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Guarantee Mentality: The Cancer of Relationships

September 24, 2008

Over the course of the last several years, I have seen the romantic relationships of many of my friends struggle, crumble and finally fail. There seems to be something inherently difficult in creating a satifying, fulfilling or succesful relationship. In pondering this topic, one day I had an ephiphany; most people view relationships with a guarantee mentality. What do I mean by this?

When we buy a product, such as a car or expensive piece of electronic equipment, we get a manufacturers warranty. This warranty assures, or “guarantees” us that if something goes wrong with our new toy, the manufacturer will either repair or replace the item. We need do nothing. All of the burden of fixing the problem falls on the shoulders of the manufacturer. In this consumption society, we have become accustomed to, rely on and outright expect others to fix any problem we may have.

I have come to the conclusion that this is how many, if not most, people view relationships. Perhaps not consciously but most likely unconsciously. If something is wrong in our relationships, we first blame the creation of the problem on our significant other. (If our car breaks down it is the manufacturer’s fault, right?) Second, we expect, and often demand that our partner fix the problem. After all, “it couldn’t be me who caused this problem. And besides, when we entered into this relationship you promised to stay in the relationship and to solve our problems. So do it!” I call this the guarantee mentality.

So, what is wrong with this? This mentality can, and eventually will doom your relationship to failure. If we always look to  the other to change or solve our relationship problems, we are not truly invested in the success of the relationship. Successful relationships are, or should be, co-creative. Two people must work together to define their relationship and resolve differences as they arise. It cannot fall on the shoulders of only one partner. When that happens it build resentment and contempt; a true relationship nuclear bomb. Once contempt sets in, it is like a disease that spreads and festers. By the time it is discovered, the entire system is infected and death is imminent.

But we can prevent this from happening. How? First, we must stay conscious in our relationship. We must voice our concerns as they arise and feel safe to express our feelings. We must own our part – and yes, there always is one – in any problem. We need to strive to understand before seeking to be understood. And we must be willing to work hard to have effective communication with our partner. It is not simply enough to listen. We must truly hear our partners and let them know they have been heard.

It sounds much harder than it needs to be. Look outside yourself and put your significant other first. If both parties to a relationship do this, everything else will come naturally.

The only guarantee we should expect or demand is from ourselves; to be the best we can be. To get the most out of a relationship we should expect and demand of ourself that which we expect and demand of our partner. Nothing less will result in success.

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2 comments

  1. I totally agree. It took me many years to discover how my guilt and anger doomed me from being a good partner in the relationship. Once I owned up to my guilt, the anger dissipated, and I became a good partner. After 34 years of marriage my relationship is now flourishing. What you write is very true.


  2. What a wonderful ephiphany, this same approach can be applied to life and our relationships in the workplace. A complacent relationship of any type will result with a snooze you loose. Make that connection human – a life on earth is very much a work in progress.

    best,



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