You’ve probably heard the saying before. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

This quote (whose actual author is unknown but which is commonly misattributed to Marilyn Monroe) seems to resonate with a lot of people.

It does with me as well, but a lightbulb moment changed the message of that quote for me. Now, those words speak to me in a much different way.

The Aha! Moment

It started when I was mad at Husband about something or other. We had just uprooted our lives in the States and moved to Grenada. He had just started medical school. We were both maybe a little stressed out. Ok, maybe a lot stressed out.

As I was sitting there, being mad, the quote popped into my head. If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.

Things were hard. And different. And he was really, really busy. Our lives had suddenly changed completely and he wasn’t able to support me as much as I needed or wanted during that major life transition.

I felt like I was at my worst, or close to it. I was at my worst, and in that moment, he wasn’t able to deal with me the way I wanted to be dealt with.

My mind went back to those words. If you can’t handle me at my worst-

But then it occurred to me. What if you turned the phrase around?

If I can’t handle him at his worst, I don’t deserve him at his best.

That changed everything.

How it Affected My Relationship

I realized that, though he is quite a bit more unflappable than I am, he had just gone through the same move that I did. On top of that, he was starting med school. We were both probably at our worst, or close to it.

Suddenly I began thinking about how I could be more supportive in our relationship, instead of just ruminating over what I needed out of it. I thought about how I could help him so that I deserved him at his best.

It seems really easy, in relationships, to think about what you want out of the other person. We spend time, even as we’re growing up, thinking about what qualities we want our partner to have and how we want them to treat us.

But how often do we think about what the other person wants or needs from us?

That is not to say that one person should bear the brunt of the work in a relationship. It is important that both people contribute equally. But maybe, if you give a little more, you’ll get back at least as much as you gave.

When I started thinking about what I could do for Husband to “handle him at his worst”, we both became happier.

The small steps that I took to help him become less stressed out also reduced my stress level because it gave me actionable things that I could do to improve our relationship. On top of that, when he was less stressed out, tension in our relationship dropped, and he was more able to provide the support that I was looking for from him.

Does the World Really Need More Relationship Advice?

The original quote is all about loving and accepting yourself for who you are, flaws and all, and making sure that the important people in your life do the same. While being treated right is incredibly important, it is also important to step back and make sure that we’re giving what we want to get.

I tend to be very stuck in my own head (hello, Anxiety), so maybe this reminder to step back and think about what you can give to your relationship is more obvious to some people.

But in a world where celebrity marriages end as soon as they begin, where the divorce rate seems to keep climbing, where people are always moving on to the next newer, better thing, maybe I’m not the only one who could use a reminder to think, not just about what you want to get out of a relationship, but what you are willing to put into it.

How to Improve Your Relationships

If you can’t handle them at their worst, you don’t deserve them at their best.

Try it on for size. Think about it. The next time you encounter a situation where you feel like someone isn’t able to “handle you at your worst”, try flipping the tables. When they were at their worst, what did you do for them?

Maybe the answer is that you did a lot for them. In that case, that might be a person who is using up a lot of your energy and maybe that’s not the kind of person you need in your life.

But maybe the answer is that you could have done more. Maybe you could have been more understanding, or taken a little more time out of your day for them, or sent that text message, or checked up on them, or brought them coffee. If that’s the case, and you value that person, maybe you decide to do a little more the next time.

That may just be the best bit of relationship advice that I’ve ever had the good fortune of stumbling upon-

If you value someone, think about what you’re doing for them to deserve them at their best.

Photo by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash