After the tenth, fifteenth, maybe even fortieth argument with a lover, you may lose any patience to try and “work this through.” There’s too much hurt and pride on the line.
Rooting your feet and refusing to bend, you hold on to your position. You don’t want him to take advantage of you or mistake your kindness for passivity. And he doesn’t have it in him to ease up. It’s seemingly a never ending cycle that encompasses the whole relationship, an ouroboros. A small thing happens. One of you overreacts, probably not having anything to do with the thing at all, but an accumulation of everything before it. Your partner, not approving of your reaction, defends himself.
According to Dr. Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect: The Love She Desires Most and the Respect He Desperately Needs, it’s quite clear what’s going on here. He introduces the concept of the “Crazy Cycle” with a sentence that sums up the heart of pain for both sexes: “Crying is often a woman’s response to feeling unloved, and anger is often the man’s response to feeling disrespected.”
What Is This Crazy Cycle Many of Us Are Stuck In?
The “Crazy Cycle,” a specific model Dr. Eggerichs analyzes in his book, is a destructive, looping pattern that expresses a turbulent, malnourished relationship in which both parties of the relationship are lacking in what they need to be able to contribute positively to their partner.
What starts off as a fracture can quickly split into a deep chasm, swallowing you both in an endless spiral of reaction: you cannot feel love, so your response is to punish him by withholding respect and demeaning him. He feels that lack of respect, so he lashes out by withholding love. Now you both are trapped.
Crying is often a woman’s response to feeling unloved, and anger is often the man’s response to feeling disrespected.
At least, until one of you breaks the cycle, which requires swallowing a lot of pride and fighting a hard battle against resistance. And it doesn’t matter who makes the first attempt at salvaging the relationship, but someone’s gotta do it (here’s where the pride swallowing comes in).
Unconditional Respect vs. Unconditional Love
We often place conditions on who we respect. We’ve all probably said, at some point in our lives, “Respect is earned, not given” or “Respect me and I’ll respect you.” The philosophy of these quotes certainly have a time and place, but not in a romantic relationship.
Woman’s nature gives love the priority. Love is a necessary ingredient to a fulfilling connection, one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive. But it’s complementary, meaning it works hand in hand with respect, which just isn’t the same thing. Perhaps to many of us, there hardly seems to be a big difference. “If I show you I love you, isn’t that respect? How can I love someone I don’t respect?” It’s perfectly reasonable to think this way, but love can have blind spots. Where we may be teasing him innocently out of love, he may feel that it as emasculating. You checking up on him may certainly be out of love, but he may see it as “mothering” him.
To further illustrate how wide the crevice is between these two words from a masculine perspective, take the study Shaunti Feldhahn conducted for her book For Women Only: “74% of men said that ‘If I had to, I would rather feel alone and unloved, then inadequate and disrespected’.” And what about those pesky couple fights, which at first start out as light headbutting, but end up with you more confused than anything else at his overreaction. After he storms out of the house, you think to yourself, “What’s gotten into him? Why is he so pissed all of a sudden?”
74% of men said that “If I had to, I would rather feel alone and unloved, then inadequate and disrespected.”
To you, it was probably an argument that wouldn’t have enough heat to last for another hour, but to him, maybe he’s heard something you’re deaf to. “More than 80% of men, four out of five men, said that in a conflict they were likely feeling disrespected,” Shaunti Feldhahn’s study found. Not unloved - disrespected. It’s feeling inadequate that leads men to have dampened confidence and to lash out. You may have accidentally triggered the feeling of inadequacy in him without even noticing. However! In case it isn't obvious, your shortcomings don't justify him lashing out in anger. If he can't control his emotions, he probably has an issue with effeminacy.
How To Show Respect
Every man is different, and no one knows the values he keeps closest to his heart better than you do. To show respect, you have to honor what is important to him. Dr. Eggerichs uses the acronym C.H.A.I.R.S. to give women a clear picture of five important values that most men prioritize. The acronym stands for Conquest (the desire to achieve greatness, usually in his career), Hierarchy (the desire to protect his loved ones), Authority (the desire to lead), Insight (the desire to analyze), Relationship (the desire for a companion), and Sexuality.
Let’s look at the Conquest value. If he places a lot of pride in the work he does, it’s probably not a good idea to voice (jokingly or not) any sort of distaste or dissatisfaction with his work or the amount of money he makes. (Think if you spent two hours on your makeup for a night out, only for him to tell you your makeup makes you look ten years older, that would certainly not make you feel good.)
To show respect, you have to honor what is important to him.
Acknowledging and appreciating the hard work he’s done and the sacrifices he’s made, not just for you but throughout his life, sounds cheesy, but it’s incredibly effective and easy. Admire his life goals and assure him that it wouldn’t matter even if the whole world didn’t approve of his vision, you always will. Trust his decisions and judgements. Trust his direction.
And how do you show your appreciation? It’s as simple as voicing it. According to Feldhahn, “7 out of 10 men said that it had a big impact on their happiness level when wives said ‘thank you’ after noticing their husbands doing something.”
What about the value Insight? How do you show you desire his input? Keep in mind that you didn’t get together with no fool. He has valuable advice and logic you may benefit from listening to. So actively seek out his advice - and thank him for it.
Respect and love are two different elements, like earth and air. Love nurtures and comforts. Respect trusts and admires. Understanding this difference will help you see the world through your man’s eyes. In a world that tries very hard to shred his confidence, the last thing he would want is to come home to someone who is supposed to know him better than anyone only to have you reinforce his feeling of inadequacy.