There’s no doubt about it– When trust has been damaged and you’re not feeling respected by your partner, you’re probably unhappy. Feeling suspicious, tense or put down much of the time may even seem to be standing in the way of you living the kind of life that you want.
This all becomes even more intense and painful when your partner won’t talk about what’s going on (or what happened in the past) and he or she resists your efforts to make positive changes.
You may feel helpless as you suffer through…
- Constant worrying that your partner will cheat again.
- Doubts about anything and everything your partner says because of past lying.
- Feeling taken for granted and as if you (and your relationship) aren’t important.
Trust and respect are both vital foundations to a healthy and connected love relationship or marriage. When these are weak or missing, your whole relationship will be negatively impacted and possibly lead to breakup or divorce.
Maybe it’s clear to you that something needs to be done to save your relationship. You can’t go on pretending that the affair, the lie, the nasty words or actions or another betrayal did not happen.
Yet, it can be uncomfortable to bring up a subject that is painful for you both– like a past affair, for example. And so you don’t talk about it and you try to push it out of your mind. It’s not helpful to live in the past and to hold onto mistakes made; but it’s just as damaging to deny or avoid them.
This is the balancing act that needs to happen if you want to rebuild trust and respect but your partner is resistant: Talk about what happened and what needs to happen without getting stuck in the past.
It is also a balancing act to know how much to push your partner who resists. The goal is to be persistent about addressing your relationship challenges without being pushy, blaming or controlling.
Here are a few things that you CAN’T and CAN do when trust and respect are missing in your relationship…
#1: You can’t force your partner to talk about it or to change.
This is a tough one. The tendency for many of us is to instantly make a mental list of all of the things the other person has done to cause problems (like lack of trust and respect) and another mental list of the changes that the other person “needs” to make. Sometimes we even share that list with the other person and present it as his or her “to do” list.
This is doomed to fail every single time.
While you might already know that you can’t force your partner to change, a part of you might be waiting around expecting the changes to happen. When they don’t, your frustration and resentment build up even bigger.
To admit that you can’t change another person can feel frustrating and even seem dis-empowering. But, to pretend that you can make your partner change will only cause both of you more discontent.
#2: You can make clear and loving requests.
So, if you can’t force your partner to change, does this mean that you have to give up on your desire to rebuild trust and feel respected?
You can most certainly make requests, create agreements and set boundaries that will help you live more authentically, honestly and even joyously in your relationship. Keep in mind that this is a process and won’t happen all at once.
When you set a boundary, you probably don’t want it to come off as an ultimatum. Something like, “Either you stop being so jealous or I will pack and up and leave,” is NOT going to help you create a close and loving relationship. Unless you intend to actually follow through, don’t make threats or issue ultimatums.
If it is your intention to stay in this relationship, choose words that will encourage you both to stay open.
Sentence starters like, “I feel…when you say (or do)…,” “What if we tried this…?” or “I’d like your feedback on this idea…” can help create an environment of openness and cooperation to help you find resolutions that will feel good to you both.
#3: You can’t receive more love and respect if you don’t give it to yourself.
While this tip may seem obvious, how many of us look to others for some kind of affirmation that we are lovable and worthy of respect?
Of course, it’s vital for a healthy relationship to involve two people who share mutual respect and love for one another. At the same time, this does not work if one person (or both) rely mostly– or even solely– on the other as the source for love and respect.
If you feel disrespected, neglected and unloved by your partner, take a step back and look at the way that you treat your own self on a regular basis.
What are the thoughts you think about your own abilities, worth and talents (or perceived lack)? If you’re not all that aware of what you think on a daily basis, take 1 day and really “listen in.”
Chances are, if you don’t feel the kind of love and respect that you desire from your partner, you’ll probably “hear” a lot of criticism, put downs and doubts.
A wonderful side effect of respecting and loving yourself is that you’ll be less willing to accept disrespect from anyone else, including your partner.
This might mean that you can more confidently make requests and set boundaries that foster trust and respect. It might also mean that you can see when it’s time to decide whether to stay in or leave your relationship.
It all starts with you. Trust and respect yourself first and this will begin to set the example for how you expect your partner will treat you too.