If you are a single person, you most likely dream of finding the right soulmate, according to all the ideal attributes you have in mind, and according to the needs you require to be fulfilled. That is how all relationships start: from an individual, selfish perspective of finding the right person who conforms to a kind of stereotypic ideal we have built up over time. If we did not follow that selfish course, we would not find others appealing. By reflecting the mirror image we have in our heads, potential partners ease themselves through the door of our consciousness and take root.
However, once we meet someone, the whole situation shifts gradually to something else, if there is real success in the relationship. Being basically selfish, many people do not understand or appreciate that shift because it is difficult to suddenly change from being selfish to being a sharer. Once we are in a relationship, the important fact about it is that the relationship is not about us at all, or our needs. It gradually switches to the needs of the other person. Put simply, a relationship is about your partner and their needs, not you or yours. If they regard you in the same way - you and your needs being first to them - you have the most successful and endearing union to enjoy for a very long time.
Marian met someone she regarded as a 'wonderful guy' and tried to change her work schedules to arrange meetings with him, which she found rather difficult, in her senior position, but felt it was necessary to give them both a chance together. She was excited about the potential development between them and tried to be 'as flexible as possible', despite her busy demands. However, he wouldn't budge at all in his world to accommodate meeting times, unless they suited him entirely. The result was that it became frustrating trying to do anything together so she decided to give him a miss. If he had put her first, he could have arranged more dates with her schedule in mind. With her putting him first as well, there would not have been a need for him to change things too much because there would have been greater compromise between them. However, when one person is insistent on demands from another, merely to fulfil their own needs without thinking of the other party, it just won't work over time. The pressure of one person pleasing him/herself will rob the relationship of its reciprocity and enjoyment.
Switch Focus to Partners
Relationships fail because people tend to care only about what they want, from their very single and narrow perspective. That might be fine for the early stage but not when they are together. People often find it hard to register the needs of their partners in the rush to fulfil their own desires. It's all about me and me and me. However, if we stop to switch the focus for a moment, and accept that our companions are very important for the union to work, we'll start focusing on them and work more in partnership with their perspectives to ensure success. As they would also be trying to do the same thing on your behalf, understanding of each other's perspectives is bound to increase and be more accommodating, loving and compassionate.
For a start, there will be no competition between the couple because when we truly love, there is no desire to compete. There'll be no put downs, because we'll be looking out for their interests and being more supportive of their dreams. There are likely to be fewer unrealistic expectations because their feelings will be taken into account more often; also very little resentment because the couple will be working more closely together to achieve mutual aims, and there will be no looking out for No.1 as the focus will always be on No.2. There will be a greater desire to compromise because the happiness of our chosen partner will gradually become more important than our own, and there is no greater feeling of worth than to see our positive effect on others.
A year after I parted from the guy I called 'the love of my life', the one who always puts me first, he wanted to celebrate my birthday with me. He rang me a week before to ask if that was okay and to find out how I was doing. My small business had just collapsed after 14 years so I was not feeling too good and mentioned that to him. We had the most amazing 3 hour lunch and he gave me a card at the end and asked me not to open it until he had gone. I wondered at the sudden secrecy and gingerly prised it open when I saw him off. Inside was another small envelope with a note that said simply: "Happy Birthday, darling. If your business is not there anymore, you will need this," attached to £500 ($800) in cash. Words simply failed me at this unexpected generosity. Being very proud as I am, he knew I would have rejected any offers of help. No wonder I will never forget him.
Obviously, where you have only one party being selfless and putting the other first, the relationship won't work either because it needs reciprocity, give and take, to ensure its success. However, many relationships hit the rocks because each party is merely looking out for themselves and what they want, competing with their spouse to be right or to occupy the moral high ground. Of course, in a partnership built on sharing, selfishness has no place. It is a contradiction of the shared objective and becomes totally counterproductive. The key factor in the success of any relationship is definitely putting our partners first. They would be motivated to put us first too and we could be surprised at the difference.
Elaine Sihera (Ms CYPRAH)
Emotional Health Adviser
"Respect and love begin with the self. If we have none, how can we give away any?"