28 Dec Could The Golden Rule be causing your Relationship issues?
I’m sure you remember The Golden Rule: ‘Treat people the way you’d like to be treated’. A clear reminder most of us learned in childhood, that if you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others. How is it then, that this pillar of good behaviour could be destroying your relationship?
Here’s where it works
First, let me say that when it comes to most of the people you encounter during the course of the day, The Golden Rule of treating others with the kind of respect and consideration you appreciate, is a sound approach. For example:
- If you see someone with their arms filled with bags, it’s thoughtful of you to hold the door open for them
- If a co-worker suddenly finds out that there is a flood at their home and has to leave immediately, it’s considerate of you to cover some of their work
- If you know someone is taking an important phone call, it’s respectful to keep the noise levels down in that area
So, this is not difficult to understand. It’s the basic, common courtesy and consideration that you would appreciate someone doing for you.
Here’s where it breaks down
The Golden Rule is: Treat people the way you want to be treated. Therefore if, in your primary relationship, you’re treating your spouse/partner the way you want to be treated, you’re just having a relationship with yourself. It won’t work.
A primary relationship throws together two completely different systems of past history, childhood programming, defense mechanisms, unhealed wounds, current needs, differences in personalities, mental health issues, emotional hard-wiring, stresses etc. To think that what works for your universe of emotional needs, will be precisely what works for your partner’s universe of emotional needs, is not even within the realm of rational thought. And yet, this is what’s happening in most relationships.
Coffee in the gas tank
Consider this: You wake up in the morning, sleepy, groggy, eyes not quite open. You shuffle your way into the kitchen and put the coffee on. Once made, you pour yourself a cup and take that first sip…..Ahhh, that’s good. You take a few more sips, your head starts to clear and you’re awake now. With your coffee finished and your metabolism revved up, you shower, dress and off to work you go.
Now you’re in your car and you’re attempting to start it, but nothing happens. You try again, still nothing. All your best efforts are not working and your frustration is quickly rising. You glance at the gas gauge and see that there’s no gas in the tank.
Here’s my question for you: If coffee got your system awake and going in the morning, why would you not put coffee in the gas tank to get your car going? It worked for you, why not for your car?
The answer of course, is that your car is a completely different system. It needs something entirely different from you in order to function. No matter how superior the quality of coffee: that it came from the south side, of the highest peak, of the best coffee producing region during a once in a 100-year bumper crop, or how lovingly you hand selected each bean and ground them yourself, it’s not going to get your car running.
If, on the other hand, you get to have your coffee and you car gets gasoline, you have two very happy systems that function well together.
It’s really not that different with relationships. No matter how lovingly and considerately you treat your partner, if it’s not what their emotional system needs to be happy in the relationship, your best efforts just won’t work.
The catastrophic result of this is that your partner feels emotionally invisible and that his/her needs will never be met, and you feel that whatever you do, it’s never good enough. If this persists it can, and often does, end relationships.
On the other hand, when you are given what you need to be happy and you give your partner what he/she needs, you have two people, whose needs are met and function well together. This creates the foundation for a healthy and happy relationship.
The Golden Rule of Relationships
It just seems obvious now doesn’t it, that the Golden Rule of Relationships Is not ‘Treat your partner the way you want to be treated’.
The Golden Rule of Relationship is: Treat the other person the way they want to be treated
Where to go from here
Your first step, as always, is Self-awareness: First Self-awareness then relationship awareness. You need to know how you want to be treated before you can teach someone to treat you that way. This is 100% your responsibility and a HUGE step in emotional maturity.
It begins with both of you taking the time to figure out how you want to be treated, and then respectfully communicating this to each other
Step 1: Each of you, write down a list of 7 ways you want to feel/ be treated in the relationship. Keep it brief and positive.
Step 2: Under each of the 7 needs, list 2 bullet points of what your partner can do, that when he/she does it, that specific need of yours will have been met. Again, keep it brief and positive:
Here’s an example:
I want to be heard. You can do this by:
- Giving me your full attention and making eye contact with me when I speak
- Take an interest in what I’ve shared by asking insightful questions, commenting on it and referring to it at another time
Step 3: Take turns reading your entire list to the other. Be mindful to not go off on tangents and be sure to speak respectfully.
Step 4: When it’s your turn to listen to your partner’s list, actually LISTEN. It is not your place to question or debate their needs. Your partner has the right to their feelings. Listen.
Step 5: Exchange list with your partner. Do not try to do everything on the list right away. Take 1 need and focus on it for 1-3 weeks.
Step 6: At the end of each week, set up a time to check in with each other to see how you’re progressing. Fine tune the process as needed. If your partner isn’t exactly clear on how to meet your need, go into more detail. If you need more time practicing their need, stay with it until you’re ready to move on to the next one.
Keep in mind that it takes time, willingness and effort to change behaviour. Be patient with the slip-ups and use gentle reminders to get things back on track. Finally, always be generous in acknowledging the efforts taken.
Key takeaway: The Golden Rule of Relationship: Treat the other person the way they want to be treated. And please, stop putting coffee in the gas tank!
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Thank you for taking time to read this post! The right information at the right time is a most powerful catalyst for change. For Coaching, Workshops or an Inspiring Talk on this valuable topic, please contact me!
(c) Titans International Inc. Kristina Jansz 2019, 2020