When I think of respect, Aretha Franklin comes to mind. But there's more to respect than just the simple act, of which I have decided to blog about today. (No thanks to the encouragement of the #LoveBlog link-up.)

Justin was my first boyfriend. As it turns out, he would become my only boyfriend. I was just not interested in dating. Guy friends? Always! The desire for a husband? Definitely. But what is dating when you are too young to drive a car? My parents wouldn't even let me walk around the mall alone with a friend! At age 14! They certainly weren't going to drop me off at the movies with a guy…

One of the most important things I learned from my first dating experience, and really all interactions with guys (sorry girls!), is that you have to love people for who they are and where they are at in life. And expectations? You might as well throw those out the window!

Example 1:

I once went to the park with Justin (shock, right?). I can't remember the details, but we ended up in an argument. As I turned to leave (we had driven separately), I realized that I wanted him to follow me and apologize (like the guys do in the movies). You know what I also realized? … He didn't know that that was what I wanted; he thought I needed to get away and have some space to myself to think and reflect. Rather than getting in my car that day and speeding off (like I wanted to do – like the girls in the movies would have done), I turned around, told him why I was angry, and explained what I expected him to do about it. I was direct. Because I did that (rather than driving away and then being more angry when I wasn't followed), we managed to work through our differences and leave the park far happier than I would have been otherwise.

Engagement pictures from Kelly L Photography: 2011

Example 2:

Approximately 3 years into dating, Justin got up the nerve to break my heart. He said he was too busy with school and we were arguing too much… And people? (Which people? I don't know. I don't remember. Probably his fraternity brothers.) They didn't think we should be together. I cried. (These #LoveBlog posts are making me sound super emotional!) We spent approximately two hours afterward just talking. And then I asked: "Well, what do you want? Do you agree that we would be better off separated? … Because that's not what I want. Do you think we can work things out?" And that's when we put together a plan for how to fix the mess we had gotten ourselves into. As it turns out, being direct and withholding judgement can really make a difference in how you handle situations, and, in this particular case, was the difference between us breaking up or, eventually, getting married.

But as much as being direct, withholding judgement, and avoiding expectations can help with dating or in dealings with one's significant other, it also helps with friendships.

Example 3:

An online guy friend I had been talking to off and on told me he had a crush on me … only a few days before my 18th birthday. Gotta be honest with you – I cried (again). I mean – what do you say to that? I'm sorry. I'm just not interested. You're too old? (He was/is at least 10 years older than me.) When people say things like that, it's like – Crud. This friendship is over. :( Not that you really want it to be, but it just changes things. We are still in (minimal) contact (as in once a year, maybe? And friends on facebook), but he soon realized (much to my relief) that he actually liked a girl closer to his own age (and a mutual friend! Yay!). Kudos to him for being straightforward with me, but I don't think, without understanding, acceptance, and respect, we would still be friends (in so much as we are) to this day. He was actually very happy for me when I told him I was engaged to be married to my current husband. :)

Neuschwanstein, Germany: 2014

Example 4:

I have a German friend, who I am (or would like to think I am) pretty close to. We've been talking back and forth for years, and his English has improved dramatically in that time. Like OMG! How are you not an American? improvement. Seriously. But, despite that, we still run into cultural misunderstandings.

I'm sure there are many, but one in particular stands out. (Just because it was a more recent realization.)

Justin and I were invited to his wedding a few years back and also invited to stay in his home. Honestly I was trying not to be a bother (because wedding planning can be super stressful), so I asked a second time for confirmation: "Are you sure it's okay for us to stay at your home?". Or something like that. I was seeking confirmation, as you do in the states, that what I heard (read) was what was meant and not just a nicety. The response I received was of no help – "You can do whatever you want." (I remember because it made me think of The Princess Bride "As you wish".)

Not being European (or German), my heart was torn. What exactly did this guy mean? Did he really want us to stay in his home? … Or not?

I asked all around – my best friend, my parents, even other Europeans. No one could help me decipher.

Justin and I ended up staying at an AirBnb. The guy, whose home we stayed at, was super nice providing us with cereal and wine! Just the kind of person I would love to be friends with! (Not because of the free food, but because he was so interested in making our travel experience a wonderful one!) :) And his neighbor? A Charleston, SC native! How fun! :)

But even after I returned home I wondered if I had made the right decision. Was the American way of assuming I would be a burden the correct assumption? Was my staying elsewhere offensive?

Google revealed to me that maybe I had seemed a bit crazy to him … and possibly offensive. Germans, it said, are very direct … and not friendly. If you aren't friends with them already, they ignore you and, inevitably, come across as rude. So did Google mean, assuming you were friends and the person was being direct, that if you were invited to someone's home you were actually being invited … like, for real? Not being sure how much to trust Google, I asked my friend. I explained, with examples, what the last conversation was like, how it made me feel (Yay emoticons!) and what my expectations were. This time the response was more straightforward: this is what I meant when I said…  Woot directness! Now I knew what he meant.

Google isn't always right, but it made me feel good to be straightforward with my friend and get a direct answer.


In Conclusion:

• Love people where they are.
• Don't hold unrealistic expectations over someone's head. Let them know what you are thinking.
• Be as direct as possible when uncertainty arises. Spell things out as best you can.
• Be patient. (It may be you that is misunderstanding!)
• Treat others as you would wish to be treated.

In my opinion, people tend to have your best at heart. They aren't trying to hurt you. Sometimes they just don't know any better; they don't know that what they are doing is offensive or hurtful. If you make your expectations clear, provide patience and understanding, and respect a person's values even when they aren't your own, you will be in a better place. After all, all different kinds of people can show and expose you to so much more than you could ever imagine. You just have to be open to them.

What do you think? Have you ever been a situation where you needed to step out of your comfort zone in an effort to understand what someone else was thinking? Do you see how respect is vital to friendships and relationships alike?


  1. I used to do the same sort of thing as your first example. Why do we always think our men know exactly what we want? I mean don't they watch movies too? I'm just kidding but it really is hard to remember that they are not mind-readers!

  2. This post is awesome. I loved all of your real life examples, and it's so true. Love people for who they are!


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