Robert Waldinger conducted a study to determine the key components of a long life. He discovered couples most satisfied in their marriages at age 50 were also the healthiest at age 80.
In other words, long life is related to happiness in marriage. The most important variable to a long and healthy life is how satisfied you are in your marriage and other vital relationships.
Robert says it best: “Simply put, good relationships keep us happy and healthy.”
So, what makes a marriage happy and healthy? One that contributes to a long life?
The conclusion? Respect in marriage is the bedrock of marital satisfaction and happiness.
Someone wisely said, “Real love is not based on romance, candle light dinner. It is based on respect, compromise, care and trust!!”
If you want a long life, build a healthy marriage. If you want to build a healthy marriage, respect one another.
How do we build mutual respect in our marriage?
Here’s 7 ways to create respect that produces deep satisfaction in your relationship.
These are not the only things that work, but this is the short list of most valuable tips if you want to create respect.
One study found that more grateful cardiac patients reported better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of cellular inflammation. (Source)
Another study found that heart failure patients who kept a gratitude journal for eight weeks were more grateful and had reduced signs of inflammation afterwards.
On top of that, several studies have found that more grateful people experience less depression and are more resilient following traumatic events.
Gratitude is considered the father of all virtues. No wonder gratitude tops our list of important tips for creating respect in marriage.
Let’s back up a bit and define gratitude. Here’s my favorite description (definition):
Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. (Source)
Think about how this can apply to your marriage.
When we express appreciation to our spouse, or we convey how good it is for them to be in our life, we are valuing them.
Respect can only be built on the foundation where we feel valued, appreciated and loved deeply.Respect can only be built on the foundation where we feel valued, appreciated and loved deeply. Click To Tweet
Gratitude is the launching pad for building mutual respect in our relationships.
2) Share Openly
Most couples I sit with usually have this to say about sharing:
Wife: My husband won’t talk to be when he gets home in the evenings. He’s always so distracted and preoccupied.
Husband: My wife tends to unload on me at the end of the day. She wants to tell me everything that went wrong that day.
It’s obvious (or should be) that the wife’s response is descriptive of ‘not sharing.’ Sharing, by nature, requires us to communicate. Which means we must talk.
What we fail to realize is that the husband’s response is accurate as well. Sharing openly doesn’t simply mean ‘vomiting up the days events to our spouse.’ This can actually be counter-productive in some instances. Especially when it is wrapped up as complaining.
Griping and complaining close the channels of communication. They don’t open them.
Many women tend to believe that communicating means talking about everything. Sharing openly, however, has more to do with content than the amount of words spoken. [I make a case for talking about ‘everything’ later, but it’s important to understand that just because you talk about everything, doesn’t mean you are connecting. Connecting is the goal.]
Sharing openly means we invite our spouse into our world. Yes. Sometimes this means we talk about everything. But sharing involves much more. It involves shared experiences.
Researchers have documented the connection between people who have experienced tragedies and trauma together. There is a bond created when we go through things together.
A couple can enhance their relationship simply by taking time to talk about their day. Just make sure the goal of connecting and entering the world of your spouse is the priority. When we do this we are inviting the other person to join us in our journey.
The second aspect of sharing openly means we ask our spouse what they need.
Aricia E. Shaffer, MSE, puts it this way:
“Respect requires a conversation. We don’t know what feels respectful or disrespectful to our partners unless we ask. There are some obvious things, of course, but deep respect lies in the subtle details and it’s different for everyone.”
3) Value Their Opinion
My wife and I once met with a couple who were having difficulty connecting.
I knew they loved one another, but they couldn’t seem to get past a road block in their relationship.
As we talked, we began to recognize a pattern in the wife. When her husband would share something, she offered correction (on minor details) and criticism about his observations.
It was obvious they disagreed on a few issues. But that wasn’t the real problem. Every couple disagrees at times.
The real issue was, she didn’t value his opinion. This caused him to close down emotionally. He never rebuttal, retaliated or argued. He simply stopped sharing. It would have been more productive for him to argue his way through the problem, but he chose to shut down.
