Last week I listened to a clip of Dan Savage, syndicated columnist of an article titled “Savage Love.” He was talking about how to make it work when you’re in a long term relationship. One of the things he suggested was to notice the best version of your partner. He said that long term relationships survive when each partner insists on noticing the best version of their partner, even when their partner isn’t displaying that particular version of themselves. It’s excellent advice, and it got me thinking.
One of the three major dynamics which destroy the satisfaction of long term relationships is that we have unrealistic expectations. In fact, I just finished writing a book about this~ click here to learn more. These unrealistic expectations pop up not only in relationships, but in many areas of life. They keep us from being happy with what we have because we think everything should always be perfect. But perfection isn’t really part of the human experience, much as we might like it to be.
When you insist on noticing the best in your partner when he’s not displaying it, you might feel like your settling. But long term relationships are like house hunting: it's about picking and choosing what to notice by focusing on what’s most important to you. They say that when you’re looking for a new home, if you can find 85% of what you’re looking for then you’re fortunate indeed. The same is true about relationships.
In both house hunting and relationships, it’s not about settling, it’s about choosing your focus. What you consistently focus your attention and energy on grows. If you concentrate on focusing your attention and energy on what’s good in your life, your job, your new home, or your relationship, you will grow those things. But if you focus on the things that annoy you about your partner, those things will grow. You could spend a lot of energy yelling at your partner for not putting the cap back on the toothpaste, or you could simply do it yourself. After all, you chose him because he had a lot of positive qualities. If you think hard enough, I'm sure you can remember some of them.
A certain grace occurs when you decide to focus on what’s good in your partner. When you consciously choose to see the best in your partner, your expectations pull that behavior out of him (or her) and actually make him a better person. It’s kind of like planting seeds and then nourishing them with food, water, and attention. Food and water alone will make them grow, but somehow, paying positive attention to them makes them thrive.
Try this experiment: for one week, do your best to ignore the annoying little traits your partner has. I know it’s not easy; we all want our partner to be perfect, but he’s just as human as you are. Focus your attention on the things you love about him. Compliment him on those things, and ignore the things that ignore you. At the end of the week, notice how you feel about him. I’ll bet you feel more loving toward him. Click here and let me know what happens.
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