence.

I was getting a battery replaced in my car the other day and the young girl that was putting the battery in my car told me that her dad was very book-smart. He could write a book and tell you how to disassemble a car engine and then put it back together again.

But he couldn’t actually do it. She could!

Again, there are many kinds of “smarts.” Some are socially intelligent. They have a natural ability to relate well to others.

Other people may not be so good in social settings, but can logically identify a problem, come up with solutions and solve the problem.

Our vocations differ. Over a period of time we acquire knowledge and develop skills that others do not have.

Take time to listen to and learn from each other.

Your significant other will feel valued and respected.

The Exercise:

  • What is something each of you knows a lot about that the other knows little about.
  • What are your unique gifts and abilities?
  • What do you see as your partner’s unique gifts and abilities?
  • Teach each other something. Yes, actually identify something that you know how to do that you can teach your partner to do.
  • Do you feel respected and/or admired by your partner? Can you think of a time when your partner made you feel that way?


Respect may be especially important for wives to show their husbands. That is, it’s a big guy-need.

So would Dr. Emerson Eggerichs argue in his book Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. Men need to feel valued and appreciated for what they do, and things like nagging and complaining destroy feelings of respect.

Of course, husbands can make it easier for their wives to show admiration by doing things worthy of it. And there are times when a wife will need to “complain.”

In the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman discusses the difference between complaining, criticizing and contempt. The last two are hazardous to relationships, while the first one is sometimes necessary.

It’s the old adage of it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

You may want to get Gottman’s book to learn more about how to complain in a way that doesn’t damage your marriage. It’s available in paperback, is pretty cheap and is one of my favorite marriage books to recommend to couples in face to face premarital preparation.

Another resource on the importance of showing respect to husbands is by Willard F. Harley, Jr. and is titled His Needs, Her Needs: Building and Affair Proof Marriage. He calls it admiration – that is, he needs her to be proud of him.

Harley suggests that the cause of marital affairs sometimes is that a husband has found the admiration he desperately needs outside of his marriage.

Contribute to the Learning with Your Reply:

What are some practical ways for couples to show respect for each other?

Often in marriages, with the passing of time couples stop showing appreciation and respect toward each other. Why do you think that is?

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29 comments to Respect in a Relationship: Learn from Each Other

  • thomas king and rebecca shreeve

    Couples that have been together for a while might be so involved with their own lives they forget they are sharing it with another. respect is the thing that can make or break a relationship. i personally never realized the need for a male to feel appreciated in that way. the nagging is a big thing in a couples life that needs to be addressed. i do completely believe that it is not what you say but how you say it. you can still show respect while trying to get something done. thomas and i do have very different brains where he can listen to and play music while i get lost in his thoughts. i on the other hand am very analytical can solve problems very easily. i may be able to solve those problems, but it is thomas that has to physically do them because i cannot. there are alot of useful things on this exercise that couples may not know or think about that do come into play in a marriage.

  • Wick & Ginny

    It is very easy for couples to get complacent over the years. They fall into a routine, they might not think they have to say “I love you” anymore, or they fall into a trap of “expectations.”

    Expectations: The wife might always pack her husband’s lunch. So, the husband begins to expect it. Over time, he forgets to appreciate it. Forgets to say thank you. She might begin to resent the fact that she takes the time to pack his lunch and he doesn’t show her any respect or appreciation. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

    It is a big part of Wick’s and my relationship that we show each other respect — on a daily basis. We listed our gifts and abilities in the exercise and found that we agreed on many attributes about ourselves and each other.

  • I amm trying to show my partner of twenty yrs. that I respect him. Although,. I don’t feel he’s trying to respect me. Everytime he says something to me it is in a hateful sounding voice. Everytime I try to make conversation he acts like I’m bothering him. Plus , he also answers questions in condensating way. I mention it to him repeatedly and he doesn’t say any about it.

