My wife doesn’t respect me! What should I do? This is a refrain we often hear from husbands.
Obviously, we would all hope that our partners would treat us with kindness and respect, but sometimes that’s not the dynamic we have established. If we were talking directly to your wife, we’d be giving her her own coaching, but assuming we’re talking to you, the husband, we’ll focus on what you have some control over, namely your own behavior and how you communicate with her.
How Feeling Disrespected Shows Up
Not being respected can show up for you in a myriad of different ways. You might experience that she …
* Belittles you
* Emasculates you
* Puts you down
* Withholds affection, touch, love, sex
* Doesn’t appreciate you
* Doesn’t acknowledge the things you do do
* Questions your choices
* Doesn’t trust you
* Talks down about you to other people
* Tries to control or micro-manage you
Or perhaps it’s something else for you?
When you have the experience that your wife doesn’t respect you, there’s her responsibility in that situation, and there’s your responsibility. It’s not all on her, nor is it all on you. It’s a co-created dynamic. When we coach couples, we help each person take their share of ownership. As mentioned above, we’ll focus on what you can do to change this dynamic and in effect encourage her to respect and appreciate you more.
Is There A Grain Of Truth?
For starters, look at what she’s judging you for. What is she criticizing you for? Then, take an honest look at yourself and ask, “What’s the grain of truth in what she’s saying about me?” Notice, we say “a grain of truth”, i.e. it’s not the full story about you.
For instance, if she’s judging for you always being late, look at where there’s a grain of truth to that. Are there times when you don’t show up when you said you would? If she’s nagging you about not following through on commitment, take a look at that. Are there times you say you will do something, but then don’t?
If you can see a grain of truth to her judgments, you now have an opening to change those behaviors, if you so choose. But there’s no question that doing what you say will do, or showing up when you say you will, contributes to her respecting you. If you don’t, you feed into her judgments about you.
When She Criticizes
Now, I know when your wife says stuff like, “You never clean up after yourself!”, your default reaction might be to get defensive – “I DO clean up after myself. Stop talking to me like that!!” – or to just get the hell out of there so you don’t have to listen to that.
Next time this happens, try telling yourself, “Ok, hang on a second, let me just see if there’s any grain of truth to that I don’t clean up after myself”.
If there is a grain of truth to it, just own it. Just say, “Yeah, sometimes I don’t clean up after myself” or “Sure, there are times I don’t finish my projects”. Owning it without explanation is a way for you to respect yourself more, to restore your own integrity. In the process, it’ll help her respect you more, too.
Respect Is Earned
Respect is an earned privilege, so in order to be respected you have to show up respect-worthy. And that goes both ways, of course!
So take a good hard look at this: Do you respect yourself? Do you value yourself?
Watch this video version of this post:
Still to this day, despite my many years of growing and developing, I can still find times or areas of my life where I don’t really respect or value myself. It’s hard to admit, I don’t want it to be true, but it is.
How can you respect and value yourself more? As a man, there are several ways to go about that process which involves you getting clear about questions like …
* What am I about as a man?
* What kind of man am I?
* What is my mission?
* What is my purpose?
There’s more to that process, but that’s the topic of another post.
Step in with presence and power.
Often, women get stuck in complaint, criticism, and blame when they don’t feel their man with them. That’s not to justify blame and criticism, but to give you some additional insights and options for actions.
It’s as if under her complaints and criticisms, she’s saying, “Where are you? I can’t feel you! Come be present with me!”
In the face of criticism, it’s natural to want to get out of there, but instead, try to lean in, come closer, and tell her with your entire presence, “I hear you. I’m here for our relationship”.
Make a boundary.
Drawing a line in the sand can be done with presence and kindness and still be firm. By doing so, you’re taking a stand for yourself, and for you deserving to be treated kindly. As you step closer with presence, you might say something like, “I request that you speak to me with appreciation. I request that you see what I do do around here. I’m available to have a conversation with you – I’m not available to be yelled at, I’m not available to be called names. I’m happy to hear what’s going on for you and what your experience is; I’m not happy to stay here and have you put me down”.
Go for what you want
When you feel disrespected there’s always something else you’re wanting in the background. You can go directly for that “something” by making a direct request to her. You might ask …
- “Would you be willing to speak well of me right now?”
- “Would you be willing to lower your voice?”
- “Would you be willing to tell me three things you really love and appreciate about me?”
For me, when I’ve felt not respected, it’s typically about me not feeling that my partner is trusting the choices I make, or that she’s not appreciating and acknowledging the things I do do, whether it’s around the house or around career and money. In those case, what I really want is for her to trust the choices I make. Now, I can go straight for that. “Hey, I hear your questions about how I’m going to take care of this project … would you be willing to just trust me on it? I got it and I’d like to demonstrate that to you”.
When your wife is going off at you, she doesn’t really know what’s going on inside of you. The more you can be vulnerable about sharing your feelings, your needs, your thought process, and your reasons for doing certain things, the more you can help her step inside your world and understand you; the more she’s going to know you and the more she is going to respect you.
In relationship, we often expect our partners to be like us, but they’re not. We’re different people. We have very different ways of approaching things and thinking about things. You can help your partner understand how you move and how you think, and what’s important to you. When she understands you better, she has more compassion and feels more connected to you. Do your best to be authentic and vulnerable about how you feel; even how hurt you feel when she speaks to you in a critical tone way or doesn’t trust you.
I personally used to be a man who communicated very little in my relationships. I would have a lot of stuff going on in my mind but I didn’t say much of it out loud. I wasn’t very skilled or comfortable talking about how I felt and what was going on inside of me, so I just didn’t talk. I often felt she wasn’t respecting me because she always wanted to know what was “going on in there”. I felt nagged at.
What I realized (probably much too late) is that when I’m not sharing about how I feel, it’s an invitation to her to fabricate conclusions; basically to make shit up on her own! If I don’t tell her anything, I’m basically telling her to go make up her own conclusions, and often those conclusions aren’t in my favor. You can significantly improve the playing field by sharing genuinely about what you want her to see in you.
Provide What Is Desired
You know when you feel disrespected, you want to disrespect right back? When you get criticized, you want to strike back? Which makes for two disrespectful and disrespected partners. Providing what’s desired is a powerful relationship idea, and it takes “the bigger person” to get it started (as opposed to both people waiting for the other person to “do the right thing”).
It means be the person you want to be. It means offer the respect you want to be afforded. You want her to speak well of you? You speak well of her. You want her to appreciate you? You appreciate her. You want to her not question your choices in front of the kids? Don’t question her with the kids.
Of course, you would hope she would do the exact same thing for you. Since we’re talking to you, the man who says, “My wife doesn’t respect me”, we’re talking about what what’s in your power. Providing what’s desired is in your power. We know, it takes two to create a kind and respectful atmosphere in your relationship and in your house. By doing your best to improve how you behave and show up, you contribute to a better dynamic between you.
You might need support in this process. We have coached hundreds of couples about how to stop a disrespectful cycle and establish better, kinder dynamics. There’s no shame in not knowing and in needing help. Often, your patterns of interaction have been established over years or decades, so don’t feel bad if it’s not changing overnight; and don’t feel bad if you need professional facilitation to work through issues like these.
Share this post with your partner and your friends and start a conversation about how you’d like to be treated, and how you’re committed to showing up! You might find it educational to read a post we wrote from the “other side”, My Husband Doesn’t Value Me.