Articles by Alex Ryder, Communication, Conflict, Couple's counselling, Couples, Listen, priorities, Relationships, respect, Trust

How to re-build Respect in your Relationship

Couples in relationship counselling often ask me what the most important ingredient of a relationship is, thinking the answer will be something to do with love.


In fact, many couples base their wedding vows on notions of love, believing that will be the ingredient that pulls them through difficult times. And sometimes it does. But when it doesn’t, respect will. For this reason I often tell my clients that actually, the more important ingredient for a fulfilling relationship is respect.

If you doubt the importance of respect for a fulfilling relationship, consider being in an abusive relationship. Love is almost always the response a victim offers when they are asked why they stay in such a relationship. So in these instances love may be present, but respect is not… and when it is missing, at least one person is suffering.

In many cultures, respect and appreciation are regarded as the most important ingredients for a successful relationship, second only to faithfulness in a few particular countries[1]. And in our culture respect is considered key for fostering intimacy and loyalty by both men and women[2].

This makes a lot of sense when we understand what respect compels of us.

To respect someone is to have a feeling of admiration towards them. Think about how you behave when you admire someone.

With respect you may:
  • Speak kindly to them
  • Behave well with them
  • Compliment them
  • Suspend or soften your judgement of them
  • Not question their intent and even assume the best of it

It would be easy to have a fulfilling relationship if these things were present between you are your partner because when respect is present in a relationship, an environment is created that allows love to blossom.

Why do you respect someone?

Think about someone you respect. It is very likely that person is offering something you’re not. They are bringing something different or more substantial to the relationship. For example, someone you respect in a business or academic context might offer lateral thinking, experience, or superior knowledge and wisdom.

It is the same in your relationship. When you were originally attracted to your partner it is likely that there were aspects of their character that you respected. Perhaps it was that they brought energy to the relationship, or patience, or kindness. Or maybe you respected their moral code and how they went about life. You respect what they were offering the world and others. It’s likely your partner thought the same about you.

However, if you do not respect your partner now, you probably don’t value what they are currently bringing to the relationship. And the reverse is true if your partner does not respect you.

Habits and complacency mean we sometimes make less of an effort with our partner than we did when we first met them, and so those qualities that are worthy of admiration don’t show up as frequently. When the qualities your partner admires don’t show up, respect can fall away.

Sometimes it is more complex. Maybe there has been a specific or repeated betrayal or transgressions that have caused respect to be lost, and this is far outweighing those positive elements. Processing the betrayal with the help of a marriage counsellor can help you understand why this may have happened. It may also help you to open to your partner’s attempts to re-earn your respect.

So if you think respect or admiration has fallen away in your relationship here are some things you can do to get it back:

  1. Demonstrate respect for your partner
  • Listen to your partner. Ask their opinion, and ask what is important to them.
  • Write down what you love and respect in your partner. Write down what you respected about them when you first met them.
  • Avoid competing, dressing your partner down, or “right fighting”. This communicates that you feel superior to your partner.
  • Admit fault, maintain an open mind and be willing to change. This means valuing your partner’s opinion… not necessarily agreeing with it, but valuing it.
  • Remember the golden rule… Treat others how you’d like to be treated.
  • Focus on your own behaviour and don’t police your partner’s behaviour.
  1. Demonstrate respect for yourself
  • Look after yourself physically.
  • Do what you say you will do. Keep your word.
  • Maintain clear boundaries. Say no when no is what you mean.
  • Maintain and develop independence. Bring new things to the relationship.
  • Acknowledge and manage your emotional reactions. It is always okay to respond but reacting or losing your temper often leaves both you and your partner thinking less of you.
  1. Bring more to the table
  • Add value to your partner and to your relationship. Think about what you can give or contribute, that is of value to your partner.
  • Think about what you offered or contributed at the start of the relationship that your partner valued? How does that compare to now?
  • Ask your partner what you do that makes them think less of you.

Remember, “respect begets respect”.

Demonstrate respect for your partner, for yourself, and bring more to the relationship that is of value to both of you.

  1. Think of one thing you can do today to demonstrate respect for your partner.
  2. Now, think of one thing you can do today to demonstrate respect for yourself.
  3. Finally, what can you do that will add more value to your partner and your relationship?

If respect is lacking in your relationship it’s likely you will face difficult times when the next external challenge comes along. In fact, if you are in this situation it’s likely your relationship may already be painful. A relationship counsellor can help you and your partner notice each other again for who you really are, and foster the admiration and respect you both deserve.

We are here to help you. Contact Sydney Couples and Family Specialists today on 02 8968 9397.

About Alex

Alex is an accessible and compassionate therapist.  His clients appreciate that Alex listens with the intention of genuinely understanding them.  He’s lovely with adolescents, who seem to warm to him

immediately, and he creates a space in sessions for any or all participants to have their say and feel heard.

Alex’s particular strengths are in the area of working with couples and he has extensive experience and training in this area.  He is both Gottman and Systemically trained and draws on practical ideas that clients can immediately make use of to enhance their relationships.

Alex comes to Sydney Couple and Family Therapy Specialists from backgrounds as a Lifeline Crisis Line Counsellor and Trainer and Therapist at the highly-respected Jansen Newman Institute.  He has supported individuals and couples through trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and adolescent struggles.

Alex has helped many people through intensely frightening and painful life events – and to a place where they have the skills and confidence to carry themselves forward.

Alex is married with a young family and therefore easily relates to the stress and struggles that many couples and young families face today.

“It takes a lot of courage to share a moment of crisis with someone you don’t yet know.  Even more so, to entrust your intimate relationship over to them.

I have been in the fortunate position to be trusted with that responsibility many times and have helped people – through their own bravery, honesty and effort – to transcend their suffering and improve their key relationships.”

Alex also runs the pre-marriage counselling course at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists

Qualifications and Professional Membership

Alex holds a Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy from Jansen Newman Institute Sydney, and a Bachelor degree from the University of Sydney.  Alex also holds a Gottman training certificate.

He is a member of the Australian Association of Family Therapy, the Counsellors and Psychotherapist Association of Australia, and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.

Why see a Couples Counselor?

Are you wondering if couples counselling is for you? In this interview Alex Ryder answers common questions we hear from people who want to understand more about this process.

And remember, if you are a new client you can book a free 15 minute telephone session with Alex.

“We really like your approach. The other couples counsellor we saw left us stuck in negativity.  Right from the start we felt hopeful with you.  Your positive approach helped us out of the slump, so we could address the real issues.” – Murry (36) married to Tasha (39); One Child (3) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling.

“I’ve wanted to refer you to so many people.  Obviously I haven’t given the circumstances, but we are huge fans and are so grateful for your help.” – Tom (49) married to Sarah (43). Two children; 15 & 13 – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling following an affair.

“I think we told you in our first session that you were the last couples therapist we were going to try. Everything was on the line.  So thank you for… well everything.” – James (55) married to Philippa (53) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship Counselling



[1] Yodanis, C (2010) The Institution of Marriage. In J. Treas & S. Drobnic (Eds.) Dividing the domestic: Men, women and household work in cross-national perspectives (pp. 175-191) Stanford: Stanford University Press

[2] Fletcher, G., Simpson, J., Thomas, G. & Giles, L. (1999) Ideals in Intimate Relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 72-89

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