The 200% Relationship

I am always struck by couples who treat each other like crap. To me, the logic simply doesn’t compute. What’s the point of spending all your time together if you’re always bickering about something?

Few people out there can have an argument in a mature and calm manner without getting personal, or hurting the other person’s feelings. Eventually, a person’s sheer desire to win an argument overrides their consideration for the feelings of their partner, and that’s when things go wrong.

At that point, a certain amount of damage is done. It usually isn’t permanent, but as arguments become regular occurrences, couples eventually become oblivious to the reoccurring damage. When that happens, bickering becomes the norm — a form of micro-aggression in the constant game of ‘one up’.

Sure, conflict is inevitable, and in principle it can be healthy, but in reality, it can also be a messy path that leads to a subpar relationship if you’re not actively putting your partner first.

Yes, there’s no such thing as an easy relationship.

You see, we’re inherently selfish, you and I. Our brains are wired that way. It’s a genetic predisposition designed to help us survive in the wild, and putting others first is almost counterintuitive for our grey matter.

Now I don’t mean to use the word “selfish” in a predominantly negative sense. I simply mean that relationships begin because we want something out them. There’s a mixture of physical and emotional attractions and a whole bunch of synapse data we’re yet to understand, but one thing’s for sure, no one starts a romantic relationship out of charity. Somewhere along the line, someone makes you feel good and your emotional Richter-scale goes off the charts, in a good way. Whatever it is, it’s enough to incentivise you into expending energy in return for a desired result.

The interesting thing about this phase of courtship is that both parties put in copious amounts of effort that sometimes even surpasses what they receive.

In fact, conflict is specifically avoided at this stage because it’s generally seen as harmful to the courtship.

And while it is an unrealistic environment to maintain, it works nonetheless to create happiness and infatuation, which is the precursor to the beginning of most relationships.

If there were a university textbook for this kind of thing, now would be the appropriate time to show some kind of graph illustrating diminishing returns of x, based on the decreased output of y.

You see, from the second a relationship is defined as ‘official’, the effort a person applies (y) begins to decline. It’s not always right away, and it’s definitely not linear, but make no mistake, output begins to diminish while expectations of receipt (x) still remain constant, or sometimes even increase. And the longer the relationship, the more this holds true.

In short, people become complacent in the perceived security that is derived from the expected monogamy, established by the declaration of a ‘relationship’ or marriage.

In other words, as people become more relaxed and comfortable in a given relationship, very often their demand for desired expectations begins to outweigh the effort they supply, the consequence of which is very often conflict.

Arguments are usually seen as the antidote — a way of expressing one’s view of the dissatisfaction experienced. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. People are complicated — men and women are prone to thinking differently, and interpretations muddy the waters substantially. So what am I getting at? Well, on the surface, for the most part, people are inherently selfish and conflict is tricky and detrimental to the long-term health of the relationship. The question then becomes what can be done to counter this?

Well, there is the concept out there that a successful relationship is all about ‘50/50’ — that is, to say, that it is equally ‘give and take’. And while in principle this sounds reasonable, I feel it’s overly simplified and far prefer the concept of the 200% relationship.

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the idea, but in a nutshell, with a 200% relationship, each person is made acutely aware that they are capable of giving 100% of themselves, selflessly, to fulfil 100% of their partner’s needs.

In effect, the relationship has a maximum of 200% on the ‘giving-scale’. While the 50/50 concept is about ‘give and take’, the 200% concept is all about giving. If this notion seems bizarre to you, you’ll understand in a moment why this is so important.

You see, when you wholeheartedly attempt to meet 100% of your partner’s needs, you effectively create a healthy environment for your partner to do the same for you, which in turn sees your needs met, usually beyond expectation.
And that should be the collective goal of every couple — always selflessly putting your partner’s needs before your own.

It doesn’t mean that your needs become irrelevant — in fact, quite the opposite — a healthy relationship is all about explaining and understanding one another’s needs, and as you both attempt to fulfil them, the result is ultimately far better than you’d imagine.

Contrary to popular practice, when courtship morphs into a ‘relationship’, or a relationship turns into marriage, it is not an excuse to take the foot off the gas, so to speak. The moment you do that, you create complacency in your relationship, and that only fuels your selfish desire to have your own needs fulfilled over your partner’s’.

In effect, it creates a conditional relationship — an unhealthy environment where you only meet your partner’s needs if they meet yours first. It causes resentment and conflict where arguments are simply a stage for you to express your dominance and self-righteousness.

Of course, it’s simply not possible to flawlessly nail the 200% concept — people aren’t perfect, and so many factors play a hand in lessening the energy you put in. But the important thing is to continually try to do so. I for one, fall short plenty, but I also manage to get it right a lot of the time too. And even when both my wife and I are hovering at say, 70% of our max, we’re still left with a collective total higher than the very best a ‘give and take’ relationship will provide — and that makes all the difference.

Any conflict that does arise in a 200% relationship is far less severe than it ever might have been because generally more needs met. And in those moments where conflict does arise, I am always reminded to employ the secret sauce that binds all this together… Kindness.

Filming a wedding many years ago, I once asked an elderly couple to dispense some wisdom on the secret to a prosperous marriage for the bride and groom. The woman looked at me and said, “Be kind. Love one another, sure. But first and foremost, always be kind to each other.

And that has stuck with me, because if you break it down, no matter how tough the times are in any relationship, kindness supersedes everything.

So in conclusion, I’d like to say to those about to embark on a relationship, or to those out there already in one — bickering and jousting for control is not healthy for your relationship. Stop being selfish. Stop fighting. Stop sulking because you feel your needs haven’t been met. Stop being rude to one another. Stop treating your partner as if he or she were your slave. I urge you to take the time instead, to discuss the 200% relationship.

Share your needs with one another. Make the conscious decision to put your partner’s needs before your own and then selflessly begin meeting those needs. And remember, no matter what, always be kind to one another.

Kindness is life’s secret sauce.

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