Years ago, while helping our son adjust his behavior, his favorite comeback phrase was “I don’t care!” Countless couples in counseling state the main problem with their partner is “it feels like they don’t care.”
It’s a common phrase. Crops up all too often in all types of relationships. And it seldom means what you think it means.
We think we repeatedly tell our beloved what’s important to us. When our desires and requests seem to fall on deaf ears, our ego wants to say they don’t care about what’s important to us. And then by extension we take it to meanour partner doesn’t care about us.
Ah… meaning… the ego’s preferred playground.
What meaning do we give to everything we see, and hear and experience? Chances are we imagine our worst case scenario of fear, chaos and loss, right?
What’s Really Going On?
Think about an experience you had with your beloved (or another) recently. Were they truly uncaring? Or did they just not have the information they needed to effectively respond? I propose they may simply be unaware.
Let me explain.
We know all the reasons why we want someone to do something (and no, “because I’m the mom and I said so” is not a real reason). And then sometimes we want that person to do something a specific way.
Other people – with rare exception – aren’t mind-readers. And sometimes they don’t have the ability to do something the way we want it done.
A Subtle Shift Can Improve Everything!
A friend once told me to “stick with my skill set.” She was talking about my inability to dress myself in anything remotely resembling professional attire… or even matching.
It’s not that I don’t care how I looked. It’s that I rarely look in mirrors, so most days I’m unaware of how I look. I am, however, aware that it helps if someone else double checks if I’m all put together… which comes in handy on the days I’ve put my shirt on backwards. Or inside out.
Let’s say you want to move forward financial goals as a couple or as a family. If you’re the only one initiating finance meetings, taking care of the financial details and being mindful with spending, it’s easy to feel like your partner doesn’t care. They’re clearly not interested in accomplishing the joint goal… because if they were, they would be doing… what?
If your partner is unaware of what it takes to achieve a financial goal, then one person has to do the heavy lifting. And that may be you. Initiating each step and keeping things going may be the key to achieving the goal together. So what?
Watch what meaning you give situations where your ego wants to throw in the towel and proclaim “you don’t care!”
Years ago, I was a performance coach for an Olympic sailing team. One woman was the motivator for the three-sailor crew. She asked why she always had to be the one encouraging them all. My reply: because you’re better at it.
Our ego wants others to read our mind. So ego can create disharmony.
Our soul wants to connect. Our soul understands it’s sometimes always our job to be the one who takes the extra step.
If you rattle off a list of “honey do’s” and then they don’t… ask what they need in order to move things forward. Sometimes it’s as simple as leaving them a sticky note listing the priority items you’d like done that day.
Other times, it might be you saying, “Hey just a reminder: next Monday is Valentine’s Day…” And then be specific about what you’d like to do, have or experience that day.
Needing reminders so they can be aware doesn’t mean they don’t care.
Approach your relationships – romantic and otherwise – as collaborations. You’re both working toward the same end goal… with different roles to play. The more aware you are of where you withhold information that would give others the ability collaborate in life, the happier you’ll be.
Paula Langguth Ryan created the serious and silly RomantiCom seminars, and wrote the super helpful relationship book “Manifest the Perfect Mate: Find the Love & Respect You Desire” (G&D Media, 2021)