The Diamond Rule … a key to healthy relationships
It really should be easy, shouldn’t it? If I see another dog I think looks fun, I go up and sniff them, and if they smell right and are nice to me, we play. One of us might get tired more quickly than the other, or not like to play as roughly, but in general, we’re pretty set.
But you guys! You meet someone you’re attracted to, and instantly a zillion rules come in – they have to do this or not do that, they need to have done this and not have done that, they need to fit this part of your life and improve that part of your life, and they’d better not be of that religion or support that politician or…
And this is all before any actual relationship gets going!
Then it turns into a whole different bowl of food, with questions of how much communication is too little and how much is stifling, and should you act tough or vulnerable, and when’s the right time to do this and the wrong time to do that, and…
Really, it’s amazing you humans ever work anything out with each other at all!
But I’ll admit, there’s one issue I’ve seen that bothers me more than any other. And that’s when you guys allow people to treat you badly. And how often you do that!
It’s true that we dogs can do that too, but we are programmed to bond with a pack leader, and accept whatever treatment we get from them. But you guys ARE the pack leaders! All seven billion of you – you’re the ones we sit and heel for. So when I see any of you getting involved with someone who doesn’t treat you the way you want, I just want to cry! If you can’t insist on being treated right, what hope do we have?!
And believe me, I understand how it happens. You’re really attracted to someone, they’re fascinating and funny, it’s exciting to think they could care about you, so you turn a blind eye to those insults, or their false accusations, or the times they ignore you, or the times they tell you you’re wrong to feel the way you do. Or the times they slap you. Or force things on you. Or cheat on you. Or beat you up.
Where is a person supposed to draw the line? At what point do you say, “I’m not being treated right, so I’m out of here”? Is it when they make their first mean comment? (Well, probably not – or you won’t ever get a lasting relationship with anyone.) When they show interest in someone else? When they don’t return your text on time? When they threaten you?
Look, everyone makes mistakes, everyone has bad moods. I snapped at Handsome a couple of times when I was young, teeth and all (hey – I do not like getting my nails clipped, alright?!). And I’m awfully glad he didn’t send me back to the pound for it! But if I had been always attacking and biting him, I’m sure he’d have lost some of the love that’s been the basis of my life. So again, there has to be a line one can draw. What is it?
Well, I think back on this brilliant concept you humans have, in nearly every culture – what’s referred to as The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Maybe the most brilliant statement of morality ever created. But that’s all about what we do, about treating others well. What do we say about how we let others treat us?
I’m suggesting an addition. A Diamond Rule, to go along with all those rings people are putting on each other’s fingers these days. And here is is:
“Only let others in if they treat you the way you would treat them.”
That simple. Just that.
Think about it. If you’re someone who wants a relationship where you can date other people, and your boyfriend goes out with another girl, it would be unfair to get on his case for it; you should cheer him on. But if you want to be monogamous and faithful to each other, and he’s cheating, then something should change: either he stop doing it, or you get out.
Now that’s all simple, but of course, this gets more complex. For example, there’s no way Handsome is going to lick all over my face (not the way my hair sheds!), and it would hurt him if I petted him as strongly as he pets me, with my rough paws. So we don’t do the same things the other does. But when we meet, we sure do make an equal fuss over each other. And we work to make sure we never physically hurt each other (and we both make mistakes in that area too, and apologize when we do, like if I accidentally bite him while jumping for a toy he’s holding, or if he steps on my tail).
Similarly, one person in a couple might really want a lot of attention when they’re feeling bad, and the other might prefer to be left alone when they are. So the Golden Rule wouldn’t say both have to choose just one or the other; it says to give the other person what they need, just the way you’d want your needs met.
And the Diamond Rule says that you should only stay in a relationship where they’re respecting your feelings to the same degree you respect theirs.
The great thing about the Diamond Rule is that it takes all judgment out of the situation. If you’re not treating me the way I treat you, that doesn’t make you a bad person; it just means we’re not a good match. But that can be fixed, if we talk it out and find a way to make it equal. And if not, bye-bye!
Okay, so I’ve been playing with this idea for a few weeks, while answering your questions as they come in. And right in the middle of this, an amazing coincidence happened. One of you, my pack, wrote me a letter that described just this thought with such eloquence I wrote them back and asked if I could quote it. Check this out, from my friend Confused:
“I finally took time to focus on myself and my well-being. It made me realize who I am and what I truly deserve.
“I realized that I put him before me, which is something that I’m never (ever) going to do again. Throughout the relationship, I was depressed– not because of him. I had been depressed for a while before I started dating him. Instead of trying to better myself, I focused on trying to make him a better person. I focused on trying to help him with his problems rather than focusing on how I was feeling. Although it hurt when we broke up, I realized that I can’t make someone else feel truly happy if I can’t make myself feel happy.
“After months, I feel like I am a completely different person with a completely different mindset– a better mindset. Next time, I’m not going to get myself in a relationship until I know that the person is truly there for me and is truly willing to help me become a better person. I’m so grateful that I learned this while I’m still young.”
I’m not the kind of dog who wears diamond collars, so I don’t have any diamonds to give. But if I did, I’d give one to Confused for that letter – that person has got the Diamond Rule down perfectly!
So back to you, my readers! Can you do this? Can you insist that someone treat you the way you like treating them? Can you make yourself a vow that you’ll get out if a relationship is going the wrong way?
Or to put it in the simplest way: Do you love yourself enough to treat yourself the way I would treat you?
Because like most dogs, the way I treat people I like is overwhelming with love, loyalty, and lunacy.
And that’s JUST what you deserve to give yourself!