  • Connie Noward and Barry Thiessen

    I feel that Barry has unique gifts and abilities that I do not have. He is very computer smart and has a natural ability to learn things quickly by reading manuals. I do not even read directions when I am cooking something. He is very patient when learning something new. He is definately more book smart than I am. I cannot read a manual and understand it I have to actually do it to learn it. Barry can read directions and then complete the task. He is extremely forgiving and has the uique ability to forgive and forget, a quality that I do admire.
    Connie is a very giving person, a quality that I find very attractive. She will sometimes give more that is practical but I see that as something that is very admirable in her. I also, see her as a very forgiving person. Connie is very good at her jobs as a Medical Examiner and a CNA, although she questions her ability to do the job sometimes. I think the people she works with enjoy and respect her.

  • Michael and Terry

    Michael and I love being together for several reasons–one major reason is that we enjoy each others company and the reason we do is because we enjoy each others talents–not to mention we laugh with each other and have a great time together.

  • Joe and Tara

    This exercise led us to talking a lot about “it’s not what you say, but how you say it” phrase. We need to leave our manager/work attitude or role at work & bring our “wife/husband” attitude home. We talked about how much we admire each other & really respect each others’ professions, gifts, and unique abilities.

  • Whitney and Collin

    We both enjoyed discussing our unique abilities and talents with each other. Collin is able to fix anything, identify and solve problems, manages people very well, he’s confident, caring and patient. Whitney is caring, giving and relates well with others, she’s helpful and loving.

    When talking about stupid arguments the statement “it’s not what you said but how you said it” came up a lot. This is our main issue when we argue. It’s more about how we approach the issue than the actual issue itself. This is something we have agreed to work on and watch how we approach the situation.

  • Jessica and Andrew

    We have read one of Gottman’s books already and found it very helpful. It’s hard to learn to navigate this from both sides: one person needs to learn how to complain without criticizing, and the other person has to learn to accept constructive criticism without defensiveness.
    We show appreciation in small ways: doing our duties around the home, thanking each other for the small things we do, and recognizing when we have fallen into a rut of just living instead of appreciating the things around us.
    Date nights are SO important in this regard. It’s critical to have that time out of the house where you can enjoy each other stress-free.

  • Andy & Stacy

    Andy is extremely laid back and Stacy is definitely type A. We appreciate each other’s strengths and really work to balance each other. Early in our relationship we discussed our relationship deal-breakers. Disrespectful behavior and lack of communication were the main culprits. We agreed that avoiding these ruts would be a main priority for both of us and that discussion has been really important as our relationship matured.

  • Katie and John

    John and I love to spend time together. We are hardly ever apart. Although we both know and agree that we need time apart. When he hurts I hurt and vise versa. We respect each other, and with that respect we value each other. Yeah he does things I dont like and I know I do too, but instead of dwelling on those mistakes, we work through them and move on. We would be aliens if we were perfect.

  • Dustin and Katie

    In our relationship it is that Katie is book smart and that Dustin is street smart. We both feel respected in each of these roles, and we try to help each other out where they are lacking. Dustin teaches Katie how to fix things and Katie teaches Dustin how to manage money. However, we need to keep working on this. Sometimes we just take over when we feel like the other person isn’t doing well enough. Katie will take over the money handling, and Dustin will do all the repairs.

  • Tammy and Duke

    This exercise helped us talk about how we respect and admire each other,and the ways we show that to each other. We ride to work together about 3 times a week, and actually work at the same place. We use that time to pray, or read the bible (app on the phone), or discuss other issues that may be going on. We both feel that some couples lose respect for each other because they get complacent with each other and take the other for granted. My prayer is that it doesn’t happen in our marriage. And if we keep God at the center and forfront of our marriage, that won’t happen.

  • Lindsey and Rhett

    After reading a few of the comments above, I could easily replace Rhett and Lindsey’s names some of these couple’s stories. Lindsey is book smart and a type A personality. Rhett is street smart with a more laid back personality. There are times where we wish we had personality traits more like the other, but the truth is we learn from each other and try to better ourselves on a daily basis.

  • Kelly and Larry

    We both value each other’s talents, attitudes, and abilities. Larry is smart, very kind, respectful, fun, and outgoing. Kelly is very goal oriented, practical, quiet/reserved, and smart. We love being together because Larry helps Kelly relax and have fun, and Kelly is a good listener and helps Larry whenever he has a problem. We continuously learn from each other and try to vocalize our appreciation for each other.

