A Deeper Look at Relationships
In my talk with Julie this morning the subject of respect and just plain good manners, or lack of them, came up. I’ve had the same talk in the last four days with three other people, all of whom are either married or living together in committed relationships. Wow!
Julie and George have been married for 52 years. It isn’t that George doesn’t love his wife. He loves her by “doing for her:” by buying her expensive gifts, by taking care of all the family business decisions that Julie isn’t interested in, by encouraging her to visit her family back in New Hampshire whenever she likes. That kind of thing.
But, when he talks with her, he’s abrupt, his tone of voice is cold, and when he’s irritated with her he starts yelling right away. He does it to “back her off” and back her off it does. (She’s afraid of confrontation.)
It’s not surprising that her youngest son, David, who is 45, speaks to her in the same way. After all, he’s his father’s son. But, there are a few more inconsiderate behaviors that he does as well.
- If Julie asks for game schedules for his children, her grandchildren, he impatiently says he’ll get back to her. He never does.
- When Julie invites his family (there are four of them) for Christmas Day dinner every year, he doesn’t let her know until Christmas morning (dinner’s at three o’clock). In other words, she can’t count on him to reply within an appropriate time, if at all.
- There is never a “thank you” for the substantial money gifts Julie and George give Troy and his family every year.
Jann and Greg have been living together for the last three years. They’re both 49 years old; neither has ever been married and neither has any children. They love each other and are trying to make their living together work so that they can feel good about getting married.
In talking with Jann I was struck by her sad tone of voice. She said she’d told Greg that she felt she was the only person in their couple who was “doing the loving.” When I asked her what she meant, she gave me some examples of Greg’s behavior.
- When she and Greg go out to a bar for a few drinks, he orders for himself but not for her. She’s on her own.
- When they go into a group of people where Greg knows others there but she doesn’t, he doesn’t introduce her. She’s on her own and feels foolish about it.
- Greg’s perpetually late leaving the condo for anything, especially when they’re meeting other people socially. Since she’s a stickler for being on time, she’s always embarrassed when they arrive late.
- When they’re watching TV together, Greg will get up, go to the kitchen and get himself something to eat or drink but never ask her if she’d like something. She’s on her own – again.
Lisa and Joe are in their early 40’s and have two children, 10 and 5 years old. Joe is a financial manager at a large corporation, so they have about four or five dressy or formal company events every year. Lisa’s complaints:
- Once there, Joe disappears. He’s off talking to other people he works with and expects her to be content completely on her own even though she doesn’t know a lot of these people.
- When they’re having dinner at these functions, he talks to everyone at the table but her. He’ll actually lean over her and her dinner plate to make conversation with the person on the other side of her. Again, she’s not included.
- From the time they leave their car, Joe walks ahead of Lisa. She never really catches up and so she ends up walking into wherever alone.
What’s Wrong in These Relationships?
Maybe the men ( by the way, women also behave in the same negative ways) in these three examples didn’t get good training in their “growing up” homes when they were young. Or, maybe they were taught good manners and respectful behavior but just don’t behave that way now.
But, either way, their thoughtless and inconsiderate behavior with their partners is hurtful. And, over time, that behavior will cause resentment to grow, if it hasn’t already. Any level of resentment is unhealthy but over time, painful feelings like embarrassment, humiliation, and, yes, resentment, build up and build up; they threaten the very foundation of any relationship.
Since respect is the most important ingredient in any successful relationship, our behaviors with each other have to be considerate and thoughtful. Respect demands that we see other’s needs, wishes, feelings and choices as valuable and worthwhile.
Okay, so what would your behavior look like in the above situations?
- Think about your tone of voice and choice of words before you speak.
- Not promise someone something and then not deliver it. Remember, Julie’s son, David, never did send his mom his kid’s game schedules, even though he said he would. Since she didn’t have the schedules, (time and place), she couldn’t go. Not going affects her relationships with her grandchildren – it makes her sad. And telling anyone who’s having a holiday sit-down dinner at the last minute that four more people are coming is just downright rude.
- Connect with your spouse or committed partner, ask what she/he would like to eat or drink. Ignoring is never okay.
- Introduce your partner, acknowledge her/him and include her/him in any talking you do.
- Not be late, especially when it’s a group activity. Being consistently late is an arrogant behavior; it says you’re the most important person in the group.
- And, I could go on but you get the idea.
Please remember: if you want to get love, you must give love back. Not with material gifts but with emotional connection that you show through considerate, thoughtful, loving actions.
Please leave any questions or comments about this article in the comments section below. I’ll be writing more on this subject in the upcoming weeks. Thank you so much for reading. Please share if you feel these are helpful ideas.
Warmest wishes until next time,