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Love, the fruit of honoring, is reached through the continuing courage to leap into one another's arms. It feels risky to do this at times — in new relationships, for example, or when we feel ourselves changing. Committing to honoring takes stamina and vision. But without the love that honoring creates, the world itself cannot hang together.

— Lois Kellerman and Nelly Bly, Marriage from the Heart

Source: Marriage from the Heart, by Kellerman and Bly, p. 95.

As Unitarian Universalists, we participate in congregations that covenant to affirm and promote "the inherent worth and dignity of every person." What, then, does it mean to affirm and promote dignity, particularly in our romantic relationships? Dignity is defined as "the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary). How in our relationships do we show one another, and ourselves, that we are worthy? Do our words and actions honor our partners and honor ourselves? Do we show each other the conscientiousness and consideration we would show someone we hold in great esteem? This workshop explores the concept of dignity in relationships, considering the roles of loving actions, relationship rights, and longevity of commitment in upholding dignity.

Guiding Unitarian Universalist Principle

First Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person

Relating with dignity means that partners are respectful and worthy of respect. Mutual dignity creates a safe atmosphere in which choices and difficulties can be honestly discussed and resolved. In promoting both partners' ability to express themselves freely, openly, and lovingly, a couple affirms their inherent worth.

Considerations for Adaptation

The Taking it Home activity "Seeing the Sacred in Each Other" can be transformed into an in-class craft project. If you are conducting this workshop as part of a retreat, the shift to a craft activity could be a welcome break from discussion. Be sure to plan accordingly to acquire the supplies involved.

Three of the alternate activities emphasize communication skills. You may choose to use these in place of (or in addition to) other activities if your group is seeking skill-building opportunities in the Principled Commitment program.


This workshop will:

  • Apply the concept of dignity to relationships
  • Help couples explore how they can uphold and enhance one another's dignity

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Identify ways to respect a partner's dignity
  • Describe their own experiences of feeling honored and dignified by their partners
  • Work with their partners to create lists of rights they seek to uphold in their relationships

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