We are all selfish by nature…
That’s right, we are all naturally concerned about ourselves first and foremost.
And despite what you may be thinking, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
We actually need to be concerned about ourselves first so we can survive — so we can make enough money to put food on the table, so if we physically injure ourselves we can quickly focus on the injury and seek out help, so if we are thirsty we find something to drink, etc.
As you can see, THAT selfishness helps us survive.
BUT, that selfishness ALSO gets us into big trouble.
If we are always thinking about ourselves and our own needs, that means we are NOT thinking about other people and their needs.
When you are by yourself, that might be ok.
But when you are in a relationship, that, not surprisingly, is a recipe for disaster.
Please read on as we explain why this is important to your relationship, as we tell you a story about a real couple who was having a very serious problem communicating and connecting emotionally who was finally able to find some help from one of the marriage counselors we consulted with…
Joseph and Tanya are a couple who came to Dr. Heitler. Tanya complained about a lack of intimacy, and Joseph complained about being nagged.
The two of them worked together – they were painting contractors – so Joseph had a hard time understanding Tanya’s concern.
“We talk all day long!”
But Tanya didn’t want to spend more time discussing color swatches and patching drywall. She wanted to begin each day “feeling connected” to Joseph before they began their busy days. She resented Joseph’s habit of jumping out of bed the second the alarm rang to check phone messages and email.
What to do?
Dr. Heitler helped the couple arrive at a ten minute solution. For ten minutes each morning, Joseph and Laura would lie in bed together, perhaps looking out the window and watching a leaf blow across the lawn or listening to a distant train whistle. Maybe Joseph would talk idly about his memories of childhood autumns while Tanya recalled how she used to time her departure to school based on the local train schedule. It was ten uninterrupted minutes, just for the two of them, at the start of each day.
What did Joseph get out of this?
A happy, supportive workmate for the next twelve hours, rather than a sullen, silent spouse.
What did Laura gain?
An emotional connection, and the sense that she was more important than anything else in Joseph’s life.
She stopped nagging or withdrawing into depression, and Joseph stopped getting angry because “you demand too much of me.”
In order for this to keep working, both spouses had to agree to the rules: no interruptions and no more than ten minutes. If Laura had pushed for twenty minutes each morning, it would have driven Joseph crazy. It was important for him to get a jumpstart on his business day, but he was also able to see how important emotionally connecting was to Laura, and he learned to enjoy the moments, not just give in to them.
So, what does this have to do with selfishness?
The point to this story is that Laura had a need that was not being filled. Joseph had no understanding of the need … he was literally being selfish and didn’t even know it.
Dr. Heitler creatively helped the couple to communicate to bridge the gap and find a compromise. Laura got what she wanted, and Joseph ultimately got what he wanted. As a result, the couple learned how to meet each other’s needs instead of just focusing on themselves, which they had done in the past.
And the best news is that they were able to save their marriage and stop a divorce as a result.
Dr. Susan Heitler, Ph.D.
Dr. Susan Heitler is a pioneer in the counseling field whose unique approach stresses positive solutions to personal, marriage and family situations.She teaches practical skills and strategies that enable people to resolve problems more effectively on their own, thus avoiding the depression, anger, anxiety, addictions and marriage problems that often come from poorly-managed issues in the relationship.
Dr. Susan Heitler’s very popular works include the book, “From Conflict to Resolution,” a video entitled “The Angry Couple,” and an audio tape entitled “Working with Couples in Conflict,” to name a few.
As a graduate from Harvard and a seasoned counseling veteran, Dr. Heitler has run a successful counseling practice for over 25 years. But a greater testament to her relationship management approach: She and her husband have been married for over 30 years!
And this brings us back to the secret that we told you about earlier … the secret that John and Mary used to save their marriage, the secret to having a loving and fulfilling marriage or relationship: