A Smart Way to Deal With Disrespect In a Relationship

A Smart Way to Deal With Disrespect In a Relationship

Have you ever felt frustrated when your partner (or anyone else for that matter) didn’t make some changes that you wanted them to make and because of this, you felt like you weren’t being respected? Most of us have felt that way at one time or another. We just wanted the other person to “respect” us in a certain way and didn’t know how to go about getting it.

One thing we’ve noticed is…

One of the reasons people who are considering leaving a relationship buy our book and audio program “Should You Stay or Should You Go?” is that they don’t feel respected, appreciated and important.

Yes, feeling respected is that important!

It’s important to feel respected and beĀ  “heard” in a relationship–but what if the other person doesn’t seem to want to make changes that you want him or her to make?


“I have been dating a guy about 1 year. We both feel that there are a lot of good things/times in our relationship.

A very big concern that I have is I feel that there is a lack of respect in our relationship. He does not feel the ‘need’ to shower at night. This is a person who is very busy through the day.

“I feel that when there is someone with you, & you have that intimate relationship, that it is good practice to shower, & have a fresh clean body, to be with another person. I do not feel that it is being obsessive, to ‘wash’ off the days wear & tear.

“He feels that he is being told what to do. I have tried to explain to him that it is simple consideration for another person. I know that I will not be happy in this relationship, without this simple consideration, & have tried to explain that to him.

“I have tried to let this ‘be’, but it hurts me, feeling that he does not have this simple respect and consideration for me.

“I am wondering how we can work on this issue? There have been times that he has showered & it is very pleasant. I have tried to encourage him & told him that I appreciated these times. I have been trying to ‘give it time’.

“He knows how I feel, & I keep hoping that he will realize that I am worth that little bit of effort. I feel that we are doing somewhat better about discussing things, & not shutting down. He acknowledged the unfairness to me because he is busy. I feel that this is a first step. But also am wondering if things will change to a point that I will be comfortable. I am very supportive and understanding of him & I want the same in return.”


It certainly sounds like the two of you are doing a lot of things “right” by learning how to stay open to each other and not shutting down as you discuss hard topics.

And as you said, that’s certainly a first step!

It also sounds like you are listening to each other but don’t know how to move forward to break out of the stuck place that you’re currently in.

Here’s what we suggest…

Keep on working on your communication. If you need some more suggestions on staying open when it’s tough, you might want to check out our Stop Talking On Eggshells program.


Try doing a re-frame.

Re-frame the idea that your boyfriend doesn’t respect you.

Now before you tell us that he IS being disrespectful in his actions (or non-actions), try this idea on…

What you have is not a “respect” problem but rather a difference in “rules” for living.

You have a “rule” that says that you bathe before bed and it’s a sign of respect for the other person when you do so.

Your boyfriend seems to have the “rule” that when you’re tired from a day’s work, you go straight to bed– and it has nothing to do with not respecting the other person you sleep with.

When you asked him to adopt your “rules,” he rebelled, dug his feet in the ground and won’t change. To him, not showering before bed is not about respecting you.

To you, it is.

While it certainly says a lot that he acknowledges the unfairness to you, but as you said, you don’t know if he will change–and you don’t know if you can stand it if he doesn’t.

So here are some ideas to help you…

1. Try the re-frame idea on and see if you can switch your thinking from the highly emotionally charged criticism that “he doesn’t respect me” to “we just have different rules.”

When you do this–even in your thoughts–you are making a shift to “neutral” and not criticizing him.

2. Talk with him from a heart-centered, non-critical place. Even though it sounds like you’ve talked about this situation with him, he may have felt put-down and criticized–even though that may not have been your intention.

Tell him you’ve appreciated how the two of you are listening to one another.

You can tell him from your heart how you want to be close to him–and that it’s so much better for you when he takes a shower before coming to bed.

Talk about your different set of rules that you each have and try a “team” approach to solve your problem.

Open your heart to him as you talk and ask him if he’s open to figuring out how you both can get your needs met.

3. Decide if this a deal-breaker for you. In other words, is this issue so important that you are willing to walk away from the relationship if he doesn’t change?

So, before you decide to walk away if he doesn’t change, give some time and attention to making some shifts and see what happens.

