Take a minute to think about what you expect from a loving relationship with a partner. Does your list contain any of the following common expectations?

Healing past woundsMeeting all of your current emotional needsFulfilling fantasies and idealizations of how life should beMaking up for other less rewarding aspects of life / making your life “whole”

Any one of these expectations alone can be a very tall order! Not surprisingly, relationships often buckle under these kinds of pressures. So, what to do? Learn to take care of and give to the relationship; in other words, give instead of trying to get the love you want.

Take care of the relationship

v How is the relationship doing?

v How are we taking care of the relationship?

v What do we need to give to the relationship?

These might seem like strange questions to ask. However, if we view the relationship itself as a third entity, with the individuals being the other two entities, we have a much better shot and creating healthy, loving relationships.

Our culture is highly, often overly individualistic. We are taught that focusing on getting our individual needs and wants met is an acceptable or even a preferable way of maneuvering through life. But what if this is the very problem that keeps us unfulfilled and even destructive in our relationships?

What if I gardened vegetables by constantly picking fruit from the vines without ever watering, mulching, or keeping insects off the plants? We all know what will eventually happen to that garden. What if we did not nurture our children with food, love, guidance, patience, and only took from them their love, attention, admiration, etc.? We can clearly recognize that as neglectful or even abusive.

However, this is often what we do in our relationships with our partners. We focus on what we want from the relationship instead of actively nurturing and giving to it so that it can grow stronger and thrive.

Give the love you want

When I talk about the activity of giving versus getting in relationships, sometimes clients and friends retort with comments such as “I give so much already” or “I’m a caretaker, I put myself and my needs last and have to put my needs first! For a change!”

I am not talking about the kind of ‘giving’/ sacrificing that borders on martyrdom. Giving the love you want is not about putting your needs last. Your needs and wants are a critical component of the relationship. For example, you can change a statement like “I don’t want to do everything around here anymore!” to “Wow I think I am doing too much, how can we together reorganize this?”

When you find yourself thinking, ‘I’m not getting what I want from this relationship’, change your perspective and ask yourself ‘how can I give to the relationship?’ Let me know how this new approach impacts your life and relationships.