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Respect and Romance


 Dear Friends,

           I like to say that respect and romance are kissing cousins because there is a direct correlation between the two.  Another way to say this is that you cannot feel passionately romantic toward someone unless you respect them.  It is possible to respect someone without feeling romantic, but it is impossible to feel romantically toward someone without respecting them.

          This is an important principle when applied to romantic relationships of all types, but most importantly as it is applied to marriage.  Over the years that you are married your relationship goes through many different stages.  If, for a variety of reasons, you slowly lose respect for your spouse the feelings of romance will leave you.  You may stay committed to your spouse and do all the obedient things that you know God would have you do, but you will slowly lose the passion you once had.  This passion is hard enough to maintain even in a good and healthy marriage.

          During the years I have taught college or have done counseling there have been times when I experience a woman gaining respect for me, perhaps for my skills at counseling, teaching, or communicating difficult concepts in a way that is understandable and enjoyable.  Sometimes I get the feeling that they wished their spouse was like me, perhaps because of my attentiveness, and insight.  This can become a dangerous dynamic and one that I have learned over the years not to take personally, meaning that because of her reaction that this means that I am some super special guy.  This is true because, whether they are a student or a client in counseling, they don’t know the real me (just ask my wife, the one who knows me the best, and she will be happy to set the record straight!:).  What is in fact happening is that they are transferring onto me their desperate need to have a man in their life that they can trust.  Typically, a woman who may be doing this is looking for a father figure that they can respect and it is this respect which leads their feelings toward romance.

          This is the same dynamic in marital relationships.  It is crucial that you maintain your spouses respect if you wish to maintain their romantic feelings toward you. 

          The best way to do this is to respect yourself.  The only person in charge of how much you respect yourself is you.  People in general will only respect you as much as you respect yourself.  To think it is another person's job is an example of faulty thinking.  It is faulty thinking like this that leads many people into relationship disasters. 

          The best way to respect yourself is by acting in self-respecting ways.  It is your job to take care of yourself, and paradoxically, people, including your spouse, will respect you for doing it.  I can’t list all of the ways that you are to do this for yourself, but in your heart of hearts you know what this list is and in what ways you should be doing this.

          You might be asking, “where is God in all of this...isn’t is my spouse’s Biblical obligation to respect me and love me and take care of me?  The answer to these questions are as follows:  First, God does take of us, but like I like to say, it is not His job to do your math homework for you, and, therefore, there are things in this world that only you can do for yourself (such as suffering through the pain of figuring out a math problem). Secondly, to answer the next question, even if your spouse is being obedient by loving you out of commitment and obligation, wouldn’t you also want him or her to love you out of romantic passion?  If your answer is yes, then the only way that I know how this is possible is if you respect yourself enough so that who you are automatically elicits this kind of passion. 

In the end it is clear, the responsibility to love and respect ourselves, in a healthy way, begins and ends with us.  If you want and expect your spouse to fall in love with you over and over again, to tell you that he or she is happy to be married to you and, to show this through random acts of passion, then you must take on the responsibility of caring and loving yourself by acting toward yourself and others in respectful ways.

Somehow I believe you already know how to do this and, therefore, do not need my help with this one.