Change the following little story around however you wish. Has the following kind of argument ever happened in your house?
“You never help with the dishes.”
“You know I’m too clumsy to do dishes without breaking them. Besides, I mow the lawn.”
“Aww, ‘Bo Hoo’, you mow the lawn. That’s only in the summer, and that’s only once a week!
I do the laundry, vacuum the house, get the groceries, do the bills . . .”
“I pull my weight around here. Who took your car to the garage–Huh? Who hung the ceiling fan? Who makes the most mon–”
“—you had it running back wards for three weeks before my father came and straightened it out!”
“Oh, bring your stupid father into thi–”
Blah, blah, blah————–
Regretfully, most of us have experienced this or something like it. This is a disaster about to happen in any relationship.
It is a relationship built on reward. Like it or not, this is the foundation all such relationships are built on: “I’ll love you if you give me what I want.”
What happens? Eventually, in any relationship like this, you won’t get what you want. All such relationships end up in one of two ways: Either they break up, or they live in separate compartments of existence in the same house–mostly linked together by the kids, common responsibilities, or just plain dogged commitment to keep it together. Neither condition is happy. Both partners in such a relationship are constantly wishing for something else. They abide the other partner, but that is the extent of it.
Such relationships find happiness in the kids, other friends, the house [and stuff], future goals, and the dreams of what will be [which will never be].
Did you hear about the guy who won the lottery and ran straight home. He got there and excitedly told his wife to pack her bags:
“Pack your bags, I’ve won the lottery!!”
“Should I pack for warm or cold weather,” she responded.
“I don’t care,” he retorted. “–As long as you’re out by tomorrow!”
That is funny, in a sick sort of way. But, the fact of the matter is that the underlying ‘funny’ part of it is that it is so descriptive of many relationships. And worse yet, that it at least touches our understanding of things in such a way that we understand where it is coming from; we are able to see it; And it becomes funny in that understanding. In other words: it’s funny because it’s a reality we have all seen, and many are experiencing or have experienced (not the lottery part, but the relationship). Since he has won the lottery, he doesn’t have to put up with this stupid, unhappy life he has been living.
Why would we all hold to the dream of a relationship out there somewhere that is completely fulfilling to us while so many of us live trapped lives–apparently having missed the dream?
It’s because we live in a reward oriented world.
We work for REWARD.
We get education for REWARD.
We obey for REWARD.
We play for REWARD.
Consequently, we are SO reward driven that:
We have friends for REWARD. And, we love for REWARD.
The honest truth of the matter is, we do it for what is in it for us.
Well, today, I’m going to tell you who to blame for our messed up, reward oriented way of living.
It’s the fault of the kindergarten teacher.
What did the kindergarten teacher do when you did anything the right way?
The teacher put a star on your chart!!
This was even reinforced with great ceremony. “Yaaay, everyone. Joey got a star on his chart!! He is only two stars behind Sara. Sara is so wonderful. Sara has more stars than anyone else. Yaaay for Sara!!”
Consequently, we all learned to live our lives for stars on our chart, and jewels on our crown.
You didn’t have a kindergarten teacher? It doesn’t matter. We were all treated like little dogs from the first day we began our training. Do the right thing, get a reward. Do the wrong thing, get punished or lose reward.
It becomes such a base component of how we interact with the world and others that we simply can’t bridge the gap into the selfless kind of living it takes to break open the relationship of our dreams.
You know that you have heard all your lives that good relationships are a 50/50 proposition. I call that a fair trade relationship. Believe me, a fair trade relationship might work with an employer, but, it will never work in a loving relationship. Any such relationship is headed for a YOU DO, I DO argument or set of rules.
How do you break out of a life time of selfish, reward based living? Understand this. If you don’t, then you are doomed to live in a very dismal relationship. And if you think you have a good relationship living in such a set of rules, you are missing out on life itself. You are to be pitied.
So, how DO you break out?
First of all, it won’t be easy. Nothing worth while ever seems to be easy.
You got where you are in life developing habits and living certain ways that rewarded you and by avoiding punishment. And it has been reinforced for all the years of your life. We are like monkeys that have learned to open one door for food, but not open one that shocks us. The way we are is deep-seated into our very fiber.
I’m going to tell you something that may break your heart. I don’t intend it to break your heart. I intend it to challenge you into the greatest journey you may have ever taken. It is this:
Dating services, counselors, parents, friends, common understanding, and all such helps in finding a mate will tell us to find a person with similar likes and dislikes. Don’t get me wrong in what I am about to say. I fully believe it is fun and makes for smoother living when we share likes and dislikes in relationships. But do you know why this is placed at such a high position in the things to look for in a mate? It is because most, yes MOST, relationships will never get past rewards based living. They can develop lasting, very meaningful, very fulfilling relationships, this it true. BUT, I am telling you right now that there is a place you can go. There is a place you can discover. There is a challenge that, when accepted, will take you into a relationship with your partner that is the greatest experience life can bring. Only spiritual things are this great, and this kind of relationship–this kind of love–actually becomes equal to such things.
Do NOT miss out on the greatest experience of love with your partner you could possibly ever have.
A fair trade relationship can be good. It can be wonderful. It can be fulfilling. It can last a life time. If this is all you want, fine. That’s not bad in the scope of things.
However, if you want to taste the sweetness of the sweetest fruit. If you want to bask in the refreshing intoxicant of true love, then you must accept the challenge to bridge the gap. You have to step into the world that isn’t rewards based where your lover is concerned.
It’s hard for all of us. But it is where we will finally thrive and revive from the dismal of all else when we finally taste it. And, the funny irony of it is that it has the greatest REWARD of all!!
It begins with placing the needs of our partner first. It is expressed in selfless acts of kindness, of self removal, and of pure desire for the best for our partner.
It is harder when only one gets the picture I’m painting here. It is difficult to step back when your partner is still operating in the world of selfishness and reward. But, trust me, they won’t be able to do it long. No, this kind of selflessness finds the same response in your partner.
It may take a while if you are in a harsher relationship. And, I WILL say, there are some relationships that have gone too far for repair–especially those with physical abuse. But, take the challenge. You will be surprised. You will be astounded.
What do you have to lose?
Well, only you can do this. Let me tell you that you CAN have the relationship of your dreams. You CAN live the life you always thought was out there, but couldn’t quite capture. You can experience the giddy, silly places of love that you thought were only in puppy love. And you can have it with the one you have.
Do it now.