I tell my partner every day that I love her. That may sound old fashioned, but it makes me feel great to do it. We have been together for over 24 years. When people ask how we’ve managed to create that relationship, we point to one thing: respect. It isn’t as romantic to tell someone “I respect you” every day, but is critical that you feel that way.
Love is a word that gets bandied about too much. We use it on objects, food, outfits, whatever. What does NOT get bandied about is the word respect.
When someone says “I respect you” it forms the basis for an actual relationship. Respect is the glue that holds people together. People can fall in and out of love, and that love can vary in its intensity and depth as a relationship progresses. But respect for each other is far more binary in nature. It is either on or off.
Once you’ve lost respect for someone, it can be impossible to retrieve. And that can be the death knell of love. But if you can hold onto that respect, it can forge a bond deeper than anything else in your life.
We watch Seinfeld a LOT in our house. In one of our favorite Seinfeld episodes (The Engagement), Jerry and George decide that they need to grow up and form a mature relationship with someone. Jerry confides in Kramer about their thoughts:
Jerry: We were talking about our lives and we both kind of realized we’re kids. We’re not men.
Kramer: So, then you asked yourselves, “Isn’t there something more to life?”
Jerry: Yes. We did.
Kramer: Yeah, well, let me clue you in on something. There isn’t.
Jerry: There isn’t?
Kramer: Absolutely not. I mean, what are you thinking about, Jerry:? Marriage? Family?
Kramer: They’re prisons. Man made prisons. You’re doing time. You get up in the morning. She’s there. You go to sleep at night. She’s there. It’s like you gotta ask permission to use the bathroom. Is it all right if I use the bathroom now?
Kramer: Yeah, and you can forget about watching TV while you’re eating.
Jerry: I can?
Kramer: Oh, yeah. You know why? Because it’s dinner time. And you know what you do at dinner?
Kramer: You talk about your day. How was your day today? Did you have a good day today or a bad day today? Well, what kind of day was it? Well, I don’t know. How about you? How was your day?
Kramer: It’s sad , Jerry. It’s a sad state of affairs..
Jerry: I’m glad we had this talk.
Kramer: Oh, you have no idea!
It’s hysterical, and we actually quote it on a nearly daily basis as an inside joke. But it points to one of the most misunderstood parts of a great relationship: respectful communication.
When you respect another person, it is natural to want to get their point of view. In all my years of extensive (100,000 miles per year) travel, I made a rule out of speaking to her each night. We still make time each evening to have a conversation before bed. It can be about something as menial as what we’re doing the next day, or as important as where one of our girls is at in their life.
I value my wife’s ideas, desires, and feelings, as much as my own. Our relationship is based on building each other up. We create opportunities to support each other against what the world is throwing at us every day. And we do that by communicating with each other.
In business, my most important task was creating a strong team. That meant fostering an atmosphere of respect in the workplace and between team members. Central to that was the role of open communication, encouraging feedback, and making sure people respected each other. I like to think that team building was one of my strongest contributions to the success of my company, and it was all based on ensuring mutual respect. I’ll be writing about team building a lot in the future.
We may not always agree on a course of action, but we must respect each other’s contribution to the discussion.
When you think of ways to great strong bonds with people, make sure you take steps to ensure that the importance of mutual respect is never trivialized. It is critical to success in every part of your life.
And while I will still always tell my wife I love her every day, what I’m also saying is that I respect her.
Comments and thoughts are welcome, as always!