Respect. Seems to be a common enough concept, doesn’t it? You probably already know it’s a fundamental prerequisite for a healthy, loving relationship.
But perhaps what may come as a surprise is that it is possible for an intelligent, independent woman to be in a damaging relationship for years without realizing she is being disrespected or even abused by her partner.
I know this, because I was this woman.
My college sweetheart who I went on to marry, and eventually divorce 17 years after I first met him, didn’t truly respect me. And I only realized this when I happened to meet another man, my present husband, who honored me and treated me with such care that it became impossible to stay in denial any longer.
Here’s are the five things I’ve learnt (pretty late in life) our partners need to respect about us:
- Our Individuality: We women are individuals with our own dreams and aspirations. We are not obligated to sacrifice everything we stand for simply because we are girlfriends, wives or mothers. Yes, a relationship requires compromise, but a man should respect the woman in his life enough to meet her halfway. In fact, if he truly cares about her, this should come pretty naturally to him and won’t need to be forced down his throat.
- Our Feelings: A woman is wired differently from a man — we are inclined to be naturally sensitive. When we are told we are being silly, over-emotional, over-reacting or being plain foolish for feeling what we are feeling, we feel devalued. Instead, what we need is a patient listening ear. We need to feel understood, even though our reasons may look irrational from the outside. We need our partner’s time and a reassuring hug to tell us he is our strongest ally.
- Our Body: Contrary to what many men and even women believe, when we enter into a relationship with a man, we do not sign an unspoken contract obliging us to grant unrestricted, unconditional access to our bodies. Men who truly care know how to read our verbal and non-verbal signs that reveal whether we are in the mood or not.
- Our Boundaries: A caring partner will respect our privacy, our need for emotional and physical space, our need to confide in our friends, family or even our journal. He will not spy on us or sulk when we decide we need some time alone to do our own thing.
- Our Independence: A loving partner will not try to control every decision about our life together or our personal lives. He will not insist on controlling the purse strings. Not question us about every penny we spend. Not belittle our choices. And not make us feel physically weak just because we are women. We are entitled to be physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually independent, and a man who understands this will help us bloom into our grandest version, not be a mere creeper.
Nonetheless, the most important thing I have learnt is that the onus really lies with us women, not with the men in our lives: we should respect ourselves enough to be able to discern whether we are being treated well or not.
The problems in my first marriage lay in my shattered self-esteem and flagging self-respect, which blinded me to what was going on, and it’s only when I started my self-work did I start recognizing the issues with the relationship.
(Published on Rebelle Society on 22 Oct, 2019)