Do unto yourself as you would do unto others - when is it important to reverse 'the golden rule' in relationships?

Whether or not we come from a religious background, most of us think 'the golden rule' is an important principle to live by - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". We know the importance of treating others with respect, kindness and compassion - in intimate relationships, families, communities, workplaces and beyond.

But so many of us get caught into a version of 'the golden rule' where we forget to treat ourselves as well as we treat others. We may speak to our loved ones with respect, but then treat ourselves in a way we wouldn't dream of dealing with even our worst enemy! By doing this, we can then become vulnerable to allowing ourselves to be treated disrespectfully by others (even our partner or family), then mentally 'beat ourselves up' when we notice our negative feelings of anger, resentment etc.

Do you recognise yourself in any of the following examples?

  • Your partner tells you he's going to play sport all weekend. You are supportive, and tell him that that's OK. Inside you feel angry that he is going to have fun with his mates, and you will be left with all the household chores. You scold yourself, and give yourself a mental 'kick' for feeling angry.
  • Your partner is always criticizing something about you - your appearance, your way of doing the dishes, your choice of friends...... Deep down, you feel she is right about you, and that you are a loser. You become exhausted and depressed as the result of telling yourself this, which makes your partner even more critical.
  • Your partner tells you she has lost interest in you sexually. You try to dress more seductively, get more adventurous, make romantic gestures - nothing works. Your partner is still uninterested. You tell yourself it's all you deserve - after all, you have put on a bit of weight, and let's face it - you've never been the most attractive guy around. In fact, you wonder what your partner even saw in you in the first place.

If you get caught in any of these patterns - it's time to reverse the golden rule! Treating yourself as well as you treat others requires as much discipline and effort as the original version! It means paying careful attention to how you speak to yourself, how you treat yourself (e.g. what food and drink you put into your body), and how you allow others to treat you. A person practising the 'reverse golden rule' might respond to the above situations in the following ways (feel free to add your own variations here!):-

  • You  support your partner's choice to play sport, but tell him it's his turn to do all of the household chores next weekend, while you have a weekend away with your friends.
  • When your partner criticizes your appearance, you tell yourself "It's OK to be a little overweight, but I do need to keep an eye on it and make sure I take care of myself by getting to the gym a bit more often."  You thank your partner for her concern, but let her know you'd prefer she expressed her concerns in a less critical and more supportive way.
  • You let your partner know that you're interested in working together on improving your sex-life, but let her know that she's going to have to work on it too.

It's possible to treat others well without having to sacrifice your wellbeing in the process. And of course - a confident person who likes themselves and will not allow others to treat them badly is much more attractive, even sexually desirable, than one who allows themselves to be treated with disrespect.

Till next post - Vivienne

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