Why Losing Respect Kills Relationships

Stephen Hussey

Do you know any couples who appear to be just coasting in their relationship?

Or, more alarmingly, a couple that appear to be riding down a steadily declining slope of romance and passion towards thinly veiled indifference (or even contempt?)

What you’ll probably notice is that, even if on some level these couples love one another, they show signs of constant disrespect.

Why? Because respect isn’t the same as love.

Love is, “I need you. I want what’s best for you.”

Respect is something like, “I admire what you do and value what you say”. 

You’d think the latter would be easy to uphold. 

But everywhere you can observe how couples merely stand by while it gradually erodes, and even actively participate in diminishing their partner in public. 

For example,

  • the person who rolls their eyes constantly in company when their partner speaks about something they care about. 
  • the person who gives compliments freely to everyone else at the table but is dismissive of their partner, “Oh, don’t listen to him, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” 
  • the person who ignores their partner’s conversation while buried in their phone, or who makes decisions that affect the relationship without talking about it first. 

All of these things little by little make us feel disrespected. 

Even if we feel loved, an enormous part of attraction is feeling like the person who loves us also treats us as someone to be valued, honoured, considered, even looked up to. 

When we lose that feeling, we no longer feel like the stable rock that our partner can lean on. We feel worthless, uninteresting, a part of the furniture. It’s hard for anyone to feel turned on from this place. It makes us feel unappealing and dependent, and in extreme circumstances, we thirst for that feeling of pride and validation from someone else.

So much hinges on respect, yet it is one of the first things to be taken for granted once we decide to enter a long-term relationship.

How To Keep Respect (So You Don’t Lose Attraction)

You can endlessly read articles about “how to get the spark back”, or “why passion fails in relationships”, but very seldom are features written about how to keep respect going.

And maybe that’s because it’s so difficult. Especially if that loss of respect is brought about by a steadfast endurance of all our partner’s annoying foibles and failures to deliver on promises, many of which can turn into deep-seated resentments. 

When we have a partner whom we believed in who has let us down enough times, it becomes difficult to summon up that feeling of respect, perhaps even more so than it is to summon up kindness.

But let’s put aside today how to fix a broken relationship, and instead talk about how not to break it in the first place. Here are a few things we can remember to when we go into any new relationship:

1. Follow through on your word. Do what you say you will do. Nothing builds and maintains respect faster than showing we drink our own medicine. Be careful what you promise, and take every single one as though the relationship depended on you keeping it. As Hemingway put it, “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

2. Uphold your standards of behaviour in other parts of your life. If we want respect from our partner, we have to show what we expect in our everyday world – from our family and career, to the way we look after our health, finances and anything else we value. It might be just having things that matter outside of the relationship, taking on responsibilities, or being dogged about executing on a plan that shows we are committed to growth and overcoming challenges.

3. Have The Difficult Conversation. People lose respect when they are avoiders. When they accept less than they’re worth. When they run away from conflict and problems instead of towards them. If you want respect, be the person who grows three feet taller when things are tough and takes charge of the situation. Be unafraid to fight for your needs in the relationship. Start the difficult conversation. Be honest about your own shortcomings, but make yourself heard when it’s time to stand up for what matters. (THEN repeat step 1 above – follow through on your word once you decide what needs to change). 

The road to respect is a demanding one, but it’s just as important as passion.

It is by no means a demand to be perfect, but rather a demand that we strive towards being the sort of person who takes the image of who we aspire to be seriously, and being unafraid to confront difficult challenges head on when they arise.

Respect on it’s own isn’t a cure, but it’s the stone wall that protects the castle of a relationship, lest it succumb to the armies of indifference and contempt. 

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14 Replies to “Why Losing Respect Kills Relationships”

  • Hi I am Shreya from India. I loved your article. For myself respect, I decided that I should stop waiting for the other person response. I proposed him 5 times and he made me wait 3 months and few days back I asked again that what do you see he said I don’t want to talk about anything and if I talk I would be a person who is making your expectations. So I prefer being silent. That’s what he said and he even said if I say yes today I don’t know after 6 months what would happen with us.

