How a Three Letter Word Kills Good Relationships

"You know, I really do love fish!"

My friend Steve came up with this profound comment as we were about to tuck into the gastronomic offerings before us in a crowded downtown restaurant. I raised my eyebrows.

Well, on the face of it, Steve sure wasn't kidding. He lost no time in matching words with action as he attacked the luscious fried sole with cream sauce with unbelievable gusto.

But I know my friend is a philosopher at heart, and I wasn't going to let him get away with it so easily.

"Steve," I said. "You're doing a great job with that fish. I envy your efficiency. But..."

"But what?"

"What do you mean that you LOVE it?"

"I sure do," Steve assured me. "Could eat it for breakfast lunch and supper. I believe I could almost live on it."

"Yeah," I retorted. "And for the sake of your unquenchable love, the lives of how many fish are sniffed out every day? Steve, you don't love FISH. You love YOURSELF."

And my friend was forced to admit I was right.

Now, let's switch focus a bit. Let's talk a little about Pete, another good friend of mine.

(OK, OK, I'll come clean. In real life, I don't have a friend called Steve nor one called Pete. If I did, I wouldn't be gossiping about them like this, would I? I hate gossip. Fortunately, though, I've a reasonably good imagination, and I'm trying to put across some pretty important concepts here...

Forgive me? Good...)

Couple who are always squabbling

Pete has been married for ten years or more, and he and his good wife, Jane are almost always squabbling.

To tell the truth, I've never known anything like it. It's either he insulting her, or she insulting him. In private or public, it seems to make little difference; each trying to find a juicier epithet still to hurl at the other.

And yet...

Ever since I've known him, Pete has been protesting that he loves Jane dearly. And you know something? He does. I should know. He's MY friend.

True, at one time, I was skeptical. If Pete said he loved his wife, I could hardly doubt it, but I thought it was like Steve and his beloved fish. Now I know better.

Good - so how do I know? Alright, I'll tell you.

A few years ago, something of a medical nature was apparently bothering Jane a bit, so off she went to her doctor for a check-up. She wasn't expecting anything particularly dramatic, but what she heard from the physician that day was a bombshell, to put it very mildly.

"Jane, I don't like to frighten you, but this is life threatening. Very , very serious. However, time is still on our side. The next two months will be critical. You must follow the treatment program to the letter, and get plenty of rest. And keep praying..."

Do you think there was any bickering in Steve and Jane's household during the following two months? Not on your life!

Blissful feeling of intimacy

Pete's single-minded concern for his wife's health and comfort, if predictable, was complete. And if a pain wracked Jane did allow an occasional hurtful remark to pass her lips, he found it pretty easy to ignore it.

Ironically, this was, in some ways, the happiest period of the marriage. A blissful feeling of intimacy, such as neither partner had ever dreamed possible, enveloped the unsuspecting couple. Pete's obsession with Jane's welfare left him with no time for extraneous thoughts, and Jane's appreciation and admiration grew stronger day by day.

Two month's later, they were back at the doctor's. Can you imagine the overwhelming relief when he pronounced: "The danger's over!"?

Business as usual...

And the next day - business as usual! Petty bickering, name-calling, all kinds of verbal barbs and arrows. Well, if that brings them a little contentment in life...everyone to their own taste!

But seriously, what makes them do it? Can they really be contented that way? More pointedly, how could a couple that had reached such great heights slip back overnight?

It all boils down to a critical three-letter word.

We call it the EGO.

Is the Ego really so bad? Not always. If by "ego" we mean "self-esteem", it's indispensable. Many people say that we can't start to love others until we love ourselves first. That's perfectly true - IF we're talking about the right kind of self-love.

But if my Ego means my needs, my honor, my sensitivities, always come first (and probably middle and last), boy, we're playing with dynamite!

Sure, Pete loves Jane, and Jane loves Pete. Always did, always will. If one would disappear from the other's life, he or she would know all about it!

So what's the problem?

Then what's the problem? Why does it take a medical crisis to create a little bit of peace and harmony in their home? What prevents this at other times?

And what about US? What blocks the harmony that we seek in our homes, the peaceful cooperation we want in our workplaces?

The Ego that insists that I'm right, that will not yield on the most trivial issue. The Ego that demands the honor that's due to me. The Ego that pursues justice at all costs, irrespective of everything it knocks down on the way!

And for the sake of that pompous ass of an Ego, we're prepared to sacrifice everything!

Azriel Winnett is creator of - Your Communication Skills Portal. This popular free website helps you improve your communication and relationship skills in your business or professional life, in the family unit and on the social scene. New articles added almost daily.

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