It is commonly known that the Grammy winning song “Respect”, as recorded by the legendary Aretha Franklin (Atlantic, 1967) is a variation of a song originally written and recorded by the blues and soul pioneer Otis Redding (Volt, 1965).

Redding wrote and recorded the song “Respect” as an anthem for men; a desperate plea from a man to a woman to fulfill a felt need. Aretha’s version flipped the script and many say it became the anthem for the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s; an impassioned cry from a woman to a man to fulfill a felt need (NPR, 2015).

A song about respect made legendary by both a man and a woman… (psst, see where I’m going with this?)

I have heard it said many times that a woman’s deepest need is love and a man’s deepest need is respect. I must admit that I may have bought into this at one point or another (cue throat clearing and nervous cough). However, as a married man and a counselor of couples, I am beginning to see the concept of respect in a new light…

This just in… We ALL need to RESPECT our spouses and partners.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…” Exactly Aretha, husbands need to discover what respect means to their wives, and wives their husbands. There are variations on what respect looks like for the individual. I am going to offer 3 basic principles to discover: RESPECT your partner, RESPECT your union, and RESPECT yourself.

RESPECT your partner. Mr. Redding wanted his wife to respect the work that he did, the money he made, and his provision for her. Ms. Franklin was asking for her man to respect that she contributes, is more than a trophy, and is loyal to him. What do you want to be respected for? Perhaps you work hard away from the home as a provider. Perhaps you work hard in the home as a caretaker. Perhaps you do both or many other valuable partnership contributions. Healthy marriages have partners that not only appreciate each other but recognize the importance of the other to their life. Respecting your partner is not just expressing love, it’s valuing and listening to your spouse; specifically, what they believe is respectful to them.

RESPECT your union. Infidelity statistics are not as male skewed as you may think. A recent study stated that 54% of women and 57% of men have strayed at least once in a significant relationship, and 14% to 22% women to men in a marriage relationship (, 2016). Faithfulness to your union is not only for most people the right thing to do (Gallup, 2013), it is one of the highest forms of respect you can give to your partner. Straying out of your relationship boundaries communicates disrespect for your partner’s beliefs, values, and desires. Conversely, fidelity to your spouse is a powerful way of communicating that you respect their deeper self.

RESPECT yourself. For the purposes of this short article I’m not including the topic of self-care (although important). The respect of self is more than just making your desires and needs known to your spouse. Your marriage will be better if you respect your ability to grow. Respect your personal areas of opportunity enough to stare them down; not be defeated by them, guilted by them, or blind to them. Your marriage will be better if you fight to know yourself. Respect for self in a marriage includes the guts to be a better partner through personal growth (shameless plug for seeing a therapist).

It is no fluke that both Aretha and Otis made hit songs from the human need for respect from a partner. Anyone in a relationship, marriage or otherwise, needs to give and receive respect. In the words of Ms. Franklin, sock it to me…

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