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If you are married and like most people, you married someone different from yourself. Perhaps you have heard the old expression, "Opposites attract." That is very true. Unfortunately, opposites also attack! Why is that? In ancient Greek mythology, it was thought that the gods feared humans were too strong so they tore us in half at birth. Then, whether born male or female, we spent the rest of our life looking for our "other half" in order to be complete. Apparently, even hundreds of years ago people were marrying their opposite. The reason we are attracted to someone different than us is that we are subconsciously looking for someone who is strong in the very areas in which we are weak. I have discussed this phenomenon with several psychiatrists and it seems to be a universal principle. The problem is, after we find someone to be our other half, we begin trying to make them more like us. And, that just doesn't work! I believe we really need to change the way we look at love.
Most country music is about how love has gone wrong. Hollywood marriages don't last very long and end up on the front page of the tabloids. In fact, almost everyone has experienced a spoiled relationship at one time in their life. It does not have to be that way! I may be the eternal optimist and a foolish romantic, but I really believe that it is possible to be in love and to enjoy a relationship with another person.
From a young age I heard that in order to be happily married, you need only to find the right person. Having lived many years, I have come to the conclusion that is entirely false. I believe that marriage is not about finding the right person, but rather about becoming the right person. When you focus on your own behaviours and the way you treat the person you love, it will not be long before things begin to change. None of us have the power or ability to change another human being. We cannot make someone do what we want them to do. But, we can make ourselves do what we need to do in order to become the kind of person who is worthy of being in a good, healthy relationship. Perhaps a humorous story will help.
Did you hear about the man who was sick of his wife and wanted a divorce? He went to see an attorney in order to get some advice. The attorney asked the man if he really wanted to hurt his wife badly in the divorce. The man replied, "Absolutely!" The attorney said, "Then here is what you should do. For the next thirty days I want you to go out of your way to be nice to her. Send her flowers, call her every day, take her to her favourite restaurants, take her to movies that she likes, and go shopping with her. Do everything in your power to show her how much you love and care about her and want to meet her needs. Then, after thirty days, when she is madly in love with you, that is when we will file the divorce action. It will totally catch her off guard and will hurt her deeply."
Well, when the man heard this, he was delighted. He thought that was great advice. So, without any hesitation, he went into action. For the next thirty days he poured his time, effort, attention, money, resources, and everything else into his relationship with his wife. They went to movies, plays, concerts, out to eat, took trips together - it was incredible! He showered her with kindness, love, gentleness, and words of encouragement daily. At the end of thirty days, the attorney called and asked if he was ready to file the divorce action against his wife. The man replied, "Are you kidding? Why would I want to divorce this woman? She is the woman of my dreams! I am so in love with her I can hardly wait to see her every day. Why would I ever want to divorce someone as wonderful as this?!"
Although that is a humorous story, it does press the point I am trying to make. You see, when the man changed the way he was behaving towards his wife, everything changed. He no longer focused on what she was doing wrong; rather, he focused on what he could do right. In other words, when he became the right kind of person, the situation began to change. He also learned the truth found in the principle, "Where your treasure is - there will your heart be also." I honestly believe that is the key to a happy marriage and a happy relationship. It is not trying to control another person or force them to do what you want them to do; it is simply making yourself do what you should do in order to demonstrate love to the other person.
I once heard a definition of love and I certainly agree with it: Love is giving of yourself to another person in order to meet their basic needs without having any expectations in return. When you give of your time, effort and attention to another person in order to meet their basic needs, then real love will begin to happen. The key is in understanding their personality style and understanding the things that make them happy, expecting nothing in return. It is the same principle of "give and it will be given unto you." Notice you must give first before anything comes in return. And sometimes that takes time.
Love is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted concepts in our culture. If you watch television and movies, love is always equated with a physical relationship. Yet, I believe much more is included in a romantic relationship than just the physical aspect. I have seen a mate sit by the side of a loved one in the hospital, holding their hand, rubbing their back, or putting a cold washcloth on their face in order to help them feel better. Although that is not everything that love is about, I certainly think it is a good picture of real, true love because they are meeting another person's basic needs and not expecting them to do anything for them in return. That is genuine love at its best!
Okay, enough of my rambling on the topic of love! If you get one concept or idea from this Tip that will help you be a better person, more worthy of being in a healthy relationship, then this Tip will have done its job. Focus on what you can do to make things better without any hidden agenda toward the other person and watch what happens! There's a lot in life I do not know, but there are a few things that I do know, and this is one of them! I hope you will take this concept to heart.
Robert A. Rohm Ph.D.
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