I have always considered myself a pretty selfless person. When in a relationship I will willingly surrender my own needs, hobbies, or even desires in the service of furthering my partner’s happiness. I have always assumed that my partner would do the same, to the best of their ability. I have always seen this as noble, and as the best possible way to show love, but recently I had an argument – an argument that helped me realise that not only is this not good but that it may just be abusive. An abuse not just aimed toward my partner but also aimed toward me, an abuse that I have never been able to see – until now.
I’ve been thinking hard about this ever since and, as has become my want, I’m using this blog to try and work my head around the issues.
When I enter a relationship I enter into a wonderful period in which I get to explore the being of another person. Physically and mentally I get to discover their past and their present, get to delve into their psyche and learn a little of their inner workings and their outer habits. We get to share, we get to delve deeply into each other and revel in the amazing complexity of another person. I laugh and I cry, there is a lot of hugging and deep wonderful sexual play. I learn and, perhaps, they learn too.
And then it goes wrong.
In some misguided way that is, undoubtedly, born of my past history I choose to start prioritising what I perceive as my partner’s desires over my own. I will not discuss it with them, I will not let them in on the decision making process, I will simply decide that to make them happy it is necessary to shed some of my desires and replace them with the servicing of what I have perceived to be their desires. In a healthy relationship there would be a dialogue. Some of my desires would be scaled back, as would some of hers and we would find a negotiated medium in which to function peacefully. In my world I choose what is important to her and eject my needs based on that assessment. I take her choice, her actual desires out of the equation and replace them my own perception of those desires; this leads, inevitably, to a situation in which I feel I have sacrificed a great deal to make the relationship work and she, quite rightly, feels that she is being forced down a road she has not chosen; a road that is a distorted mirror of her true desires.
I have never realised this before, but this behaviour is abusive. I am the abuser in this situation and I feel ashamed to have acted in this way; I feel ashamed that I never even saw that I was acting in this way towards ones that I loved.
Shame is a good thing to feel if it drives us away from our negative behaviour and toward something better. I am getting better, but a lifetime carving out this mould is not so easily broken free from. Therefore I am going to talk to my partner. I am going to show them this post (before it is posted) and try to agree a way forward based upon their true needs and desires as well as my own. I am going to look for a way that allows me to properly integrate who I am and what I want into our relationship whilst allowing them to be who they are. I want to stop imposing my skewed understanding of what they want or need and truly address both of our needs and desires.
I want to be a better partner.