The Golden Rule

You’re probably familiar with The Golden Rule.

You know, it’s that catchy little phrase you learned in kindergarten, “treat others the way you want to be treated.”

While I’m not here to completely demolish the rule, I am writing this to simply help you to understand one thing. The Golden Rule does NOT apply to marriage.

The #1 reason why the "Golden Rule" does NOT apply to marriage (or relationships for that matter)…

Let me try to explain.

I’ve been married for nearly 11 years now, and I can assure you that our marriage has been through the ringer. We’ve had more than our fair share of ups and downs, and I’ve learned some pretty freaking amazing things through it all. My husband has always had this philosophy that we should be living this crappy “Golden Rule,” and while I agree, it’s great for little kids and most life situations, it’s definitely NOT suitable for those that are married, or in a relationship.

Here’s the #1 Reason Why:

We are not the same.



Is your mind blown?

Think about it for a minute.

Your wants and needs are not the same as your significant other’s wants and needs. So why should you treat them the way you want to be treated? You shouldn’t! You should treat them the way THEY want to be treated.

Let me be the first to say, this sucks.


It can be super difficult for you to change this learned behavior. It was for me, and it still is to this day. But if you’re interested in a truly happy marriage, this one little shift can really put you on the right track.


It all comes down to the way we give and receive love. Everyone does it differently, and your job is not to guess what your significant other’s love language is, but rather to ASK them. Let your guard down and just come right out and ask them what it is that makes them feel loved.

Here’s the kicker… you have to do it.

BUT! When you express (in a kind and loving tone) what it is that makes you feel loved, and your significant other is onboard, they will treat you with the kind of love that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

For example: What makes me feel super loved is when my husband does acts of service for me, and brings me gifts. So here I was for the first several years of marriage, following the “golden rule” and busting my butt doing things like keeping the house clean, washing his clothes, running errands for him, buying him little surprises, or making him a homemade card that I poured my heart and soul into… and while he definitely appreciated it all, it was NOT making him feel loved.

What makes my husband feel loved is when I compliment him, snuggle with him, and praise him for a job well done. So here he was for the first several years of our marriage constantly trying to snuggle, giving me amazing compliments and telling me how he was so proud of all the things that I do for the kids and him. While I super appreciated it all, I still was NOT feeling loved.

How can that happen?

We were both showing the love that we wanted to receive, but not giving the love that the other wanted. After some couple’s therapy we figured out what we were doing wrong. We consciously made a switch, and we still have to consciously make the effort every day. So now, when my husband gets home from work, I rush to the door, give him a kiss and hug and tell him how much I appreciate all his hard work to support the family. Sounds cheesy, right? Well, it’s not to him, and that’s what matters. I also have to let go of my bubble issues and let him sit close and snuggle on the couch with me, and I even scratch his back e.v.e.r.y.n.i.g.h.t. because that’s what makes his heart full.

You know what’s awesome though? He’ll help out with the dishes, make the bed, and he even helps fold laundry. He tries really hard at doing these things because he knows that it makes me feel loved. I’m sure he thinks it’s stupid, but he does it anyway. He even sucks it up and takes me out on a date e.v.e.r.y. weekend, because that’s what I love. 🙂

It’s not easy, and it really only works when both of you are trying together. Otherwise you’re filling up their love bank while completely depleting your own, and that’s just not good for anyone. (Go ahead and forward this post to your significant other if you want)


So might I suggest a new rule?


Let’s ditch this “golden rule” and introduce the “Platinum Rule” into our marriage:

“Treat your spouse the way THEY want to be treated.”


Just imagine how much happier you both will be when you implement that rule into your lives.


About the author

Shawn is the Owner and Creator of I Wash You Dry. She loves to create and share simple, family-friendly recipes. Mom to 5 adorable children and dwells in the desert of Southern Utah.
18 Responses
  1. Diane

    Might I suggest that you are still following the “golden rule;” here. You want your spouse to treat you in a manner that makes you feel loved. He want the same. This is the essence of the “golden rule”. The golden rule was never meant to be as specific as you are suggesting. God was actually saying treat others with the general principles you want to be treated with- such as kindness, honesty, respect, and of course, love. The specifics are going to look different for every person, because as you pointed out- people are different! ! God knows everyone is different- he created them that way after all!
    That being said, I completely agree with you that it’s vital to learn our spouse’s love language(s)! My husband and I experienced a very similar miscommunication in the first years of our marriage as well and it made things rocky for a while! But God lead us to Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages” and it opened both our eyes!

  2. Rachael

    Today we live in this “ME” society. It’s what (I) want and so forth. There’s plenty of selfishness to go around these days. I think that if people would just give their time to give and help other’s then they could see the joy it brings to them. It’s not always about us. I love to see people happy. The small thing’s I do for my husband make’s him happy, but I do it because I WANT to. We need to stop making everything about us. Shawn, you’ve made a very good point in your message.

  3. maria

    Really good advice! My husband and I continue to learn this. I have to admit that him getting me an occasional cleaning service made me very happy! Very happy!

  4. Christa Wimberly

    As a soon to be married woman any good advice,suggestions,hints,etc. are welcomed weighed and digested. My fiance and I come from completely different worlds from family structure to the kid question and in all of our snuggle talks to outright discussions we have never chewed on this topic and I think we and it is definitely worth it. So thank you,thank you,thank you

  5. Whitney

    You make a good point! This is why I love that book The 5 Love Languages, really helps me to know how my husband wants to be treated… We are definitely NOT the same haha!

  6. mary king

    Husband laughing his head off over my mistake a and I am giggling. We have been married 46 years not 41 as I stated in in my other comments. So if you want a good laugh for the day that is it..

