First, check out the introduction post here before you get started.
Disclaimer: this is a summary of Chapter 2 in the book For Women Only not my own thoughts, feelings or research.
Let’s get started.
If you take away one thing from this post, let it be this: To Men, respect means more than love. In fact, when given the choice, men would rather feel unloved than inadequate and disrespected.
The Author begins by describing a relationship retreat that she attended as a young adult. To demonstrate men and women’s relationship needs, they did a quick “experiment”. After putting all the men on one side of the room and all the women on the other the following question was asked: “If you had to choose, would you rather feel alone and unloved or inadequate and disrespected?”
If you’ve spent some time on RPW you can probably see where this is going.
The majority of women said they would never want to feel alone and unloved (to the surprise of the men). The men, on the other than, overwhelmingly preferred to be alone and unloved as long as they did not feel inadequate or disrespected. The women in the group were just as surprised by this information and rightly so. Without being told otherwise, we all innately expect the opposite sex to share our perceptions of the relationship.
Respect for men is so critical that 3 out of 4 would prefer to go their entire lives feeling unloved than disrespected.
The Author’s lightbulb moment comes when she realizes that a man equates the respect and love. With this in mind, we can see that for a man feeling disrespected is no different than feeling unloved.
If we want to love our guys in a way that matters to them we need to respect them.
In just the way that we want to be loved unconditionally, even when we are miserable, sick, pmsing, cranky, you name it; men need respect to be unconditional. This might mean respecting him and trusting him even if you don’t feel like he’s meeting your expectations. It is very common for us (as a culture) to believe that love is supposed to be unconditional but respect is something you must earn. For your man, love is respect. If you love him unconditionally, then you must respect him just as unconditionally or he won’t feel it.
Remember, we give what we receive. A man who is unconditionally respected by his SO will in turn, show her unconditional love.
Disrespect and your Man
Women cry when they feel unloved and alone. This is our natural reaction. How many fights have you had with a man where you felt terrible and cried? Now, how many fights have you had with a man where he gets angry and blows up?
Men express the pain of disrespect through anger. In the heat of the moment, none of us are good at articulating our feelings. A man is unlikely to say “you disrespected me and I do not appreciate that”. Instead, he feels the pain and humiliation of your disrespect and it expresses itself as anger.
Think about that the next time he gets angry. That anger is the same thing as your tears. It is a likely a response to something you did or said that made him feel disrespected (and remember, respect is male for love).
How are we messing up?
No matter how many times we say: “I love you” as long as we continuing trying to control things men will interpret it as disrespect and mistrust.
If we keep the mentality that ‘respect is earned’ then we are putting the onus on him to be amazing. Remember, we chose our men because we vet well and start out thinking they are amazing. Hold on to the respect that you felt early in your relationship. Do this because choosing to trust, appreciate, admire and believe in him is choosing respect and respect is a choice we make.
But if you don’t respect him?
It’s possible that you are you caught in The Crazy Cycle. This happens when the man doesn’t give enough love, so the woman doesn’t feel love and treats him with distrust and as undeserving of respect, he in turn feels slighted and then doesn’t give love. If you choose respect and behave as though your respect him him it breaks the cycle.
But how can I respect him if I don’t feel respect?
We do this by understanding that feelings follow words and actions rather than the other way around. If you disaparage him all the time, then you will begin to feel contemptuous of him. This is simply the way our brains are wired. The decision to show respect can easily turn to actual feeling of respect. And you must demonstrate it. It’s not real to a man unless you show it.
Saying to him: “I respect you” doesn’t have the same impact as him saying to you “I love you”. Instead, te needs to hear things like: “honey I’m so proud of you”, “I trust you”, and “thank you for what you did”.
There are six areas where men need to be shown respect.
Respect his judgement This means respecting his knowledge, opinions, and decisions. You show this by not questioning his knowledge or argueing with his decisions. Defer to him. Many men expressed that their coworkers trust their judgement more than their wives do. Men wish they could tell their wives to show more trust in their decision making abilities
Respect his abilities Men need to figure things out for themselves. They have a drive to conquer the world in big and small ways. This might be as simple as conquering the handyman fixes around the house. If a man sets a task for himself and we try to help, he will most likely interpret it as a sign of our distrust in him. You must have confidence that he can learn and do these things.
The age old example of asking for directions explains this problem. Telling him to ask for directions is interpreted as telling him you don't trust him to figure it out himself. Maybe you don’t but let him figure it out. Forcing ourselves to trust him in little things is a big deal to a man. The little demonstrations of respect are signs of our overall trust in him.
And when it comes to giving advice, we must remember that he is the one up to bat and it is his competency on the line. Giving advice can get very close to telling him how to do it and that sends the message that we don’t believe in him or his abilities. When you want to give advice, try instead to tell him simply: “I know you can do it!”
Respect what he accomplishes It is important for a man that he does something, does it well, and someone notices. In a survey conducted by the author, she realized that while girls ask themselves “Am I special, am I loveable?” boys ask themselves “Do I measure up? Am I any good at what I do?”
Men needed to feel noticed, able, and appreciated for what they do externally. This means saying things like: “You did well at that meeting” or “you are such a great dad” Both of these sentiments can be better than “I love you”.
