Respect in a relationship
Maybe you’ve met someone new, or you’ve started to see someone familiar in a new way.
You’re intrigued and would like to get to know them better. The attraction might be brief, days or weeks, or the connection could develop into a relationship that lasts many years.
How do you manage the excitement of a new relationship and set down a healthy foundation for future happiness, for both people?
HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS ARE BASED ON EQUALITY AND RESPECT
First, let’s look at self-respect.
Self-respect is when you recognise that your basic rights and freedoms are worthy of other people’s respect.
When you have self-respect, you’re more likely to want to protect your rights and freedoms and you’re less likely to accept situations or people that attempt to deny you these rights and freedoms.
- the right to follow your faith without fear or prejudice
- the right to pursue your education or career goals without discrimination
- the right to have and express an opinion
- the right to privacy, personal space and personal time
- within legal constraints, the freedom to love whoever you chose.
Self-respect is important at any time, but when in a relationship with another person it’s essential. When you have an awareness of who you are and what’s important to you, you’re more likely to encourage and support your partner to remain true to themselves.
What matters to you is essential to who you are as a person. This could be spending time with friends and family, studying, working, playing in a band, dancing, reading, writing poetry - anything that gives you pleasure or satisfaction and contributes to how you feel about yourself.
Self-respect is the best possible starting point for having a respectful relationship with another person.
Mutual respect is when you respect each other as individuals with equal rights, freedoms, opinions, beliefs, goals and dreams.
As individuals, you understand that you each have personal boundaries that should be respected, and a need for privacy, personal space, and personal time.
As equal contributors to the relationship you respect each other’s strengths and weaknesses and provide each other with support and encouragement.
Respectful relationship fundamentals
We are all individuals with our unique inner and outer worlds. We have different ways of demonstrating respect and different tolerances to what we consider disrespectful.
Apart from accepting each other’s basic rights and freedoms, there are fundamental principles found in all healthy and respectful relationships:
- Your relationship doesn’t compromise or reduce the importance of your other commitments – family, friends, study and professional requirements.
- You feel supported to maintain and develop your individual identity – new interests, hobbies, friends.
- Your relationship is grounded in trust – you feel trusted and you trust your partner.
- Your relationship encourages open and honest communication without fear or judgement.
- Conflict is handled respectfully and without pressure or intimidation.
- There is no power dynamic with one person exercising greater control or influence than the other.
- Both persons are considered equal.
Each relationship you have will be different – the initial attraction, individual wants and needs, shared goals, and future plans. There are also other external factors that can impact how a relationship develops.
Social norms can influence all aspects of our behaviour, including how we manage relationships.
Social and community norms might even influence who we might choose to begin a relationship with in the first place. These norms vary across communities and cultures and it can be difficult to go against pressure from family and friends.
The media is full of depictions of relationships – new relationships, relationships in trouble, relationships overcoming huge obstacles before finishing with the inevitable love conquering all.
Movies that promote how ‘true love’ should look, or listicles on how to get the relationship you deserve can be entertaining, to watch and to read, but they are not about you, your partner, or what’s unique about the two of you together.
Whatever is happening in your life is specific to you and whoever you choose to be sharing it with. If you feel loved, respected and equal, that is a healthy relationship.
Gender stereotypes are generalisations about a person based on their gender. These generalisations usually reflect the conventional gender roles of the specific society or culture we live in.
Gendered stereotypes attempt to enforce the social norms that prescribe that, if you are of a particular gender, you should like certain things, do certain things and want certain things in order to conform to accepted gender roles.
Gendered stereotypes and norms might go against a person’s inner world and put pressure on a relationship, if the individuals feel they should ignore their inner worlds to behave as others expect them to behave, or take on roles that are expected within society. In a healthy relationship, partners negotiate roles based on each other’s needs and wants, not on societal expectations.