A number of years ago I was in the process of trying to renew my mortgage for the first time.
When I bought my house I had assumed the mortgage from the person I bought it from, so I didn’t really have any choice at the time. But now that mortgage was coming due, and I had the freedom to go with whoever I wanted.
This was new waters for me, and I didn’t really know how to approach it.
But I have always been a very loyal person – to family, friends, and even the businesses I deal with. So I went to the bank I had been dealing with since I was a child.
I worked with my banker for a few weeks, understanding how mortgages worked and ensuring I was getting a competitive rate; until finally I was ready to sign my first mortgage.
I tried getting a hold of my banker one day to say “alright, let’s do this. Sign me up and let me know what you need from me”. She wasn’t there, so I left a message on her phone.
The next morning she called me back, apologizing for not getting back to me earlier. And also to tell me that she could no longer honor the rate we had discussed because it had gone up overnight.
I was confused.
I had given the verbal “let’s do this” BEFORE the rates had gone up. There had been no out of office message for her, so in my opinion I had done my part.
She told me her hands were tied, so I asked to talk to her manager – convinced that when I explained what happened, the manager would extend the rate we had previously agreed upon.
Yeah, not so much.
The manager came told me rates had changed, end of story. I explained my side, that in my opinion this was an issue on the banks end and not mine, and I was essentially told too bad.
Then, the manager tried explaining to me that the rate change wasn’t really that large. And over the length of the mortgage the difference would only end up costing me around $500.
Hmm, only around $500. Fair enough. So I asked him, since $500 wasn’t such a big deal would HE be willing to pay it to me or have the bank cover it? After all, $500 likely means a lot less to a bank than it does to a kid in his early 20’s.
He told me no that was not what he meant; and that the bank could do nothing further to help me.
So I moved my business elsewhere, and I have never been back.
In my bank story above, my issue wasn’t really with the bank making a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, that upset me and was an inconvenience to me. Rather, the issue was with the lack of accountability. And worse, the attempt on the part of the bank to minimize it. To try and tell me “yeah, the rates have changed – but it’s not really going to impact you that much”.
It may not have mattered much to THEM, but it meant a lot to me.
I see this all the time. In life, and in relationships
A while back I wrote a post on accountability, and doing the right thing. And one of the main points I was trying to make is that “doing the right thing” isn’t about being perfect.
We ALL screw up sometime.
Rather, it’s about how often we screw up, and more importantly how we respond and try to address problems when they occur.
Accountability is about saying “I’ve got this”, or “although it wasn’t my intention, I can see how I’ve hurt you”. And then taking the next step and SHOWING the other person HOW WE WILL MAKE THIS BETTER both now and in the future.
And it needs to be through actions, not just words.
Here’s a scenario for you:
One person does something. It doesn’t really matter what it is, so let’s just call it “X”, and their partner is hurt by it.
But when they find out their partner is hurt they say something like, “hey you are overreacting. I don’t see what the problem is here”. Or “I don’t know why you are reacting this way; I didn’t actually mean to hurt you”.
I’m pretty sure we have all both done this and been on the receiving end of it. And although it can often be legitimate (to the person saying it), it is also a way of invalidating the feelings of the other person.
Here’s the thing.
I can’t tell you what matters to you. I can only tell you what matters to me. And although I may not understand WHY you feel the way you do, that doesn’t make it any less real to you.
Of course this can become hugely complicated by thing like mood disorders or even just peoples insecurities, but the fact remains – one person cannot dictate another person’s reality.
A few posts back I talked about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In it, there are different levels of needs that people have. These needs stack, and the lower level needs must be met before we are in a position to have our higher needs met.
Well, at the bottom we have physiological and safety needs. Food, shelter, security. Basically we need to feel safe. But it’s important to understand safety isn’t just about physical safety, it’s also emotional safety. And if we don’t feel safe we are unable to move to the higher level which includes love.
Think about this for a moment…
Your ability to feel love for someone is impacted by how safe you feel around them.
So what are we doing when we minimize our partners feelings simply because we don’t understand them? When we try to force them to conform to how WE feel they should think? Or when we blame them for our own actions?
When we do those things we are impeding their ability to feel safe with us. And in the process we are damaging the connection that allows love to exist.
This is where empathy and emotional intelligence comes in.
In a relationship, our goal should NEVER be to have someone else meet our needs. The relationship needs to be about more than just the individuals.
For that to happen we need to strive to understand each other. To accept that we are different, and we see things differently – and that is alright.
We WON’T always agree. We WILL hurt each other at times.
And that’s part of what it means to be two different people.
But instead of allowing those moments to pull us apart, we need to be able to use them as opportunities for growth. Opportunities to further our understanding of each other, so that we are better able to support each other in the future.
That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement.
Frequently our conflict points are caused by our personal issues and insecurities, and we owe it to both our partner and ourselves to grow as a person; to identify and improve our personal issues. Trying to grow as a person, while in a supportive relationship should only help strengthen the bond between two people.
But relationships need to be places of mutual understanding and acceptance. They always need to be places of safety for us – physically and emotionally.
And that cannot happen if we are always made to feel that we are wrong, that our feelings don’t matter, or that we are to blame for our partners actions and emotional state.
Sometimes this can’t happen. Sometimes we are unable or unwilling to accept our partner as they are. Maybe we feel it’s a one sided relationship where we are constantly expected to accommodate them but they will not accommodate us. Maybe our partners insecurities put so much stress on the relationship that we can’t accept things any more. Or maybe we feel that the actually ARE wrong, and as a result we are unwilling to accept them.
We all probably feel these things sometimes. But when it has become common it is likely the sign of deeper issues. Maybe your fundamental values are different. And as a result maybe the two of you simply aren’t good for each other anymore.
Things happen, and people change.
To stay together and have a healthy and strong relationship you need to be able to accept each other for who they are. You need to be able to communicate and continue trying to understand each other as you grow both individually and as a couple.
And if something matters to one, even if the other person doesn’t understand it, it has to matter to both.