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Make each other happy without keeping score

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Make each other happy without keeping score

Yes, I watch Oprah: I saw on Oprah the other day (hear me out) that "if your partner REALLY loves you, they want you to do what makes you happy."

It makes perfect sense, but I'm not sure how to apply it or why it's not happening organically in my relationship. For example, what if my husband wants to go out with his buddies, and I want him to stay home with me — we can't both give each other what we want. Is it just, whoever loves the other one more gives in?

Carolyn: Oh dear, no — that's scorekeeping, which corrodes relationships. Sentences that start with "If you loved me, you'd ... " are emotional threats.

The best way to address conflicting needs is to put them in context. If you've been sick or busy and you've looked forward to this night at home with your husband, then he tells his buddies he'll see them another night. Or, if your husband is due some he-time or if his buddies don't gather often, then you suck it up and hope he has a great time.

When you both have a legitimate claim to an evening, think in terms of the possession arrow in basketball: It points to the one who didn't get the ball last time.

Unfortunately, if even one of you doesn't treat the other's needs as equal to your own, then this method can also devolve into scorekeeping.

What really makes the difference is genuinely valuing your spouse's happiness — that's when both feel as bad saying no to the other as they do hearing it.

You can't make someone feel this way, because it's not about fairness or right or wrong. It's about looking out for the person who looks out for you.

(All this verbiage when I just needed to plagiarize an Isotoner ad.)

Girlfriend shows different, more 'fun, crazy' self to her friends

Va.: I don't like the person my girlfriend is when she's around her friends. Her personality changes — it's like she's playing the role of the "fun crazy girl" at the party and I'm sure lots of guys interpret her behavior as flirting, whether or not she means it that way (she says she doesn't). She says I'm trying to change her, but really I'm trying to get her to be HERSELF instead of this alter ego. How can I get her to stop putting on a show for her friends? And if she doesn't stop, should I stay with her?

Carolyn: Isn't it possible you're the one who's getting the show?

That's a rhetorical-questiony way of saying that you need to stop trying to "get" her to be anyone. She is who she is.

And who is she but the sum of her behaviors? Unless "fun crazy girl" is fading or evolving over time, you need to regard her as part of the whole and decide your next move accordingly.

By the way — if this is really about your feeling possessive when she's flirtatious, then it's even more important that you see "fun girl" as essential to who she is, because it means one of two things: She's either charming and open by nature, or doing something inappropriate. Neither one is a persuade-it-or-wait-it-out quality; they're both straight-up love it or leave.

Make each other happy without keeping score 05/11/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 4:30am]
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