One final thing about this topic before we go…

We realize that infidelity, abuse or other major ways that agreements have been broken can be a very different ball game from our example in this email and can require immediate action on your part–especially if there’s been a repeat pattern.


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  1. Tiffany Anderson says:

    I have been with my boyfriend for 3 yrs. I love
    Him very much,but whenever we get into a fight, he
    Calls me a bitch and threatens to break up, every time.
    I have told him that it hurts me when he does that. He’s
    Always sorry after and wants to be close and loving but he’s
    Driving me crazy when the fight was over something so stupid
    And now something do little that could have been settled is
    Now a huge blow out because of the break up threat. When I ask
    If he really meant it, he would say I meant it at the time and that
    I got him so mad. Help I love him but I don’t know what to do. He also
    Withdraws his affection if I ever get him mad.

    • Tiffany: Thank you for your question. We encourage you to look more closely at how you react when he disrespects you by calling your names and/or threatening to break up. What do you usually say or do in the moment (during the fight) and also afterwards? This is important to observe in yourself because whatever you are saying and doing, it’s contributing to the continuation of this. You are sending him messages about how you will allow yourself to be treated– even if you don’t mean to. Is he willing to create agreements with you about what’s okay and what’s no okay when you two argue? An agreement that you two will take a “time out” on a conversation for a specific amount of time (an hour, a day, etc.) and then return to the topic when you both have cooled down could make a big difference. This article talks more about creating agreements: https://www.relationshipgold.com/communication/agreements.htm

      If you’ve already created agreements or asked him to stop this behavior (which you may have), then it could be time to set a boundary. Let him know that you will not continue a conversation if he: a) threatens to break up without really meaning it or b) calls your nasty names or otherwise disrespects you.

      Ultimately, if this behavior repeats again and again and he is unwilling to work with you to improve things, the question for you to answer is whether or not this relationship is healthy and in your best interests.

      Best Wishes,
      Susie and Otto

      • Tiffany Anderson says:

        Your so right! To answer some questions, when
        We do fight and he threatens the relationship,
        I say ok. Fine. Then I go into the bedroom or outside and close the door so I don’t need to
        Feel the tension. When he wants to make-up, he usually doesn’t say he’s sorry and he puts his arm around me but I’m usually so Hirt and
        Upset that it takes me a while to be happy with
        Him again. When I ask him not always say the break-up and to fight fair and to promise me he
        Says he can’t do that and I always get this unresolved feeling in my stomach. I would like
        So much for things to be ok, but I’m not sure anymore and I don’t want to believe deep down
        If that’s what he wants. What do you think

        • Tiffany: From what you write, if he truly is unwilling to change his habit of being hurtful and disrespectful when you two argue (or at any other time), then your decision is whether or not you will stay in the relationship. It sounds like beyond saying “I’m sorry,” he’s not trying to communicate differently and, understandably, this is upsetting to you. We can’t tell you what he wants or what you should do, but we do encourage you to really look at what he does and what he actually says and decide if you can be okay with those behaviors or whether it’s time for you to make a change and end the relationship. We hope that whatever choice you make, it will maintain your well-being and sense of self-respect.

          Best to you, Susie and Otto

  2. My boyfriend took me out for a nice dinner for my birthday. Everything was perfect! Then we were waiting for the valet in a line with many elder couples around us. He decided I was talking too much and said so as he covered my mouth up with his hand. He continued to humiliate me further by going on about me not knowing when to stop talking and shut up. I have never been so disrespected, especially not in public and over nothing. I tried to discuss this when we got home and he got upset and acted like I was always trying to start an argument. I asked him to put himself in my position and think of how he would feel had I done the same to him. He said “what you want me to apologize? jeez ok I’m sorry ok…” This was said with dripping sarcasm. He ended up storming off and leaving. Here I am a whole day later and he has not called or messaged me so I called. I left a message saying we need to talk but he loves to ignore me when he’s upset as some sort of punishment. How do I deal with this? How can I get him to have an adult conversation without feeling ‘interrogated’? I just want mutual respect and to have conversation without these invisible strings attached that he seems to see.