  • Roy has pointed out to me that when I get set on doing something or getting a task done I don’t think I just start doing and I don’t finish until it is done the right way. I pointed out to roy that he has to make a game plan and then complete the task. We both love and value each others talents and we are never going to try to change each other but we do want to do more with each other. So im going to teach him a few things and he is going to teach me how to hunt.

  • Raychel and Peter

    Ways we believe we show respect to each other on the simplest level includes basic verbal compliments. Listening to each other’s ideas and valuing our different opinions are other ways we try to show respect/feel respected. Peter is extremely organized and diligent when it comes to getting things done, where as I lack some of the organization that he possess. Yet I feel that I contribute creativity which he in turn respects and appreciates.
    We think that as time continues couples begin to form routines and in turn take each other’s individual talents and contributions for granted. It is important to remember and appreciate the little things even if it is something your spouse does for years and years to come. Also, by sharing our different sills and talents with each other we not only learn new things but are able to more deeply understand and value our spouse’s unique gifts.

  • D & S

    We discussed our differences as well as our talents and abilities, He thinks I am a home interior McGuyver. It was the ultimate compliment. He is organized and gets things accomplished. His sense of adventure, makes even the shortest trip such fun. We believe that with age many couple take each other for granted, or get so comfortable with one another that they don’t continue to show their love and respect.

  • Richard and Sarah

    Ways to show respect: kindness, recognizing and valuing each other’s talents, interests, and opinions. Over time, couples may become stuck in a rut or use to the routine of life, and forget that showing respect to each other is just as important has communication and love.

  • Amanda & Nate

    We feel that it is important to show appreciation to each other, from the small everyday things (cooking a great meal, fixing a basic problem around the house) to the big ones. Amanda and I try to show our appreciation as much as possible (telling one another how cute they look today, for example), and we feel this is one of the best ways to demonstrate respect for each other. We try our best to be understanding and listen to each other – yelling or talking down to someone is a terrible show of disrespect, and a relationship could quickly go nowhere fast if such behavior is commonplace! It really comes down to treating each other as equals. We know and understand each others’ strengths and weaknesses, and just know when to take the lead in an area that best suits either of our abilities.

    Over time, some couples perhaps fall into a rut: they just settle for things as they are and do not actively try to improve their lives and enrich their relationship. This could lead to apathy of one another, or even to a downward spiral of disrespectful acts (he is disrespectful to her, so she retaliates, and it just heads down a slippery slope from there!). We will always try to keep this in the foremost of our minds: that marriages don’t simply stay happy on their own. The pressures of life will always pull at a marriage, and it’s a constant battle to keep things happy and blissful. We must be active participants in the success of our marriage, and showing admiration and respect to one another is the keystone of this process.

  • David and Kara

    We think couples stop showing respect over time because they just get used to things and acts of kindness become expectations. It is easy to get used to these things and not see them as special, while acknowledging or thanking the other person. This can be difficult because the other person may feel like they aren’t appreciated. We try to avoid this pattern by thanking each other for normal tasks and doing special things for each other from time to time without it being expected.

  • Morgan and Ryan

    Ryan and I are very different in a lot of ways. Ryan is very business and finance orientated and Morgan is very medically orientated as this is what our jobs entail. These differences make us view life a little differently but we try to respect each others differing skill sets and knowledge base when it comes to our relationship. It may be hard to talk about subjects that we dont agree on but we try to see each others opinions and understand them even though we may not agree with each other all the time.

  • Hunter Earnest & Amy Mahoney

    Great exercise, She’s going to show me how to bake cookies and I’m going to teach her how to tie rope rescue knots. We both feel appreciated and recognize each other’s unique gifts and talents.
    The key is to continue throughout the relationship.

  • Kirsten and Matt

    As far as unique abilities and teaching one another something, the first thing that comes to mind is our jobs which are very different and each requires a unique skill set. This alone opens the door for teaching opportunities in our relationship. I admire the courage and bravery Matt’s role requires and often commend the work he does as I certainly couldn’t do it myself. Another thing that comes to mind is just yesterday Matt unexpectedly built a “travel box” for an antique window we are using as a decoration at our wedding so it doesn’t get broken during the 9 hour car ride. I’m contuniously impressed by Matt’s handiness. He has a service oriented personality so he is always doing things like this for me and in return I show great admiration for his work which makes him feel respected. I feel respected by Matt taking an active part in the things that matter to me so we have a great balance.

