In my past post I shared how I feel like my title should actually be Couple’s Educator instead of Couple’s Counselor. So this time I thought it might be helpful to share an example of this. We all know the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have done unto you,” and many of us try to live by this code. Seems nice, respectful, helpful, and what “good people” do, right?
What you might not realize, is that when it comes to relationships, the Golden Rule can be the kiss of death!
I’m serious! This rule that we all learned back in kindergarten can be the downfall of your relationship.
Here’s my example of just how it can be damaging….
Let’s say there is a couple named Ross and Rachael.
Ross grew up with 8 brothers and sisters, in the country, with little money. In his family when it was someone’s birthday they got to pick what the family had for dinner that night, and everyone else pitched in and did their chores for the day.
Rachael on the other hand, grew up an only child, in the city, with lot’s of money. When it was her birthday, her parents threw her huge parties with clown’s, balloon animals, jumping houses, cotton candy machines- the works.
As adults, Ross and Rachael meet, fall madly in love, and get married. During their first year of marriage both really try hard to do things they think the other will like and appreciate, including birthday celebrations. Ross has the first birthday and Rachael throws him a huge surprise party in their back yard. All their friends and family are invited, it’s catered, there is live music, and a dance floor- it’s an elaborate celebration. During the party Ross is a bit withdrawn and quiet and so Rachael asks him, “What’s wrong, don’t you like the party?” Ross responds with, “You didn’t put this on the credit card, did you?”
Rachael is heartbroken and hurt, she bursts into tears and feels totally unappreciated. Ross feel frustrated, embarrassed, uncomfortable, and totally unsure about what just happened.
Then, a few month’s later it’s Rachael’s birthday. Ross makes a point of coming home from early that day and says to her, “Baby, I want to take you out to dinner tonight. Anywhere you want to go. You pick it, and we’ll head out. And, I want you to know that this weekend, no matter what, every single thing on that honey-do list you have for me, it’s getting done! I don’t care how long it takes me, I promise I’ll get through the whole list.” Rachael’s response to this birthday offering, “Is that all?!?”
Again Rachael feels hurt, let down, and unappreciated. Ross feels confused, frustrated, and again, totally unsure about what went wrong.
The message in this….
It’s a simple example, with a big message in it. Both Ross and Rachael did things that appear nice, loving, and appreciative but here’s the catch, it was based on what they would want and appreciate not on what the other one would want and appreciate.
Can you see the difference?
So often in relationships we get excited and focused on what would feel good to us and totally forget that our partner is a different person than we are. We do like we were taught in kindergarten, follow the Golden Rule with the best of intentions, and yet come out feeling like crap. Then in the future, it’s the crap feeling we remember and focus on, and we begin to put less effort into surprising, or building up, or showing appreciation to our partner for fear of being shot down again.
So, how do we go about changing this cycle?
We start by asking our partner what they would like, and then believe them when they tell us! If you have a hard time believing them, tell them that. Try explaining that it is so different from what you would want, that it’s hard for you to understand that they will be happy with their request. Let them in to your world, and what you’d want, and then have fun comparing and contrasting what they want.
In the end, the Golden Rule is about not hurting other people; it’s about treating people with respect. By opening up this conversation with your partner, and learning more about them and their interests, you can follow the Golden Rule and have a happy successful relationship!