When Renée and I lived in the UK, we did a lot of travel on budget airlines. There airlines were crazy cheap – you could often get a seat to Dublin, Paris or Rome for as little as $30. But the seats were randomly assigned. If Renée and I wanted to sit together, we had to pay an additional $10.
Now, for me, your (overly) budget-conscious blogger, I was happy to save the $10. I had zero qualms about sitting by myself for the duration of the flight, silently battling the stranger next to me for control of our shared armrest.
But Renée wanted to sit together. For her, the flight was an opportunity to spend a couple of hours of quality time together. So, because sitting together mattered to her, but it didn’t matter to me, she paid the $10 to change seats.
A few days before a flight, the absurdity of this situation struck me. Here I was, with an incredible girlfriend who wanted to spend time with me, and I wasn’t will to contribute even $5 in recognition of that!
Essentially, I was communicating to Renée that what mattered to her mattered to me less than the price of a cup of coffee.
You better believe that, after coming to this realisation, I paid my share of the seat-change fee on every subsequent flight!
WHAT REALLY MATTERS
It’s hopefully obvious where I went wrong in this story, but it actually highlights an important principle that I try to live out in my relationship with Renée: what matters to her should matter to me.
If there’s something she cares about, I should care about it. If there’s something she’s spending a lot of time on, I should take an active interest in it. If there’s a goal she’s working towards, I should be her biggest supporter.
What matters to her should matter to me.
A few weeks ago, Renée really wanted to see Rocketman, a biographical musical film about the life of Elton John. “Biographical musical” is not high on my list of preferred movie genres. I was more in the mood for John Wick 3. But because Renée wanted to see Rocketman, that’s what we went to see. Not because she’s in charge or because she reluctantly dragged me along, but because what matters to her, matters to me.
It’s a principle that applies to both the small stuff and the really big, important aspects of our lives.
Take Renée’s career, for example. Renée is a digital designer (and an incredibly talented one). It would be easy for me to be a passive supporter of her career. I could know that she’s passionate about her work, believe that it’s a good thing, and maybe even look over the odd piece of design from time to time.
But Renée’s career matters to me. We’ve spent hours talking about how she can best build her business. I’ve used my legal background to help her draft contracts for her clients. She knows that I’m always available if she needs a second opinion.
What matters to her, matters to me.
FINDING FULFILMENT IN WHAT MATTERS
The thing about this catchy little principle is that it goes to the heart of what we as Catholics believe about relationships. We believe that for relationships to be fulfilling, they need to be built on self-giving love.
The Church puts it this way, “man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”
So, if you want to be unfulfilled in your relationships, it’s easy. Just live by the principle that what matters to me is more important than what matters to you. My time, my passions, my goals are all more important than loving you.
When I put it like that, it’s pretty clear that this is a selfish way to live. But it’s so easy to slip into this mindset. It’s easy in my conversations with Renée to focus more on what’s going on with me than what’s going on with her. It’s easy for what I want to do on a date to take precedence over what she wants to do. It’s easy for quality time with her to take a backseat to whatever “important” project I’m working on.
But it inevitably hurts our relationship. It inevitably leads to a difficult conversation where she tells me that she’s feeling unsupported or to a realisation a few days before a budget flight that I’m acting like a jerk.
WHAT MATTERS TO ME, MATTERS TO YOU
Paradoxically, when Renée and I do live out this principle of what matters to you, matters to me, what very quickly follows is that what matters to me, matters to you.
Renée’s a lot better at living out this principle than I am. I know that what matters to me, matters to her. I don’t need to fight for the things that are important to me, because if I care about something, Renée is going to make it a priority.
That’s incredibly freeing. Instead of frantically trying to hold on to the things I care about, I’m free to let them go. Instead, I can focus on what matters to Renée. Her love for me calls forth my love for her, and vice versa.
So, what about your own relationship? What are the things that matter most to your significant other? What are some practical steps you could take to be his/her biggest supporter?
Today’s an awesome opportunity to let him/her know that what matters to you, matters to me.
This blog post was inspired by a fantastic talk by Pastor John Cameron. You can watch it here.