PQ 3.6 — Am I offering others the same consideration I expect from them?
Offering the Same Consideration, Not Doing the Same Exact Thing
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Matthew 7:12)
It’s the Golden Rule. Psychologists call it social reciprocity — the principle that if one person gives, we should pay them back in kind.
And it always sounds so nice when we’re taking it simplistically. If you want to be treated well, be good to others.
However, the trouble comes when we’re defining what “good” treatment entails. What one person wants, another person might think is terrible. People have different wants and needs. Different ways of feeling included, valued, and loved. It’s the whole premise of the wildly popular love languages framework.
Let’s say Skyspook wants me to unload the dishwasher. And I want him to tell me I look pretty. If I stand there spewing streams of compliments at him while he furiously scrubs the counter with a hopeful look in his eye? It’s no good for anyone.
That’s part of why I like that Veaux and Rickert made sure to state that it was ultimately about being considerate and not about doing to another person what you’d like them to do to you. Because maybe they want different things than you do.
What’s important is considering those wants and needs that your partner has and doing all that you can, within reason, to gratify the important ones.
What If Consideration Levels Are Unequal?
Let’s say you and a partner are not offering each other the same consideration. What do you do then?
If you’re the one coming up short, it’s a much simpler matter. Be more considerate. Do better.
But if it’s the other person? Well, that’s a trickier matter
Because while you can absolutely control your own actions (hopefully, anyway), the actions of others are ultimately outside of your control.
Asking For What You Want
- Let the other person know that you’re dissatisfied with the situation. If you can, come up with possible solutions, ways that they can help you. Be kind but firm. As specific as possible.
- Be open to their insight and input as well.
- Give them a chance to implement any changes you’ve requested and that you’ve mutually agreed on.
- If any progress is made, reinforce the positive steps they’ve taken, even if it isn’t everything you want. And if more needs to be done, repeat the process.
I’ve never been in a relationship where we didn’t need to go through this process every once in a while. However, if it’s constant, it can be a sign that there are fundamental problems with the relationship, things that might need counseling help, or in some cases can signal incompatibility.
Considering Being Less Considerate, Temporarily
And there is another potential solution if your partner isn’t offering enough consideration: Offering them less consideration of your own.
This can sometimes work, provided you are more taking a step back and detaching, offering less active support. And not being actively inconsiderate. Sometimes people do grow accustomed to a high level of support and don’t realize that they aren’t contributing much in return. Not even out of any malicious intent but by going on auto-pilot. Time and habituation have a way sometimes of making us take things for granted that we really shouldn’t. And it’s not a personality flaw — it’s a feature of how humans and nervous systems work.
In some (and I stress some) of these cases, the best fix is to be less actively considerate. And see if your partner comes in to fill the gap.
In my own life, since I’m more of a caregiver hinge type, I find that I need to do this periodically when I’m dating people. I used to get really frustrated, but as time has gone on, I’ve realized it’s more that I am so invested on working on a relationship that sometimes I don’t leave other people anything to do. And then I’m upset that they’re not pulling their weight.
I find sometimes all I have to do is to stop doing so much. And they will come in and pick up their share.
But even I never start here. Asking for what you want? It’s truly the best first-line intervention.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.