How to Overcome Disrespectful Judgements

I believe disrespectful judgments are a core reason spouses become argumentative and emotionally distant.  A disrespectful judgment occurs whenever one spouse tries to impose a point of view, or a system of values and beliefs on the other. When most people feel judged, they will either react defensively or turn away.  When a husband tries to force his point of view on his wife, he’s just asking for trouble.  When a wife assumes that her own point of view is right and her husband is woefully misguided–and tells him so–she enters a minefield.

Disrespectful judgments can cause enormous tension and defensiveness in relationships.  And they never work and sometimes can even be abusive because they can cause unhappiness.  If we think we have the right to impose our views on our spouses, our efforts will almost invariably be interpreted as personally threatening, arrogant, rude, and incredibly disrespectful.  That’s when we make sizable withdrawals from the Love Bank.

How can you know if you’re a perpetrator of disrespectful judgments?  The simplest way to find out is to ask your spouse.  But you may be a little confused as to what exactly you should ask.  To help you ask the right questions, check John Gottman’s Disrespectful Judgments Questionnaire:

1. Do I ever try to “straighten you out?”

2. Do I ever lecture you instead of respectfully discussing issues”

3. Do I ever view my opinion as superior to yours?

4. Whenever we discuss an issue do I ever prevent you from having a chance to explain your position? 

5. Are you ever afraid to discuss your point of view with me?

6. Do I ever ridicule your point of view?

All of these questions reflect an effort to force your way of thinking on your spouse.  You do not agree, so you try to “make” your spouse agree with you.

What’s the answer then?  The only appropriate way to persuade a spouse, or anyone else for that matter, is to show respect.  Respect means that one should never try to force his or her way of thinking on anyone else.  It also means that you honor the viewpoint of your spouse even though you may not agree with it.  If this does not happen and you instead attempt to prove your spouse wrong or act as though your spouse’s point of view is stupid, your spouse will more likely resist your argument all the more, even though there may be some merits in your perspective.  

Picture of Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.
Picture of Jim Covington

Jim Covington

Jim Covington (M.Div. MA, LMFT) has been helping couples improve their relationships for more than 30 years. He holds degrees are in psychology and theology, is a licensed New York marriage and family therapist, a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists and has been trained in multiple approaches to marital/couples therapy and family therapy.

He has completed Level 3 Practicum Training in Gottman Method Couples Therapy, externship training with the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples and PREP (Prevention & Relationship Enhancement Program), and employs Solution Oriented Brief Therapy as taught by Michelle Weiner-Davis.