Partner-pleasing: Do You Have Different Expectations Of One Another?

Posted at 20:05pm on 4th February 2009

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, if we go out for a meal, I find myself people watching. It’s fascinating! There’s the middle-aged couple sitting at the table over by the wall who have said nothing to one another since they sat down and who, now that they’re tucking into their first course, make no eye contact whatever. On the other side of the restaurant, there’s a couple of kids who look as if they’re barely out of college, who are engaging in a ding-dong row, comprising scowling faces, pointed fingers and inaudible, but clearly furious, phrases spitting like flame-throwers from their mouths. And between them all is a young family: a mum with weariness imprinted heavily upon her, and a dad who has no time to notice because the kids are bouncing one off against the other.

Once upon a time, things might have been different. And it makes you wonder: could that be me?


So – based on the marriage enrichment classes my other half and I used to run, I’m going to begin a series of articles on how partner-pleasing can not only bring you lasting happiness and fulfilment, but deepen and strengthen your relationship with your mate. But first a couple of quotes:

  • A deaf husband and a blind wife are always a happy couple (Taken from The Penguin Dictionary of Proverbs definition of a perfect marriage.)
  • One of the prime reasons marriages / relationships fail is because each partner, out of his / her own insecurity, is looking to the other to provide them with love. (Source unknown)

The first quotation is, I’m afraid, completely untrue. In my experience, it is precisely because many men are deaf to their partners’ needs, and many women are blind to what’s really going on in their partners’ lives, that so many relationships fail to flourish.

The fact is that we all need / seek / want love. It is a basic human requirement, and is crucial to our development. Human beings can function at the level of existence, but it is only when we know ourselves to be loved that we are able to give love. In other words, we need to know we’re loved in order to be whole persons. And despite the moniker ‘my other half’, we need to be WHOLE people in order to give love.

Which begs the question: What is love?


  1. Knowing and being known
  2. Daily sharing
  3. Commitment to a common hope


Knowing and Being Known
We’ll have a look at Daily Sharing, and Commitment to a Common Hope in the next two sessions, but for now, I’d like to suggest that you spend some time together where you can have some quality, uninterrupted, privacy. Difficult? Yes. But not impossible. What’s more important here? That you see the football scores or the latest happenings on Big Brother? Or that you enrich your relationship and secure it for the future? Note: the object of this exercise is not to resolve conflict, but to deepen your awareness of, and love for, one another.


  • Share only your experiences and feelings, not your opinions or theories
  • There is to be no confrontation. All participation is voluntary.
  • Avoid diagnosing, analysing or giving advice.
  • Time each session (see below). While the timer is ticking for each speaker, there is to be no interruption from the other.
  • Give feed-back only if requested.

This has to be an entirely voluntary and democratic process. What I’m writing about now is not meant to sound bossy or overbearing. I’m merely putting forward ideas for you to accept or reject at will. As long as you both choose to take part in the following exercise, the best way to begin is as follows:

  1. Take a sheet of paper and a pen; separately, and in silence, begin listing the answers to the two questions: Who am I? Who is my mate?
  2. Set a timer and spend about 10 minutes writing.
  3. Then sit opposite one another – perhaps on either side of the kitchen table – holding hands if you feel comfortable doing so. Decide who is going to begin.
  4. Using the techniques described in Ten Tips To Help You Avoid The Breakdown Of A Relationship let your partner know what you have written about him / her in answer to the question ‘Who is my mate?’
  5. Take about 10 minutes in this feedback. Remember the ground rules above.
  6. Allow your partner to agree or disagree with what you have written about him / her if they want to. Take another 5 minutes for this stage.
  7. Reverse the procedure so that the other person has a chance to give his / her answers to ‘Who is my mate?’
  8. Finally, sticking to the ground rules and techniques above, each of you should compare notes on what you’ve written about yourself: ‘Who am I?’ with what your partner wrote about you.


There’s a song lyric You know me better than I know myself, so be prepared to be surprised at what comes out of this exercise. The obvious thing is to expect your partner to be wrong, at or least limited, when it comes to writing what they know about you. Frequently, however, you may find that he / she knows more about you than you know about yourself. And vice versa.

For instance, my husband, who was a teacher when we married, thought he knew all there was to know about children. But when he couldn’t hack it over the breakfast table because my teenage daughter didn’t say ‘good morning’ to him, I had to point out to him (gently) that this was normal seven a.m. behaviour for a thirteen year old, and that all the ‘polite’ children he saw at nine o’clock, were a little more awake. He was right on one thing though. He’s a good listener, and he took what I said in good part and acted on it. Husband and daughter studiously avoided speaking to one another, for years, until later in the day! Since when, they have had an excellent relationship. And so, therefore, have avoided making me ‘piggy-in-the-middle’.

Let me know how you get on. Remember, if you leave a comment, your contact details will never be revealed to any third party.

Your Comments:

4th February 2009
at 10:08pm

Interesting - I was intrigued with the expectations of your
husband about breakfast table behaviour. A lot of this expectation
may relate to the expectations that we learnt when young -guessing
that your husband is not a dis-similar ago to myself - when values
were quite different!

This is not to say that change should not be accommodated but my
own experience has been that I was expected to know that the world
had moved on and my "Victorian values" were out of touch;
whereas I tend to be caught up in my world often out of
synchronisation with the modern world and mores.

Also, not sure if I always want to be loved. Part of me is quite
content to "be left alone to get on with things" however
consideration needs to be given to this (help - that is a passive
construction - see your other articles!) as I suspect there is a
flaw in that statement of mine. One to ponder.

5th February 2009
at 10:14am

I'm sure you're right, Herbert, about the world having
moved on - and not always for the better, though I'm not sure
that I believe in children having to be so formal with their
parents first thing in the morning.

What interested me about your comment is your doubt about
whether you always *want* to be loved. I'd say that wanting to
be left alone at times is precisely what loving is all about in
your case.

If you're an introvert, as I am, having your own space from
time to time is a need; loving yourself (the pre-requisite of
loving your neighbour) is all about meeting that need; and
receiving love from your nearest and dearest is about their
recognising that need in you.

The key, I find, is in using the re-energised *you* to show the
same level of love to your partner. If she's an extrovert, that
would, of course, mean partying with her. Fortunately, that's
not the case with my other half. But in other respects I accept
that my need for space can't be met at *all times* and that all
love has to be sacrificial in the end.

It's complicated, isn't it? And too much to be said to
fit into a little box like this. Mel

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