Healthy relationships are defined by several important characteristics, but there’s one often overlooked trait: the way partners treat each other. As a human, it’s all too easy to assume that a person who loves or cares for you will automatically know what you like and how to treat you. However, this is rarely the case, and the discrepancies between expectations and outcomes lead to frustration and blaming when your partner fails to anticipate your needs and desires.
More than 80% percent of our communication occurs through non-verbal cues. Depending upon how well you communicate both directly and indirectly, these cues will dictate how you’ll be treated by your partner. If you treat yourself with disrespect by abusing drugs or alcohol and using abusive language toward yourself, you can expect others to treat you with disrespect as well. I have prepared five suggestions to enrich your relationship and help your partner learn how to treat you well.
1. Be clear: adopt an honest and direct communication style. No one can read your mind. When you merely offer hints to your loved one about how you feel or what you want, you’re indirectly acknowledging that you don’t value your own thoughts and opinions enough to be open and honest about them. Being unclear about your needs and expectations confuses your partner and makes you appear indecisive.
2. Use the golden rule: treat your partner the way you want to be treated. Treat your partner with the same respect you expect. If you want them to express vulnerability and be accessible to you, set an example by being frank about your own thoughts and opinions. To bolster an environment of openness, remain compassionate with yourself and your partner in times of mistake.
3. Reflect to others: treat yourself with respect. What does respecting oneself look like? It’s not always intuitive, but respect for yourself is demonstrated to others by the ways you choose to act, dress, and talk about yourself and others. In other words, self-respect is a reflection of your high character standards for yourself and others. To illustrate your values and expectations of others, surround yourself with friends who are respectful and empathetic towards others.
4. Use reinforcement: show appreciation for behaviors you like from your partner. When your partner treats you the way you like, be appreciative. Be upfront with them about the meaningfulness of their actions and why they made you feel special. This allows your partner to understand you better and increases their confidence in their ability to please you.
5. Set expectations: be realistic but never settle for less than kind treatment. Teaching a partner how to treat you isn’t achieved in a single day; therefore, set your expectations realistically. Most couples date for months before determining if the relationship compliments or costs them. Don’t settle for someone who isn’t willing to make changes within themselves to improve your relationship with them. You should never accept disrespect or abuse. Staying with someone who acts in this manner teaches them that you feel you deserve to be treated this way.
No one is perfect, and we all recognize moments where we could have treated our partner better. However, attitudes matter. Our partner learns how we expect to be treated by them by observing how we treat ourselves. If you and your partner are willing to put in the effort to create a healthy relationship and treat each other using the golden rule, you’ll both feel more loved and valued in your relationship.