  7. mary king

    I hate to say you are wrong, but for (come Dec 21st of this year) 41 years with the same man that I have come to love more each day; we have to go by the golden rule. Our marriage is bast on truth, honesty, support, and the golden rule. It takes a lot to give and take in a marriage treating each other with respect and trying to do what each partner wants is the fun of fights and especially making up. My Grandfather told me sixty five years ago that marriage was 100% give and 100%take. I listened but did not quite understand until I met my Robert. Then it came to me what Daddy Will told me all those years ago. We married when both of us were 25 years old, now don’t think it was a bed of roses we had to learn each other likes, and dislikes, we had words and more words but never went to bed mad an unwilling to talk. Through our ups and downs we never caused the other nor were there slaps, hits or words that hurt the heart. Even to this day we can disagree and still be happy. LOVE is the key and a healthy strong belief in God makes our day. So The Golden Rule is still in our marriage, we treat each other as well as strangers as we wish to be treated. Smiles and greetings to all.

  8. Mary

    Shawn, I love this post! The love languages are so very important. Discovering how they relate to not just to our marriage, but also to our relationships with our children is so important!! I have three boys with three very different love languages. Thanks for the reminder to “actively” love our husband (and our families!

  9. Emily

    I loved that book about love languages. It was a real eye opener. The problem is, I know all about my husband’s love language and what makes him happy but by dang it, I don’t always want to do it. I want him to speak MY language. That’s so much easier! 😉

    1. Shawn

      I totally agree, it’s much easier to speak my own language. But I do have to say that when we are both actively working on it, we are always at our happiest. 🙂

  10. Bonnie

    Very empowering! This makes me reflect on a 6 week “How to make good marriages great” workshop our church held years ago. One of the most powerful stories was about an older couple who were driving home. The wife claimed she was very thirsty. The husband started driving a bit faster and the wife noticed and seemed to get a bit irritated. The husband soon pulls into the driveway and is so glad he was able to drive home so quickly. The wife turns to him very upset and asks what he’s doing!?!?!?! “I drove you home quickly cause you said you were thirsty. I wanted to get you a drink as soon as possible.” She was totally flustered and burst out that she’d wanted to stop at the 7-11 for a drink, not come home to get a drink. “Why didn’t you just say so?” the husband replied.

    The teacher talked to us about “hinting” and how many relationships break down because we “assume” so much rather than, as you pointed out, just coming out and ask what someone wants, what makes them happy, etc. I love how you pointed out that you initally treated him how you imagined someone would feel good, because that is how you feel better. If we know no different, we’d maybe never know any different if we’ve never experienced that before. I applaud you for learning to look for ways to show love and respect, really, to your husband. I disagree with the first poster that it should be done in a suck it up mode. That seems to miss the whole point. Just as we often make sacrifices for our kids, we can and should do things, not out of desperation or sense of forced obligation, but seen as an awesome way we can make someone feel great — especially the one we wanted to love and to love us forever.

    I think of it a bit like Christmas shopping. We don’t buy everyone else what WE want (well, okay, sometimes we slyly put things on there we secretly want and call it a “family gift”) but for the most part, the fun is in thinking up things that will really excite that person and that you know they’d love. That is the fun of gift giving. I think what you are suggesting is much the same, only in little daily “gifts” of love and cherishment towards our spouses, whom we want to be happy! 🙂

    Thanks for a great reminder!

    1. Shawn

      Thank you Bonnie! I love the analogy of buying Christmas presents! It’s so true, and that look on their face when they open that gift is a look I would love to repeat, day after day. 🙂

  11. Donna

    WOW SHAWN! That was very insightful and although I never put my finger on it we have been working on this for years. Thanks for sharing!

  12. MAOM7

    But, then again, if you are spending all of your time, and energy (physical and psychic) doing the things that you have to “suck it up” to do, and so does he, how does that, in the end, benefit the marriage? I would see, in the long run, a lot of resentment, and an awful lot of exhaustion trying to fulfill that role. SOME of that is fine, but spending all of your time doing things that go against your nature, I don’t see as being a benefit.

    For example. I would not spend an evening snuggling on the couch watching television FOR ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY OR REWARD, even though he’d love it if I did. I hate television in general, and REALLY hate the stuff he spends hours and hours watching from his recliner. My brain could not take it. Seriously, I could not take that at all! I would just sit there being angry. I am outside working in the garden, riding my bike, hiking in the mountains, canning the food I’m harvesting, working on my fifth novel, going to hear the symphony or a new local band, trying a new coffee shop, etc., not things he’d ever do or even care to participate in, and I would not feel good forcing him to do those things with me just to make me “happy.” He knows that snuggling on the couch watching yet another reality show or horror movie with me would not be in any way pleasant, for EITHER of us.

    1. Shawn

      It’s definitely a tricky thing to balance, no doubt about it. I hate making lunches for my kids, but I do it, because I love them and want to make sure they are properly nourished. I feel the same way with my husband. I love him, so I want to make sure he knows it. I didn’t start off completely changing my whole life to accommodate him. I would sit and snuggle for 5 minutes and scratch his back. That grew into 10 minutes, but now we’ll also chat about our days while we snuggle, so it turns into an opportunity for both of us to feel connected. Keep in mind that this is just what works for my husband and I, and it’s not a one size fits all, just a simple suggestion. 🙂 You obviously have to do what works best for you and your spouse, and only the two of you know what that is.

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Shawn Syphus

Hi, I’m Shawn and I’m a busy mom of five; pretending to live on a budget. I love to cook, and explore new recipes, but they have to be quick and easy with as few dishes as possible.

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