I recently had a conversation with a young woman who was reading a book on marriage. She told me that she’d read that men want respect and women want love. I told her that this book was clearly written by a man and that he was probably a man who always remembers birthdays and anniversaries and tells his wife often that he loves her. Nice. But I don’t agree with the statement at all. I believe we all want respect and respect is one aspect of love.
Saying one wants love is so vague and the word itself is so misused. The words “I love you” can be assuring but meaningless without respect. I’d even suggest that the woman who demands love really needs respect. And a man who demands respect is has probably done nothing to earn it.
Clearly, I was confusing this woman. She asked me how one shows respect to another. This is what I told her:
We show our respect to another when we listen to what they have to say as valuable. When we are making decisions, their input has weight. It doesn’t have to be perfectly articulated. It matters because they matter. This requires humility. Wisdom is not mine alone. Wisdom is a shared endeavor.
We show respect to another when we notice uniqueness. When we give someone a gift, we seek to give them something they would like, not something we think they should want or we ourselves would like. When we show affection we use words and gestures that communicate love in ways the other can receive it, not in ways to meet our own desires.
We show respect to another when we give them space to mourn or recover or to think things through. We may be in a hurry to get something settled, but giving space may be needed before the other can move on with us.
We show respect to another when we honor their dreams. Even though couples in love talk about “our dreams”, each of them has dreams of their own. In a marriage, it often happens that only one partner’s dreams are fulfilled. Unfulfilled or deferred dreams are a fact of life. When there are children to be cared for, one or both parents may have to set dreams aside in order to attend to the important commitment of parenting. But dreams can still be honored. They can be seen and supported and people can work toward their fulfillment even if the fruition is slowed down by circumstances. To ignore another’s dreams is just as hurtful as ignoring the person who has them.
We show respect to another when we honor their gifts and talents. We read in the scriptures that God rested on the 7th day. I think what happened is that when he created human beings, he figures he could settle back and let them continue the work. When a spouse ignores, dismisses or even prevents their partner from developing or expressing their talents, they kill a divine spark in them. It is putting someone else’s light under the proverbial basket. It hurts the gift bearer and is a loss to the world.
Back to the idea of men wanting respect and women wanting love. The very saying of it reeks of old thinking about obeying. It sounds like something Archie bunker would say. Not his words though. He’d say, “Stifle, Edith.” I think when a man demands respect, he probably means that he wants things done his way. On the other hand, he may mean all that I said above about respect. If so, then I think the wanting or needing of respect is neither male nor female. It is just human.