The real issue stemmed from the fact that she did not respect or value his opinion.
We may never agree on all the issues. But we must validate and value our spouse’s opinions, perspectives and desires.
I believe that true unity can only be achieved where mutual respect and value is shared.
I believe that true unity can only be achieved where mutual respect and value is shared. Click To Tweet
Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you. Is the way to build relationships!
4) Build Bridges Quickly
Here’s what I mean.
If respect is challenged or damaged, fix it quickly. Build a bridge to your spouse’s heart and build it fast.
The longer the issues remains in limbo, the deeper the disconnect. The deeper and longer the disconnect, the harder it is to mend.
Talk openly about what each of you feels is disrespectful. Listen to your partner and value what they say. [These principles build on one another if you didn’t notice]
If’ you’ve violated respect, make it right.
This in itself goes a long way in healing your relationship.
5) Speak Positively About Your Spouse
Never criticize publicly or to your friends and family.
I recently read a story by Greg Smalley on Focus on the Family. I want to share an extended quote from that story. It makes the point above.
A little context:
Greg was at a family get together during Thanksgiving one year. His parents have an incredible marriage that he admires. I’ll let him share the event…
At one point, my parents got into a huge argument. They were so frustrated that they each ran off to a different part of the house. I let the situation calm down for a few minutes before I knocked on my father’s office door.
“Come in,” he reluctantly replied.
As I walked into his office, I found my dad sitting behind his computer reading a document titled “Why Norma Is So Valuable.” (My mom’s name is Norma, just in case you were wondering.)
“What are you reading?” I asked.
“Well,” my dad began, “a number of years ago I started a list of why your mom is so valuable. So when I’m upset with her, or when we’ve had a fight, I’ve learned that instead of sitting here thinking about how hurt or frustrated I am at your mother, I need to make myself read through this list.”
The document contained literally hundreds of words and phrases describing my mom’s value. It was amazing.
“When I first start to read through the list, I’m still upset,” explained my dad. “I usually get to the first three or four items and think, ‘What was I thinking?’ or ‘This one is no longer valid!’ or ‘I’m definitely going to erase that one.’ But then the farther down I read, the faster I realize that you have an amazing mom.”
Wow! That’s amazing.
If you don’t have a list yet of the virtues and value of your spouse, maybe it’s time to create one.
6) Do Little Things To Let Them Know You Care
You’ve heard the adage, ‘The devil is in the details.’
Well, the glory is them too.
It’s always the little things that make the biggest impact.
I recently read about how John Grisham wrote his first novel. He was a practicing attorney at the time and his schedule was grueling. But he this idea for a book.
So each morning he got up at 5:00 am, arrived at his office by 5:30 am and started writing.
For three or more hours he pounded away each morning. Putting words to paper.
Day after day for two years. You read that right. Two years.
Until finally the book was finished. If you haven’t read it, perhaps you’ve seen the movie. It’s called ‘A Time To Kill.’
Grisham gives credit to the fact that it was the daily grind that made it happen.
We often look at the end result and stand amazed at the talent and creativity of people. But never forget, they accomplished their great feats, art and work by doing the little things well.
It’s the same with marriage. It’s not the big things that make or break a relationship. It’s the things we do every single day that make it either great…or not so great.
But never forget, it’s the little things that matter most.
7) Practice Give and Take
This last one begins with the word ‘practice.’ It’s often not something that comes easy or natural, but it needs to be something we cultivate.
I played sports in High School. Most of the drills we did (even back then) weren’t easy and certainly weren’t natural. But as I practiced them day in and day out, they became easier and I was more ‘at home’ with them.
It may sound weird, but this applies to marriage. We need to practice the things that build a great marriage. They might not seem ‘natural’ but they are necessary. The more we do those things, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Wrapping It Up
It’s your move now. Are you building respect in your marriage?
I’d love to hear how you put these principles into practice in your life. Leave me a comment below.
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