By Vicki Tidwell Palmer LCSW, CSAT, SEP
Before discussing why respect is an intimacy skill, it’s helpful to start with a definition. Here are two definitions of respect:
a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others
These two definitions illustrate why respect can be a confusing topic.
For example, it is possible to be respectful toward or to show respect to, a person for whom you have no feelings of admiration. You may choose to act respectfully toward a person who holds a particular position of authority or who has an important role in your life — including a parent or elder — even when you don’t respect their behavior.
A sad fact about relationships is that we are most disrespectful toward those closest to us — family members, friends, or our intimate partner.
And that’s because these are the people with whom we have the most emotional attachment, and the most likely to stick with us even in the face of our own boundary-less or offensive behavior.
When you sense that an important relationship is threatened and you become anxious, angry, or fearful, you are more likely to become disrespectful, especially if you don’t know how to effectively process your thoughts and emotions, or you don’t fully appreciate the value of maintaining a respectful connection.
Examples of disrespectful behavior:
Why is respect an intimacy skill?
Being respectful helps you:
When you become anxious, angry, or triggered and begin to act in a disrespectful way, you are harming intimacy in your relationship. On the other hand, when you are respectful even in the face of disagreement, disappointment, and the predictable ups and downs of a long-term relationship, you are creating emotional safety and maintaining an intimate connection.
Signs that respect may be missing or lacking in your relationship:
While many of these characteristics are present in relationships where one person is in active addiction, it doesn’t mean that an addict’s partner is exempt from being respectful.
We are responsible for the respect we bring to our relationships and our part in creating and maintaining emotional safety.
If respect is “the minimum of love,” without respect there is no foundation for maintaining an intimate relationship.
Lack of respect is most often expressed verbally or nonverbally; therefore, one of the quickest ways to restore respect is to subtract rather than add. What does that mean?
When you’re tempted to give advice, lash out, make your spouse wrong in some way, or be sarcastic, simply don’t do it!
Of course, this is easier said than done.
But when you understand the connection between respect and intimacy, you will be more motivated to refrain from engaging in disrespectful behavior so that you can experience deeper connection and intimacy in your relationship.