Thursday, August 13, 2009

Relationship Rule #1: Put Them First

I have found over the years that people often talk about relationship problems, and since I tend to listen a lot, I get to hear the problems. They range from "they never listen to me" or "they don't care about what is important to me" or about a million other reasons. The result is a divorce rate around 50% or higher in America. Now, I am not a marriage expert, and I don't have 50 years of marriage under my belt, but some have said they think these ideas should be published for others to read.

To that end, here is Rule #1 of a relationship: Make your focus to make your significant other happy.

Too often, we are focused on ourselves and rarely do we focus on whether our significant other is happy or what it takes to make our significant other happy. This causes problems:

First, it means that we focus on what is not being done for us, which makes us unhappy and keeps us focused on ourselves.

Second, when you are focused on yourself, it can often lead the other person to feel left out. If they are focused on trying to meet your needs but feel you aren't focused on theirs, they will often leave the relationship or be unhappy in it. And in many relationships, if one is unhappy, it spreads so both are. Keep in mind, if both people are focused on themselves, odds are good the relationship will fail at some point.

Third, when we focus on ourselves, we fail to see the easy and obvious ways to make our significant others happy. For example, how hard is it to simply make a mental note that your wife was looking at a certain pair of earrings to come back and get it later?

When two people focus on the happiness of the other, then both feel wanted, both feel cared about, and both feel more understood because you have to pay attention to the other person.

Let's take it a step further. We all have insecurities. Whether it is from being burned from a cheating other in a previous relationship, our own looks, our weight, our income, or anything else, we all share that one thing: We all have an insecurity of some sort, no matter how hard we try to hide it.

If we spend our time focusing on making the other happy, we do two things:

First, we make sure to give reinforcement that helps shore up those insecurities so that people don't feel insecure in that area. Statements like, "we are so lucky to have what we have," can help ease income insecurities.

Second, work to prevent situations which may trigger insecurities. Take your husband to the club with you and your girlfriends so he doesn't feel like the club is a threat. It also integrates him into your girlfriend circles and makes him feel like he is an important part of your life, even if he spends most of the time sitting and talking to other husbands.

Now, keep in mind, no one can make someone happy who doesn't want to be happy. As one ex-girlfriend told me over fifteen years ago, "no one can make you happy until you are happy with yourself." That holds true. You can't make your significant other happy if they aren't happy or willing to be happy with themselves. But you can help by showing you care.

Also remember that some things should not be part of this focus. Being a punching bag for your other, and you shouldn't become a sex slave or prostitute for their fetish, or any number of other really unhealthy behaviors. There are always limits to these things, and maybe the guiding principle should be a combination of "don't do anything illegal" and "is this something I would do if they hadn't been forceful in asking?" There is a line between trying something different such as dressing up for a night for your husband, and becoming a prostitute or punching bag or needing to be tied up and abused by others. You shouldn't have to cross that line.

Having said that, in a healthy relationship, I believe it is a positive thing for both people to focus their efforts on making the other happy. As a basic framework, it can help improve the relationship. But remember, if your significant other is doing this and you aren't, it will catch up to you eventually.

Remember, when you said your vows, you made promises to take care and care for each other, not to be willing to let them take care of you. Remember your vows: It is about them, not you.

1 comment:

Clayton said...

Agreed. Releasing the ego and focusing on the needs of others has always worked for me. It's easier said than done, unfortunately.