We have all heard of the famous saying “treat people the way you would like to be treated” and in most cases this is a great way to live as a human. The hope is that we can treat others with the same kind of caring and attention that we expect from them. But it appears this rule of thumb doesn’t exactly apply to intimate relationships. Sometimes treating our partner the way we would like to be treated is not what they need, it doesn’t help them move through their struggle. It doesn’t make sense right? Shouldn’t we do what WE FEEL is good? Apparently not.
To help clarify the “apparently not”, Im going to go over an example that is very common in couple’s therapy. Let’s imagine that the couple in the example is going through a stressful time. Now each one will respond to the event internally and externally differently, and they both treat each other the way they want to be treated. The problem is people come in feeling angry, hurt, and misunderstood in these situations. Why?
She/he deals with stressful situations by withdrawing and needing space to find herself, recognize her emotions, and realize what she needs. She knows that when she is this stressed out she cannot think clearly and cannot ask for help. Her experience is if she doesn’t know what she feels and needs, how can anybody else?
Her partner however, seeks comfort by being with someone and figuring out how his/her feelings and needs in the presence of their loved one. They want to be asked questions and offered solutions.
So when he sees her stressed, he shows up, asks questions, offers hugs and maybe some solutions. In return she leaves him alone when she notices him stressed. He believes he is supporting her by being there and she believes she is understanding by giving him space.
The problem is when she gives him space, he feels unimportant and abandoned; and when he is always near her, she feels suffocated and pressured. You see how easily we misunderstand each other’s needs and experience dissatisfaction in our relationships.
Happy, successful intimate relationships are based on communicating our needs and understanding how each one of us feels cared for. Dale Carnegie believed that in order to get people’s attention, trust, and interest we need to think about their needs through their eyes. He stated that every man/woman wants to feel important and heard and by understanding what they desire and providing them with it, we can win their trust and interest in us.
Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages teach the same idea. We all have different love languages (the way we express our care to people we love) and understanding your partner’s language and speaking it, is what helps relationships prosper. If my love language is physical touch and my partner prefers gifts, his gift in times of stress wont help me and my touch may not soothe him.
Hopefully we can learn to converse, learn, and adapt to each other’s languages. The experience of being seen and understood can determine our happiness and satisfaction in a relationship.
Intimacy is being seen as the person you truly are. DO YOU KNOW WHO YOUR PARTNER TRULY IS?