Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Respect the One You Love

Victoria Day 2010

This long weekend celebrates the birthday of one of Britain's greatest and longest reigning monarchs, Queen Victoria. Oddly enough, this milestone is not celebrated in England, but those of us in the colonies still love an excuse for a long weekend and a bit of fun! One of Her Majesty's most memorable qualities was her love and devotion to her husband, Prince Albert, who died at just 42, after two years of poor health. Her Majesty went into deep mourning because of this tremendous loss and remained there for the rest of her long life. Under her reign many major stylistic changes occurred and many governmental reforms were instituted as well.

One of the cardinal rules of etiquette which this couple practiced unfailingly was that of never embarrassing anyone in public. That includes embarrassing one another. It seems to me that this is a fine time to broach the subject of public embarrassment, especially that of one's spouse. I have noticed over the years that this seems to be one of the most unfortunate side affects of a marriage, among the closest relationships any two people can share.

What could be more painful to endure than a loved one constantly correcting your every move? Not only does it make the target ill at ease, this action can make everyone feel uncomfortable and can bring an otherwise civil conversation to an abrupt halt. Although this behavior is exacerbated by alcohol, it creeps in at many other times as well.

There is much to be said for a healthy discussion with opposing views. Is it really so important for one point of view to prevail at the expense of belittling someone is justified? Obviously for some people this is the case. However, this behavior is rude and disrespectful. Moreover, if practiced in front of children, this behavior is viewed as acceptable and is therefore likely to be perpetuated in school and in later on in life as well.

I notice when this weakest of human dynamics is at play, it usually is accompanied by a raised tone of voice, a firm and closed body posture, and a facial expression of disdain. This can be recognized across a room and even then, we feel a sensation in our gut of discomfort.

What amazes me is the consistency of how this behavior is often solely reserved for one's spouse or partner. The one person for whom we supposedly have the most love and respect somehow becomes the brunt of our anger. I find it equally puzzling that this behavior happens so comfortably that it is seemingly acceptable. This, of course, is not the actual case however. This rude form of communication is in fact very intentional and shows just how insecure we can become in front of those we love the most.

What do you do in this embarrassing moment? My opinion is to nip it in the bud, even if it means pulling your partner aside and privately explaining how hurtful that comment was and asking what brought on such disrespect. Letting someone know they have hurt your feelings is the first step to correcting this behavior and can actually come as quite a surprise. They may well have been oblivious to this effect. Of course this can elicit a defense response initially but in the end it does raise their awareness of their behavior and hopefully they will be more sensitive in the future, think about what they are doing, and stop the hurtful remarks.

Try to avoid this kind of confrontational communication in front of children. Observe this behavior in children and make a point to correct it as quickly and clearly as possible. Changing behavior by example is often times the best way to make a change. Fighting fire with fire rarely works. Civility and grace can have a positive impact on on negatively charged actions.

I hope this Victoria Day we can all remember just how devoted Her Majesty was to her husband and show the same respect and devotion to those whom we love.