Why you should treat your partner as a guest.

posted in: Articles | 20

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.


20 Responses

  1. Hope
    | Reply

    I think it’s a great idea to be courteous and respectful of your partner as you would a guest. But, I think giving people what you need is a very dangerous way to go. It’s one thing to think about what you need and use that to inform you about what others might need – that is a very good start. But if you need something, you can’t alchemize you need into a service for someone else. Women are so often taught and encouraged to do this, and it’s toxic. And offering praise etc in order to get it back is manipulative and passive-aggressive.

    It’s okay that we need things. We should be direct and considerate, not self-denying and always serving others. To use an example from the post–if you want to vent, how about telling your partner you’d like to vent and asking if they would mind listening for a few minutes. This is you taking responsibility for your needs and communicating in a way that is direct and considerate. They can say yes or no or after dinner, etc. and you respect that. At the same time, or after you’ve vented, you can ask if they’d like to vent. Or offer to do something else nice for them to show your appreciation.

    I think that is much healthier than trying to turn off your needs or communicate them in round about ways.

    • Nowish
      | Reply

      I think you should replace your “needs” with wants.

  2. Lehua
    | Reply

    [Aw, my comment disappeared and I didn’t save it. I’m going to try this again…]

    Such a great post, Rikky! I’ve never thought about treating my husband with the respect I would give a guest, but it’s a wonderful attitude to embrace. I appreciate many things about him– the hard work and dedication he puts into our relationship, day in and day out; the open and honest communication we share; and how he’s pushed me to believe in myself when I felt like giving up on everything (myself, my business, our relationship, etc). I sometimes forget to appreciate the little things he does everyday that I sometimes take for granted, and how he’s come so far with his financial habits. We’ve grown so much closer together in the past year, it’s incredible and I’m so blessed. Thank you for your post, for helping me to count my many blessings and to practice this new habit. 🙂

  3. Renate de Jong
    | Reply

    So true!
    And…so difficult!!!!
    I’ll try 🙂

    love Renate

  4. Kieta
    | Reply

    For the most part, my wife and I are pretty darn respectful of each other. We don’t harp on the things that drive us nuts about each other (at least out loud) that often. Occasionally, because we’re human, we do snap at each other but usually we call each other out on it with a kindly reminder “you don’t have to speak to me that way” kind of accountability. We’re roughly 3.5 years in to our relationship and it Really helps that we are both committed to our own spiritual growth as well as growing together as a couple. Had I read this during Any of my previous relationships I would have been like, “Oh fuck… now I have to be nice!” 😉 Great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  5. emmajaynelions
    | Reply

    After 11 years together, it’s so easy to be in a habit of disrespect. I love the idea of treating partners as a guest, though in my case I am at home all day with mine (we both work from home) and our children, who I homeschool. We all live and breathe each other, so it almost seems inevitable that we snap and take our frustration out on each other. I think a change in mindset is in order in my house 🙂

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      That’s a great insight, Emma. I agree that I definitely need my alone-time every now and then, to recharge in a way. That must be harder when you’re around each other all the time! I love how you said ‘we all live and breathe each other’. 🙂 that’s beautiful!

  6. GraceGrace
    | Reply

    Very interesting idea! I have to admit, I am not entirely convinced though. I think that the reason why I snap at my partner and not at a guest is due to repetition. I probably wouldn’t snap the first time something happens (as it would be the first time with a guest) at my partner either, but it’s that the experience happens over and over. I really do like the focus on gratitude and appreciation though. I think that that is so important and really hard to implement when a person starts to slack off and as you said, take their partner for granted. I will definitely have to try this out.

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      I see your point, Grace 🙂 I do think that a mindset like this is especially helpful when it comes to built up resentment. I’m curious how you liked experimenting with the idea! Thank you for sharing your kind thoughts, I appreciate it.

  7. KendraH
    | Reply

    Lovely post. While I do not have a partner I so appreciate the thought of treating a partner and really anyone else as a guest in your home.

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Thank you for pointing that out, Kendra! I totally agree, joyfully solo or joyfully in a duo, the world would benefit from more kindness and respect in general 🙂

  8. Dee
    | Reply

    Ooh, I totally love this post. My partner and I have lived together for the past 5 years and it is definitely easy to get into routine and take things for granted. One thing we do EVERY day is tell each other how much we love each other and hugs and kisses occur often throughout the day. As much as we both love our own space we have learnt to share ours without any resentment. Thankfully we know each other well enough to know when we need our space (me? I like to go outdoors and take a walk)

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Dee, that sounds lovely! I love how you make time for cuddles and I especially love how you found a way to take your alone-time when needed. That’s beautiful! And — walks are my favorite way of getting some space, too. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Claire
    | Reply

    What a great idea! I can sometimes get frustrated by the cyclical logic of being a better partner to have a better partner, but this idea really resonates with me.

    I think this gets right to the root of how I want to be treated, I want to be appreciated and not be taken for granted. So it makes perfect sense that I should offer that up to my partner too. Thanks for bringing this idea to my attention 🙂

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      I’m happy you thought it was helpful, and I agree, I feel the same! 🙂

  10. megankarlenmegan
    | Reply

    Lovely post and sentiment. oh boy do I have a lot to work on! (lol) (?) : )))

  11. Chris Guillebeau
    | Reply

    I’m honored to be a guest in the Omniwonder home! Thanks for featuring me in your great post. 🙂

    • Rikky D. T. Maas
      | Reply

      Awesome!! You are most welcome. I’m so glad you like it! 😀

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