5 Signs Your Spouse Doesn’t Respect You, According to a Divorce Attorney

spouse lack of respect: Man holding hand over woman's mouth
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Want to know the secret of a lasting love connection? Start with lessons learned from partnerships that didn’t last. That’s the advice of seasoned family law attorney Dennis Vetrano. The Dutchess County, New York lawyer shares patterns he’s observed over 20 years of working with splitting couples in his podcast, The DRV Law Show and to his 400K TikTok followers.

In response to an overall cultural shift away from cooperation and toward social media-induced silo’ing, Vetrano’s message is simple: “We have to work a little harder on relationships.” But in today’s era of gaslighting, divorce prep as marital glue and love mapping, how can a person know for sure if something is unhealthy, or simply a necessary if uncomfortable sign of growth? Our advice: Start by upholding the basics, like mutual respect. How to tell if you even have that? We asked Vetrano for the warning signs. Here, five signs your partner doesn’t respect you…and what to do if you spot them.

They Don’t Offer to Help Around the House

“We’re seeing a lot of the CEO or executive mom who is killing it at work,” Vetrano says, “and men are not bridging the gender gap.” In generations past, the division of labor was clear: Dads made the bulk of the money and moms ran the household and cared for the kids. “Now you see the ladies making the lion’s share of the money and paying the lion’s share of household expenses, but they are still prepping meals for the family, caring for kids, buying groceries and holiday presents, etc,” he says. “The guys are like ‘Hey I’m going to work all day,’ but the wife says, ‘I’m doing that too…and everything else.’”

Vetrano’s message to the slacker half of the relationship is curt: “You better start doing that other stuff, otherwise you end up in our office.”

They Talk Over You

When you’re talking about something that excites you or feels important, does your partner interrupt you mid-story and bring up something completely different, not even waiting for you to finish? “Certainly interrupting people and talking over them is disrespectful,” says Vetrano, who maintains there’s actually a thin line between disrespect and borderline abuse. “As a divorce lawyer, I know what these things are and when I see intact relationships with a lack of listening, I see it’s headed down that path [towards separation].”

Worried you’ve got a talk-overer on your hands? The attorney recommends bringing it up early and balancing positive and negative points, in order to ward off defensiveness from your partner. Say, “hey, I enjoyed our time having drinks earlier with X, and I know you are as excited about my promotion as I am, so I was hurt when you brought up your new car in the middle of what I was saying.” If this falls on deaf ears, you may have disrespect on your hands.

You Make Jokes at Each Others’ Expense

Mutual respect means that each of you treats the other as a valued partner, and belittling jokes are relationship Kryptonite. “It used to be the man with the jokes, and now we are seeing women do that as well,” Vetrano says.

While stone-cold solemnity isn’t the goal here, you do need to learn the difference between a sweet joke that pokes fun (“I married Carrie for her brains, beauty and humor, not her singing voice,”) and a mean one that belittles (“When I married Carrie, she was hot…joke’s on me!”)

Here are a couple ways to tell what’s funny and what’s not: Before you speak, think how you’d feel if your partner came out with a similar quip. Or later, after you’ve teased them, bring the joke back up to them privately and ask if the exchange made them uncomfortable. On the flip side, if your spouse says something to get a laugh that leaves you feeling…icky, speak up, lest the disrespect become normalized.

They Listen to Their Colleagues More Than You

Do you feel heard at the end of the day? Does your husband or wife care about what you’ve been up to? These are key questions to ask yourself, Vetrano says. He often asks people to compare their work environment with their family home. “If a coworker says, ‘I want to hear about something’ or ‘Here’s something that happened to me,’ would you listen, or would you walk away?” The obvious takeaway—someone should not be giving their coworkers more respect than they give their life partner.

They Won’t Let You in On Financial Decisions

“If someone is giving you an allowance, that’s not really respecting you as an equal partner,” Vetrano says.“It gets back to control—nine times out of ten, the same person belittling you in groups or not listenting to you [is the same one who is telling you] what you can’t spend money on.”

There’s no perfect one-size-fits-all arrangement, of course, but he points out that if one person controls all the finances, with no input from the other partner, it can lead to resentment and even abuse. “It can’t be a circumstance where one party puts all the money into the account, and the other party doesn’t have access to the statements but is expected to sign tax and loan documents, or doesn’t have access to money to go out to lunch,” he says.

It’s fine, he reiterates, to have separate accounts or have one partner take the lead with, say, investing or bill-paying. But if you feel like your spouse is hiding your finances from you, won’t consider your opinion or flat-out forbids you from making purchases, that’s a serious problem. 

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...