Unlikely Fact Number Ten:

Ignore the “golden rule” and do not treat your spouse the way you, yourself, would like to be treated.

The golden rule, which in the Old Testament is stated as “love your neighbor as yourself” and which in the New Testament is re-stated as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a perfectly fine way to treat your neighbors, co-workers, and friends.  The rule works quite well when trying to decide how to treat someone about whom we have little or no information.

For example, if you are expected to bring a gift to a party for someone you don’t know very well, then buying them the sort of present you, yourself, might enjoy receiving seems like a reasonable option. I like chocolate truffles and so might my neighbor.  I don’t like the taste of anchovies and so I will avoid buying my co-worker anything with that ingredient.  The golden rule in such cases makes perfectly good sense.

And it is a perfectly fine rule. The problem is that it’s just not good enough for our spouse or our lover.  Why?  Because our spouse or lover is more than just a neighbor and more than just a co-worker.  He or she is our most intimate life partner and thus is the one person about whom we likely know more than we do about any other.

For such a special and intimate friend the golden rule just doesn’t go far enough.  For that person nothing less than the platinum rule will suffice, the rule that requires that we “treat our loved one, not as we would like to be treated, but, as he or she would like to be treated.”

It is because we know our spouse as well as we do that we are actually able to follow the platinum rule. We would know, for example, that although we would love nothing more on our birthday than a new electric screwdriver, our spouse might not be nearly as enthusiastic about receiving a new electric blender. (My wife has reminded me that a good rule of thumb when considering birthday presents for her is that I avoid buying her anything that plugs in.)

Some of us appreciate being told the “brutally honest truth” about our shortcomings while others of us might not be wanting such frank and honest feedback. For example, I might welcome the news that my purple shirt might go somewhat better with another color suit. My wife, on the other hand, might not receive the news quite so enthusiastically if she learns from me on the way to a wedding that green is not her most flattering color.

Being able to live by the platinum rule requires that we possess one certain quality that is essential for the long term health of any relationship:  empathy.  Empathy, the inner experience of sharing in and comprehending the momentary psychological state of another person, requires first, that we learn all we can about our spouse so that we can become able to see the world through his or her eyes. And when we succeed in seeing the world through our partner’s eyes, applying the platinum rule comes easily and naturally.

Having now read all ten unlikely facts, you may wish to go back and re-read the previous nine “unlikely facts of married life.”  If you do, you will see that each of those nine unlikely facts presupposes the reader’s ability to empathize with another person.  Whether it’s placing ourselves in the passenger’s seat when we are driving the car or imagining how our spouse might feel about being asked to forgo his daily hour of tennis, the one over-riding quality of a loving spouse is the willingness to learn enough about the other so as to be able to treat him or her the way that person would want to be treated.

My final suggestion:  Begin right now to live by the platinum rule and you will find that the other “unlikely facts” will seem much less unlikely.

I invite you to contact me by phone at 410-377-4343 or by email at babass@towson.edu or, if you prefer, by completing this form to schedule an appointment or to discuss setting up an appointment so that you and your partner can once again find the love for one another you both feared you had lost.

Download a PDF of Ten Unlikely Facts of Married Life