    • SusieCollins says:

      Beth, you may want an adult conversation but he may not be “adult” enough to have one. You have the right to not be treated
      in the way you were treated. This is immaturity on his part and I would open to a conversation with him but if he won’t meet
      you half-way, don’t pursue him and expect him to be something other than what he is. You may have to move along.

  3. My husband says horrible things too his friends directed at me,making me look horrid in the eyes of his friends.He and his friend talk about how they sleep with each other’s wive’s while one or both men are gone..My husband says I don’t respect him,how can I when I know so many lies and sexual innuendos and so much more .He even lies too our kids about things he said I’ve done but never have..I’m just so sad and hurt and stupid me just keeps it all inside.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Hope, it sounds like your husband has some friends who are not healthy relationships for him but they
      are his choice. The only thing you can do is speak your truth to your husband and it may or may not
      change things. I would want to ask him also how it is that you don’t respect him. That may give you
      a clue about a way to come together or it may give you a clue as to your next step.

  4. So I’ve been dating this guy for a while now and we truly care for each other. But we fight all the time and the fights are ugly. He has this temper. So basically every fight starts because everything I say irritates him or is dumb.or I talk to much.and everyday I ruin his day. Basically spoke when spoken too. And how I take it is I tell him I don’t want to be with anybody that I get on there nerves or have to beg for attention. Or curse him out for being rude. And it just make things worse. And then I quit the relationship. The he begs for me back. I say I’ll only come back if the disrespect stops. He says he will change. It last for 2-3 days then back to the same thing. And it gets worse.each time I take him back. He’s getting to comfortable with the b word. And we can’t talk,conversate, or communicate everything I have to say erk/ irritate him. Here is where my dilemma comes So our last resent fight. I say I’m done with the situation. This is not mentally healthy for me. I don’t want this any more. Dont call me any more. He say I’m happy with being single. I say your the one who wanted this stupid relationship. He gets so upset. Calls me a million times. Says if I didn’t care I wouldn’t call all those times. I say you don’t know how to be in a real relationship. And you don’t know how to talk to females. And I’m always the one suffering and hurt. Leave me alone. He says which is new “teach me how”. So somehow we made up.And the disrespect is back and getting worse by the day.I don’t know how to teach him. The only solution I came to is to be a asshole back. But I tried that and he can’t handle what he douches out. And it makes it worse. I’m really nice to him. I’m really am being this perfect girlfriend well woman to him. I don’t know what to do. we really like each other. we just got a apartment together We really are trying to make it work. But he has issues and I can’t bare it anymore. I just want to run away and never look back. Please please help sorry for being so explicit but I’m clueless and don’t know which move to make. And I don’t wanna do something I’ll regret. Hopefully u have a solution.

    • SusieCollins says:

      You have the solution! Quit arguing with reality and with him. His actions show that he doesn’t want to change
      in the way you want him to. You aren’t clueless–you know that this isn’t healthy for you. Take care of yourself
      and find someone who will love you the way you want to be loved!

  5. i am felt like my partner was cheating and is not caring as a normal boyfriend should so i disrecpected him by telling what came on my mind each time i called his phone 1 time and i didnt get through.

  6. Demetria Savage says:

    I’ve been a relationship with a man for almost 5 yrs. He get very veberally abusive quite often over the smallest things he dislikes everyone in my family and trys to put me against them also! He has a 13 years old daughter who don’t think that she can disrespect me and I put her in her place and he’s telling everyone that I dislike his daughter. This is not my way of living!! Help please

    • SusieCollins says:

      Demetria, if this isn’t your way of living, you might ask yourself what is the next step to living the life you want. Verbal or physical abuse is nothing to put up with and it seems that his daughter has learned how to treat you from her dad. My question to you is how long are you going to keep allowing this to happen? Susie

