Recently, a friend shared the link to a video. It was the story of "Larissa and Ian", a young couple who had been dating for ten months when Ian had a terrible accident. He sustained a massive head injury that left him unable to speak, walk or look after himself in any way.
Larissa stuck around, moving in with Ian's parents and helping with his care and rehabilitation.
Gradually, he began to improve but there was a lot of permanent damage. Ian's speech is still extremely difficult and he is in a wheelchair, needing a lot of assistance on an ongoing basis.
In spite of this, they married. It is a beautiful story of the purest kind of love and devotion. You can see it all over their faces. Ian adores Larissa and it is very mutual. There is a sign on their porch that says "Paradise, Sweet Paradise" and when you look at them, you can see that this is truly how they feel about not just their home but their lives.
My friend who sent the link to me said he needs a woman like that. I agreed that everyone could use such a partner. He said that not everyone has so much love and care to give.
This is where he's wrong. I replied saying that everyone has that much love to give but that many people are so wrapped up in what they want, need or can get from their partners that they don't spend much time thinking about what they can give to someone else.
Think about the way people talk about the kind of relationship they want. Sadly, it is quite usual to hear, "I want a man/woman who will listen to me, who is kind, who is patient, who is rich, who will respect me, who helps around the house..." - whatever the details, it's all about being on the receiving end of some pretty great stuff.
You never hear people say (dreamily staring into space), "I want a man/woman who will let me listen to him/her for hours, and to whom I can be kind, someone I can treat with patience, someone I can dote on and spoil..."
In those early days, people are on their best behaviour, happy to lavish a new love with attention, pampering and affection.
But the novelty wears off and then they gripe about what their partners aren't doing for them.
Listen to how people gush in the early days of a relationship. "He buys me things!" "She does everything for me!" "He rubs my back!" "She won't let me lift a finger around the house!" - i.e. "It's all about what he/she does for me!"
Then listen when it's on the rocks and it's all about what their partners aren't doing for them. And worse, all the things they used to love to do for their partners have now become a chore or a problem. "She just uses me to buy things." "He wants me to do everything for him." "She's always nagging at me to rub her back." "He won't do a bloody thing around here." Again, "It's all about what he/she won't do for me!"
I've had countless people sit across from me, whether patients, clients or friends, telling me their relationships are in trouble. I can honestly say I have never heard someone begin the conversation with "I'm just not being the best wife/husband I can be. I'm not being very attentive. I've stopped telling her/him how special she/he is to me. I used to make sure I looked my best every time we saw each other but now I never make the effort."
Nope. Everyone sits down and says the relationship is in trouble and then tells me the many ways in which the other person is lacking. The conversations are always about what's missing between them or how thing have changed, and a litany of the other person's shortcomings, long before they might mention their own contributions (if they do it at all). It's all about "I'm fed up! I'm not happy!"
Basically, humans are designed to do what is necessary to get their needs met. It's how we survive. So it's natural for us to concentrate on what we can get from others or from life. But that's not how we become happy and fulfilled in relationships. Yes, it is true that we must learn a healthy kind of selfishness, the kind that is about making sure we take care of ourselves on all levels, that we nurture, honour and respect ourselves, and that we learn to have good boundaries so that we can be okay and still able to help and support others too.
But when it comes to true happiness and unconditional love, the best way to get the love you want is to give it wherever possible. Be loving in all things and to all people.
Simply put, be the love you want.
For more from this author, visit www.libertyforrest.com