I had a hard time admitting that I didn’t know how to be real in relationships, or that I needed to change. I thought I was the one who was loving and giving. I responded to my husband, I thought about him, I thought about his needs, I tried to fill them. I cooked his meals for him, I washed the dishes.
I also looked after the children and did a day job. What more could he have wanted? I was happy to do it in the beginning – or I thought I was – but I got resentful. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t think about me. I kept falling back into that way of thinking he’s the one who needs to not be so selfish. He’s the one who needs to change.
When women in love give up their lives for their partner, raise the children, do the cooking and the washing up, even contribute to the income, all so that he can get ahead in his career, it can look as if he’s the selfish one. But that’s a dangerous place to hang out in.
My husband didn’t have to change if he didn’t want to, and I never really required him to, because that would mean I had to change and I didn’t want to either! So we stayed stuck for a while. It got to be such a nightmare, though, that I went to see a counselor, who helped me see I had to make that fourth choice.
Eventually I did. What surprised me was how relieved my husband was. He never wanted me to be his slave. We both had to accept that we enabled each other. It was hard for me to get off the martyr platform and see I was doing those things for me, not for him.
I always thought that I was very loving. But actually I was confusing that with kind of making myself a doormat. It was very hard to see what the difference was, sometimes. I don’t want to be cold and unloving. I like giving, it’s a good feeling. But I didn’t want to be a doormat either and I definitely wanted to be with somebody who also liked giving!
I began to see, though, when I did something for my boyfriend I totally focused on his needs – or what I thought they were, because I didn’t actually ask him – and I completely ignored my own. It was as if I shut the door on that part of myself. The hardest thing for me has been to acknowledge, even to myself, that I was getting something out of this “giving” thing I did, out of making myself a doormat.
I wasn’t really doing it for him. I was doing it for me. And on top of that I wanted him to know what I wanted, without my having to say anything. I didn’t want to take the risk of claiming anything. It’s like I deliberately stayed out of my power, because then I couldn’t be punished in any way. When I first saw that I’m scared to be with somebody who will respect me it was such a shock.
That’s when I really got it. I want to be able to be real in relationships but I’m choosing not to. I’m the one who needs to change. Not for anybody else. For me.
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