Dr James Dobson, one of the most famous counsellors in the US, has written a book titled, Love Must be Tough.
Among the issues discussed in the book is disrespect in marriage, for instance where one insists on having their way regardless of the feelings of their spouse.
His message in this regard is; love must be tough, you should learn to put your foot down and demand respect from your spouse and also demand that he take responsibility for his actions. This, the author writes, can be done lovingly, but firmly.
Let us begin with young people who are just getting into relationships. As many discover when they get into a relationship, it is a heavy load that, if not handled with care, can break your back.
I have come across many young people at the verge of breaking up because of the demands of relationships, many of which, unfortunately, are unnecessary.
The thinking that because you are in love there are no boundaries is utterly misguided and dangerous. Such thinking allows individuals to place unwarranted demands on their partners’ time, energy, and finances.
The solution is to firmly and lovingly resist the demands that you cannot comfortably meet. The expectation is that your partner will respect your position if it is within proper limits of reason.
One way to determine your partner’s character is how they react to your expression of your need for such respect.
On marriage, one reviewer of Dr Dobson’s book says: “At the core of most marital conflicts lies an overlooked but vicious culprit: disrespect.”
I agree with this evaluation, especially since I am privy to testimonies of individuals who put up with insults, put downs, and let downs from their spouses daily.
If you look closely, the gradual decline and eventual loss of emotional connection in marriage can be traced to disrespect between the spouses.
In my view, love without respect is a fallacy and a contradiction of terms. You will respect those you truly love because respect is a recognition of their worth as human beings.
Unfortunately, and especially in African settings, it is usually possible to utterly disrespect people in the guise of tradition and culture.
Men, therefore, find it easy to call their wives names, embarrass them in public, fail to keep their promises, routinely cheat on them, even physical abuse them, and still claim to love them unreservedly.
Of course, disrespect is certainly not a man-only problem; women too treat their husbands disrespectfully.
Obviously, it would be more helpful to act when the first signs of disrespect are observed. I have been very impressed by a number of young people who have written to ask for advice on how to be firm with their partners, whom they consider to be either too demanding or disrespectful to them.
Whatever circumstances you are in, the solution lies in speaking your mind, saying, “No” to cruelty, insults, lies, irresponsibility, verbal and physical abuse, emotional neglect, and other manifestations of disrespect that may be directed your way by your spouse.
To paraphrase the late Prof George Saitoti’s famous statement: There come (sic) a time when the relationship is more important than the individual.
This should not be news for anyone in a relationship, but I believe it is a powerful statement for people who have had to endure difficult relationships due to their spouses’ disrespect.
It is important to note that being firm is ultimately about saving the relationship, not merely asking for the respect you deserve.
The writer is a counsellor. Do you have a question? Write to email@example.com