  • Rachel and Aaron

    One way to show respect for one another is appreciate the little things your spouse does for you, that you otherwise might not notice. Also, listening to their work day when it otherwise might be kinda boring, and getting excited about things that they are excited about that you wouldn’t usually be excited about.

    I think sometimes couples get dependent on each other to do things for them. Well if you remember being single and having to remember what you had to do for yourself on your own, then you would be reminded of how to appreciate the things they do for you, as little as they may be.

  • Brandon

    Aleah and Brandon

    I was just talking with Aleah on how I painted several rooms in our house and was instructing on the process. She has been instrumental in teaching me new health food recipes and educating me on organic produce. When it comes to showing respect, practical ways would be going out of your way while the other is traveling for work. Flowers not on valentine’s day, etc. Making the other feel appreciated is not difficult, it simply takes effort. I think couples lose sight of this as time goes on in their marriage or children come into the picture. When there are more distractions, it’s easier to fall into bad habits like not communicating effectively and just avoiding an argument. This can snowball into disaster as time goes on creating a rift in the marriage altogether when it could’ve been avoided by simply talking openly with each other.

  • Thomas & Tiffany

    Thomas knows a lot about fitness and cars, so Tiffany likes to ask him for advice on stretching and working out as she doesn’t have as much experience with running and sports as Thomas does. Thomas thinks Tiffany knows a lot about computers, home decor and planning and likes to listen about what she thinks makes the house look good and likes to hear about the computer software she is currently building at work. We think it’s important to appreciate each other’s talents and respect the fact that our skills and interests are different from each other’s. We love that our personalities are so alike, yet we vary when it comes to our unique abilities. It keeps our relationship interesting and fun. Each of us feel loved and respected when we recognize these things about each other every now and then, and show that we appreciate the things we do not only for each other, but for others as well.

  • Aaron & Chelsey

    Aaron knows a lot about beer, microbiology and baseball…even though he won’t admit that the Cubs are the best team ever so maybe he doesn’t know as much about baseball as he thinks.
    Chelsey knows a lot about business, organizational culture and development, and horses

    Aaron’s gifts are his musical talents, cooking and brewing.
    Chelsey’s gifts are her analytical and equestrian skills.

    Chelsey sees Aaron’s musical abilities as one of his strongest talents, though he often argues this.
    Aaron thinks Chelsey is a great songwriter, even though he still won’t let her change the silly line in a song they wrote a few years ago…but I guess since it’d been cut already it’s too late.

    We decided that Aaron would teach Chelsey how to cook.But she is secretly going to teach him how to stir noodles.
    Chelsey will teach Aaron how to properly take care of horses so he can feel comfortable when they finally buy a home and move the horses down from Indiana. The rich uncle from the earlier exercise would be super helpful.

    Aaron said that he feels respected and admired by Chelsey.
    Chelsey admitted that she doesn’t always feel respected so Aaron is going to work on showing her respect now that he understands that she sometimes takes his jokes as a sign of disrespect.

    Practical ways for couples to show appreciation for each other would be for them to understand and respect each others’ accomplishments, support their battles and going the extra mile every now and then to prove that they truly care.

    Over time couples often become complacent and comfortable in the relationship. They seem to forget that the other has needs and they just play along with the role day in and day out. It’s important for couples to remain vigilant and aware of their partners feelings, making sure that they feel appreciated.

  • Maelee & Jake

    What are some practical ways for couples to show respect for each other? One of the big ways that Maelee can show respect to him is by the tone I take. She’s a very logical person who holds people to high standards, but that can make her come across as critical unintentionally. Jake can respect more through actively listening better.

    Often in marriages, with the passing of time couples stop showing appreciation and respect toward each other. Why do you think that is? People forget what it’s like to be without the other and take them for granted. Having done long distance, we’re committed to never forgetting what it’s like to be without the other

  • Bethany and Jesse

    We think a way to show respect is giving the other person their personal time and space, along with letting the other person express their emotions.

    We think over time couples could lose some respect purely because they get comfortable. They talk so freely that they forget that’s not how you should be talking to your partner.

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