Here are a few of my thoughts on respect and on why it is a vital and essential ingredient for our relationship as husband and wife, and even more so as Dominant and submissive.
We have a family motto, which begins with the words “We treat everyone with kindness and respect, even when they aren’t kind or respectful.” This is the first of two meanings of respect, “due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others”.
This kind of respect demands that I first of all accept other people as they are, even if they are very different from myself. Even if their tastes, preferences, outlook on life, and wishes are different from mine, even if I think they are incredibly wrong about something, first of all, they are a person and as such deserving of my respect. And this regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others is essential in personal relationships. Disrespect from a stranger may be uncomfortable, but its effects are usually temporary. In a personal relationship, disrespect for the other person is extremely destructive*. It reveals the lack of care about the other person’s feelings, wishes, or rights. When I disrespect another it means I value my own opinion, feelings or momentary comfort more than the person I’m disrespecting. Looking out for myself more than for my partner is a poor basis for any relationship, but in a D/s relationship it destroys the foundation of trust and goodwill that the power exchange requires.
This sort of respect requires that I show patience to my husband. I pay attention to what he has to say and listen without interrupting or rushing him. It means I don’t give him unsolicited advice, because I don’t automatically assume that my way of doing things is better than his, even if I’ve thoroughly researched my way. Maybe he did that, too, with his. Respect means to start with the acceptance that he does things differently from me because he is not me and that he’s gotten through a lot of life without me in it, so his way of doing this particular thing may be just as valid, or maybe even better than mine. It doesn’t mean I can’t offer help when it looks to me like he’s struggling with something, but it means I need to accept his “no, thanks, I’ve got this”.
Respect also means honouring my agreements with him. And as I’ve freely agreed to always be honest and obedient, dishonesty, withholding information and disobedience are now not only a problem unto themselves, but also one of disrespect.
But all this is about “general” respect. The second meaning of respect is the sort of respect one earns, “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements”. And I do have that respect for him. He’s kind, generous, deeply loyal, and he has shown his trustworthiness to me in the 15 years we’ve been together time and again. There’s no one else I’d rather have by my side if my world were to fall apart, or if we were stuck up Waikikamukau creek without a paddle. (Hehe, no paddle, no paddle spanking!) I feel it is necessary I regularly show him this respect and my appreciation, because withholding it signals I take his qualities and achievements, and by implication, him, for granted. And taking someone for granted is pretty disrespectful, and harms the relationship without ever talking about it.
This sort of respect also means that I don’t jump to conclusions if something he does rubs me the wrong way, but I’ll tell him how I feel and will give him a chance to respond to that information. In the meantime, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, because in 15 years of marriage, he’s more than earned that.
When I asked Xander how I could help him grow into his dominant role and persona, he said “disrespect is a huge hurdle”. I have thought a lot about why that is so. I think it is because respect signals “I value you, you’re safe with me, I’m on your side, even when we disagree or when you’ve done something I don’t like.” Disrespect is always a form of attack on the other person, and the power exchange for a harmonious D/s relationship can’t work if the partners need to hold on to their own power for fear of being hurt by the other. So in this vein, respecting him means not expecting him to be perfect but extending him grace when he needs it. He’s human, just like me, and humans, alas, simply aren’t perfect. Life constantly requires us to adjust and change our plans and sometimes even our aspirations, and it’s hard to be on the receiving end of a downward adjustment. Respect means I need to trust his word that he’s doing what he can even when those efforts don’t always bring forth the desired result.
On the other hand, respect for the man he is, and my requirement of honesty demand that I do communicate with him when things aren’t going so well and when I need him to change something. It means accepting his limitations as well as his strengths, and love compels me to not demand things of him he’s not able or willing to give. If I want him to lead us and he agrees to lead, respect requires that I first accept the leadership he gives, even if looks different to how I envisioned being led. I can tell him how his way of leading affects me, both positively and negatively, and which aspects of his leadership are more effective or less, but this, too, needs to happen in a form that’s respectful, not critical.
Giving respect builds up the receiver, but moreover, it never diminishes the giver. And that, in addition to all the other reasons I’ve given before, is why it’s a vital ingredient to any marriage, and even more so to a D/s relationship.
*) Contempt – which is the opposite of respect, according to researcher John Gottman, is the number one predictor of divorce: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-contempt/