We all long for love. But there is another need which is equally strong. Respect. What if someone loved you but did not respect you. Would that be acceptable? Most people would ask why would someone who loves me not respect me? And isn’t love and respect part of each other? Let’s explore.
When we fall in love with a person, it is not the person that we are falling in love with. It is how that person makes us feel. When someone is able to understand us, appreciate us and love us for who we are the thirst in us to be understood, appreciated and loved is quenched. No matter how evolved we are, every human has the quest for love.
The initial phase of any relationship is always beautiful. There is a magnetic pull. There is attraction, both physical and emotional. There is projection, not just what we think about each other but also of a possible shared future together. Basically there is excitement and aliveness! Whatsapp messages are filled with all kinds of colorful emoticons!
Then comes the first difference of opinion. Or rather hurt. Your feelings are invalidated by the other person. Now two things can happen at this stage. You smile and let go of it. After all there is so much more beautiful in the relationship. And finding true love is a rare commodity in today’s world. Or you confront and call the other person out on what was hurtful to you. It is the first risk you have taken in the relationship.
If the other person acknowledges their mistake and apologizes, the relationship can move forward. You have also created a culture of authentic communication in the relationship. Every time there is a difference and the two people can communicate their feelings to each other, understand each other and move on, the relationship develops roots of trust and intimacy.
A relationship is like a psychological mirror. It triggers unhealed parts of us that are deeply embedded in our psyche. It is also like medicine, we can willingly offer wounded parts of us to the other for their acceptance. In the loving gaze of another human being our wounds begin to heal and fragmented parts of us come together.
But all of the above is only possible if there is respect. In my view there are two key factors that nurture or undermine respect. They are communication and equality.
How two people communicate when they are triggered is the key to the longevity of the relationship. The trigger may be an unmet expectation or something important that is not acknowledged. Whatever be the nature of the trigger, words once spoken or typed will leave their imprint. No matter what the intention, if there is lack of awareness in how our words will affect the other person it is unlikely to nurture a healthy relationship. There is a thin line that separates spontaneity from impulsiveness.
Even if we do not agree with a point of view, there is a way to say it. With care, with love, with great degree of patience. Confronting need not be a violent process. Sometimes what we say is not as painful, as the manner we say it. If we lack awareness of how our words can land on another person, either we must learn it through experience or be prepared to remain alone. And one can be alone even within a relationship.
When two people fall in love it is effortless. There is a chemistry. But the chemistry cannot sustain a relationship. The ability to communicate authentically with respect is far more important in the long run.
A relationship is between two human beings, each having their emotional needs. If a person has attained to enlightenment there is no need for a relationship. Human beings are vulnerable, get hurt and try to make amends. We realize that no matter how self-sufficient we become we want that gentle touch, loving gaze and soft warmth of another human being. It is easier to spend a life together, than all alone, at least for most of us.
In other words in a relationship both partners are emotionally equal. What do I mean by that? I mean one partner does not take on the role of being a counsellor for the other person, by assuming what is good for the other person. Often in the name of good intentions one partner figures out what are the problems of the other, what the other person needs to do etc. Giving unsolicited advice is one of the highest forms of disrespect. Where one becomes an authority on another’s life without invitation.
Respecting another person means being tentative in our communication, asking questions, remaining silent and apologizing when needed. Our actions speak louder than our words. Quite often the likely pattern of a relationship is visible at the outset. We can either overlook the dysfunctionality and continue for the sake of companionship. Or take note of the disrespect, bring it up and make choices based on the outcome of the communication.
If we bury our head in the sand, it is unlikely the storm will pass. It will come again with a greater intensity. Hence each time you have a conflict ask yourself, are your needs being met at the cost of your respect. The more you disregard it, the more toxic the relationship will become, until it becomes unbearable.
Love is an equal partnership. It is also respect in equal measure.