Fuck “The Golden Rule”

Giving what you want to get isn’t going to get you what you want

The Golden Rule is a simple-minded short-cut; presumptuous at best, infuriatingly off-putting at worst.

Giving what *you* want is single-sighted and a little selfish

By now most of us have heard about the five love languages, and the fact that each of us prefers to receive love through either: words of affirmation, acts of service, gifts, quality time, or physical touch.

One of the most interesting parts about the history of love languages, however, is how Chapman came to realize they existed.

Over the course of thirty years as a relationship counselor, Chapman kept hearing one core problem over and over: one person would say they felt unloved by their partner, even while the other did everything they could think of to show it.

Digging deeper, Chapman realized that the fallout was in the specific words and gestures: one partner, for example, would dutifully do all of the chores around the house, keep the cars full of gas, and walk the dog each and every morning to show their love, and meanwhile all the other person was looking for was a hug or a kind word or a gift, largely oblivious to anything else.

Because what happens is that we not only have a preferred love language, but we are largely blind to or neutral on love communicated in the other four.

But, coming in without much else to work with, many of us tend to show love in the way we best recognize it. Which very likely isn’t how our partner recognizes it at all.

Because we all default to our viewpoints and preferences, even though doing so is fundamentally selfish

It’s the same problem that comes up when you break up with someone and they throw themselves at you with “but I love you! I want to be with you!”

I want, I need, me, me, me.

Unless your concern was that they didn’t want you— and your need was to hear otherwise — this sort of plea does little but fall on deaf ears. We may feel sympathetic or a little sad, but ultimately this does nothing to alleviate whatever core concern we had that caused the breakup. Which is why we usually walk despite this.

The Golden Rule carries no real persuasive weight

I can’t tell you how many times people (mostly partners) have tried to call on the Golden Rule as an argument in a fight.

“How would *you* feel if I did that?!”

  1. I wouldn’t care. (Usually.) I wouldn’t care if you didn’t text me for 3 days, or forgot my birthday or our anniversary, or came home at 1 am from hanging out with friends, or neglected to say the words “I appreciate you” 1,000 times a day. I wouldn’t care if you had ghosted me within the first few times of us hanging out. idgaf.
  2. But more importantly: it doesn’t matter how I would feel. It only matters how you feel about it. The way I treat you isn’t based on me; it’s based on you. (I mean, I don’t need hugs or “thank you’s;” that doesn’t mean I won’t give or say them to you.) These are two separate discussions, and your preferences stand on their own.

I never could have pointed out the Golden Rule for my low-libido ex-lover, who routinely left me hanging. Because if I hadn’t wanted to sleep with him, he literally would not have cared. And I knew this.

Asking “how would you feel?” is neither sufficient nor logical.

“The Platinum Rule:” treat others the way *they* — not you — want to be treated.

Don’t give what you want. Give what they want.

The solution in love language disconnect isn’t to get your partner to read your preferred love language. The solution is to express your love in theirs.

Getting someone to fall in love with you is a matter of understanding and delivering on their needs, not yours. You may want love and intimacy and closeness, but simply doling that out as though it’s mutual (like, “deep down they totally want that too; they’re just scared of their feelings”) pales in comparison to giving them what they actually want. If they want freedom of movement, give them a wide berth. If they don’t want drama, don’t make any. If they want both of you to demonstrate some self-sufficiency, try it on for size.

Ending fights will go faster if you seek first to understand, then to be understood. The problem is that most people don’t do this — they only listen waiting to respond, not with the intent to absorb — which creates a standoff, because neither person gets what they want, which is to get through.

Breaking up happens because somebody’s needs weren’t met. Every time I’ve broken up with someone, I have first articulated the specific things I wasn’t getting, and every time, instead of responding intelligently and directly to this in a way that gets me closer to what I want, each partner instead laid it on thick with something like, “that’s not true,” or “I don’t wanna break up!” or “well, you do xyz too!” And to that I’m like: bye, Felicia.

Sex, touch, and physical affection — unless you are more interested in your own inclinations than other people’s comfort (cue that overly-touchy great aunt who pushed unwanted hugs on us), when it comes to hands, arms, pressure and location, touch how the other likes to be touched. I don’t like light, feathery fingertip touches — but I’ve dated dudes who do. They touch me my way, I feather-fingertip them theirs.

Staying together — or getting along with anybody — is a matter of understanding and delivering on what the other person needs — not what you want. Every day, and long-term.