An important side note here is the issue of “Thank you ...but”. This is painful for a man to hear. You may not intend it this way but to him it sounds like ‘you failed’ If your man has expressed that “nothing I do is ever good enough for you” Then you’ve been sending the message “you tried and failed”).
Always tell him you are proud of him.
Respect in communication As women we have the power to build our men up or tear them down. Some things we do will push buttons or be very painful even if that isn’t our intent. What we say matters but so does how and where we say things.
You may say: “I want to fix this thing in the house, but you aren’t a fix it guy, we should hire someone” He will hear: “You can’t do it, you are inadequate”.
Sometimes men will hear disappointment in the things we say. They will read negativity into reminders about chores and tasks, or worse they will hear accusations of laziness and mistrust. Inherent in the reminder is a statement of disappointment, it’s the implication that they failed. Other times they will hearing attacks. The author crafted a survey question: “Do you know how to put together a romantic event that your SO would enjoy” This comes across as attack mode because it starts off by suggesting the man is inept. Instead she rephrases the question as “Suppose you had to plan an anniversary event for your partner, do you know how”. This is better because it doesn’t question his adequacy and abilities.
Remember, It doesn’t matter what we’re saying, it matters what he hears. Most men are highly sensitive to disrespect including seeing it where we never intend We need to adjust to their sensitivities just as we’d expect them to adjust to ours. It is important to love your partner in the way they need to be loved.
Respect in public Never criticize, put down or question your man’s judgement in front of others. Often what we women consider light teasing is actually torment to men. Women sometimes feel that they need to take their man’s ego down a notch. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We do not have to take down their egos because their egos are incredibly fragile. What is at stake in these situations is not his overabundance of pride but rather his secret feelings of inadequacy. Public disrespect is painful and men will avoid it at any cost. Some single men told the author that public disrespect is a sufficient red flag to cause a break up. No man wants to live with public disrespect, teasing or criticism for the rest of his life. What we think of as good natured teasing isn't good natured from his perspective.
The author relays a discussion with her father. Here is what he told her: : “a man might take wrong any sort of teasing that shows that he is not in control or doesn’t have the respect of his wife. Men wouldn’t take this from another man at all, so it is not appropriate for his wife to tease him in this way either. The man is the provider and protector and a woman’s teasing tells others that she believes that her husband doesn’t know how to take care of everything.” He also tells her that “It depends on if a guy is already feeling inadequate in a particular area.” What one man mind brush off, another will find painful if he’s already questioning himself in that arena. “It is far worse to be teased in front of other men. Guys are in competition and your wife knows you better than anyone. If your wife, who knows you best, doesn’t respect you then why should other men. It’s a sign of weakness if you don’t know the other man well. It’s also humiliating because the other man will feel sorry for you that your wife doesn’t respect you”. They point out that belittling your husband in front of other men can even derail his career because other men will see him as weak and not worthy of respect.
In addition to how this negative talk makes them men feel when they are present, it causes problems for us even when our men are not in the room. Talking negatively behind you man’s r back is both public (even though he’s not there) and impacts our own feelings. Because, once again, feelings follow speech and action, if you talk poorly about your man, you can start to feel dissatisfied with the relationship.
If you publicly build your man up, he’ll think you are amazing. Do this with honest praise and soliciting help in front of others. Tell stories that show him in a good light. From what the men say, this is equivalent to a dozen roses and a surprise night out without kids. He will feel adored.
Respect in our assumptions Take some time and listen to your own assumptions. You may not realize how often your assumptions come from a place of negativity or distrust.: Some examples: a. We assume that ge needs to be reminded (Honey, have you done X yet?). When we do this we are assuming he’s forgetful or he needs to be prodded(nagging anyone?). Instead assume the best of him: “I asked him to do it and he hasn’t done it, but I trust him so there must be a reason he hasn’t done it. Just because his reason is different from yours doesn’t make it less legitimate, his priorities may be different and that’s ok. b. We assume that he’s choosing not to help. Instead start with the assumption that he doesn't’ see that help is needed, rather than that he sees and ignores it. Give your SO the benefit of the doubt, he likely has good intentions. c. We assign unloving motives to him. This is a problem because we know now that our words and action impact his well being and feelings of love towards us. Consider first that perhaps, it is something you did or said that pushed him into the issue. A woman who is always nagging may push her husband to withdraw and become unloving (which is really reaction to disrespect).
We hold power and responsibility and opportunity to build up or tear down our men. We can strengthen or hobble them. Respect at home affects every area of his life. If he feels competent at home he’ll be powerful in the world.
You can always choose to be respectful. Don’t ignore problems, but find things to appreciate and applaud regardless. Focus on what is good and worthy of praise.
Men are forgiving once wives and girlfriends suddenly ‘get it’. Apologize if you’ve been disrespectful. And most importantly, when you apologize: don’t say I’m sorry I made you feel this way. Instead say: I’m really sorry I said that, it was disrespectful and I know I can trust you.
Remember, behind every man is a good woman - if a man’s wife supports and believes in him, he can conquer the world.