Using the word “disrespect” in close relationships

The words “respect” and “disrespect” have a rather strict connotation for me. To respect someone, in my mind, goes beyond the dictionary’s “holding someone in high esteem or honor”. It also implies a set of behaviors born out of obligation. Think of a child’s first interactions with the word. “Respect your parents. Respect your elders. Stop whistling loudly and playing with your nose; it’s disrespectful”. To act rudely is to act disrespectfully. And to stray into behaviors most comfortable to you is often so as well. “Well, I respect so and so, so I won’t talk about politics around him, or ask her about her dinged up car.” Yet those are the kind of things we can do when we’re around someone we trust, someone we are close with. We may do so gently and slowly at first, but when we get close to someone, we engage in behaviors we wouldn’t otherwise.

And while the phrase “Respect is earned” is so often tossed around, this isn’t usually the case when trying to forge a close relationship. Who starts out a relationship treating a possible mate like garbage, until the day it is decided that the chosen “SO material” is worthy of better treatment? That only happens in cases where there is an initial belief that a given person isn’t worthy of respect. And, let’s be real- that’s usually a person most of us don’t want to date, or even spend time with. Respect is commanded, when, say, a woman won’t put up with unwanted comments about her appearance, or a man won’t tolerate incessant teasing. In those instances, neither is asking for the chance to earn better treatment. The message is, “Give me respect, or I walk.”

But using that word once intimacy is established trips me up. If, say, my husband decided to have a laugh at my expense in front of others, and I were to talk with him about it afterwards, I wouldn’t tell him he “disrespected” me, even if it is the case. I’d tell him I didn’t like it, that it bothered me, but to use “disrespect” on him changes the state of the offense. It implies a distance, a lack of trust and acceptance that our relationship isn’t based on. Frankly, for me to say, “I respect (someone)” is to say I don’t have a close relationship with them.

Yet I know of and have observed several instances where girlfriends/boyfriends and husbands/wives use it to talk about the transgressions of their significant other. “It’s so disrespectful when he goes out every week without telling me.” “She is so disrespectful of my space and my interests.” From where I’m standing, it doesn’t imply equal footing. To use the same term on a loved one as you would with someone who is, on some level, “better” than you (your boss, elders, someone powerful, etc), someone who forces your best behavior out of you- it’s confusing. It’s not the idea of respect that bothers me. It’s the use of the term, a term so often used to imply the relationship between a superior and a subordinate. Respect is consideration without love.


I’d love feedback on this one! Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Free writes

I love the way this makes me feel

Free write

Trying not to think of dates, but instead of what has now captured my thoughts and air. I’m just letting my fingers go. Fly, find your rhythm, the one that leads to creativity, or expression. Yes, the one that isn’t affected by anything else around. Except for the music. And the music takes me…

I can feel the chill of a not yet warm ocean, the hot sun trying to return warmth to me, sand soft one minute and firm the next. Just the thoughts close my eyes as I hold my breath and sink, for no other reason but to be a part of this huge thing, this ecosystem, this attractive and vital liquid. Here, I can just exist-why is that thought so exciting? I’m alive. We’re alive. We exist. Up and down, in and out, the cycle- and here, not even the thought of it ending can scare me.

I can feel the weight of a heavy head of wet hair as I come up for air- the wonderful nothingness I inhale that feels so very good. When I close my eyes, I can almost be one with you. One with the never ending feeling of the tide trying to make me dance and make me stand still, inviting and declining over and over. It’s so real, my shoulders hurt slightly from the burn of an unseasonably hot sun. I shiver. It’s time to go.

I’m in awe that music can do that, take me on the most realistic of daydreams. Within that place, I feel like an immeasurably giant creature in pieces, in a cycle of running into itself and inevitably finding itself awash in the breadth of its own existence. To be given that feeling by others…I just love the way this makes me feel.


Inspiration- “Underwater” by Mika

Free writes

Change in feelings

Free write

There was a time I would have said there was no give for the feeling of being this way, in love with being alive. Not for any save those who were born of this magic. Now, more and more, I am finding that changing. I have what it takes to let those who want to feel it, feel it, if they want to. Is this my motivator? Is this what keeps my fingers clacking against the keys day in and day out, even on those days when I am so uncertain of what I am doing? It can’t be about anything else, I don’t think. I’ve tried it all. I’ve tried obligation. I tried the expectations of others. I tried experimentation. I even tried doing it because I could. But inevitably it made progress require so much force out of me that I grew to hate it. I thought I hated writing. It seemed so slippery, something I needed all my will to do.

But within, and through all the years of forcing it, it was there. It always has, and, I suspect always will be. I am possessed of a love for expression, a love so strong it terrifies me and keeps me awake nights, breathless as I realize how much of a hold it has on me. And I love that feeling. Yet I admit it did isolate me. Only here and there in my life have I seen others gripped so strongly by this love. But now, I see we all can be. We’re just afraid of saying so, for some reason. I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I don’t know, frankly, if I’ll ever achieve the fearlessness I wish to have. But I do know I don’t want to let it stop me. I’ve been able to step over it before, and I can do it again. And again. And again. I can touch, just as I have been touched. I want to give others the love that the expressions of others have given to me. Because it’s so utterly wonderful.