While we women enjoy hearing our man tell us “I love you” often to reassure us of his love, men are not affected by hearing us say, “Honey, I respect you” but they do love to hear things like “I’m so proud of you” and “I trust you.” But signaling respect to our man goes far beyond those few words. In my research, I found that there are five demonstrative ways we can express our respect for the man we love such as respect his judgment and respect his abilities.
Our husband may be particularly sensitive to just one or two of these areas or all of them may be significant, especially if he’s either recently or over a lifetime accumulated a low self-esteem. Circumstances can certainly affect his sense of self-respect or value. Has your husband been hit with a physical disability or sickness which has affected his performance or productivity? Is he at that season of life when a man’s career may take a downturn because they are being replaced by younger men or cheaper labor? Has he been laid off because of the economy, or lost a strategic deal or been bypassed for a promotion by another colleague? Our man most likely will become hypersensitive to feeling disrespected during these kinds of circumstances because he’s having a hard time respecting himself. Whatever the difficulty, we have the incredible power to either add to his sense of inadequacy or build him up to feel respected and esteemed regardless of his situation.
In my survey of men for my book, For Women Only three out of four men indicated that if they had to choose between feeling inadequate and disrespected by everyone, or alone and unloved, they would choose feeling alone and unloved. The reality is that if a man feels disrespected, he is going to feel unloved. Translation? If you want to love your man the way he can feel loved, your top priority is to ensure that he feels your respect. Feeling respected by us is as important to a man as feeling loved by him is to us. The challenge, however, is that unlike women who can get that feeling of love by frequently hearing “I love you,” men need to experience more than just “Honey, I respect you.”
And when his disrespect barometer is tripped by something you say or do, it usually catches us off guard because it was unintentional, and if we respond defensively it can spark a downward spiraling conflict which ends up being more about his feeling disrespected and us feeling unloved than the original issue. This need to feel respected at all times is particularly difficult to keep in mind during a conflict when we all tend to engage one another with more volatility and aggression. If we have regularly displayed a respectful attitude towards our husband, he is more likely to presume our good will towards him even when we slip into disrespectful behavior. When we do slip up, and we will because we are human, a sincere apology combined with some verbal affirmation of one of his strengths goes a long way to mend those slighted feelings.