Respecting is a very interesting concept. In a relationship, you should never do anything that demeans or reduces your partner’s self-esteem. This is typically caused by the Deadly Habits of criticizing and complaining. Try to avoid these at all costs, but there is more to respecting than just that. Many will tell you that if you follow the Golden Rule, then respect will be the byproduct but I disagree. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” This implies that respect looks the same for all people and it clearly does not.

Let’s take, for example, a simple yet common difference between men and women. Typically, when a woman is upset about something, she needs to talk about it over and over again. She is not necessarily looking for a solution, but simply needs to process the issues out loud. If her partner knows how to respect her, he will let her vent while listening for understanding as long as it takes.

However, generally when a man is upset about something, he needs to retreat somewhere within himself to figure it out. The woman knows talking about it helps her feel better, so she will frequently nag her partner to tell her what is bothering him. If she is going to truly respect her man, then she needs to give him the space he needs, and trust that he will come back when he is ready.

So, in the area of respect, I recommend following the new Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would have done unto them.” This will require more listening for understanding to really realize what respect means to the other person.

Accepting is one of the more challenging habits. I always say you have at least three options in a dissatisfying relationship. You can leave it, change it, or accept it. When you are attempting to change it, there are usually two ways to do it. Most of the time, you try to change your relationship by getting the other person to change so you can be happier. This is when you will engage in the Deadly Relationship Habits. Another way to change things is to change yourself, as I am suggesting happens when you implement the Caring Habits. If you decide your attempts to change have been unsuccessful and you don’t want to leave the relationship, then accepting is what is left available to you.

Accepting means you accept those traits, characteristics and behaviors in another without resentment. If you are holding onto your resentment, that is simply another way you are trying to change the person. Acceptance sounds like this: “I am choosing to stay in relationship with you because that is what I want. I recognize you are not perfect, just as I am not, but the positive greatly outweighs the negative. I know this is simply a part of you and I accept you fully and love you exactly as you are.” When you can get to this place with a loved one, it is truly a beautiful thing.

Negotiating Differences is the final habit. It is unrealistic to think you can be in relationship with anyone and not encounter differences. Using the Caring Habits does not mean you need to be your partner’s doormat, constantly giving up what you want in favor of what he or she wants. No, being in a committed, healthy relationship means you both figure out win/win ways for you both to get what you need.

What this looks like is you take turns sharing with your partner what it is that you want. You both listen for understanding. You talk about placing the good of the relationship above either of your individual needs and then, figure out a way you can both win and get what you need in the process. The key to this is there is no coercion for any specific behavior change from either partner. The negotiation is a freely given gift to the relationship. And, you both must be willing to place your own individual needs on the back burner, while negotiating what is best for your relationship.

Where to Go from Here:

I also want to point out that this lesson has been geared toward relationships with your significant other. However, these are universal principles. They can be used in any relationship. You can implement the Caring Habits with your children, your parents, your in-laws, your siblings, your co-workers, your supervisor or basically anyone in your life with whom you’d like to get along better. Just make the decision to use them regardless of what the other person does.

There are ways to simultaneously honor yourself and your partner. The first step is to recognize when you are using external control behavior. You will probably be able to recognize it long before you feel able to do anything about it. This is acceptable. Of course, the best case scenario is that from this moment forward, every time you consider externally controlling your partner, you stop yourself and use a Caring Habit instead.

However, if that is not what happens in your case, don’t despair. Recognizing external control is the first step—bringing it into your conscious awareness. Once it’s there, then you can make a decision about what you are going to do about it.

I need to caution about one potential pitfall. Let’s say you are committing yourself to using the Caring Habits and you want your partner to do so too. You must guard against the natural inclination to say, “I’m doing this and I think you should too.” No, you need to make the decision to do so because it will be great for your relationship regardless of what your partner does. This is not a situation where you should say, “I’ll do it if you do.” Just take the first step, start using the Caring Habits and you will be amazed at what happens.

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Author's Bio: 

Kim Olver is a life and relationship coach. Her mission is to help people get along better with the important people in their lives, including themselves. She teaches people how to live from the inside out by empowering them to focus on the things they can change. She in an internationally recognized speaker, having worked in Australia, Europe and Africa, as well as all over the United States and Canada. She is the creator of the new, revolutionary process called, Inside Out Empowerment based on Dr. William Glasser's Choice Theory. She is a public speaker and provides workshops in the areas of relationships, parenting, and a variety of self-growth topics. She is the author of Leveraging Diversity at Work and the forthcoming book, Secrets of Successful Relationships. She co-authored a book with Ken Blanchard, Les Brown, Mark Victor Hansen and Byron Katie, entitled 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. She works with individuals, couples, parents, social service agencies, schools, corporations and the military--anyone who will benefit from gaining more effective control over their lives. She has consulted on relationships, parenting, self-development, training, leadership development, diversity, treatment programs and management styles.