By Anitra, loveisrespect youth organizer
“When you talk to other girls in front of me…”
“When you dress like you’re single…”
“You see me calling and don’t answer…”
“That’s so disrespectful!”
“You’re so disrespectful!”
When speaking with people about their relationship experiences, one word I hear a lot is “disrespectful.” Disrespectful behavior can happen in any relationship, whether with someone we’re dating or a friend or family member. However, there are times when someone labels a behavior as disrespectful when it’s….not. Sometimes our ideas about what’s disrespectful are influenced by unrealistic expectations about our relationships, as well as feelings of jealousy, possessiveness or insecurity – which can all contribute to unhealthy or even abusive behavior. It’s okay to feel jealous or insecure at times (we all do!). But it’s never okay to use those feelings as excuses to control or isolate your partner.
Let’s talk about a few examples:
“When my partner flirts with other people in my face, I find that so disrespectful!”
Some people think that if their partner talks to or hangs out with certain people, it’s “flirting” or disrespectful behavior. However, it’s important to recognize that this belief is often rooted in possessiveness, which isn’t healthy. In a healthy relationship, it’s not disrespectful for partners to talk to or be around other guys/girls/people. In fact, everyone has the right to have friendships with whoever they choose! That’s why trust, honest communication and clear, healthy boundaries are so important in a relationship. If your partner doesn’t want you talking or hanging out with someone else because they think it’s “disrespectful” to them, that’s a red flag.
“My partner is so disrespectful on social media. I see them liking people’s pictures and commenting on them all the time! They also post certain pictures, like selfies, that I don’t like.”
Social media can be a great way to engage with others, but we often hear from people who think that the way their partner acts online is “disrespectful.” They might think that liking or commenting on someone else’s pictures, or tweeting/DMing someone else, is disrespectful. However, it’s important to remember that neither partner has the right to monitor, harass or control their partner online. Just like in the first scenario we discussed, we all have the right to communicate with other people outside of our relationship. Using social media to try and control a partner is a red flag for digital abuse.
“My girlfriend sometimes dresses like she’s single, and I don’t like it. It’s disrespectful for her to wear certain things, knowing we’re in a relationship!”
Hard stop here. There’s no such thing as dressing like you’re single, or even dressing like you’re in a relationship! Everyone has the right to wear what makes them feel comfortable and happy. It’s not okay for one partner to try and control or dictate what their partner wears. Again, this belief is rooted in jealousy or insecurity. The way someone dresses is their choice, and in a healthy relationship, partners respect each other’s personal choices.
Now, let’s not get it twisted. Disrespectful behavior can happen in any relationship, but it’s important to consider a partner’s intent and the boundaries you’ve agreed to in the relationship. In a healthy relationship, there are three things you can do to make sure both partners are on the same page when it comes to what’s respectful and what’s not:
Build trust. Healthy relationships are built on trust and mutual respect. Both partners should be able to trust that their partner would not do anything to intentionally hurt the other or violate their boundaries. If one partner tries to control the other, or is acting possessive, that is not showing that they trust their partner.
Communication. A good sign of a healthy relationship is open, honest communication. Both partners should be able to safely express how they feel. If your partner is behaving in a way that you feel is disrespectful, you should be able to talk honestly with them about it. If there is a disagreement, it’s important to know how to “fight” fair.
Set Boundaries. Each partner should feel they can be upfront at all times about what makes them feel safe, happy and comfortable. Remember: a healthy boundary helps to protect and respect you – it doesn’t seek to control or harm someone else.
Do you struggle with feelings of jealousy and insecurity in your relationship? Do you feel unsafe talking openly with your partner about your boundaries? Talk to us! Call 1-866-331-9474, chat here on loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522.