There seems to be a double standard at the heart of most intimate relationships, and that is that we tend to consistently expect the best for ourselves while not nearly as often expecting the best out of ourselves.
We want our partner to get things right—to do things right, to do things to our liking, to love us, make us feel safe and secure and wanted, to treat us exceptionally and wonderfully—and to do so consistently and constantly (or near-constantly).
Yet we don’t expect the same of ourselves.
We don’t expect the same of ourselves in terms of how we treat our partner.
When we keep score in a relationship, we tend to focus on the ways in which the other person has disappointed us, let us down, not met our needs, not given enough of his or her blood, sweat, tears, heart, soul, being to us, but we seem oblivious to the myriad of ways in which we are probably failing at being the best or near-best partner to our beloved.
Our beloved is near-always expected to do his or her best, be at their best, be on the top of their game, be a god or goddess in the relationship (and I don’t think this is hyperbole). But we don’t expect or demand the same from ourselves. We give ourselves much more leeway. We cut ourselves much, much more slack.
We tend to have little patience for the other person’s excuses or rationalizations, but we seem to have plenty of patience for our own excuses and rationalization.
And doing so, doing that is not love. In fact, that level of double standard or bias or hypocrisy is the opposite of love. It’s anti-love. And it’s a relationship killer.
When we make the shift from focusing so much on what we’re getting in a relationship and start focusing instead on the quality of our giving—how loving we are being, how much we are trying to be the right person for the relationship and for our partner, how often we are doing our best (instead of focusing so much on our “partner” and whether he or she is doing their best), it changes EVERYTHING.
Guarantee: If our partner is giving C+ effort to the relationship and we’re doing our best or near-best (A to A- effort; even a really strong B+, —even that can be worked with), then that relationship will likely be a very happy and loving one.
But if we’re convinced that our partner is just mailing it in (giving C+ effort), and we’re so focused on what we’re not getting that we don’t realize what we’re not giving and how poor the quality of our giving is (our level of giving is around a C or C+), then we are seriously hurting that relationship and saddling it with a burden that isn’t going to help improve things one iota.
So how would you grade your effort level in your current relationship (or most recent relationship, if you’re not currently in one)? How often were you doing your absolute best or your near-best? And how often were you mailing it in, being lazy, complaining, not being the change you wished to see in the relationship, being resentful, cold, withdrawing, not talking, et cetera?
The essence of “being the change you wish to see in the world” (Gandhi) is getting our effort level up consistently to the high B’s or even the A range in life and in our relationships. Once we’re consistently playing life at that level, then we can have a go at focusing on the quality of our partner’s giving, because at that point we will have removed most of the rather sizeable plank in our own eye and we will be seeing things relatively clearly enough to start helping remove the speck in our beloved partner’s eye (Matthew 7: 1-6) because we will be seeing the other person more objectively and fairly and not through the distorted lens of our own unhappiness and what we’re convinced we’re not getting and what we’re entitled to.
“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something: they’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” – Anthony Robbins