Thursday, May 14, 2009

Justice Marshall on Getting Respect in Relationships

This is a nice question and answer on how men get respect from their partners in relationship. For many men in the authoritarian to self-directed stages of development (Blue and Orange in Spiral Dynamics), respect is a critical issue in partnerships, so this is a great bit of wisdom.

Respect is a difficult issue for some men, primarily because they think it comes from being dominant and controlling - this is what many of us learned from our fathers. But the reality is much different.

Respect comes when we have earned it through compassion and control of ourselves - not from controlling others. For people in the stages I mentioned, there needs to be a realization that men must learn how to treat others by how they treat themselves. How we relate to our own strengths and weaknesses says a lot about we will treat others. Justice addresses those issues here.

“I’m not getting the Passion and Respect I want in my relationship… AND her sister is driving us apart.”

11 May, 2009 | Written by justicemarshall

I received this letter from a reader recently:

Dear Justice,

I read your book and I really appreciate how your e-mails help me keep my eye on my goal of being a good boyfriend.

The thing is, I live with my girlfriend’s sister and there have been a number of things that make it so hard to keep a normal relationship. About 2 years ago Melinda (my girlfriend) lost her mother who was a stay at home mom, cooked and cleaned, and went above and beyond for her kids. Now her dad has met someone else who is a very bad influence in his life. Melinda’s sister (Katie) couldn’t live with her dad any more because he kept bringing this person around, so Katie is living with us.

The main problem is that anytime I try to have a conversation about how I’m feeling about how Katie is acting, doing, not doing… my girlfriend brings up everything she’s been through over the last 2 years including things in our relationship that I’ve messed up on. I’m all for being the HERO and I would love to be a better man in this kind of situation. I’ve made a list of all the things that I feel I’m missing in my relationship and things Katie is doing that make me upset, and you can tell me what you think or what you would do.


  • Does not try do make a financial contribution to the household.
  • She does not respect me.
  • She does not care about my privacy.
  • She does not take an interest in how her sister is feeling.
  • She’s not a person of her word.
  • And she does not do anything that in some way won’t benefit her.

Things missing from my relationship:

  • Passion.
  • Respect.
  • Compassion.
  • Communication.
  • Trust.
  • Acceptance.
  • Laughter.
  • Romance.

Please Help,


My Response:

Dear Adam,

Here’s the bottom line:
Every time you blame or put your focus “over there” on someone else, you miss the point.
You dis-empower yourself.

If you will accept that challenges arise without necessarily being anyone’s “fault”, then you will be better equipped to rise to those challenges and find the opportunity within them.

Ultimately the opportunity is always some version of this: Be present, open your heart, and keep growing into the man you are capable of being. That is what your life and relationship challenges are all about. This is NOT to say that you shouldn’t take action. Quite the contrary. You just want to be sure the action you take reflects your truest values and your most empowered, wisest self. In other words, you want to act from your True Hero Nature… right?

My intention in writing The Hero Principles is to provide a map, a compass to help guide your actions and keep you on your hero path. For example, if you decide that it’s time for you and your girlfriend to have your own space back, and for her sister to move out, make sure you are clear that you are taking a stand FOR your relationship, not AGAINST her sister. And remember Hero Principle #4: Do it Powerfully. Provide support and guidance to both of these women to the best of your ability.

When I look at your list of the things missing from your relationship, I can really relate. I’ve been there, and I’ve seen many men work through similar circumstances.

So here is the answer to your question. Here is the best way (perhaps the ONLY way) to bring these missing qualities into your relationship:

Start living them in every part of your life right now. Give YOURSELF what you want so desperately from her.

You want PASSION in your relationship.
Are you following your own life PASSION?
Are you living purposefully?
Are you playing full-out?
Do you have friends that support and inspire you?
Is your work meaningful?

You want RESPECT in your relationship.
How much RESPECT do you show yourself every day?
Do you take care of your health… Mentally, physically, and spiritually?

You want COMPASSION in your relationship.
How much COMPASSION do you show yourself?
How kind are you to YOU?

You want COMMUNICATION in your relationship.
How well do you COMMUNICATE with you?
Do you listen to your own wisdom?
Do you know your heart?

You want TRUST and ACCEPTANCE in your relationship.
How fully do you TRUST and ACCEPT yourself?

You want LAUGHTER in your relationship.
Can you lovingly laugh at yourself?
Can you meet your challenges with humor?

You want ROMANCE in your relationship.
Will you ROMANCE yourself, basking in the glow of your own heart?
Will you let yourself enjoy the beauty and inspiration of all of life, regardless of your girlfriend’s mood?

Do you see what I’m getting at here?
The more you give these things to yourself, the more you embody them in every moment, the more you will become a magnet for attracting them from others.

Look at each of the qualities that you named right now and make an honest assessment - How fully you are living each one? What are you willing to do to bring more of these qualities into your life right now, regardless of Melinda, Katie or anyone else? Choose one action that you will commit to for each quality. Write it down and share it with a friend. Email it to me or post it on this blog.

Is this the only answer to your question? No. If you were my client, we would go more deeply into helping you understand and respond effectively to these issues. But I can tell you with certainty - this is how you begin. This is the foundation.

Whether you choose to work with a coach or not, please find a men’s group and/or accountability partner. Bring yourself into the company of men who will support and challenge you to be your best.

Even the best of us can’t always do it alone.

Thanks for stretching your edge and doing your best. The world needs men like you.

All My Best,



Cole said...

I'm a little confused about how this response differs from the Law of Attraction. "The problems don't involve the other persons behavior, it's all in how you treat yourself."

william harryman said...


I think Justice might have a little of LoA in there, but I don't see that as the main issue.

In psychology it's well-known that how we treat ourselves is exactly how we will often treat other people, especially in intimate relationships. If we are very self-critical, we will be that way with partners, too. And more likely than not, we will get that in return.

Justice is suggesting that if men want to be treated with respect and have passion in their relationships, they need to cultivate those qualities in themselves - same principle as with being self-critical.

When we treat our partners as we treat ourselves, we get it in return. No LoA, just basic humanity.


justice Marshall said...

Bill - Thanks for enriching my post with your Spiral Dynamics angle.

As for Cole's question re: LoA, Bill speaks very well to that in his comment. Also, I do use LoA in my life and in my work, although perhaps not in such a "pure" way as has been critiqued extensively in these pages. My approach is to combine LoA's benefits of conscious intention with the obvious benefits of conscious action. For example, Hero Principle #5 is 'Celebrate What You Want More of' and Hero Principle #4 is 'Do it Powerfully'.

I was also inspired years ago by Stephen Covey's suggestion that we focus our energies inside what he calls our "Circle of Influence", which basically means "change the things you can change and stop wasting time on the things you can't." I figure that at the centre of each of our "Circles of influence"... is us. So that's the best place to start.

In our intimate relationships, many of us fall into the trap of expecting our spouse to treat us better than we treat ourselves... often BECAUSE we have not yet learned to give ourselves the very things we want/expect/demand from them.