  7. My boyfriend can be so disrespectful. I have 3 boys and he acts as step father to them. He is amazing with them and we live as a family. My issue is that he’s always on my ass about “treating” them differently, to the point I feel like if they have a tantrum I can’t punish one and I have to punish the other because he feels like I only take 1 particular child’s side. It ends up with him making rude comments to me and making me feel like a horrible parent. What can I do? Telling him how it makes me feel does nothing.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Emilia, I can see that his approach to try to change your parenting style is certainly not working. After talking with a lot of couples and going through it myself, this step-parenting thing can be very difficult to say the least. You say he’s amazing with the kids but apparently not amazing with you. It seems that to you, one child needs more punishment than the other because of the way he/she acts. Does this child behave in the way you want if you punish him/her or does it seem that nothing helps? If that’s the case, you might want to change your approach with this child and that’s certainly not to take your partner’s side because putting you down isn’t working for either of you as well. Put your focus on this child and find other ways to interact with him/her and not on your partner. If you’d like to talk, I’d be happy to give you some time–no charge. Use the form on this page and tell me some days/times you’re available as well as your time zone and we’ll get it set up. Your partner can’t make you feel anything and I’d be happy to explain more.

  8. I’ve been going out with my girlfriend for 18 months now but I can lately she’s beginning to disrespect me. Why I’m i saying so?

    she took an action that for me hurt and I called to let her know how I feel about it over the telephone. For 5 minutes after registering my displeasure she didn’t say anything word.the next thing she did was to put my call on hold to talk to a male friend.

    I want to know if the above is not a sense of disrespect.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Enoch, what you have is not so much disrespect but rather she would rather talk with someone else when she’s being “lectured.” I use the word “lectured” because you can probably say what “hurt” you in one sentence. If she doing actions that are not according to your agreements with her, you don’t have a disrespect problem. You have a difference in how you want to be in your relationship. Both of you decide how you want to be and if you can’t come to an agree, it may be time to reconsider if you want to be together.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Enoch, it’s not about disrespect. It’s about her wanting to do and be who she wants to be without you criticizing her. Looks like you want her to be different and who she doesn’t want to be. Decide if you can be with the true her–or not. Susie

  9. This past weekend, my significant other and I had plans and they were cancelled due to him wanting to play in a tournament. I was okay with this, because I like him to be able to stay active as he is only home every third week. During the day, one of his ‘so-called friends’ asked if he could go out and party with them after the games. I didn’t want to be the type of person who dictates where he goes, but he already spent a night away from home and he is only home for 5 days every 14 so it is important to me to have him home at night. Instead of saying NO, I tried to make a joke that if our sex life was better, then he would go… My bf was SOO upset. I feel bad but it was only a joke and I wish I didn’t say it. This ‘friend’ then proceeded to say that I should still allow him to go to the party and that he would come over to the house to help me out… I laughed and moved on.

    About a half an hour later, this same person came up to me telling me to charge his phone for him. He spoke to me as if I were a servant. As he continued to walk toward me (My bf standing directly beside me) I was frozen! I couldn’t move, talk or react in any way! He proceeded to walk toward me, pulled open my shirt and placed his phone in my bra! I was dumbfounded! I was screaming in my head to get the heck away from me, and yet NOTHING would come out. And what made it worse for me is that my bf told me to go do it.

    My bf says that I should have stepped up for myself and that freezing is and excuse and is a BS excuse at that. It makes me feel very disrespected that he doesn’t sympathize with me at all. I feel violated, not only by the jerk, but more so from my bf. My bf didn’t come home that night, I have cried almost every single day and no matter how I try to explain myself to him, it doesn’t matter. His opinion of the situation is the only one that matters… What should I do? It is constant broken promises, and I feel like he was blaming me, for his friend putting his hands on ME?

    • SusieCollins says:

      Nikita, it’s obvious that you aren’t used to tuning into what you’re knowing inside you and then speaking and acting from that place. You froze because you aren’t used to saying what’s true for you and you’ve been taught to please others and not make waves. This is a wake up call for you and doesn’t do any good to blame your boyfriend or his friend however slimy that whole thing was. It’s your wake up call to begin learning how to tune into your feelings and then speak from that place of knowing. Believe me, I know this isn’t easy when you’re conditioned otherwise. Start small but start! This was a humiliating event and learn from it. This doesn’t mean that your boyfriend and friend are without blame but blaming them will only put off what you need to do to be a more confident, self-assured person. Much love to you, Susie

