For respect to happen in practice within intimate (romantic) relationships, we need healthy boundaries. Each partner has to know where they end and the other begins.The true test of a relationship is how it handles boundaries, intimacy and reality, including the wider aspects of our lives. How do we behave when we give or receive ‘no’ or experience life’s inevitables (stress, conflict, criticism, disappointment, loss, and rejection)?

Without mutual respect, partners forget they’re on the same team even when they don’t see eye to eye or aren’t having their best day, week or even month(s). In conflict, one or both can see the other as a threat. Cue the fault and blame finding.

Unless partners come from a place of responsibility in these instances, which is figuring out what happens next and growing their mutual understanding, the focus becomes on who’s right instead of what’s right for the relationship.

Something easily forgotten is that if one partner always has to be ‘right’, the other has to be ‘wrong’. Who truly wants to always be in the latter position? Exactly. And backing down to cater to a partner’s need to be right just leads to disrespect. It doesn’t really feel like we’re on Team Relationship. One partner might feel like they’re winning but everyone’s losing.

When we strive to recognise our and our partner’s humanity and to be conscious, aware and present, we recognise our emotional baggage. We acknowledge what’s behind what we do in those moments when we’re maybe not our best selves. With this self-awareness, we see our partner, not our parents/siblings/bully/ex. Instead of avoiding dealing with life’s inevitables because of our fears, we respect the need for us to face these to protect the integrity of the relationship.

Being willing to recognise our part no matter how small but also acknowledging that each of us has a backstory that influences how we behave in certain situations prevents the disrespect of self-blame and projection and, instead, promotes mutual love, care, trust and respect. 

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