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The platinum rule in marriage

Posted April 11

Question:

I have read your articles for years and have been doing everything I can to show my wife I love her. I help her more around the house and with the kids, yet I’m still not getting attention and love back. She is still not interested in intimacy and acts like being with me is the last thing on her list. No matter how much I explain what I need from her back, she seems unwilling to give it to me or care. What do I do if I have really tried to change but she isn’t?

Answer:

Here are my best tips for working on your marriage:

Get some clarity on whether this marriage is still your perfect classroom (and there are lessons you are still supposed to learn here) or if your perfect classroom is to get strong enough to leave it.

You must know this, so you will be committed to making it work, if your gut says to stay. You are also the only person entitled to know what your perfect path is. You may need to do some soul-searching and find your truth around this. I am going to assume the answer for you is to stay and keep trying to fix it. There will probably be comments on this article, though, telling you to leave. Ignore them because they aren’t entitled to know what’s right for you. Only you are.

Remember life is a classroom, and every experience (without exception) is here to teach you something.

All of us tend to marry the person who will be our greatest teacher. We marry someone who will push our buttons and trigger our core fears better than anyone else, so our fears and worst behavior come to the surface, where we can work on them. Ask yourself what behavior you exhibit at your worst. Does it usually happen at home? What do you think you are supposed to learn about eliminating your worst behavior?

If you get needy and complain when you don’t get treated the way you expect, that is your lesson to be better, as much as it is your wife’s. She should learn to be more loving toward you, but you may need to learn how to get away from your selfish focus on your needs and figure out how to love a human being that disappoints you. Anyone you marry will disappoint you to some degree. We are all flawed, selfish, scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, with the exact same value. Focus your attention on the ways your marriage could make you better.

Avoid (at all costs) coming from a high-horse position as the good person, casting your spouse as the bad one.

There are no good people or bad people here, and no one is solely responsible for the problems in your marriage. You both have growth to do. Check yourself often to make sure your ego isn’t in blame mode. If you show up as the good one and cast her as the problem, she will feel this, and everything you say and do will make her resent you and pull away even more.

Are you giving with strings attached?

Are you helping around the house and with the kids, only because you expect her to give you intimacy later that night? If you are, you are helping her with a selfish agenda that is all about you, and she knows this. Therefore, your gifts of service are really about getting what you want, not serving her. In order for your service to make her love you more and want to give to you, the gifts of service must truly be about her with no expectations attached.

You can’t fake this, by the way. You must truly be unselfish and focused on serving her. Down the road, if you consistently show up with real love, and it doesn’t ever turn her around so she gives back to you, you can decide if this marriage is not working for you. For now, give for her, not for you.

Figure out your core fear and core value system.

Check out the chart on our website to identify your core value system. Do you value time with people, tasks and getting things done, physical things, or ideas and opinions most? If you are a people-focused person, you value intimacy and quality time most. If you are a task-focused person, you value getting things done around the house most. It’s important you understand your currency and love language, so you know what love looks like to you.

Even more important, you need to understand your core fear. Do you have fear of loss and like to be the one in control, or often feel mistreated or taken from? Or do you have fear of failure and often feel unappreciated or unwanted? Whichever you tend toward becomes the core of almost every fight you have with your spouse. We do Marriage Mastery retreats where we help you see how you are showing up and causing conflicts in your relationship and how to really show up with more love for your spouse. This helps both spouses to see how to be your best in the marriage.

Once you know your fears and values, the question is, are you living the golden rule or the platinum rule?

The platinum rule says to love your neighbors the way they want to be loved. You must figure out her currency (core values), so you know how she wants to be loved first. You may think your wife wants acts of service, so you are helping around the house, while her real values may be more about validating her ideas and beliefs about how things should be done correctly. She may not appreciate the service because you aren't doing it the way she believes is right. Spend the time or get some professional help to understand your spouse and what she values at the core level.

Understand her core fear and become the cure to it.

Does your wife fear failure? Is she afraid she isn’t good enough, or does she fear loss and needs control to feel safe? This core fear is the primary driver of her behavior. Most of the choices she makes about where she spends time and energy are made based on what would quiet her core fear best in this moment. Once you get this, you can (and should) be the cure to her core fear. If she is afraid she isn’t good enough, and she is trying to cure this fear by being the perfect mom and housekeeper, then you should not only help around the house but, more importantly, you should tell her constantly she is an amazing mom, wife, woman and housekeeper. Tell her you love her dedication to being a great mom. This will contrast with what you might have been doing, which is complaining she doesn’t give enough time and attention to you — which increases her fear of failure.

I cannot tell you how powerful it is when you become the cure to your spouse’s core fear. This is the way to make her feel loved and safe, which makes her genuinely want to spend more time with and on you. People adore and appreciate anyone who makes them feel safe, valuable and amazing.

There are some people who won’t respond to even the best treatment, and you may find down the road your spouse is one of them. However, usually a greater understanding of how she thinks, what she fears and what she values could change the dynamic of your relationship. Don’t give up, and download the Understanding your Marriage Worksheet on my website to help you see your marriage and the fear dynamics more accurately.

You can do this.

Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.

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