If you want a truly fulfilling relationship, don’t do anything for your partner. Yes, you read correctly. What do I mean by this outrageous statement? When we do things for our partners there is a strong possibility of being attached to their response. We cook dinner for them and we think they should wash the dishes. We wash clothes for them and they should fold them. We buy flowers for them so they should do something nice for us. If they don’t respond the way we think they should, we become disappointed. We may even say to them, “I do so much for you, why can’t you do something for me?” This is a trap that is very easy to fall into when we believe we are acting for another.
If we are not supposed to do things for our partners, then what are we to do? The key is to do things because that is who we want to be in the relationship, rather than holding the perspective that we are doing it “for” the other. When we act because it is an expression of who we truly are (which is the same as our deepest desires for ourselves) we are much less likely to become attached to how our partners respond. We don’t need our partners to respond a specific way anymore because acting this way is the reward in and of itself. The paradox, of course, is that when we don’t need them to be a certain way they are much more likely to act in ways that are pleasing to us.
Ask yourself the question: What kind of a person do I want to be in my relationship? And then act accordingly. Whether it is going to work, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, buying a gift, etc., do it all because these are expressions of your true self. So take it from me, if you really want to be fulfilled in your relationship never do anything “for” your partner again (You might not want to say that to them because they probably wouldn’t understand!).
Steve Smith, LMFT