By: Schuyler Biedron
I’ve been dating a wonderful guy for about three years now, and he is all the things: supportive, funny, introspective, thoughtful. One of the reasons I am most grateful for him and our relationship is that he and it have become two of my greatest spiritual teachers. And by that I mean, they reveal to me - subtly, kindly - how often I’m an asshole.
I feel proud to be a feminist in today’s culture. A time when women are encouraged - even empowered - to own their feelings, embrace their voices and express their most genuine selves. It is also a time when men are consistently labeled as the problem, and while many cases prove this to be true, I believe women must remain mindful of the work we need to do too. In fact, when it comes to me and my boyfriend, I have the more problematic background. I’m the one who has cheated in past relationships, I’m the one who has a pattern of leading on and hurting others, I’m the one notorious for unfair expectations and self-seeking motives. Now, this admission is not to say that my boyfriend is perfect and I am terrible, but to show that all human beings can be flawed and complex in our relationships.
Accepting my partner for who he is - not who I wish he was - has proven difficult for me. I want you to wear this because this is the kind of boyfriend I envisioned for myself. I want you to hang out with these people because they make me look better. I want you to work here because this job makes me feel more secure. I am finally recognizing the levels of control, manipulation and self-centered fear I bring to our dynamic and frankly, am finding it highly unbecoming and uncool.
What I’m slowly, thankfully learning is that being in an equal partnership is not about getting my way or having it always match my expectations. True partnership is allowing our significant others to be exactly who they are in the present moment and accepting and loving them anyway. It’s finding their alarming outfit choice charming, choosing patience when they don’t clean up the kitchen the “right” way and feeling serenity around their squad because you know those people make your favorite person so happy. That is unconditional, selfless love: wanting what’s best for your partner and shared relationship, not just what you assume is best for you.
Here are a few tell tale signs (in my opinion) that you may be acting selfish in your relationship:
- You are dropping passive aggressive comments about how your partner dresses, cleans, eats, exercises, relaxes, etc.
Note: This is our need to change another’s behavior to the way we see fit.
- You are badgering them to post specific photos of you on their social media.
Note: This is our need for attention, validation and approval.
- You are feeling disinterested or unsupportive of their feelings, perspectives, stories, jokes, and interests.
Note: This is self-obsession.
- You are buying them presents or clothes that pertain to your style and taste more than theirs.
Note: This is our desire to control the way our partner looks to the outside world.
- You are pushing something on your partner that makes them feel unheard, unseen or uncomfortable.
Note: This is believing that what may be right for you or someone else is also right for your partner.
- You are receiving but never returning the backrubs.
If you relate to any of the above, do not beat yourself up. We are human, and human beings are imperfect. Some of us just need to work a little harder to be the considerate and compassionate partners we want to be. Luckily, there are steps we can take to get there! The first step is self-awareness. Ask yourself: How am I showing up in my relationship today? Am I being the best partner I can be? Am I coming from a place of giving or receiving? The second step is checking our motives. Ask yourself: What is the incentive behind my words or actions? Do I have my partner’s best interests in mind or only my own? Are my words kind and necessary? The third step is practicing patience. It takes time to evolve our reactions and behavior. All we can do each day is try our best to become familiar with our selfish attitudes and choose to act differently. It’s not always easy, but I believe it’s the work and respect real partnership deserves. So I’m going to keep trying.
Photo by Enrique Abed