Relationships that we have with other people are always selfish. You may not think that. How nice of you. How romantic. Talk to the woman who after several kids and several years of supporting her husband gets discarded for a newer model. Talk to her about selfishness, she will give you an earful I am sure! When we enter into a relationship it is ALWAYS about mutual benefit. We can pretend that it is not, that normally does not work out too well.
Now you do not sit down with the person or person(s) you are entering a relationship with and write up a contract where you outline what you are agreeing to in terms of give and take, but you absolutely do have the negotiation. If you are married or have been married think back on the courtship process. What was really going on then? It was absolutely a negotiation.
Westerners make fun of cultures that have been around a lot longer for having arranged marriages, or what we call barbaric methods of trading for the rights of marriage. Pre-negotiated settlements between families seems like a ludicrous notion in our minds. However, think about this for a minute. Does not this negotiation happen anyway? I mean either before or after you get married you are absolutely going to end up negotiating rules, boundaries, and a variety of other control issues between your families. More experienced cultures just get this done all in advance is all!
So even in our most important relationships, like marriage, there is a negotiation going on. It is a negotiation of value. Similar, when a company merges or acquires another company there is always a negotiation phase. When the two parties have agreed to merge, there is a period of time where they negotiate all the particulars. Not all corporate mergers survive this stage and for good reason. Better to ditch the idea early then end up in lawsuits for eternity! A clearly stated value proposition in any relationship is a great recipe for success.
I have to give my wife major credit here. We have been married now for 23 years. She jokes around that every year she has the option to renew my lease. However, in reality she has on very frequent occasions made sure that I understood the value that she was expecting to get out of our relationship. I do not think she ever expressed it in those exact terms, but it is effectively what she has done. She forced this communication. I would be ok with ignoring the issue, brushing it under the rug so to speak. However, she has always insisted that we talk through what we expect to get out of our relationship. This has produced some uncomfortable moments, but I believe is the primary reason we have stayed in such a strong relationship for as long as we have.
Here is the deal. If you suddenly stop delivering value to another person or entity, that relationship will eventually end. No do not panic, you do not have to deliver the same value, that can and often does shift over time. Hopefully you offer increasing value over time as you get to know the struggles and weaknesses of the other party. One of your challenges could be if the other party does not benefit you in any way. That can be a difficult realization. I suggest that you communicate that openly and without fear. Better to deal with the real issue than hide from it. It will only produce misery and anger over time.
It is not a bad thing that we selfishly want benefit from a relationship. You do not need to or are required in any way to be a martyr in your relationships. As much as you think you are strong, you will eventually fail in this regard. That is a tough spell to go through. I say, be honest and open about this. You may not want to say – Hey, I am not getting any value out of this relationship! You can probably think of some more tactful way to say it!
However, the point of this blog is turn this toward self improvement. That is the whole point of my 365 commitment anyway. To continue this program and deeply look at my own life, everyday, with an aim of constant improvement. I realized this morning that I need to provide value to my many relationships. Well how do I do that? My first thought is that I can serve others, help them as much as I can. I think that is good, however, I think there is something better. You can gain virtue.
The more virtue you have, the more valuable you become. Here is the deal, you are not naturally virtuous. Other than being born, there is no other redeeming quality about you. You have to earn virtue. You gain it by learning and through experience. You achieve things that are difficult, you overcome obstacles, you stand trials that others do not. You do not give up where others falter. Please do not join the throngs of many virtue less souls who claim to be awesome by achieving nothing. You never gain virtue by membership or inclusion in one group or another. Virtue is always earned.
Virtue is noticed, appreciated in others. They see virtue as value and that is the primary way that you can improve your relationships. Here is a news flash. Good people attract good people.