"Help me understand what I'm doing wrong! I've done everything I can to show you that I love you... that I care. I do your laundry, I cook your food, I even put those cheesy little love notes in your lunch from time to time... the same you used to do for me! What more could I do or say to make you feel loved. I'm at a loss."
Spoken from the desperate voice of a wife at her wits end with a husband who has finally worked up the strength to talk about the lack of affection he's been feeling now for years.
It takes me back to this same dynamic in my own relationship. I can almost visualize the bridge between how I used to think I needed to show love to my husband, and to present day where I truly understand how he needs to receive it.
We don't get lessons on this stuff, people. So I'm here to give you a little insight as to why one of the most well known mantras of all time really doesn't have a place in your relationship or marriage.
The golden rule: "Treat others how you want to be treated."
Certainly, there is respectable truth at the core of this quote. The hope is that you feel highly enough about yourself as a human that you would treat others with the same dignity and respect that you yourself feel you deserve (I have many conflicting thoughts on this topic though, so expect another blog post soon). I do believe this thought process works great for kindergarteners from a moral standpoint, but when we become adults and decide to enter into a committed, long term relationship, the game changes a bit.
It is no longer about how WE want to be treated. We need to learn how our partner NEEDS to be treated.
I'm not saying to forget about your own needs and wants. But with a focus on your partner for a minute, consider all the ways they receive love. Often times, we do end up treating our partners "how we want to be treated," and feel shot down or surprised when they don't respond in delight to our gesture as we would if it were us on the receiving end. Everyone is different. Learn who your partner is.
One of the most popular relationship revelations has led couples to a fast and simple way to understand their own love language, and their partners. The Five Love Languages (book and quiz by Gary Chapman) helps couples identify exactly how they speak and understand love. You will fall into one (or a few) of these categories as your main love language. Here are a few examples of each:
Words of Affirmation:
"Wow, you look great today honey."
"I love you."
"You did an incredible job on this meal tonight!"
Acts of Service:
Helping out with household chores
Stopping by the store for the extra item without asking
Organizing your partner's messy desk as a surprise
Buying the necklace she has been eyeing for weeks
Coming home with flowers and chocolates (and not just anniversaries)
Buying tickets to your partner's favorite sports game (for the two of you, or for them and one of their best buds)
Making dinner together at home
Taking long walks together
Back rubs, massages
Hugging, holding hands
Footsie under the table when you're out with friends
I bet you can read through those right now (without even taking the quiz!) and identify which ways you tend to feel loved by your partner the most. We tend to have one or two top categories. But... drumroll... do you know how your partner would respond?
You may know exactly how your partner would respond and which category they would fall under. But, for the sake of your relationship growth, take the 10 minute quiz tonight and see where you actually land. Then, start to speak your partner's love language. Treat them how they want to be treated, and notice what happens.
Back to the woman at the beginning of my post who was struggling to figure out how she could possibly show more love to her partner. There was nothing WRONG with the gestures she was doing for her partner. But the discrepancy came when she realized that she really was treating her partner how SHE felt and received love.
When she learned that what her partner REALLY wanted to feel love (a deep foot massage while watching an action film), she was able to intentionally set aside time to give him that gift. Oh, and don't worry, he learned her language too.
Take the quiz and see where you and your partner land. Then, start practicing! Like learning a second language, it will take practice and persistence. But when done intentionally, I have a feeling you may be pleasantly surprised.