There are many ways to respect your wife’s feelings. But all roads should begin with genuine empathy to discover the needs, wants, and desires of your spouse.
An Experiment Challenge
Let’s do an experiment.
I want you to think of 10 things you can do to show your spouse respect.
Take the time. Do the work.
Once you’ve jotted down your ideas, read on.
I want to make a bold statement. One that goes against the grain in many ways.
Before I make the statement, here’s why it is contrary to what most people think and do.
We love lists. We run most of our lives based on lists.
We have lists for grocery shopping. Lists for work projects. Lists for weekend home projects.
We love lists. I love lists.
My wife jokes that I can turn any project into a system. It’s a gift/curse I suppose.
In one sense, lists help us govern our lives. But sometimes lists can get in the way of experiencing life on a deeper level.
Here’s my statement:
Sometimes we can replace authentically connecting with our spouse and family with a list of things to do for them.
For example, it’s easy to make a list of things we can do to show respect to our spouse. But just because we do things on a list, doesn’t mean we are really showing respect.
This is where lists can go wrong. Let me retract that. This is where the list can fall short.
It’s often easier to create a list of things we need to do to accomplish a goal (in this case showing respect to our spouse), than doing deeper work.
Think about it. Which is easier? Having a list of 5 things to do? Or working on your attitude, perspective, and character?
I’ll go first. It’s easier to work a list, than work on myself.
Yet, this is the flaw in most social media post on how to show respect. We’ve reduced it to a list.
Don’t get me wrong. Lists have their place. As my friend Sebastian Klein (I hope I can call him a friend, he is a fellow writer I greatly respect) told me:
I think understanding plays an important role. Why is my relationship where it is now? And what is my part in it? So that I can go into taking responsibility for my actions and recognize when I slip back into old patterns.
But I find practical tips to be at least as important: Because understanding the “why” is often not enough to change. If we don’t know “how” we can change.
Since our actions also influence our thinking and the other way around, both can lead to success.
The problem I see (and Sebastian as well) is we get fixated on one or the other. We look for lists but fail to do the deeper work. Or we do deeper work but fail to know practical steps to put it into action.
That’s why I begin with empathy. It is one of the best ways I’ve found to describe or connect respect to everyday life.
Here is how it works (in my mind):
Empathy is the ability (willingness) to enter into someone else’s world and experience life from their perspective.
I’m sure there are other aspects of empathy, but for the sake of this idea (theme) we will use that definition.
If I enter the world of my spouse wearing their shoes, several things happen.
First, I begin to see life from their perspective. Which allows me to feel what they feel and see what they see.
Second, by doing this it sends a message to my spouse that I care enough to slow down and consider what they are experiencing.
In essence it says, I care enough to seek understanding about your experience.
We can have a list of 21 things to do to show our spouse respect (which I include below), but if the element of empathy is missing, no amount of action steps will make up for it’s lack.
In other words, it’s not what we intend to convey to our spouse (I want them to feel respected), it is what they actually experience that matters.
Remember, communication is not merely the transfer of ideas and information. It is about connecting on a level that allows us to share life together.
So, you can do all the things on the list, but if your spouse doesn’t feel (sense or experience) a willingness on your part to enter their world through empathy, those items become empty gestures.Communication is not merely the transfer of ideas and information. It is about connecting on a level that allows us to share life together. Click To Tweet
(I’ve used this example so much I almost get tired of it, but it’s truth is undeniable, so I offer it again)
Suppose a man brings his wife flowers home every Friday on his way home from work. Does this mean he loves her?
Maybe. Maybe not.
What if he has been having an affair with an office coworker and he takes his wife flowers because he feels guilty or wants to give the appearance of love.
If this is the case, does he respect her? Of course not. Respect doesn’t treat people this way.
My point is you can do things on a list but that doesn’t mean respect and love is present.
In fact, we could go as far as saying you can NOT do many of the things on your list and still have incredible respect for your spouse.
I don’t think it has to be an either/or situation. It is not one or the other. It should be a both/and experience.
I enter my spouse’s world through the gate of empathy and do those things on my list BECAUSE I see her world differently. I desire to give her an experience of authentic, genuine respect and love.
We tend to think far too narrowly when it comes to what others experience. We think in terms of what we intend to convey instead of what the other person actually experiences.
One of the exercises I encourage couples to do to build trust is to simply ask the question: What is your experience with me?
This opens the door to explore how you are perceived and received by your spouse. Once you have this information, you can work on the practical steps (your list) to find real ways to express respect.
It’s only AFTER you engage with empathy that your list will have a positive effect.
Questions are valuable ways to connect with your spouse; this is the gateway for empathy.
