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When I was little, I loved to watch the Simpsons. One of my favorite episodes focused on Marge’s birthday. Homer got her a present, but when she opened it, it was a bowling ball with the name ‘Homer’ etched into it. Homer bought a present for Marge, but he bought her something he wanted for himself.

I remember one time I was hanging out with a woman I liked, and she kept touching my face. I started to get annoyed. “Why does she keep touching my face?” I thought to myself. Then something clicked inside my head. She wants me to touch her face! She was doing something for me, but it was actually something she wanted for herself.

The Golden Rule says to do unto others what you would have them do unto you. This law of reciprocity is so ingrained in our human nature that we do it automatically. If we want something done for us, we often do the same thing to our partners, hoping they will do it back.

But people have different wants and needs, so sometimes it backfires. For example, women, how many times have you bought your partner flowers, hoping he will return the favor? But the wants and needs are different, so it might not connect.

How can we use the Golden Rule to our advantage in our relationships?

  1. Become a student of your partner. Take notes on the things your partner does for you. This can be a clue for how you can best love your partner. Does your partner lavish you with gifts? Gifts might be important to them. Does your partner leave you encouraging notes around the house? Encouragement might be a key way they receive love. Does your partner touch you or initiate sex a lot? Physical touch and/or sex might be important to them. Is your partner always doing the dishes? Acts of service might be a way they receive love. Does your partner prioritize spending time with you? Quality time is probably important to them. (Read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman for more insight into these differences.)
  2. Recognize and accept differences. People are different. You and your partner probably have different ways you like to receive love and affection. That’s okay. Don’t just stick to one way of giving and receiving love. There are more tools than just a hammer. Expand your repertoire, and work to understand the unique ways your partner likes to receive love.

Discussion: Do you find yourself doing things for your partner that you want them to do for you? What is one step you could take toward trying to understand how your partner best receives love and affection?

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