It looked like a blizzard hit the living room — a whole, four-pack of toilet tissue, shredded and strewn across the living room.

Our Staffordshire-Jack Russell terrier mix, Demitasse, had done the deed, but she had accomplices. 

My Fabulous Bride DebbieMiller and I determined early on that we could not trust Demitasse with overnight access to the living room. She destroyed hairbands, facial tissue boxes, TV remotes, a plush rhinoceros, and most notoriously, a Chanel lipstick Santa brought Deb for Christmas. 

For this reason, every night at bedtime, we close the door between the living room and the dog room. 

But I got distracted that night and forgot to do it. 

Also, we know not to leave anything on the floor, since dogs claim anything there as their legal property. But Deb got up in the middle of the night, and just wanting to get back to bed quickly, she left the toilet tissue on the floor. 

As we assessed the incident in our usual morning, grouchy grog, we realized our mutual culpability. 

Deb said, “Unnggh. I shouldn’t have left it on the floor. I’m sorry.” 

I said, “Well, and I gotta try to remember to close the dog room door.” 

I gathered up the shreds and stuck them in a zip-lock bag. We both volunteered to use the shreds if we ran out of rolls. And that was pretty much the end of it. 

For a lot of couples, this wasted a fine opportunity for a fight. Sure we were both to blame, but who was most to blame? Surely it wasn’t a plain and simple 50-50 split. Assess the blame! 

But we skipped that part. Not because we love each other, but because we respect each other. 

What’s Respect Got To Do With It? 

Again, for a lot of couples, that sounds almost nonsensical. If you love someone, doesn’t that automatically mean you respect someone? Just like if I say I love you, doesn’t that automatically mean I like you? 

Maybe, but probably not. Respect is more than a feeling, or a state of mind. Like love, if respect doesn’t show in a couple’s behavior toward each other, then it might as well not exist at all. 

Writer Jancee Dunn and her husband, also a writer, live and work in the same apartment. Lots of little things made their situation troublesome enough for them to seek counseling with therapist Terry Real, who introduced them to “Full Respect Living.” 

“Nothing you do or say to each other should drop below the level of simple respect,” Ms Dunn said. 

Once somebody opens your eyes to the power of simple respect, you realize not only how life-changing it is, but also how rare.  

Deb and I had Similar Mothers

They acted charming and excruciatingly well-behaved at work, at church, and around friends. But to our dads, they acted mean as snakes. Love bears all things, so if Mom had to bear with Dad forgetting about taking the garbage to the street, Dad was going to bear with accusations of gross incompetence, wanton dereliction of duty, and lack of sense that God gave a goose.  

But couples don’t need to act that way. Mr. Real ― and yes, Dunn assures us, that is his real name ― insists one, simple principle changes any marriage. 

“There is no place for harshness in a loving relationship. None.” 

When disagreements occur, the damage done to a relationship by disrespectful battles lives on far beyond any fleeting victory. 

The rules Real set for Dunn and her husband looked simple: No name-calling. No swearing. No ridiculing. No shouting. No venting. No ignoring. 

Peter’s advice in 1 Peter 3:8 strikes a similar tone. 

“Have unity of spirit,” he writes, “Sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called — that you might inherit a blessing.” 

Nobody gets it right all the time, and it’s hard work. But returning evil for evil won’t fix anything, even if it’s done in the name of love. 

Once it becomes a way of life, simple respect accomplishes a lot. Now to see if it works on dogs.