“The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them.”—Steve Hall
I remember it like it was yesterday. My friend smacked the hell out of her boyfriend in front of an entire party during an argument. This was after he caught her exchanging numbers with another guy. Now I’m not sure what he said to get her riled up, but her actions were inexcusable. Year after year, I watched this guy fail at demanding respect from his lady. She cheated on him, dismissed anything he had to say, and publicly humiliated him in front of friends and family.
Honestly, it appeared as if he had not one bone in his back and it was painful to watch.
I’m the type of person who believes in treating everyone with respect until they are disrespectful. Respect should be a given in a relationship, especially when one claims to love, cherish and adore their mate. But after a series of ridiculous observations, along with my very own instances of being disrespected by my significant other, I’ve learned that respect is definitely something that is earned, no matter how special someone claims you are to them.
It shocks me each and every time I witness someone talking down to their significant other or behaving inappropriately in or aside from their presence. Here are three tips on how to demand respect in a relationship.
1. Take time to defend yourself
Defense is something you should never have to worry about in a positive, healthy relationship, but sometimes things happen. Luckily, life always gives us the opportunity to get stronger in each and every area of weakness. If you happen to be dealing with a partner who disrespects you, it’s imperative you learn to stand up for yourself verbally and physically. Each time s/he says or does something to offend you, let them know. Communicate to them how their actions made you feel, and provide as much detail about the offense as possible. Let your mate know that you will not tolerate such disrespect and that they only have one time to do so.
2. Be willing to take away certain privileges
No, you’re not training a dog or raising a child (at least you shouldn’t be), but the worst thing you can do is reward bad behavior. Allowing someone to disrespect you with no visible repercussions sends a signal of acceptance. Ideally, your life partner should be greatly contributing to your overall mental, physical and emotional development, so hold them accountable.
Do not carry on as if life is peachy. Do not act in a passive-aggressive fashion. If they notice you’re not being as affectionate, tell them why. If they notice you didn’t fix their lunch that day, let them know it’s due to them taking you for granted, because that’s what disrespect is. When you respect someone, each and every thing you do to them and regarding them reinforces that notion. There is no concern about how someone feels about you, because they consistently display that they hold you in high regard like a good mate should.
3. Be strong enough to walk away
I’m a no nonsense type of person. If you disrespect me, I will give you one time to correct your behavior, depending on how invested I am in the relationship. But sometimes, the level of offense is so bad that no second chance should be offered. No matter how much you love a person, some things cannot be repaired. Be strong enough to determine what you can and cannot tolerate, and be prepared to exit the relationship if need be. You will save yourself a lot of pain, grief and blows to your self-esteem.
You should work to be respected in all aspects of your life, not just relationships. Being kind is a noteworthy trait, and you should never allow anyone to take your heart away from you. But you know what else is noteworthy? Being firm. Having a “don’t try it” attitude doesn’t make you a bitch or an A-hole, it gets you respect. That’s something that cannot be bought or sold, and once you have it, only you can lose it.
Shantell E. Jamison is an editor for EBONY.com and JETmag.com. Not confined to chasing headlines, this Chicago-based writer, radio personality and cultural critic is also the author of Drive Yourself in the Right Direction: Simple Quotes on How to Achieve Your Best Self.