A doctor went to see a therapist because he could not get over the death of his wife. The therapist asked a simple question, “What would have happened if you would have died first?” The doctor replied, “She would have suffered tremendously”. The therapist, Victor Frankl, simply explained, “You see doctor? You have spared her all that suffering, but the price you have to pay for this is to survive, and mourn her.” The doctor left with a new understanding, his suffering now had an acceptable purpose.
When we live in a relationship we are given the opportunity to either give pain or take pain, give happiness or take happiness. But there is a price.
Simon Senek along with many others who have recently written on great leadership takes the line that great leaders sacrifice themselves for their followers. It’s the exact opposite of dictators and authoritarians who cause pain and even torture to their subjects. But sacrificing that causes pain is inherently true not only for great leaders but for those who want their best potential intimate relationship.
So the question is, “Are you a giver or a taker in your relationship?”
The Three Combinations
1 Both Partners Take What They Can Out Of The Relationship At The Other’s Expense
This is where both partners have the expectation that the other is there for the sole purpose of making them happy. They are always taking but not prepared to give. The problem is though that both are doing the same thing so they are constantly competing to get their own needs met and constantly coming into conflict with the other. It’s like at every turn they ask the question, “What’s in it for me?”They never consider putting themselves out to do something nice for their partner for nothing in return. They are always seeking a payoff of some sort in order to do something they would never do for nothing. This type of relationship is destined to have low intimacy and low satisfaction.
2 One Partner Is The Giver And The Other Is The Taker
This relationship has an unequal power balance. One is always giving but it is as if it is expected, not appreciated, and there is no reciprocal behavior. This only builds resentment and frustration in the giver. The giver often ends up becoming a victim and a martyr and although they continually seek validation, they never get it. The frustration and disappointment rob the giver of the intimacy and the validation they seek because it is never truly returned without conditions. This is the type of relationship seen in codependency.
3 Both Are Givers
When both partners give unconditionally of themselves to the other, the relationship is free to grow and reveal its synergism. But it only works when both partners are happy to give happiness and even take pain for the other. Most people can enjoy doing things that make their partner happy. Whether it is giving them a gift they adore, doing something pleasurable for them or spending quality time with them. But sacrificing themselves to take on another’s pain is a whole new paradigm. Yet when both partners do it naturally it blasts the relationship into the love ionosphere! So what does it actually mean in practical terms?
Here Are Some Examples
Cooking dinner when it’s your mate’s turn but they are tired or stressed
So you don’t want to cook dinner either but you do it happily because you know you have brought happiness to your partner. This means you take the pain away from your partner and you choose the painful cooking experience.
Your partner wants to see a different movie to you
For example, you’re a man and she wants to watch a chick-flick or you’re a woman and he wants to watch an action movie with senseless violence. But you go along and watch the terrible movie with them. But instead of criticizing it throughout, you enjoy their enjoyment of it.
You’re a man and you see a bunch of flowers for sale at a shop you’re in
It’s probably going to pain you to buy them and then juggle them with your arms full of the manly stuff you have just purchased. And yes, it’s going to be painful thinking that other people are judging you as trying to make up with your spouse because of some hideous crime you committed against her. But you do it anyway in a heartbeat because the most important thing in your life is to make her happy, and that always gives you incredible joy.
Your partner wants to invite people over that you find boring or even obnoxious
So rather than protesting loudly and pointing out how you are never going to get that two hours of your life back so they better make it up to you… you simply enjoy the company because your partner is happy and you are there for them, not anyone else.
Giving your time to simply listen
Yes, there are huge demands on your time. Yes there are lots of TV series you haven’t even looked at on Netflix yet. There are things you just have to get to. But what about sitting down with your spouse with no distractions and simply listen. What about giving your complete attention just to connect deeply with the one you love. We all want that deep connection, but are we willing to pay the price? From the outside looking in it looks like it’s going to cost us an arm and a leg. But when you experience it, you realize it’s the best bargain you’ll ever encounter.
The Best Relationship
You simply can’t have the best relationship when you are trying to keep your partner in debt to you. Nor can you be happy counting points to see which partner is ahead or who owes whom. Parents sacrifice themselves for their children all the time. Even in the early stages of romantic relationships we tend to be quick to sacrifice to please the other. But imagining continuing (or even starting again) to be happy to sacrifice something for your partner to ease their pain or bring them happiness. Imagine that as a way of life and even being happy about it. Imagine both of you living your relationship with that much purpose. The doctor who was living in inconsolable grief, now chose to live through that grief with contentment, all because he saw the price of his mourning her as taking away his wife’s grief. So the question is, what are you taking from your partner, and what are you giving? Are you taking the pain away or are you the source of your partner’s pain? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution?
Previously published on Romanceisalive.com.
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