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Why Empathy Is Key To Respect Your Wife’s Feelings
In a marriage, respect is one of the most important components for creating and maintaining a strong bond. Respect can come in many forms, from physical gestures such as holding hands or giving hugs to verbal expressions like saying “thank you” or “I love you.”
However, there is something even more powerful than these acts of kindness: empathy.
Teck Seong Chee, M.A. (Western Michigan University) conducted a study to determine the role of empathy in marriage satisfaction. The conclusion was:
Subjects who score higher on the empathic concern scale will have significantly higher marital satisfaction than those who score lower.
He sums it up by stating:
In terms of marital satisfaction, these propositions suggest that in the exchange process couples experience gratification, pleasure or contentment whenever needs, expectations or desires are fulfilled.
Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings and experiences. It requires us to be present in the moment and truly listen to our partner with an open heart.I enter my spouse's world through the gate of empathy and do those things on my list BECAUSE I see her world differently. I desire to give her an experience of authentic, genuine respect and love. Click To Tweet
1) Understand Your Partner’s Needs, Desires, and Dreams
The first step towards showing respect through empathy is by understanding your partner’s needs and desires.
Ask them questions about their day-to-day life and what they are struggling with so that you can gain a better understanding of what they are going through.
Try to empathize with their emotions by taking on their perspective – don’t just offer advice or solutions; instead, take time to understand how they feel about a certain situation before offering your own opinion.
2) Act On Your Partners Needs
It’s not enough to ‘know’ what your partner needs. You must do something to meet those needs.
This is where Sebastian’s insight comes into play.
Understanding the “why” is often not enough to change. If we don’t know “how” we can change.
Showing respect through empathy means demonstrating that you care about your partner’s feelings.
Phillip and Carolyn Cowan (both Ph.D.’s in psychology) put it this way:
The simple statement “I feel your pain” isn’t really evidence of empathy unless the speaker actually does something to show a true understanding of the listener’s experience.
This could be simply listening without judgment when they need someone to talk to. Or sending them a thoughtful message throughout the day letting them know that you are thinking about them.
Even small gestures like making dinner for them after a long day at work can go a long way in showing that you appreciate all that they do for you and your family.
It is important to remember that empathy doesn’t always require words – sometimes actions speak louder than words!
Showing your appreciation through meaningful physical contact such as hugs, kisses, or cuddles can help build trust and intimacy between partners while simultaneously communicating respect and admiration for each other.
Practical Ways To Show Respect Through Empathy
Now that we have established the basis of empathy as the key to demonstrating respect, here is a list of practical ways to put it into practice.
Remember, the list alone will not work. Any list must come from a heart that genuinely loves and desires to serve your spouse by understanding their deep desires.
You may also want to read: 16 Habits Of A Healthy Marriage.
21 Things That Show Respect
- Listen to her and value her opinion
- Give her compliments
- Show appreciation for the little things she does
- Make time for her and prioritize quality time together
- Speak kindly to her and be patient with her
- Let her know you are thinking of her throughout the day
- Respect her boundaries and respect any decisions she makes
- Ask for help when you need it, don’t try to do everything on your own
- Compliment how she looks in a way that makes her feel good about herself
- Give small gifts or surprises that show you care
- Take care of household chores without being asked or reminded
- Offer to help out with tasks that are important to her, like running errands or helping with work projects
- Show affection in public and private settings
- Make sure she knows you support whatever goals she has set for herself
- Be open-minded about different points of view and experiences that may be different from yours
- Apologize when necessary and take responsibility for mistakes
- Avoid making assumptions about what she wants or needs; ask instead!
- Let go of any past grudges or disagreements so they don’t affect your relationship now
- Take an interest in things that matter to her, like hobbies, friends, family etc..
- Show understanding during difficult times by offering comfort and support
- Tell her how much you love and appreciate all that she does for you.
At the beginning of this article I asked you to write down 10 things you can do to show your wife respect. I hope you did that exercise.
This is my list. Yours may look different. Either way, this is a good place to start IF…
If you make an effort to enter your wife’s world and engage with her on an intimate level.
According to a University of Florida study, there was 45% greater emotional benefit for givers than for recipients in one study. These results led researchers to suggest that, “acting compassionately may be its own reward.”
Respect isn’t something we should take lightly in relationships – it’s essential for creating a loving environment where both partners feel supported and understood.
Showing respect through empathy is an effective way of demonstrating this deep appreciation for one another while strengthening the bond between partners over time.
At the end of the day, showing respect isn’t just about following a list of things we should do – it’s about having empathy towards our spouse and taking their needs into consideration every day and ACTING on what you know about your spouse.
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