The UnGolden Rule in Relationships

Most of us are familiar with the Golden Rule – treat others the way you want to be treated.  And I would agree this is a great philosophy when interacting with most people.  However, I have found in my work with couples that this rule usually leads to frustration in romantic relationships.  Why, you might ask?  Doesn’t it make sense to treat your partner the way you want to be treated?  Yes, this makes sense but in committed relationships it is actually counterintuitive.


I have had many couples tell me that they are doing all of these nice things for their partner but their partner does not appreciate it.  That it is not helping their relationship.  Upon exploration, what we discover is that each person has their own belief about what they need to feel loved by their spouse and often times they are not the same!  No wonder there is friction!  That is the AHA moment.  Now what?  Now we apply the UnGolden Rule – treat your spouse the way they want to be treated.


After recognizing you and your partner may have  different ways of expressing love, you need to understand what your partner needs to feel loved and then give that to them.  Gary Chapman found a wonderful way to explain this concept through his book called “The Five Love Languages.”  In it he explains the evolution of relationships from their magical beginnings to their deepening connections.  He categorizes “love languages” into five categories: Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Physical Touch and Acts of Service.  And, he includes questionnaires to help you determine what your love language is.  I have found this to be a simple yet effective way to diffuse the frustration of misunderstanding one another’s needs.


The outcome of all relationships is for both parties to feel supported, heard and loved.  If we take the time to learn our significant other’s love language, it will make it that much easier for us to give them what makes them feel loved.  And when we feel loved, it is much easier for us to want to give that love in return.  This can avoid much frustration and misunderstanding and lead to deeper, more fulfilling relationships!


To learn more about communicating with your partner, click on Basic Communication.