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Ignore the golden rule

The golden rule does not work in relationships

It didn’t work for us and I was confused!

For years I’d believed that quote, often referred to at home when I was young as ‘The Golden Rule’, that the way to happiness and fulfilment was to ‘do unto others as you’d want them to do to you’.

Well it certainly wasn’t the answer in our relationship. I’d worked hard to put this into practice and it definitely wasn’t delivering. In fact, quite the opposite.

Our differences are powerfully illustrated not only by our personality traits but also by our Love Languages – following this link, you will find a short online quiz to discover which two of five Love Languages are most important to you. I need ‘quality time’ and ‘doing stuff for me’ (they call it ‘acts of service’) while for my partner Alan, is ‘physical touch’ and ‘hearing positive things’ (‘words of affirmation’). So, for years, I’d push for the quality time together which is so important to me and work hard on ‘doing stuff’ for him and in return I’d get lots of physical touch and positive words – when I craved something very different. We were both using The Golden Rule and failing miserably.

Then, the realisation dawned that it should really be ‘do unto others as they want’. What a difference that’s made! When I focus on demonstrating his top two love languages – and vice versa – its much more likely we’ll both feel appreciated.

Let’s face it, if I want to be treated in a certain way, why would my partner necessarily want the same? He’s very different to me. In fact, we’re polar opposites. Why on earth did I think that he’d want the same?

If you’re a regular reader of our blogs you’ll know we’re big on understanding our own and each other’s personality element. So, bearing in mind Alan’s personality type – ‘double earth’, I considered the words and actions that mean most to that detailed, quiet, introverted type. And of course, I realised something that I already knew on one level but wasn’t putting into practice – our communication styles, emotional needs and even the way we expressed anger were different.

So, I began to make some subtle changes. I made sure I used ‘earth’ words when we talked. I tend to think as I speak and while for me as a ‘wind’ type, words like change, fast, risk, variety, flexibility, excitement are all part of my daily vocabulary they are rarely uttered by Alan. Instead proven, reliable, solid, predictable and secure are more his words.

This didn’t mean I suddenly pandered to his every need or changed my life to fit in with what he wanted – it just meant I became more sensitive to the way he needed to be communicated with – and of course, this improved life for both of us. It also meant that if I was trying to convince him of something like a fun weekend away, I had more chance of him thinking it was a great idea if I used ‘earth’ words about it rather than ‘windy’ ones.

I became more sensitive to his emotional needs which were poles apart from mine. The list below shows some of the emotional needs of each of the different personalities.

As an ‘earth’, my partner needs: space, silence, support when down, and understanding. Space? Silence? They’re not even on my radar! I need people and action – constantly.

As a ‘wind’, my emotional needs are more like – attention, approval, acceptance and affection.

As for the other two elements: ‘fire’ personalities tend to want accomplishment, a sense of control, support, loyalty and credit for their work. Waters will want feelings of worth, peace and quiet, respect for self, and time for plenty of rest and sleep.

Of course, these are generalisations, so why not take some time together and discover what you both really want in terms of your emotional needs. Then take the online Love Languages quiz to find out what you and your partner really need from each other and discover whether a few changes in the way you show appreciation and affection could make a huge difference to your relationship.


Ruth Adams

Ruth has worked as a trainer and a communications coach for 20 years and loves to inspire people – from a boardroom to a classroom – to find freedom and ‘unlock possibilities’.
She is an associate of Family Futures, an area coordinator for Adoption UK and a director of Achkiy, a charity working with women in the shantytowns in Peru.
Ruth is married to Alan, has 3 birth children in NY, Berlin and Barcelona, 2 forever daughters and 6 grandchildren.

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