While men tend to naturally think in terms of respect, women tend to think in terms of security and nurture. For example, when a man leaves a room because he is frustrated, his male friend will not follow him because, to men, that would (generally speaking) be seen as disrespectful. For a wife, however, following her frustrated husband out of a room is a demonstration of care and concern. So right there we see how a woman's attempt to give nurture and reassurance might be interpreted by her husband as disrespect.
This is helpful for a husband to keep in mind so that he becomes better at recognizing his wife's heart, appreciating that some of what he may experience as disrespect is really an attempt to express concern and to reconnect.
"But what about if my wife's tone, words, and actions are not about care and concern? What if they are clearly disrespectful, like name calling, rolling her eyes, or putting me down to others?" While there is no justification for disrespect, it would be helpful to keep some important truths in mind.
Firstly, your wife likely longs for security - and she is is not alone in this longing. Many wives deeply desire emotional, physical, relational and financial security. This does not mean she expects you to be perfect. Nor does it mean you need to have the biggest bank account or understand her emotional needs with detailed perfection. But if you are indifferent to this need for security, she unfortunately may respond with disrespect. While this does not justify her actions, it helps you to live in understanding with her and to love her in meaningful ways.
Secondly, when you tell your wife she is being disrespectful, what you mean might not resonate with her. This is because many women do not understand what men really mean when they speak of respect. This is especially the case if a wife did not see respect for a husband being modeled as she grew up. So be specific and detailed about her actions. Rather than saying, "You're being disrespectful," you might want to try something like, "When I am compared to other men and criticized for how I do things, I feel disrespected."
Thirdly, remember that it is very likely that you might be failing to love your wife in ways that are meaningful to her just as she is failing to respect you. Again, this does not justify her disrespect, but it does provide an opportunity for you to extend grace. Why be ungracious toward her for missing your needs when you yourself might be missing hers? Instead, endeavor to be patient with her, while also sharing your need for respect. (And like I mentioned above, share those needs in specific and detailed ways.) Also, even as you share your needs with her, give priority to asking what she needs from you and to meeting those needs as best you can.
Finally, reach out to a counselor or an agreed on individual for help if needed. But make sure that the person you reach out to has an understanding of both your need for respect and your wife's need for security.
Dr. Dawn-Marie shares a refreshing blend of professional insights and personal stories in this encouraging blog.