How To Tell If Your Boyfriend Or Girlfriend Respects You, According To 5 Signs From A Therapist
Respect is the most important aspect of any healthy relationship, period. When you and your partner respect one another, you can communicate openly and honestly. With mutual respect comes compromise and productive problem solving. So, if you suspect that your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't respect you, that's a huge red flag. Not only do you deserve a significant other who thinks of you as his or her equal, but a disrespectful partner can also be a potential warning sign of future emotional or physical abuse. If this seems to be the case, try opening up to your partner about how you feel — if they love you, they will most likely work to change their behavior.
Remember that if your partner does exhibit disrespectful behavior from time to time, that doesn't necessarily mean they're trying to hurt you. They may not realize how their actions impact you. Before you assume the worst, talk to your significant other about how you feel. Give them a chance to hear you out and work on correcting their behavior. If your partner continues to act in a disrespectful or controlling manner even after you talk, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship.
I spoke to Sara Stanizai, a licensed marriage and family therapist with expertise in couples therapy, anger management, intimate partner violence, and domestic violence assessment and treatment, about signs that your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't respect you, and what to do if you feel like your partner is being disrespectful or controlling. Here are the five red flags that she recommended looking out for that could indicate if your significant other doesn't respect you.
1. They speak over or interrupt you.
When it comes to common red flags, "it's really on a spectrum," says Stanizai. She explains that disrespect can be shown through seemingly small actions — like your partner speaking over you, interrupting you, or making little decisions without your input.
"Particularly in newer relationships, it starts small or not at all," she says. "[Your partner] will find the things that are important to you and make sure that they over-accommodate, just to prove how not controlling they are." This helps puts you at ease, and then the disrespectful behavior starts so slowly that it sneaks up on you.
If you start to notice this kind of behavior, make sure to let your partner know that it's bothering you. They may not even be aware that they're doing it. Through communicating clearly and with compassion, your relationship can begin to grow stronger.
2. They make decisions for you.
If your partner tends to make small, or large decisions — like financial or housing-related ones — without considering your input or asking you first, that could be a warning sign. "There are good surprises, but there are also dangerous ones," says Stanizai.
If your partner's behavior upsets you, talk to them about it one-on-one, and not in the middle of a disagreement. "Focus on your own experience and your own feelings," she says. Instead of saying, "you disrespected me" or, "you're controlling me," say something like, "it’s really important to me to be able to plan my day," "I'd prefer to have my own bank account," or, "I don't like surprises. Next time, just let me know what you're planning." This non-accusatory way of expressing yourself focuses on what you didn't like, rather than coming across as a judgement about the kind of person your partner is.
3. You have to make excuses for their behavior.
If you feel like you have to explain away some of your partner's behavior, that is likely a red flag. When you feel like people close to you don't like or don't "get" your partner, and you're constantly making excuses for them such as, "they're not like that when we're alone," that's usually a sign of an unhealthy relationship. However, there's a difference between someone who is immature or unaware, and someone who is purposefully abusive.
"Disrespect isn't necessarily on the way to being abusive," says Stanizai. "There are many people who are controlling in their relationships, which has a lot to do with disrespect, but they can learn different ways of being in relationships."
If you're having trouble discerning one form the other, consider talking to a trusted friend or seeking help from a therapist.
4. You do most of the compromising.
"People get trapped in this idea of, 'I have to give up parts of myself to be with someone.' Or, 'relationships are about compromise,' and [to the point that they] don't recognize that compromise is uneven or [that they're] doing most of the compromising," says Stanizai. "The healthiest relationships are pretty balanced. That doesn't mean 50/50. Compromise doesn't have to be tit for tat. It can just be ... I'm being heard and you're being heard, too."
If you feel like you're always the one making concessions, that could mean your partner thinks their desires are more important than yours. Compromise doesn't always have to be completely equal, but you shouldn't be the only one who has to give things up. Stand up for yourself and tell your partner how you feel. It's OK to respectfully fight for what you care about most. And if your partner doesn't support you, that may be a sign that they're not the one.
5. They blame you for their actions.
When approaching your partner about feeling disrespected, give them space to be defensive. "Even the well-meaning people will be like, 'You don't know what you're talking about,'" says Stanizai. You want to listen for any indication that they didn't think about what they were doing, or didn't realize how you were feeling. That means they're showing some amount of empathy, which Stanizai believes is the key to learning how to change behavior.
If you hear them say something along the lines of, "I don't have a problem, you have a problem," or, "you should be able to do this for me if you really love me," those are all controlling, disrespectful statements. "If the person sticks to, 'it's not me, it's you,' that's showing that they're doubling down on it [and won't change]," she says.
If you're considering going to therapy with your S.O., in some cases, it can be an effective solution. It's important to note, however, that if your partner is controlling or abusive, couples therapy can actually be dangerous. "You can go see a couples therapist, but a good one will know how to evaluate for that and will recommend separate therapy for you until your relationship gets stable or back on track," says Stanizai.
If you believe you and your partner need couples therapy, make sure you are both benefiting from it, and that it isn't making the situation worse. In some cases, it may be better to see a therapist on your own. In others, start a conversation with your partner about how their words impact you, and try to work through your issues, together.
Communication is the key to a healthy relationship, so speak up if you feel disrespected in yours. There are people and resources you can reach out to if you need help, and you shouldn't be afraid to do so. You deserve someone who treats you like the star that you are, so don't settle for anything less.
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