BlogIt’s Not ”Petty”

April 10, 2024by Frank Love2

Respect Is the Baseline for All Relationships

In my previous blog post, “Managing the Poverty in Our Relationships,” I discussed how many of us are often too focused on making money to notice the interpersonal poverty impacting our loving relationships.

Though it’s easy to label something different as “petty,” respect should take the lead in all of our dealings with others.

A few days ago, I was leaving the house with my wife to do our weekly spouse night out. As we were about to drive away, my wife observed our neighbor. Ms. Pat is probably sixty-five years old and is not often seen when it’s cold outside. But we know she’s there. We see her car come and go. We see visitors come and go. And she’ll periodically call my youngest son, whom she calls “my little friend,” to bring in her groceries or any item she finds too heavy. However, for the last eight months or so, Ms. Pat hasn’t asked her “little friend” to do anything for her. This was unusual.



Different People Have Different Values

Ms. Pat has been our neighbor for the past ten years. She moved in a few years after we did. And she’s been a delight. But she is different than we are. She pays attention to and values things I don’t, and she is more particular about things than I tend to be. Her lawn is cut exactly every two weeks. If the vendor she is using for lawn care isn’t available at that two-week point, they need to come a day or two early, instead of a day or two late. If they come late, someone else will probably become the lawn care vendor of choice. Ms. Pat doesn’t play.

As my wife watched Ms. Pat, she said to me, “Pull up next to her. I want to ask her a question.” When I did, she said, “Ms. Pat, are you mad at us?”

“Yes,” Ms. Pat said.

My wife responded bashfully, “Why are you mad at us?”

“Because one of your guests parked in my parking space.”

“But we didn’t do it, Ms. Pat. We didn’t even know that one of our guests did it,” my wife said, with a soft and girlish demeanor.

“Well, that’s why I’m mad,” Ms. Pat said.

“Can you possibly forgive us?”

“As long as you promise it won’t happen again.”

“We will absolutely do all we can to make sure none of our guests park in your space again.”

“Well okay.”

“Thank you, Ms. Pat,” my wife sang as she smiled while I slowly drove away.


Showing Respect Instead of Contempt

As we drove away, I commented, “Why didn’t she just bring the issue up to us directly? Why did you have to ask her to find out if she was upset? That’s petty.”

My wife instantly stopped and said, “Please consider wording her disposition as sensitive, instead of petty. We have no idea why Ms. Pat may be bothered by someone parking in her driveway. Perhaps someone parked in her driveway when she was a child and murdered her father. Or maybe her father parked in someone’s driveway, when she was in the car, and murdered someone else. We have no idea why her disposition may be what it is.”

My wife continued, “Calling someone else’s disposition petty trivializes their experience. It suggests they are oversensitive, that they are overdoing it or exaggerating. Instead of trivializing, be respectful of the possibility that you are missing something. Be respectful of the nuances in that person’s life that we are not aware of or have no concept of.”

The words of my spouse were true, insightful, and powerful.


Lead with Affirming Respect

We all have different histories and experiences; many of the norms we embrace have been normalized by people who are in the same circle we are in. We are collectively creating the status quo. However, there are a seemingly infinite number of people who have different histories than we have and come from different circles than we do. If we are placed in their social circles and if they acted with the same disregard as I did, my disposition may be reduced to being petty.

Instead of trivializing one another, let’s simply be respectful to one another, no matter what the opinion or perspective is. Let’s affirm one another with our words (Ms. Pat, I understand what you’re saying), with our actions (Look Ms. Pat in her eyes with a sincere expression when speaking to her), and with our perspective (I respect that Ms. Pat’s values and history may be different than mine, and I embrace her and her views).


Loving Relationships Start With Respect

Moving forward, as we deal with the Ms. Pats in our world, or more importantly as we deal with our partner and their “pettiness,” let’s eliminate petty, childish, senseless and a litany of other seemingly negative dispositions from our pull-down menu when categorizing how our partner is being. Instead, let’s simply be respectful. It may make a tremendous difference in the culture we are co-creating in our home, in our relationships, and in our world. And that’s loving.


Keep Rising,


Frank Love

In my next blog post, “Raising Responsible Children, One Chore at a Time,” I will discuss the long-term value of giving our kids chores around the house.

Watch Frank Love’s presentation “The Act of Caring.”

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Each week, Frank Love hosts Zoom support group meetings that assist women and men as we work to create a loving culture in our relationships. Calls occur from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST and can be accessed by visiting FrankWeeklyCall.com.

  • Tuesdays – Black Women: Creating a Loving Culture in Our Relationships
  • Thursdays – Black Men: Creating a Loving Culture in Our Relationships

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Frank Love coaches individuals who are in (or wish to be in) a relationship toward creating a loving culture in their family. He is also the author of Relationship Conversations You Don’t Want to Have (But Should Anyway) and 25 Ways to Be Loving. To schedule a free consultation, contact Frank at Frank@FrankLove.com.


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