Most people would agree that relationships are built on love and respect. This tends to come very naturally and easily in the beginning of a new relationship. At the start, we tend to be very tuned in to our partner’s needs and desires, and very eager to please our partners. We can easily overlook or minimize their flaws, so there isn’t much to argue about or disrespect.
Over time, however, we tend to see fewer demonstrations of love and respect.
Long-term relationships and marriages are wonderful, and also full of challenges. All those things that you used to overlook become incredibly annoying. As you build your lives, careers, and family, many stresses that didn’t exist before come into play.
At times, life can even feel overwhelming. And for some reason, couples often turn against each other, as if it’s a fight that only one can win, rather than working together as a team and continuing to demonstrate love and respect for one another.
Sometimes, a partner thinks they are showing love and respect to their partner, but it is not being received as such. Oftentimes, I hear people in my practice saying that they don’t know what else to do, they’re trying so hard and nothing will please their partner.
It is not usually true that nothing can please your partner. What tends to happen, though, is that the things you are doing to attempt to show love and respect are not all the things that partner wants. So what can you do?
Here are some tips for showing love and respect to your partner.
- Don’t worry about buying expensive, materialistic items. While everyone loves a new car or a diamond bracelet, this in no way demonstrates love or respect. Money cannot buy love or respect. As a matter fact, if money isn’t handled well, it can actually destroy the foundation of a marriage.
- Gifts should be thoughtful and meaningful. I heard one woman talk about how she went to the 99 cent store with a budget of $8 for Valentine’s Day. She managed to find a meaningful card, her husband’s favorite candy, and a toy that had significance to their early years together. All of that put into a gift bag was a very loving and respectful gift. Unfortunately, her husband failed to reciprocate, as he believed he couldn’t buy her a gift this year due to their financial situation. Something, even a 99 cent card, would have been better than nothing.
- You don’t always need a reason or special occasion to show love and respect. Maybe just a nice, long hug in the morning would be appreciated. A text or phone call in the middle of the day is always nice. Asking, and truly caring, about your partner’s day is another thing you can do on a daily basis.
- Ask your partner what they need and desire. Explain that you are trying, but feel that you are missing the mark. Have them make a list of ways they would like you to show love and respect. It could be something as simple as saying hi and giving a kiss when they get from work, or put your dishes away. It’s possible that you’re just trying too hard and missing the most obvious ways to show your love and support.
- Never put your partner down or try to one up them. I’ve heard so many times that a working parent minimizes the work of the stay-at-home parent. This is the opposite of respect, and sets up a real power struggle. You need to be on the same team. The team where the relationship and the family win. Build each other up and show appreciation for all that each of you contribute to the relationship and the family.
- Try harder to stop doing the things that you know annoy your partner. If you’re farting grosses your wife out, try excusing yourself to a different room or taking a walk outside when you feel the need. If your clothes on the floor or dishes in the sink drive her crazy, is it really that hard to fix that? Similarly, if your husband hates being bombarded with everything bad that happened today the minute he walks in the door, learn to give him a few minutes before you spring this on him.
- Surprise each other with little things when least expected. Make his favorite meal or dessert for no reason at all. Bring her flowers on a random unexciting day.
- Most importantly, remember to say, “I love you” every single day.
Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Contact Lori at lorifresontherapy.com or call/text 818-514-LMFT