There are many different perspectives on the maturity of a relationship between two people. One way of looking at it is to talk about three different levels in a relationship.

There are many different perspectives on the maturity of a relationship between two people. One way of looking at it is to talk about three different levels in a relationship. The three levels can be described as:

  1. I look to my needs first
  2. I look to both my needs and my partner's needs
  3. I look to my partner's needs first

Let's take a closer look at the characteristics of the three different levels.

1. I look to my needs first

The first level is about you making sure your own needs met first before you are prepared to meet the other's needs.

For example, "I am not going to wash the dishes until he has removed his things from the bench first" or "I need to clean this place up before I can sit down for a while and hang out with my partner, though I know he would rather like that we talk now".

Being right rather than happy

My focus is often rather on being right than being happy. Things should be done my way or not at all. At this level, we act in many ways just like small children.

Relationships where either one partner or both spend most of their time on this level are often filled by the need for control and selfishness which obstructs a free flow of love.

Meeting your primary needs outside the relationship

Over time you end up often in situations where you longer meet each other's needs in the relationship, but find ways to get your needs met outside the relationship. For example, by burying yourself in work, putting the kids before your partner or have more focus on a sports team that you are a part of rather than on the home and most of all your relationship with your partner.

2. I look to both my needs and my partner's needs

The second level is about giving to the other, but expect something in return. The expected return will not necessarily be direct, but the underlying purpose is there nevertheless. We may for example unconsciously be keeping score.

People in such a relationship often think "I give and give but get nothing back". This is often regarded as the "martyr's role". Often we blame each other here and hurt feelings easily arise. We often do things for the other to avoid whining and complaining or for us to justify ourselves with "I've certainly done my part!".

When it gets to be about compromise

What you often notice in these kinds of relationships is that people find it hard to receive. They give because they want something, but when they get something back they do not recognize it as a gift. Or they can not allow themselves to accept it, possibly because this would be against their "martyr" identity, which strengthens the feeling that you do not get anything back.

The relationship is about compromise all the time. One has to give in and then the people in relationship try to ensure that they get it their way the same amount of time, often unconsciously. The relationship is characterized by what could be called horse trading.

The passion is at risk

Unlike the first level, here you have started a process of taking a step outside yourself to give to the other. However, there remains a requirement for this giving, I give only if I get something back.

Relationships that are characterized by that one or both partners spend much time at this level are at risk of losing the passion over time. In large part because we do not think we can be loved as we are but that we have to perform or achieve to get the love we want.

If we then start adding layer upon layer of something that is not us, we will more further and further from our own core being, we will be less of ourselves. To fully be in this core is a cornerstone of a long term passionate relationship.

The big warning signal

This can be a comfortable level to be on and some are content with this level in their relationship. Another pitfall of this level in addition to what has been mentioned above may be that one partner gets tired of the game, tired of the bartering and goes outside the relationship to get their needs met.

It is always a big warning signal when either party in a love relationship starts looking for the satisfaction of their most important needs outside of the the relationship rather than within the same.

Markus: I have without realizing the consequences fully had a penchant for spending time at this level, and sometimes even on the first level.

For example, I have consciously or unconsciously bartered for the cleaning of our home and thought that if I have done this much, like vacuumed and cleared the table, then my partner should at least do the dishes.

A fully logical reasoning, definitely, but with the logic as the primary focus you are likely to be more successful as a full-time researcher than as one party in a lifelong relationship where you want to cultivate passion, love and joy.

A different form of barter trade, which I from time to time have gotten myself into, is thinking that if I do this and this, then there will be great sex tonight. For my woman will be happy and I will get a good time tonight. It has become very clear to me that women normally see through these kinds of objectives with ease.

I think it takes courage to live on the third level and really give without expecting anything in return, to make your partner's needs your mission in life.

3. I look to my partner's needs first

The third level is about being in a relationship in order to satisfy the other's needs. What sets this level apart from the others is that when you give, then you feel good about giving and in that way you satisfy your own needs simultaneously.

In this level you also love to receive that which your partner gives, I mean really to accept it with gratitude, without feeling the need to give something back. Meaning you really allow your partner to feel good about giving and you let yourself enjoy the receiving part.

It is not just that you love, but how you express your love

There is also a great interest all the time to find out what your partner really wants and how they want it. For example, if you know that your partner wants to feel loved, then you make sure to find out how your partner knows that he or she is loved by you. Otherwise, you may show my love in a way that you want to be loved in, but that does not hit the bull's-eye with your partner.

Some people want to see that they are loved, they want flowers, a special smile or glance, letters or notes with warm words.