  • This is so true. I learned this from my son’s father. Loss of respect is brutally painful; to love someone you are not compatible with on every day things. We were not. Many of the extreme differences we thought were cute at the beginning were our breaking point, because of lack of respect. Mostly on his part, eventually I started fighting back. Conversely, my husband & I match on every day things..now. We’re always respectful & accepting of each other differences. If the other is not good at something, either we show them a better way to do it, or just do it our selves. If one of us is snappy we don’t snap back. We let them get it out of their system then ask what’s wrong. Many times all that’s need is a hug. Respect is huge! I would rather live with a man who respected me & didn’t love me; than a man you loved me & didn’t respect me. Thank you for this article.

  • This is so basic in any relationship, doesn’t have to be romantic. Without respect there is no relationship, a decent one anyway.

  • Finally! I have always disagreed with the Beatles song lyrics ‘All you need is Love’, I believe all you need is Respect!
    Your love for someone varies within a relationship – sometimes it varies within a day! But your respect for some should always be constantly held high.

    Great article Stephen

  • Yes.Very true. I found it really hard to understand how or why my ex said he didn’t think I respected him enough, because I loved him deeply and did respect him, enormously.
    I realised though that over time his own disrespectful comments about my health and body and his eye rolls etc in conversations and unwillingness to talk about difficult things with me meant I began to dig my heels in on certain things to try and protect my self and and in the end I resisted showing kindness. I think the display of my respect for him did diminish over time and so he is probably right that he felt he no longer had my respect though I really did respect him in many many ways. In the end he cheated after 30 years together and having a beautiful family with me… somehow it all changed very rapidly when I became physically quite unwell and it has been so devastating because he is still the man I love most in the world, though since the affair and his nastiness during the divorce I don’t really feel very much respect for him now… I have tried though to show respect for him in the process of the end of our marriage and in my attitude toward him in front of my children. I wish I could have read this 3 years ago when there may still have been a chance to change things.

  • I like the part for the difficult conversations! This is is barrier I need to overcome, because I am very easy going and sometimes I allow people to take advantage. So holding on to my standards. Easy said difficult to be done, but I will keep on practicing until master it! Thank you Stephen-another unique article from you! Xxx

  • Wow what a great article. Cheating is also a form of disrespect big-time. It is so true that we have to stop a person earlier in the game because the more we allow the worse they get.

  • Wow what a great article. Cheating is also a form of disrespect big-time. It is so true that we have to stop a person earlier in the game because the more we allow the worse they get.

  • I would like very much to read how to regain respect when it has alredy been lost.

    U guys teach us how important is to keep our standards, but how to save them when u have slowly relaxed trusting the other person would reciprocate and find urself being the only one giving back, and on top of that, loosing respect for being what u thought was being generous?

    How to win respect back when they get distant if u raise the standard from 0 to 100 again? How to re-stablish them without having to loose him and start all over again?

    Is it even possible?

  • Thank you for sharing so much valuable information, knowledge, ideas, opinions, perspectives and support to so many! I usually ignore it or brush it off when I’m disrespected (I learned a lot about power of positivity and the universal laws through Abraham-Hicks). After reading your article I refuse to keep any disrespect in my life/experience it. I can choose who gets to skate in my rink. Contrast helps us learn, grow and see what we do want simply by knowing what we don’t want :)

    PS-“Respect on ‘it’s’ own isn’t a cure” is grammatically incorrect… Respect on ‘its’ own is correct. Not being disrespectful.. just annoying lol

  • This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! I’ve left a 30 plus year relationship and trying to research all the ways it went so wrong. This is definitely part of it! We lost respect for each other back when we were younger. I’m starting a new relationship with an amazing guy thanks to all of your programs and now I’m like a sponge soaking up any information that will help keep this relationship happy and healthy! Please add more! Thank you so much for your help!!

  • I am losing respect for my loving husband. He is allowing his long time employer to treat him badly and disrespect him, after years of loyalty and making them very profitable. He is not standing up for himself and having a backbone. It makes him less appealing and manly to me. I told him tonight that I am beginning to lose respect for him and now he won’t speak to me. I needed to let him know because I am afraid that if he does not value himself enough to take a stand I may lose all respect and then our marriage may become very unhappy.

  • When we don’t respect another, chances are we see in them things we don’t respect in ourselves.

    Everything begins with oneself.

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