Authors and relationship coaches Mo and Phindi look at the basic building blocks of a happy marriage
We’ve been seeing couples for the past six years for both pre- and post-marital coaching. We’ve also been conducting relationship and marriage seminars as well as speaking at various weddings, retreats and gala dinners.
Recently, we’ve expanded our reach to blogs, social media, radio as well as are regular features on various television shows. What a privilege it is for us!
It’s a privilege because not only do we get opportunities to do what we absolutely love, but we also get opportunities to see the bigger picture. In the past 12 years of our marriage, and especially in the six we’ve been deliberately active in marriage and relationship coaching, we’ve seen relationships grow from “hopeless” situations to normality.
What a wonder to witness! We’ve also seen relationships further crumble from bad to worse.
And no, because of our young age, we believe we have not seen it all yet. We’ve only travelled parts of the world for other reasons so far, but not yet for discharging what we recognise as our collective calling and life purpose as a couple.
However even in the world of marriage, we can conclude that what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.
Hence in all these interactions, we find that couples – irrespective of race, class, culture or socialisation – and although details may differ, generally face the same challenges all round.
All those challenges revolve around one issue we regard as the single most important in marriage, respect. The broad basis of the many challenges couples encounter from time to time in marriage speaks to each partner’s dogma, value system and world view about generally the opposite sex and the institution of marriage.
Based on this, we have been reflecting on respect as the single most important element whose presence in marriage is non-negotiable.
We believe sex, gifts, fidelity, honesty, friendship or fun are all very important elements for a successful marriage. However, they are not foundational.
Communication, quality time, physical touch or trust and more, are all the glue that hold the relationship together. Without them, the relationship falls apart.
Our most common finding in all our interactions in the marriage space is that, indeed, love best motivates a woman more and respect most powerfully motivates a man the most.
During marital conflict, a husband most often reacts unlovingly when feeling disrespected and a wife generally reacts disrespectfully when feeling unloved.
A foundation of mutual respect
However, at the most basic human level, the foundation of mutual respect for one another is the most common virtue in every happy and fulfilling marriage.
Respect is a combination of appreciation, admiration and recognition of your partner being worth something. It can feel at times esoteric, but most couples understand what respect means.
At a practical level, respecting your partner manifests in a variety of ways.
It means that you don’t cheat on your partner under any circumstance. It means you don’t lie to or act selfishly towards him or her.
It means you do your share of roles and responsibilities.
It means you don’t make jokes at your partner’s expense when you’re hanging around with your friends. It means you don’t make promises and not keep them.
It means you don’t belittle or expose your partner to your parents, extended family or social media. It means when you disagree, you do so with dignity and keep the fights fair.
You don’t call your partner names, and you don’t deliberately try to hurt him or her. It means you care enough about your partner to allow him or her to be his or her natural self around you without he or she worrying that you’d change the essence of who he or she is.
It means you can agree to disagree and still share a mutually fulfilling life together. Respect means extending basic human decency and common courtesy to your partner.
True respect is seeing someone, flaws and all, and still appreciate his or her unique talents, gifts and insights. It is not expecting perfection, nor is it beating someone into submission.
Generally, we all like being with people we can be ourselves around. We reveal genuineness about ourselves and express our inner emotions fully because we know they are not only reliable, but they truly care.
Not so with people we can’t be ourselves around. Useful information that would have made our time with them fulfilling, is guardedly withheld.
One of the greatest things about respect is that it begins with the self. Before you can truly extend respect to your partner, love and respect have has to begin with you.
If you feel you are worthless, too this or too that, you will often treat yourself badly. You will beat yourself up in your own mind and therefore see yourself as deserving of the most hideous of behaviours from your partner.
Respect for ourselves guides our morals. Respect for others guides our manners.
If you ensure that respect is always top of the list in your relationship, with time and continuous work from both of you, love and attraction will be brought back to life.
As long as you and your partner have respect for one another, then there is nothing that you can’t overcome.
- Mo & Phindi are authors and relationship coaches. You can continue this conversation on their Facebook page: Mo & Phindi, and listen to them on Radio2000 on Mondays from 11.10am.