Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Best Thing Ever

Yesterday morning, as Iris and I sat in the living room talking with friends who had just popped by, we got on the subject marriage and children. In this case, it wasn't about getting married and having children, it was about guiding adult children on getting married.

One friend had a niece who had been swept off her feet by a man of the world so to the speak. He'd thoughtfully and creatively crafted every date to be a new and wonderful experience. He'd ensured that she received a steady stream of flowers, notes and gifts at unexpected moments and in unexpected places. He'd charmed and romanced her. She fell in love...

Now that they're married, all that has changed. All the creativity and energy that went into courting is no longer part of his MO. His attention to detail and control of every little aspect of dates that made them so wonderful now manifests itself in the need to control every aspect of home life. Since he makes a great deal of money and doesn't want her working, she doesn't. She's abandoned the passions of her youth to keep a meticulous house and raise a perfect family.

What's Your Advice?
As my friend told her story, she asked, "How do you guide your kids so that they don't end up in situations like this?"

We talked about how most relationships start with attraction and then try to reconcile a disparity in wants. We talked about taking a try-before-you-buy approach to marriage since everyday living is quite different than romantic getaways. We talked about not getting married at all.

As we talked about all this, we segued to the question, "What makes a partner a great partner?"

Amidst all the answers, one that really stuck with me is, "What makes a partner great is how he or she enables me in my desires and passions and how he or she brings out greatness in me."

The Best Thing Ever
This morning, I thought about being a great partner. How do you become one? Then it occurred to me that one model would be to strive to be the best thing that ever happened to the other person. Doing this subsumes so many other things. To be the best thing ever requires you to be completely aware of your partner, who they are, what they want and how they operate. To do this, you must learn not to stop judging what your partner wants, but to start judging it as great, wonderful, beautiful. To do this requires you to provide time, space and support for your partner's pursuits, not to simply step out of the way.

Now, I'm not suggesting that you morph yourself into someone you're not do so. Don't do that. However, considering the difference between who you are now and who you would be as the best thing ever might be a key indicator as to whether or not your relationship has legs.

A Custom Fit
The best thing ever comes in all shapes and sizes. My best thing ever might be someone else's total nightmare.

For example, for me, the best thing ever is someone who is confident, who likes to think, who's independent and confident, who is curious about anything and everything, who doesn't operate on 'shoulds', who's not afraid to fail, who loves what I love, who's active and energetic, who's optimistic and passionate, who doesn't take things personally, who's not dramatic or needy.

On the other hand, I know a lot of guys who prefer someone who needs them, who doesn't challenge their authority, who has a strong moral compass (shoulds), who does take things personally (they would call it caring), who doesn't constantly flirt with new ideas and concepts, who doesn't have their head in the clouds (overly optimistic or flaky).

There's definitely no one-size-fits all here.

Becoming the Best Thing Ever
It's a relatively easy exercise to come up with what the best thing ever means to you. How do you become the best thing ever for your partner?

One place to start might be rating yourself on you best-thing-everness. Here are some (highly-biased) questions that might help you in your evaluation. Please feel free to come up with your own.
  1. Overall, do your interactions leave your partner feeling more energized, positive, and optimistic or less? Are you an energy adder or an energy drainer?
  2. Do you know what your partner's passions and interests are? What are they?
  3. Assuming that you know what your partner's passions and interests are, do you actively limit his or her pursuit of them, take a passive stance, or actively enable them?
  4. Do you know your partners wants and desires, likes and dislikes? What are they?
  5. Assuming you know the answers to #4, are the majority of your wants and your partner's wants reciprocal (e.g., I like to cook/she likes to eat), parallel (we both like to ski) or at odds (he likes to cuddle at night, I like my space)?
  6. Now that you're in a relationship, does your partner do more of what she or he loves, less of what she or he loves, or the same amount?
  7. In conversations, what percentage of the time do you listen to your partner, and what percentage do you talk?
  8. Are you your partner's best friend? If so, how does that look? If not, why not?
  9. When your partner is upset or angry, are you able to listen to him without taking things being said personally, or does his venting turn into an argument?
Getting Started
In the end, all this is more art than science, but it starts with a simple awareness of "am I a good thing... a bad thing... the best thing... the worst thing... that ever happened in my partner's life?"

Then you can start tuning it up with questions that are applicable to your situation. Am I energy source or an energy drain? Am I passion enabler or dis-abler? Am I needy and controlling, or empowering and freeing? Am I a source of confidence and optimism, or of doubt and pessimism? (By the way, if you have hangups about words like good, bad, best, worst, you can substitute any scale you want for best to worst: most useful to least useful, net positive to net negative energy, whatever works for you.)

With all this in mind, then you might kick things off by walking up to your partner this morning and saying, "Hey, I've decided that I want to become the best thing that ever happened to you! Can you help me with that?"

Then start talking about your wants and desires, your likes and dislikes, your passions and interests. Determine where you're aligned and where you're not. Identify places where you want to change. Then, daily set an intention to be the best thing ever for you partner.

Have the best Wednesday ever!


  1. You ARE the best thing ever, my friend...

    This has to do with the fact you want to be and act in the way above, and it has to do with me embracing the actions you take to show me you want to be the best thing ever to me.

    I see regularly around me that partners do things for the other with the intention tho be the best thing ever, but that the other would have wanted it just a little bit different (1% empty syndrome)! And they do this over and over and over... So, hmmm, this means... you have to allow the person to be the best thing ever (see my article from Sunday!)

    Fun! Thanks!

  2. Hi Mark

    I loved this post - could you send it to me next time I'm 3-6 months into a relationship?

    Big hugs



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