I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house with two households. My parents, my brother and I lived on the first floor, and my paternal grandmother and aunt lived on the ground floor.

As a kid you intuitively figure out who to turn to when you want to achieve certain things, and who to avoid when you want to stay out of trouble. In my house, my brother and I had four adults to obey. When my grandmother uttered a wish, we soon learnt that “some time” meant “now”.

“Please take the garbage out at some time?” meant that we had to jump to it, immediately!

It was a form of respect, and one that we carried forward in our lives.

We show respect to strangers, thanking the bus driver, or bending to pick up an article dropped by an older person. We are polite and courteous to our neighbours and colleagues at work.

Why then do we treat our partner differently?

When I speak about Respect in my seminars or workshops, I ask the audience for a good visual representation of the word respect. Every time they struggle to come up with one. Think for a moment and try it yourself. It is difficult, isn’t it?

We have emoticons and emojis on our phone to express excitement, joy, sadness, love and a host of other emotions, but nothing that represents respect.

Yet we all have an idea of what respect is. In our day-to-day lives, we show respect. We greet someone with a firm handshake, we give our seat to someone in need on the bus, and we hold the door open for the next person. We are aware of personal space and keep an appropriate distance from people to respect their privacy. We applaud someone for their achievements. We stand when the judge enters the courtroom.

So why is it that we lose the respect for our partner? We start to nudge them. We start to criticise and bicker. At home we start to behave like we want to, without giving our partner the respect they deserve.

I’ve seen this time and time again. Loving partners turn into jerks and treat each other like #$%@.

You claim to love each other. You share your life and live together, but you do not show respect for each other. How can that work?

Respect does not mean that you concur with everything the other person says or does. It does not mean you need to like everything your partner does. But is does mean that you acknowledge your partner as an individual in his or her own right.

Respect is more important than love in your relationship. When you lose respect, you also lose feelings of love.

Turn your focus to the respect you have for your partner and you will find that your relationship gains another dimension.

You can only give what you have yourself. You can only give a physical object to someone else, when you hold that object in your hand. The same is true for respect and love.

You need to respect yourself first to respect your spouse. You need to love yourself in order to love your spouse.

When you have true respect for yourself and show respect to your partner, you will never cheat on them, because first of all you cheat on yourself. You disrespect yourself when you have an affair, and it is hard to look yourself in the mirror if you do not respect yourself.

That’s why I say, respect is more important than love.

(This article is an excerpt of my new book “Why Money is more important than Sex”) You can purchase it here.