  10. Achelle says:

    I didnt know what to do. So i google for a person view online just cause i dont wanna screw my life over some silly things cuz mybe im just overly sensitive. So help me god. Im with this guy for almost 3 years. Idk if it disrespecting or what im confused. When we go out he didnt hold my hand and when i try to hold his hand hes like playing not to gimme his hand. This makes me feel unconcious about myself my body. Cuz ive been thinking maybe he dont want others to see us together. But there are few good times when he want to hold me. When his family ask who i am at the 1st meetup, he introduce me as a person he dont know (ik he was joking and they all laugh) but i never got introduced like that before from any of my exs and its just feels.. awfull.. i told him he need to be mature and introduce me nicely as his gf to anyone who ask.. but he never did. And then he never kiss me without me asking for it. Ik its small stuff but a woman need to feel loved. When i kiss his lips hes gonna like playin and splurt out all of his spit on my face which i dont like. I told him many times dat idont like spit or playin with spit but he keep doing it. When i get angry he got angrier at me and it scared me sometimes so i let him win all the time. When i ask him to do something for me he wouldnt do it but everytime he ask for something i immediatly do it for him. He didnt listen to words im sayin when im tryin to talk he rolls his eyes. It makes it hard for me to communicate and this is freaking me out since he goin to marry me next year and im scared what if i ruined my own life by marrying this piece of jerk? And plus if i marry him i have to convert my religion and its gonna destroy me if hes not the right one. Help me.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Achelle, in your question, I saw nothing that tells me that this man is a person you’d like to be in a long-term relationship or marriage. Do not think that just because you want him to be “the one” that he is–or that he’ll change to be the person you want him to be. My advice–move on and be open to choosing someone who is more in alignment with what you want. Much love to you, Susie

      • Achelle says:

        Thank you susie for your answer. But i dont know if i can get out from this situation.. im like stuck. My parents are expecting me to marry him. And whenever i told him i wanna break up he rolls his eyes like it doesnt effect him at all. And keep treating me like his gf. It makes me confused cuz sometimes hes nice. N sometimes its just off. Like when he show effort wanna marry me by raising money n bring me to vacation even when hes busy at work. But at the same time i feel like hes not listening to me hes rude hes.. idk. Its hard to bring him into conversation.. when im talking he can just walk away frm me. He dont talk he ignore. So i just feel maybe the problem is me..

  11. Britney says:

    My boyfriend of a few months promised to help me financially. I lost my job a few months ago so I had been surviving off of my savings I guess he felt the need to step up and help out. I noticed after a month he hadn’t brought up the subject so I mentioned it to him over dinner last night. He gave me an “oh well about that I’ve been thinking I’m going to give it to my mother instead.”

    I know his behavior and patterns by now and this upset me because this is something he knew about and didn’t have the decency to tell me. when I questioned him about it he got super defensive and told me that his mother comes first. He also said that he was going to tell me………after giving her the money.

    My problem was him withholding this information and not keeping his word. He is very dismissive of my feelings and saw nothing wrong with what he did because “it is his mother.” He also said that I have no right to be upset and I should deal with it and be understanding because she is struggling financially.

    This has created a problem and he threw the whole situation at my feet saying that I’m just upset because I’m not getting the money. He then said “if I had a $1 and had to save you or my mother guess who’s dying?” That was the last straw for me. It was a Completely insensitive remark one that I feel is the straw to break the camels back. Am I overreacting if I choose to break up with him over this? There is a saying once someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.

    • SusieCollins says:

      Okay Brittany, here’s what I see–Your boyfriend didn’t tell you first about giving the money to his mom because he was afraid of your reaction. This is what people do–they withhold information when they think their idea will not be well received. So it may not be about “decency.” It’s probably more about there was no agreement in the first place and he decided he wanted to do something different and didn’t know how to tell you. What you really should be paying attention to is that he said his mom came first. Now moms should be very important but do you want to be with someone who has blatantly told you that you are second? Before you break up, have a conversation with him about this situation and don’t go into pointing fingers. Tell him that you’ve realized (if you have) that you had no agreement in the first place and that was trouble from the outset. He may or may not talk with you about the whole situation. If he does, that may give you some indication that it’s a worthwhile relationship. If he’s not willing to talk about it (with you backing off from blame but just being curious), then rethink if you want to be in the relationship.

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