When Bonnie and I first started dating, one of the first conversations we had started off with Bonnie suggesting that we were both terrible at relationships. Not believing myself to be “terrible” at anything, I requested that she elaborate. She then explained “since we’re currently dating, that means neither of us have ever had a successful relationship that lasted.” With that, plus the fact that I was divorced, I conceded that we were both terrible at relationships.
From that starting point of humility, we have both done everything we could to remain understanding, forgiving, and flexible in all of our interactions with each other over the past 5+ years. Through this, we have come up with a number of “Relationship Rules”. Here are a few of the most useful:
Rule #1: Say “I heard”, not “You said”.
In any relationship, miscommunication is inevitable. Unfortunately, usually due to our own pride, this interaction regularly turns into “You said [x]” and “No, you said [y]”. Eventually, this back and forth disagreement turns into a heated exchange where blame must be assigned and accepted. At this point, what was a simple, unintentional, misunderstanding has turned into an argument where accusations are full of implied malicious intent.
Sound familiar? Yeah, it was familiar for us too.
So, rather than go through the same tired motions, Bonnie and I decided to approach this from our place of humility. And instead of starting with “You said [x]”, we start our miscommunications with “I heard [x]”, which immediately removes all accusations from the conversation and puts focus on the actual miscommunication. “Yes baby, I’m sure you did say that we were supposed to meet at 4pm, unfortunately I heard 5pm.” And with that, we both accept that miscommunications happen and we refrain from blaming each other over something that is literally a “he said / she said” case that can’t be proven anyway. Sure, somebody messed up, but we know it wasn’t intentional and this way we don’t make it into a bigger deal than in was.
Rule #2: I’ll do anything for you, except…
I love Bonnie and will do anything I can to make her happy. Knowing this, there is, however, one thing that she is not allowed to ask me to do: I absolutely refuse to try and “read her mind’. Sure, I should know that Friday is garbage day and that I need to take out the trash… But I forget sometimes. If you ask me to take out the trash, I promise I will gladly do it! But giving me “attitude” in an effort to make me remember or decipher what you are mad about is absolutely unacceptable. From that perspective, I tell Bonnie regularly (and she accepts):
“I will go to the ends of the earth for you and do anything I can to make you the happiest woman in the world, just don’t ask me to read your mind.”
It really is a great compromise!
Rule #3: You can have anything you want…
I gave up my corporate job years ago and with it went the high dollar salary and expense account. Even so, I still take the responsibility of providing for my wife and family’s financial needs (and wants) very seriously. To that extent, the money rule in our house is very simple:
“You can have ANYTHING you want, you just can’t EVERYTHING you want.”
$300.00 Jeans? No problem. Concert tickets? You bet! Oh, you want groceries too? Something has to give… So we agree to get everything we “need” and we pick and choose the things we “want”, and the rest we live without (and hardly even notice).
Not sure if these simple rules will work for you, but they have definitely made our relationship much more simple. If you have any great rules you think others might benefit from, drop a line in the comments…