What Is The Difference Between Love And Respect?

Updated June 17, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
”Loving relationships always require mutual respect. How that respect is expressed and is received varies from culture to culture. Therefore, it can be important to seek help from a counseling professional if you feel your relationship is struggling in this area.” - Aaron Dutil, LPC

There are many emotions we experience, and many are important in our day to day communication. We try to be positive when communicating with people, only saving the sad stuff for the appropriate occasion. We try not to let our anger control us, and instead, let it out in a healthy manner. Emotions are hard to control, but by doing so, we can live an easier life.

There are two emotions that we see as something we can't give enough of, and that is love and respect. Many believe that if there were more of these two emotions, the world would exist in perfect harmony, and it's easy to see why. Respect and love are two emotions we all want to receive, and we hope that we're good enough people to give them back in return.

In this post, we will look at love and respect. We will look at and use definitions of them, but we shall also dive deeper. What are the differences between them? What about the similarities? Do they coexist? Is one better than the other? Let's find out.


Getty/Halfpoint Images
Can I love someone without respecting them?

Love is a word that's hard to define, as it can be a little subjective. The best definition we can provide is one that's explained through the triangular theory of love. In that theory, true love is defined through three traits, which are:


Intimacy can apply to many relationships. Friends are intimate, families are intimate, and lovers are especially intimate. Intimacy isn't romantic, but instead is the connection you have with others. If you meet someone and they have a lot in common with you, and you find yourself hitting it off with them quite well, you have a high level of intimacy with them. If there is no intimacy, there can't be love that lasts.


You can't begin a love without there being some form of passion. Passion is the romantic and sexual attraction you have to someone. Sometimes, you can have passion without love. You can be friends with benefits or just two people who think they're in love when in reality, they're in lust. While passion may fade with age, a great loving relationship will still retain passion to some degree.



If you don't see yourself living with someone for the rest of your life, then your relationship is probably going to fail. Good couples are committed to building a future and having some plan to spend the rest of their lives together, while couples who do not commit may end up crashing and burning.

There are more interpretations of love out there; after all, it's the subject of so many works of art and studies.This is just any easy way to explain it. With that said, we've broken down love. Let's look at respect and see what that is.


You probably have a grasp of what respect is, but we shall explain it in a more detailed way. Respect is positively treating someone because of who they are. In some cultures, respect is considered automatic. You want to respect a stranger you run into, or you want to respect the people you associate with. If they do something negative, they may end up losing your respect.

We show respect through certain gestures like handshakes or being polite to the other person. Respecting someone doesn't mean that you have to worship the ground they run on, but instead treat them decently.

In other cultures, respect is earned. You respect someone if they treat you right first, or if they do something that's worthy of respect. For example, if the person does a good deed, or has accomplished a lot in their life.

Some people give automatic respect to certain people. There are some who believe that authority should automatically be respected. They may apply exceptions, such as when the authority is perceived to have abused their power. Others may believe that authority should always be distrusted and disrespected due to the power they hold over us.

Other people who are said to deserve automatic respect are parents and older people. Parents are the ones who brought you in, so many believe that they deserve automatic respect because of that, while some may believe respect is still earned based on the parent's performance.

It's not as complex as love, but there are still many debates about who should be respected and how, so it's worth looking at. And there are signs of disrespect in a relationship, including not making time, keeping things from each other, and not introducing you to their social circle.

The difference between love and respect

The main difference between love and respect is that one is meant for everyone, and the other is meant for that special someone in your life. You should respect everyone you come across unless they have a good reason not to. Even if you believe respect is earned, you won't earn the respect of anyone if you treat them wrong. It's best that you be nice, show empathy, and be respectful. Even if you disagree with the person, don't disrespect unless you have a logical reason to do so.

The connection between respect and love

Getty/MoMo Productions
Can I love someone without respecting them?

If you're in a relationship with someone, you do need to have a lot of respect for the relationship to work. You respect your partner as a person, as a lover, and respect other aspects of their lives.

Some things that need to be respected in a relationship include:

  • Even though you love each other, there are still boundaries and limits in any relationship. Establishing those boundaries is something that needs to happen, and so does respect the boundaries and not crossing them.
  • The person's accomplishments. When the two of you are trying to reach goals, you should respect each other once the goal is reached, especially if the goal was individual.
  • The friends and family of the partner. It's okay to have your disagreements with your partner's friends or family, but you must treat them decently if you want to keep the peace in a relationship and express any problems you may have healthily.
  • Respecting a partner's wishes. This is similar to the boundaries rule but instead talks about when the partner brings up something they feel or don't feel like doing. For instance, if the partner doesn't feel like having sex that night, respect their wishes.

Respect and gender roles

One belief is that respect is dependent on gender. The woman in the relationship should be loved, while the man should be respected. The man is the one to treat the woman with gifts and kisses, while the woman returns the favor by honoring his wishes and treating him with care.

This is a bit of an antiquated way of looking at it. A woman can nurture and give love to a man, while a man can respect a woman for her position. In an ideal relationship, love and respect should be mutual, and shouldn't depend on the gender of the people in the relationship.

Is respect more important than love in a relationship?

Here's a question that may cause some eyes to move. When it comes to a relationship, is love or respect more important? You may want to believe love. After all, it's why the two of you are together, and it's supposed to conquer all. However, if you take a critical look at it, you may think things differently. If there's no respect, a relationship won't last or can be abusive. If you don't respect your partner, you will cross the line with them, belittle their every word, killing their self-confidence in the process, and you may end up hurting them in the long run.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.

While the feeling of passion, intimacy, and commitment is important, respect is what keeps it all together. Every relationship requires it. A friendship with no respect is built to last. A family who doesn't respect each other, be it the parent of the child or the child to the parent, won't stay together for long.

So to sum up, yes, respect may be the more important attribute. It's treating people the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule has existed for a long time and in many religions and cultures, and for a good reason.

Discuss standards for love and respect in online therapy

If you are having trouble with your relationship, you may not know who to turn to. There is no shame in talking to a relationship counselor, who can help restore the love and respect in a relationship.

A counselor is designed to help couples in need, or the individual who wants to get something off their chest. When it comes to couples, there are many reasons why they may need counseling. Sometimes, boundaries are being crossed when it comes to respecting. Other times, there may be another reason why you're having trouble with your relationship. Miscommunication, financial mismanagement, and other reasons to argue. With a counselor, you can talk things out with someone else who keeps the heads cool and knows how to reach a compromise.

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