What would your day look like if you treated your partner the way you want to be treated?
One day this past summer, our air conditioner went out and we sought refuge at my sister’s home. My boys napped in her bed, and I browsed her book collection. I picked up The Dalai Lama’s Live in a Better Way. In it, he writes about the benefits of caring for and helping others. He firmly believes that altruism is the source of happiness, so in a way, there are self-seeking reasons to be selfless. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, we all know the personal satisfaction gained from giving a great gift or being of use to someone in need. The notion of finding fulfillment by focusing on others made me think of its application to love and relationships.
We are often preoccupied with our own feelings and perspectives. But what would happen if we focused more on our partners than ourselves? What if we focused more on giving love than receiving it? More on understanding that being understood? What if we gave our partners the freedom to be themselves without judgment? Maybe we would find ourselves in very fulfilling relationships. We would not only be gratified from the simple act of loving, but we’d be inviting it back to ourselves.
But how do we go about loving well? It seems like it should be simple enough, yet it can be hard to break love-busting habits and shift our point of view. I strongly believe in adhering to The Golden Rule: treat others how you like to be treated. However, my husband and I like to be shown love in some very different ways.
If I were to treat my husband like I want to be treated here is what I would do:
I’d greet him each morning with a long hug. The kind of hug in which you kind of breathe the person in. I’d say, “Good morning, my love. You are beautiful.” My husband, although he is great at long embraces and generous with kind words, would prefer a quiet, but pleasant nod of acknowledgement in the morning and a pot of coffee waiting in the kitchen.
I’d listen to him really well when he talked. I wouldn’t interrupt or finish his sentences (it takes all my will power to not finish sentences). I’d look at his face, and not my computer or phone.
I’d greet him after not seeing him all day with a glass of wine and a sincere, “How was your day?” However, my husband doesn’t care too much for vino or invasive questions. He’d much prefer a mellow “Hey”, a hug, and some rock time. *Rock time is what we call the transition from work to home. During rock time there should be minimal questions and responsibilities, lots of warmth, yet some space. After a few minutes, he will be ready to jump into the chaos of the home and tell me all about his day.
I’d laugh at all his jokes and tell him how funny he is. I really don’t get enough credit for my awesome sense of humor around here.
I’d ask him if he wanted help with the dishes. However, my husband doesn’t really do dishes. He’d prefer an invitation to play guitar all Sunday-long in his underwear or a pass to sleep in late.
I’d buy him flowers for no reason at all. Although Josh is a good gift-giver, he doesn’t really care about receiving them. He’d prefer for me to not question his purchases, like the boat in our garage, or the new surf board that is bound to be in our future. (Men have expensive hobbies.)
When he feels down, I’d hold him and say, “You are amazing. You are doing great. Everyone loves you. Did I mention that you’re beautiful?” Some version of this might work for him. Or he might want the opportunity to pace around and deal with his shit without me being all, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”I’d pay attention to the good in him. His dirty underwear might not always make it to the laundry basket but he sure is a solid man who races home to be with his family everyday after work.
I’d pay attention to the good in him. His dirty underwear might not always make it to the laundry basket but he sure is a solid man who races home to be with his family everyday after work.
I’d compliment him rather than criticize. I’d say, “Thank you for keeping the kids alive!” and turn the other cheek when my feet bind to the floors via juice spills (which, luckily, he does). I don’t know Josh’s equivalent to this, but I am certain he doesn’t like criticism either. It is plain ole discouraging.
When we speak different love languages or step on each other toes, I’d like him to trust in my love and good intentions. I know this would be a big one for him too. He’d want me to know that he doesn’t leave the toilet seat up because he wants me to fall into it in the middle of the night. He’d want me to know that his so-so mood after a long day doesn’t mean he’s upset with me.
Speaking of moods, shouldn’t we all be entitled to have some fugly ones without them being taken so damn personally? If I treated Josh the way I want to be treated, I wouldn’t run when he got his panties in a bunch.
Instead, I’d lay him down and rub his back while repeating, “It’s okay. Calm down. I’ll help you.” And although Josh knows how to comfort me, he would prefer I turn on football for him and not ask questions. But just because he doesn’t want me to ask questions doesn’t mean I should get all quiet and weird. There’s a balance here, people- one I’m still trying to figure out.
If I needed something or had to address a problem, I’d do so in a kind and forward way. No passive aggression or attacks against one’s character.I’d try my best to not take for granted all the little and big things he does. I’d look for all the ways he tells me he loves me, even if it’s in clean clothes, prepared coffee, and late night trips to the store to get chocolate. Josh doesn’t typically make the coffee or do the laundry, but he plays with my hair, encourages the ordering of take out, and always cares about my opinions. A man who is true to you and takes care of his family deserves all the appreciation (same goes for a woman, duh).
I’d try my best to not take for granted all the little and big things he does. I’d look for all the ways he tells me he loves me, even if it’s in clean clothes, prepared coffee, and late night trips to the store to get chocolate. Josh doesn’t typically make the coffee or do the laundry, but he plays with my hair, encourages the ordering of take out, and always cares about my opinions. A man who is true to you and takes care of his family deserves all the appreciation (same goes for a woman, duh).
I’d give him the freedom to be who he is. I’d expect him to be different from me, and I wouldn’t view his differences as faults. He likes to chill at home on weekends, and I like to buzz around. He likes to plan everything carefully, and I jump right in. He’s a night person, and I’m a morning one. You get the point… I’d let him be exactly who he is, and love every ounce of him, quirks and all.
I’d give him lots of PDA. Public displays of affection. Private displays of affection. I just love affection. Human touch- it’s good for the soul.
I would consider his needs for play, friendship, and alone time; and I’d help him find balance. I’d offer him a spa day and a night out with the girls (which I am getting tonight!) He wouldn’t want that spa day and he better not want a night out with girls, but perhaps a hall pass to go golfing and fishing with the guys.
I’d put my computer and phone away and ask him if he wanted to cuddle and watch Workaholics (it’s kind of our thing).
I’d speak highly of him to everyone I know.
I’d get a drink for him whenever I got one for myself, as well as other sweet courtesies.
I’d be grateful for all that I have, accepting imperfections as humanness. I’d know for certain that I have it as good as it gets and tell him over and over again.
I’d understand that some of our wants and needs are very much the same, but some of them are different.
We all want to be loved, so let’s pay it forward. Let’s offer our spouses the same grace and understanding we would want. Let’s see life and love through their eyes. If caring about the well being of others is the source of happiness like the Dalai Lama seems to think, we might just find ourselves better off for it.
Photo: Getty Images