It was my fault—I get it now, goddamn it!
I get this just as I’m starting to get so many things the older I become, mostly through hardship and one massive kick in the balls after another. People would think I love the torture and the punishment. Well, I don’t.
But it was my fault. I totally knew something wasn’t right and I made excuses from the start. I “allowed” my relationships to lack one or two or even all three of these key elements that I, or they, failed to make “nonnegotiable.”
I stood by and watched them collapse and crumble into nothing and cause me an insurmountable amount of pain, anguish, and sadness. I “passed the blame” to someone else instead of ensuring that these important concepts were present.
It took a whole life to learn what was truly important, maybe ignoring these key concepts because they took so much more discipline than I was able to muster. So instead, I nurtured all of the irrelevant things I thought would make me and us happy: amazing sex, success in business, beautiful kids, good friends, discipline and drive, effort and romanticism, and on and on—and all these things amounted to were sheetrock walls nailed to a frame that had no foundation.
Three little words is all it would have taken to ensure that everything else would fall into place. Three words that are the foundation of any relationship, whether it is marriage or employment or friendship or a business partnership—any relationship that involves two or more people. And you know what? They even matter in our own relationship with ourselves.
Here they are (because I don’t want to seem like a YouTube video that goes on and on):
There they are. Around each one of them fall all the other things that people tell us are “important.” None are more important than the other; they all hold their value steadily on their own. All three must be present, and the lack of even one of them will destroy any relationship.
Take respect for example—respect in a romantic relationship, respect of self, and respect for an employee or a friend. Could any of these relationships ever survive without it? Not ever. They may last a while, because we make excuses to ignore disrespect and wave it off as stress or some other bullsh*t reason, but we all know when disrespect is present. And even better yet, we know when respect is present. It makes us feel worthy and cared for. It makes us feel confident and appreciated. Respect gives us life, both when it is received and when it is given.
Respect exists when we take care of ourselves and our partners, when we have the discipline to do what is right and what requires effort and drive. There is respect when we “agree to disagree,” when we cherish our relationship, when we let another be themselves or when we walk away because we feel compelled to change them. Respect is evident when we engage is self-control, patience, and will power.
Then there’s loyalty. You’re either loyal or you’re not; there is no in between, no gray area, no such thing as “he’s pretty loyal.” Loyalty gives us trust and calm and tranquility, and loyalty comes from pure love, selflessness, and maturity. It is the path of absolute affection and respect for another. It is honesty, understanding, fortitude, responsibility, and strength. Loyalty allows us to always keep the big picture in mind, to never take the path of least resistance, and to never veer off into selfishness or intolerance.
Lastly, we have reciprocity—such a simple concept. Reciprocity is not giving when we are given; it is an instinct, a reflex, a random act that balances our lives. Reciprocity isn’t buying someone flowers because they bought you a present on your birthday. Reciprocity is an act of spontaneity, a spark that goes off in you that makes you do something wonderful, like buying a pastry or bringing a warm blanket or simply saying “I really love you.” It can’t be forced or pushed—it just happens. We don’t wait for reciprocity or expect it; reciprocity occurs the way rain does, like a butterfly showing up unexpectedly and giving us pure joy.
Reciprocity is mindfulness and raw care and thoughtfulness in their most unselfish state.
Loyalty, respect, and reciprocity are the fuel for relationships full of passion, romanticism, rewarding sex, amazing conversations, and unforgettable trips. In friendships, they contribute to synergy and understanding. At work, they make for an amazing employer-employee partnership. They create fulfilled families and incredible memories, and when applied inwardly, they feed the self in ways we could never imagine.
And when practiced in their full purity, particularly respect and loyalty, they don’t allow for second chances, they don’t forgive, they are strong and steady and do not budge. Our base need for self-respect and loyalty means that we should never “forgive and forget” when it comes to letting cheaters, liars, or abusers back into our soul. Because a relationship requires flexibility, but when it comes to respect and loyalty (reciprocity has some room to budge), flexibility wears off quickly.
We must give each at 100 percent because partially they just don’t work. Once respect is not there, once loyalty is broken, once reciprocity stops, love stops, the relationship is broken.
So, that’s it. Without one of these values, our relationship is in trouble, our job is in trouble, our friendship is in trouble, and worst of all, we are in trouble, since it is us who must first give ourselves all three.