The Key to Building a Loving Relationship that Lasts
“Selflessness. It should be the basis of every relationship. If a person truly cares about you, they’ll get more pleasure from the way they make you feel, rather than the way you make them feel.” — Colleen Hoover
A few years ago, I was talking with a good friend about life, relationships and what makes a great marriage. I was in limbo with my then-girlfriend (and now-wife). I was afraid to commit and as a result, we weren’t going anywhere. I knew it was fear that stood in my way. I also knew I was thinking way too much about myself and not enough about her needs.
My friend Matt was a guy who had turned his life around. I had only met him one year earlier, so I never would have known he used to be very selfish in his early years. He only cared about his needs. But that was then. At the time we were speaking, he was a husband with two children and a very loving wife. Every time I saw him with his wife, I noticed how happy they were together.
Happiness is something we always pick up on, either consciously or subconsciously. Intuitively, we feel it. Visually, we observe it. We hear it in the words that happy, loving people say to one another. They’re not aggressive — or passive-aggressive with one another. They’re not calculating or misgiving. They’re genuine, real and completely sincere in their words and actions.
My friend Matt had gotten me to open about a lot of the things holding me back in relationships. These were things I was previously reluctant to admit. I rarely talked to anyone about them. As a result, I made very little progress. I stayed self-absorbed and stuck. I told him about my situation and he laughed a bit. He said, “Believe me, I know.”
He went on to tell me that he nearly missed out on a wonderful future with his wife because he always focused on himself. In his thoughts, words and actions, he was living in his own world. He lived too much in his head — which is to say, he always thought of his own needs. When he spoke, those those manifested themselves in words. And of course, in action, it was always about him. What they did, where they ate, etc.
That pattern of behavior was nearly enough for his wife to walk away. Who in the world would want to tolerate that? But by the grace of God, he turned things around. He had a heart-to-heart conversation with his wife where she very succinctly said:
“The only way this relationship will work is if we both put the needs of each other above our own. That is what love is all about.”
From that moment, everything turned around. And while I wasn’t a witness to that conversation, the testimony of Matt’s story was enough to transform my life. I needed wake-up call and by God, I got it. It wasn’t so much the knowledge as it was the message. That first-hand account was powerful and moving. It hit me at precisely the right time.
It made me realize that I was living in my own head. I was fearful and unable to move forward to commitment because I was only thinking of myself. I made that paradigm shift that day. Like any relationship, there have been challenges in between. But I strive every day to put my wife’s needs above my own. It has made all the difference.