Whenever I start a new divorce mediation, I meet with each person separately for a few minutes, and in the course of getting information, I ask why they’re here. Why are they divorcing? Often I hear about cheating, money problems, or that they’ve just drifted apart –
“ There’s no spark left”. But sometimes I hear about a reason for the breakup that could be avoided if there is just a little more sensitivity on each side to the other person’s need to feel respected.
The wife often says: “I get the feeling that he’s always second guessing me, waiting for me to do something wrong. We used to have really good times together, but his constant lack of respect on even the smallest and most unimportant things just gets to me and I simply can’t take it anymore.” The husband often says: “She doesn’t respect my decisions. It’s the constant insisting that I do everything her way. It’s not as though I’m incompetent. She just doesn’t get the idea that what she’s doing is showing a long running, droning lack of respect. So I want out.”
That’s the Rodney Dangerfield factor: “I don’t get no respect”. Except that it’s not funny. This is serious business and I hear it all too often in divorce mediation sessions. Simply put, everyone wants and needs to feel respected. People don’t like having someone standing over them orchestrating their every move as though they were incompetent and stupid.
Mutual respect is one of the cornerstones of a good, healthy marriage. Everyone has different ways of doing thing, whether it making the bed, balancing a checkbook, scrubbing the muffin tin or taking out the garbage. As long as the bed gets made, the checkbook is balanced, the muffin tin is clean and the Herby Kerby is wheeled to the curb before 7am on Friday, how important is it in the long run to disagree about how it got done? Wives and husbands can be equally guilty of always wanting to have things done their own way. The problem is that this attitude can have a devastating effect on the marriage. Not being aware of it and not addressing it can lead to the end of a relationship.
Showing respect to a spouse is simply another way of showing them that you care about them and love them. Respect, a bit of sensitivity and allowing the person to do it “their way” may seem simplistic, but it can make for a much happier long term relationship. Sometimes it is surprising how simple solutions can be.
Jeff Murphy, an attorney and mediator, is a principal in Mediation
Services of Southwest Michigan. He brings over 35 years of corporate,
civil and domestic relations experience to the table when he is
called to mediate a dispute. For more information, please visit