Take a second to think about the things you want to change about your partner. Little things that annoy you. Any built up resentment you have.
Now smile if you can’t think of anything. (And keep reading if you wish you smiled.)
The best advice I ever got about loving relationships is to be the best partner you can be. To forget about everything that he or she does, to forget about anything you want to change. Think about yourself, and ask yourself if you are doing everything you can.
While you’re being so busy expecting your partner to be perfect, how much time have you spent today wondering about what you can do in order to increase happiness?
Instead of worrying about not exactly knowing your partner’s needs, a good place to start is your own needs. You can give what you’d like to receive: When you’re in need of venting about your day, ask your partner about their day. When you’d like to be recognized for your hard work, compliment them on theirs. When you want to hear an apology, ask if you did anything to upset them. In need of a hug? Get up and give one.
What would happen if you’d flip everything around, and put your loved one first?
There’s a tradition in Asia where you treat your partner as if they were a guest. This isn’t about abandoning any intimacy, all this says is to add a profound display of respect. It seems like such an obvious thing to do, but it is very often neglected. We are sometimes the most rude to the ones we love the most. Why is it okay to snap at your partner, while you do have the willpower to hold back when a guest annoys you? We already possess the skills required for behaving civilly and sensitively to strangers. Why don’t we apply this courtesy to our intimate relationships?
“When a person is invited, his/her presence is desired, wanted, and asked for. Rather than the burden of a visitor who just shows up, a guest has been welcomed in. And how do we treat guests? With warmth and respect. Joy and hospitality. Kindness and patience. We invited them, so we have to take care of them.” – Chioma Obii-Obioha
Why is it okay to complain to your partner, while you would never do that to a guest in your home? Imagine the situation; your lovely colleague agreed to come over to help you prepare for a meeting. She walks in, sits down, and the first thing you do is comment on where she left her shoes, complaining that that’s not where they belong.
You would never do that! You wouldn’t get angry at your guests if they frustrated you. Why do you do that to the person you decided to spend your life with? Is the location of a pair of shoes really that important? When a guest says something a little odd, you would see the best in it. With your partner, you often assume the worst.
Let’s personify the idea of our guest even more, and pretend it’s someone you know. Someone impossible to dislike, highly respectable, but friendly enough that you feel comfortable around him. Got it? For some reason I like picturing Chris Guillebeau here. This is the type of guest you’d always be most considerate of in your home, right?
From now on, whenever you feel like snapping at your partner, you could pretend he/she is Chris or whoever you came up with. Ask yourself: would I be this rude to them?
“True love should have the nature of reverence, respect. In the Asian tradition you have to treat your spouse with respect, like a guest. And in order to respect her, you have to respect yourself first. Reverence should be the nature of our love.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
The beauty of this trick is not that it will help you fight your urge to be mean. The trick is that it will make that urge go away. It will ground you in the gratitude that you already feel for your partner.
Why? Why is it easier to forgive a guest while we are inclined to assume the worst in our partner?
Because you don’t take your guest for granted.
Imagine what Chris, your friend, or your lovely colleague, would think if you’d snap at them like you do at your partner sometimes. They probably wouldn’t be your friends for long. But your partner would take it. Your partner would stay around anyway, and you take that for granted.
You can change that, though. And this thought-experiment will help you. Imagine the beauty in a relationship when you’d treat each other with the respect you both deserve.
How do you show respect in your relationship? What are you most grateful for? And what do you sometimes forget to appreciate? I’d love to hear about your thoughts. Leave a comment below.