In last week's blog post, I challenged the notion that women generally feel that "being loved" is more important than "being respected" in their marriages. In my clinical practice with couples, I have repeatedly witnessed the ways in which disrespect is at the core of many marital problems for wives as well as for husbands. To test my theory that respect is equally critical for many women as for many men, in 2008, I profiled a sizable group of well-educated females (The Lifestyle Poll). In my sample of 300 women, 75% reported that they would rather feel alone and unloved than disrespected and inadequate.
Since my results were in direct opposition to those observed by Emerson Eggerichs, the author of Love and Respect, I wanted to understand more deeply what makes respect so important to the women in my study. In a follow-up study, I wanted to understand whether respect or love feels more important to those my sample in the larger social context (outside of marriage).
So, in the supplemental open-ended questions of my survey, I probed further, asking, “In the Lifestyle Poll, there is a question that reads, …'If you had to choose between feeling alone and unloved by everyone in the world or feeling disrespected and inadequate by everyone in the world, what would you choose?’ Can you comment on which situation would be WORSE to bear and why?”
As a gut reaction, many Lifestyle Poll respondents pointed out the ridiculous nature of this question. That is, how can one separate the two? How in the world is it possible to feel loved when one is treated disrespectfully (and, further, in which parallel universe would anyone ever have to make such a depressing choice)?
The thing is that this question was not designed to evoke the state of things in the natural world—it was designed to illuminate a theorized difference between men and women in terms of driving psychological needs. To provide a fair sense of balance in the responses that were submitted, I have included some thoughtful responses from some of the women who would rather feel disrespected than unloved (in a way that mirrors Eggerichs’ theory of gender differences):
As I’ve mentioned, the majority of the respondents in the Lifestyle Poll sample, however, would rather feel unloved than disrespected. Here are some of the thoughtful responses from participants who voiced this preference:
These responses speak for themselves, illuminating many of the core reasons that respect is of primary importance to these well-educated women. In looking at all of the data, no matter which preference was indicated, the underlying message is clear: there is no love without respect.