Others would rather hear it and maybe they prefer to hear it as a whisper behind their neck.

Yet others may want to know it by touch, which for some may include hugging them tight and for others it means wanting a gentle caress.

The fear of losing yourself

One concern that may arise at the very thought of this level is that it is about losing yourself. That I will be a slave to my partner's needs. The important thing here is that it is not about violating yourself. If you do not feel well yourself, you can not truly say that you are at this level. This level requires as we stated above that I feel good myself.

However, there is a truth in what we wrote earlier, namely that in a way it is about giving yourself up. Putting your partner's needs before your own. It is not about being a so called "pleaser" who obeys all my partner's whims.

What your partner wants might not be what he or she needs

Sometimes, maybe your partner expresses what he or she wants, but it's really something else that her or she needs. Then you need to be man or woman enough to stand on your own two feek, make your own decisions and have the courage to be there for your partner.

An example would be the woman who says "I do not want to talk about it" but in reality needs to talk about it and is testing to see if her man, or partner, really is there for her. If you then go by what she says, you fail to meet her real needs.

Not without conflict on pink clouds

At this level, we find long-term relationships with happiness and passion intact. Of course there is this challenge and conflict, it is not a constant carefree life full of pink clouds. Rather it is a place where you deeply feel loved, where you get your most important needs in life met and where there is a free flow of love without demands for reimbursement .

One condition is that both parties get to this level. If only one is here while the other constantly puts himself or herself in the first place or gives to get, it is also a relationship likely to face major problems down the road.

Filippa: When my partner and I had a fight before, I always walked away wherever I was angry, I said I wanted to be alone for a moment to think.

What I really wanted deep down was that he would just hold me and be there until we calmed down and then bring the conflict to another level where we can solve it together.


Moving to another level

So what do you, or the two of you together, have do to move from one level to another? It is by now hopefully very clear that there is the third level that sets the scene for the most profound happiness, the greatest satisfaction and the freest flow of love.

Time to be truly honest

To begin with, you will need to be honest, truly honest towards yourself and also towards your partner, but start with yourself. Become clear about what level you most of the time find yourself on. Be honest, no changes happens without first seeing it as it is.

It is common that relationships are on one of the first two levels and it requires conscious effort to move to the third level.

Take at look at your fears

Also, take an honest look at your fears. What are your fears, which makes it important for you to be right, to get it your way or to get your needs met first? Maybe you are also carrying some old baggage around, for example in terms of how it looked in your parents' relationship, perhaps baggage that does not serve you well in your current relationship.

An assignment to help you along

To assist you in making a change in your relationship, you can also use the experience described at the end of this article. If you really want to make a change, indulge yourself in that assignment and experience as if your life depended on it, or at least your relationship, which may be more true than you think.

Homework assignment

This experience is especially for you who live in a partner relationship today. If you do not, it is our hope that you keep this information as a grain of gold to bring out one of those days when you are living in a partner relationship, for it is among the most powerful things you can do in a relationship.

With that said, it is perfectly acceptable to also do this on a friendship level at which you give to a colleague or friend and see how it transforms your relationship.

So let us proceed with the instruction, it is as simple as it can be challenging. Your task for the next 90 days is to put your partner's needs before your own. Dedicate yourself to becoming a full-time detective who finds out what their needs are and how they want them met.

Do not tell your partner that you are up to a 90-day experience, it increases the risk of slipping into putting yourself first by saying or thnking "look what I'm doing."

Put your partner first at all times, love him or her the most when he or she deserves it the least. And remember to take yourself to that place inside yourself where you do it without the expectation of getting anything in return.

Please note: After a friendly remark from one of our followers who studied the Relationship School together with her husband (what a great concept!), we wish to point out that it is perfectly acceptable to implement this even though both know about it. It will be an inspiration to be a little more inventive to put your partner first in all situations. However... if are doing it together, do not stop and evaluate after 30 days, instead go the full 90 days without talking about it. Then, when those 90 days have passed, you can sit down together and reflect on how you experienced it.

Do not at any point pause or stop during those 90 days and begin to analyze how it is going and if you are getting something in return, forget about it. After the 90 days are over, then it is time to reflect.

If your relationship feels like it is on the road to perdition, and that fact has not changed after you wholeheartedly have devoted yourself to this task for 90 days straight, then maybe it's time to start looking at how you can move on.

The risk, if we should call it that, is much greater if you allow yourself to do this assigment fully, that you will experience more life, more joy and more love in your relationship than you thought possible.

Good luck if you decide to take us up on this challenge!

Couple with laptop studying relationships