We have all been there…on the dance floor at aunt carol’s wedding, at a bad karaoke joint, or innocently perusing the dairy section when a familiar tune comes on. (Go ahead and sing it; we know you want to…)
What you want // Baby, I got it // What you need // Do you know I got it // All I’m askin’//Is for a little respect when you get home (just a little bit) // R-E-S-P-E-C-T // Find out what it means to me // R-E-S-P-E-C-T // Take care, TCB
(aka: Takin’ care of business. You’re welcome, we always wondered too.)
We are all familiar with Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit song, Respect. It soared to the top of charts in 1967 and has held its own as an anthem for the ages. And for 50 years now, women have been singing along with Aretha, loudly and proudly claiming the song’s sentiment as a battle cry for equal rights. However, it might interest you to know that this song was not written by Aretha Franklin or even by a woman. This song, this overt plea for respect, was written by Otis Redding – a man. And it articulates a surprising universal need among men – unconditional respect.
Now don’t tune me out too quickly here, ladies. You may be thinking “Women are the underdogs…why do men need even more recognition from our society?”
Everyone, regardless of gender, values being respected. We want to be appreciated for our contributions but mere recognition and applause is not the respect I’m talking about here. I’m talking about unconditional respect in a safe and healthy relationship.*
*Things that never deserve respect: abuse, coercion, and patterns of laziness or unfaithfulness. I am talking about safe, healthy, committed relationships. If that’s not you, or your man is doing one of the things above, dump him and then come back and read this blog. You can do better, we promise. As Americans, and especially women (hello, guilty 🙋), we believe love should be given unconditionally, but that respect must be earned. Think about it. As women we want and expect our men to give us a break when we have had a long day, or it’s that time of the month, or if we are stressed. Girls want guys to fight for them– to love them even when they are being totally bratty and unloveable. I mean, isn’t that the dream, #goals, the stuff rom-coms are made of?
But while our culture demands this unconditional love for women, respect for men has become conditional on performance. We don’t think a thing of complaining to our girlfriends at brunch about our guy’s shortcomings, detailing to his mom that he has to be begged within an inch of his life to help with laundry, or weaving our clever snarkiness into a fight we know we can win if we are just sassy enough. But let’s call a spade a spade, it’s disrespectful, and it is doing a disservice to our relationships in ways we can’t imagine.
Just like we need to be loved when we are unloveable to feel truly loved, your man needs to be respected when he sometimes doesn’t deserve it (like when he is super crappy at laundry) in order to feel truly respected.
Women need unconditional love. As a woman, I need my husband to love me unconditionally. I need to know that apart from accomplishments, beauty, popularity or performance, I can count on him to act in a loving way toward me. I need to know that he supports me, accepts me (faults and all) and that his commitment to our relationship will be strong and steady.
Men need unconditional respect. As a man, my husband needs to know that, apart from his accomplishments, looks, popularity or performance, he can count on me to act in a respectful way toward him. He needs to know that I appreciate his sacrifices, efforts and best intentions and that I value his contributions.
Love is familiar. We understand love and we recognize loving behavior. Respect can sound scary- almost authoritative and begs to be defined. While it can sometimes behave like love, there are subtle differences between love and respect that you won’t want to miss:
- Respect is rooted in an appreciation of honorable character qualities.
- Respect admires intentions and effort apart from outcomes.
- Respect is mindful of tone and body language (disrespect is not just words)
- Respect seeks to honor a person’s reputation.
I’ve been married to my husband for 26 years now and we have raised 5 boys together. I can tell you from experience that in a healthy relationship, men (of all ages) respond with love to genuine respect just like women respond with respect to genuine love. How in the world do you put all of this information to use? Take Otis Redding’s sage advice and find out what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to your man. Simply ask him what makes him feel respected. You might be surprised.
This is heady relationship stuff, folks, and we’re just scratching the surface here. If you want to delve deeper into this topic, which is a relationship-game-changer, read the book, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs.