Getting respected will make sharing easier and intimacy deeper. What are the changes that will help you to get more respect?
Start by listening to your feelings
Your feelings are like traffic signals for your behavior. “Green” feelings (the good ones) mean keep it up, “red” ones (bad, bad, feelings) mean stop right away, and “yellow” (worry and confusion) signal change. Feeling used and feeling unappreciated are yellow lights that signal a lack of respect in your marriage. What is changing for you is your love and connection to your husband. It is decreasing and getting weaker. The less he respects you, the less your husband will love you. Fortunately, whether that happens or not is completely under your control.
First, decide whether you are giving or doing too much
The place to start is with what you are giving or doing that makes you feel used. Are the things you are doing unreasonable for a marriage? Are they far above and beyond what you would expect from your husband? Or is it that the things you are doing are not really the problem; rather it’s how little you are getting in return. If you really are doing too much, then doing less is your prescription for decreasing resentment.
Are you getting too little in return?
If you are not doing too much, but you are getting too little, then doing less will make things worse. Doing less will give your husband a legitimate reason to complain about you. Of course then you can complain back, but this will just become a downward spiral of bitterness, resentment, and holding back love. Not a good way to build your marriage. Getting even never gets us more. In my book, What to Do When He Won’t Change, I help women with three levels of intervention for different types of difficult men. For the selfish man and the unappreciative man, the first step always includes communicating clearly what you want.
Communicate clearly what you want
Don’t let your husband’excuse ever be, “You didn’t tell me.” If you believe that your husband should know what you want, but you are not getting it, then it is time to assume his cluelessness. Nicely fill him in on what you want. “Honey, I want you to thank me and give me a hug when I do things for you,” for example. Or, “I want you to spend two hours with the kids in the evening so I can have some time for myself.” Be positive, and be specific. If you have a problem asking for what you want, it’s probably a self-esteem problem on your part. If you assume your husband should know without your saying, it will just make you angrier when you don’t get it. If you spell things out and he refuses, then at least it’s not because of your lack of communication. Don’t let him ever be able to say, “You should have told me.”
Communicate clearly what you don’t want
Often husbands are trying to show their love by giving their wives what they want, enjoy, and need. That’s great if they both have the same needs and desires. But often that is not the case. One person likes gifts, while the other prefers practical help. One person likes to spend time talking, the other prefers activities. If what your husband is doing does not make you feel loved and appreciated, say so—nicely. “Honey, I know you are showing your love by giving me little gifts, but it doesn’t really make me feel loved. What would make me feel loved is your helping around the house (going bowling with me, sitting and talking with me, etc.).”
Make sure you are not giving too much of what your husband doesn’t want
Could you be speaking the wrong love language to your husband? Are you doing things for him when he would rather you do something with him? Are you spending 3 hours a day cooking when he would be just as happy with TV dinners? If you are not speaking the right love language with your husband, there is also a good chance that you are not speaking the right love language with your children, family, or friends. Everybody has different needs and desires.
Become more valued and respected
Your husband may be doing things which are harmful for the marriage. This can come in many forms–from directly mistreating you, to not being responsible, trustworthy, or by neglecting to put time into the marriage. It may be beyond his recognition that those things are bad for your relationship. He may see you as a whiner or complainer. Have good boundaries by: 1) refusing to participate in damaging behavior; and 2) refusing to allow yourself to be mistreated, and he will respect you more. Getting love and respect go hand in hand.
Know your husband’s emotional limitations
If you believe your husband is not very concerned about your happiness in the marriage, expecting him to become that way, or thinking that he should be that way, will not actually result in change. Realize that he does not have your sensitivity (otherwise this problem wouldn’t exist). Empathy and giving are skills that many people are not good at–even if they do other things very well. They didn’t choose to be that way. But, they can improve with help and practice.
Help your husband to see the connection between his happiness and your own
First, make a list for yourself, of how your husband treating you better would benefit your husband. These are not “bribes” to get your husband to change. They are the natural results that a better marriage would have for him. They are the natural results that many people would realize, but that your husband may not. Then, communicate these to him. For example, you would be more trusting, so that he would feel less controlled; you would be more willing to do things with him that he enjoys, etc.
Skills are required to increase your husband’s respect and love for you
The skills required to get respect are building your self-esteem, communicating clearly and positively, boundary setting, and understanding what motivates your husband. If the respect in your marriage has already dropped very low, these skills alone may not be enough. You will want to explore more power options for saving your marriage, like marriage coaching. Whatever you do, don’t wait for your yellow lights to change to red.