Love & Respect
by Jody

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A Review of the Study: Respect in Close Relationships:  Prototype Definition, Self-Report Assessment, and Initial Correlates, J. Frei and P. Shaver, Personal Relationships, 9 (2002), 121-139.  

Here is a quick, review of an insightful study on respect and how it figures in relationships.  Interestingly, marriage counselors hear about the two main issues in a marriage as being love and respect, but respect and aspects of respect have never been scientifically studied or defined until now.  The core relationship values are defined as respect, commitment, intimacy and forgiveness.  This study removes the realm of respect away from the emotional, and places into the realm of an attitude towards "a particular person based on his or her perceived good qualities."

Respect has long been regarded as the opposite of contempt.  "Implicit in contempt is a view of one's partner as beneath dignity and essentially beyond the reach of rational discussion" and can be measured by "noticing wrinkles of disgust and upward eye-rolling, two very dismissive gestures. When a person has contempt rather than respect for a partner, there is little the partner can do to get his or her feelings and needs taken seriously."

This study supported findings in Lawrence-Lightfoot's studies, published in her book Respect: An Exploration (2000), when she delineated the six qualities that make individuals respect worthy amongst their peers.  The qualities are: 1) dialogue ("real communication"); 2) attention ("being fully present"); 3) curiosity (being "genuinely interested in others -- their thoughts, feelings, and fears"), 4) healing ("nourishing feelings of worthiness"); 5) empowerment (enabling others to "make their own decisions," nurturing their "self-confidence and self-reliance"); and 6) self respect (helping others "feel good about themselves").  These qualities are comparable to those found in studies of "psychological qualities that allow a person to serve as a security-inducing attachment figure."

The qualities identified by Frei and Shaver "included being honest, being truthful, listening to the other any hearing the other is viewpoint, being accepting, and fostering the others freedom and development."  Another finding was that respect is often a mutual exchange whereby if one person respects another, the other person returns that respect.  Likewise, if one person disrespects another person, that disrespect is returned in like-kind.  

Common attributes of respect from Lightfoot's research were "deference to hierarchy, often driven by duty and based on persons positioned, age, gender, race, class, or accomplishments."  Interestingly, these qualities of respect would imply that the relationship is unequal.  Upon closer inspection of traditional values, she found that respect in close relationships was really "derived from the quality, empathy, and connection in all kinds of relationships, even those often seen as an equal, such as parent and child, teacher and student, doctor and patient."

Lastly, I was intrigued by reasons why a person would engage in disrespecting another person.  The core reason is one of avoidance, such that avoidance refers to avoidance of intimacy and dependence on partners.  A person would be less respectful of their partners for one or both of two reasons: 1) avoidance caused from prior negative models of attachment figures such contempt behaviors learned from parents during childhood, and; 2) that avoidance is a defensive strategy based upon prior attachment relationships.  Failing to fully respect romantic partners may be one way to "avoid becoming emotionally close to and/or dependent on them." 

The bottom line is that respect fosters closeness and intimacy with another.  Disrespect will cause the other partner to emotionally distance themselves and become independent in the relationship.  This is truly a shame because the NDE truths show we are here to experience God's love on earth.  And for most people, experiencing love starts in the eyes of ourselves, our beloved partners, and family.  An impediment to getting close to others, is an impediment to soul growth.  Further, it deprives the person and those around them of ultimate union and co-creation with God.



Copyright1999 by Jody Long

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