Evidence indicates that generosity is one of the most important traits for a lasting and fulfilling relationship. In fact, not only is it one of the qualities I look for in a partner, it is also a prominent attribute in my own life.
Giving my limited time and attention to anyone in my inner circle who needs help; thinking the best about someone despite any shortcomings; sharing my resources and contacts without hesitation; showing affection towards those I love; and supporting causes close to my heart because no matter how much or little I have, I choose to make a difference are just some of the ways I show generosity. I have received emergency calls at all hours of the night and I not only show up but I also try to help find the best solution out of a predicament. To me, generosity of spirit is an extension of who I am. If you’re lucky enough to be in my inner circle, you know that I will go to the ends of the world and back for you.
Generosity is not a natural inclination in a place like New York City where people are known more for self-absorption than kindness. The good news is that you can build your generosity muscle just as you can your biceps. Practice really does make perfect.
So what does being generous mean in a lasting and fulfilling relationship?
1. Letting go of the small stuff. Pettiness is a waste of time. If you operate by a quid pro quo mantra and your modus operandi is to attack when you feel wronged or betrayed, you’ll be out of luck. In relationships, there are two people and the other one is nothing like you. No matter how similar to one another you think you are, each of you brings to the table a unique set of childhood and adult experiences, as well as your own relationship construct. Instead of score keeping and arguing about why the socks aren’t picked up, just pick them up and LET IT GO. You don’t have to wait until your last day on earth to figure out what really matters in life and love. Don’t waste time fighting over petty things.
2. Forgive often and easily. It is a certainty that if you spend consistent time with your partner, he will enrage you and more than once. This is an inevitable fact of life. Don’t hold grudges. When you argue about something, resolve it and leave it alone. Don’t use the past as exhibit A when building your case against your partner. We have already discussed how a majority of arguments do not get resolved ever. Forgiveness isn’t necessarily admitting to wrongdoing – unless you really screwed up, in which case, do beg for forgiveness. Forgiveness is saying, “you and we matter more to me than this fight we’re having. I care about the integrity of our relationship and about us. I choose peace.” Think of the last time you were mad at your partner. Was it really worth your energy and negativity? Did it bring you closer or hurt your bond?
3. Whatever your constraints are is what you need to work on: We all have limiting beliefs, blind spots and outdated paradigms by which we operate our lives and relationships. What are yours? Whatever fear is limiting your thoughts or holding you back, work on it every single day for the benefit of you, your partner and your relationship. When you are whole, your relationship will be as well. When you learn and grow, your relationship will as well. For example, if your ultimate fear is “what if I marry the wrong person? How could I ever live with myself?” Well, first, seek therapy and work with a coach (it’s hard to resolve deep issues on your own). Ask yourself, why do I not trust me? What happened to me earlier in my life that has made me doubt me?
Look at the facts instead of the feelings. Fear is an emotion. Write down all the decisions you made today alone and then right down all the big decisions you have made in life thus far - whom you’re dating; where you vacationed; where you chose to attend college or graduate school; the condo you purchased; the shoes you bought, etc. List it all and then ask, “Am I doing okay despite making some great choices along with some mistakes?” I bet the answer is a resounding, “Yes.” In fact, if you paid attention, your mistakes helped you reach your next level. Yes, I realize marriage isn’t on par with choosing where to eat. However, trusting yourself is trusting yourself, no matter how small or big the stakes. Everything happens for us, not to us…especially our mistakes. They teach what we need to learn. Make the best decision you can with the information you have and then surrender. You control nothing. Actually, you control two things: your perspective and your reaction. Read that again.
4. Generosity isn’t about sacrificing your needs to meet your partner’s needs. It’s not about depriving one person for the sake of a partner or keeping score to say that you care or do more than your partner. When you act from a place of generosity and kindness, it ignites something special within you. From that place, beautiful things will come to pass. Your partner will appreciate you more and, as a result, you’ll boost happiness and build a stronger bond. You’ll focus on the positive and give others the benefit of the doubt. You’ll love without reservation and whole-heartedly instead of worrying that your love may not be reciprocated. You’ll take risks and know that even if everything doesn’t work out the way you hoped, not only will you be okay but you’ll also be thankful you dodged some bullets.
Think about the kind of person you want to be. Who is your role model? What is your personal brand? How would you like to be remembered? What values do you want to embody and live by every day?
Life gets more interesting the more you reflect and ask interesting and hard questions. Otherwise, we default to living our days on autopilot and riding the momentum of life. Be the proactive driver of your life. Start working on becoming a more generous person; not only with your partner but with the people you interact with regularly. You have no idea the impact you have even with the folks whom you think barely “see” you. If you can make a difference in one person’s life, you have done something meaningful.
You can’t take anything with you when your time is up. Be as generous as you can today and every day. Make your mark and make it count.
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