3.15.10

15Mar10
Lately I’ve been having trouble finding balance in this blog.  I do not know how much I want to delve into my personal life, but neither do I want to feel like I am constrained to talking about the issues.  When I switched over to this blog, it wasn’t something I really felt the need to decide…at the time, my writing had pretty much exclusively centered around issues, and the little bit that did not could be cast off without any pain.  I know it is my decision to make, but I am having trouble in coming to a conclusion…  I guess this is a test, to put this out into the blogosphere and decide whether or not I’m comfortable having it attached to this name.
I’ve been thinking lately about the difference in the way I viewed relationships in the past and the way I view them now.  It is of course natural for this to change as we grow older, but it’s been especially catching my attention because an old friend has returned to town.
I’ll admit, when I was younger I had some pretty harsh practices when it came to dating.  I know a great deal of this was due to my complete lack of experience…how did one break up with a guy?  Turn down a date?  Cancel a date?  Refuse to give a phone number?  I treated one poor young man particularly ill, and then for the next couple of years beat myself up about it (especially during one horrifying period when I, for some reason, decided that I liked him very much and wished to rekindle a relationship).  We remained friends, and he is back in the area, and so in reminiscing my thoughts have turned back to that time.  I’ve long since ceased both my self-flagellation and notions of romantic overtures, and looking back on it with new eyes was an interesting experience.  I didn’t realize quite how much I had changed until that moment.  Now there is no way I would pursue anything with this person, even if the feelings I had then did still exist.  Our beliefs and goals in life are completely at odds.  But back then, it didn’t matter.  He wants children and marriage, and I don’t?  Well, that’s okay, if it moves that far along I can maybe do those things for him.  He’s a devout Christian, and I’m Atheist?  Well, we’ll just not talk about religion.  He’s highly conservative, and I’m extremely liberal?  I’ll try not to get too argumentative over politics.  How willing I was then to give up parts of myself and the things I wanted from life because I thought that if “true love” came about none of it mattered.  I notice now that I never once considered asking him to give up something.  It was always to be my wants that were set aside…it was always those that I considered trivial and pliable.  I don’t condone asking someone else to give up their wants and needs, but nor do I condone giving up your own for another.
My father and I were having a discussion recently about marriage.  It was sparked because of this article — specifically, the part which states that women should have sex with their husbands whenever the husband desires it.  Before we reached that point, we were doing alright, and were in general agreement.  But when we reached that part that said wives should submit sexually, he said, “Well, that is biblical.”
What?
I know I don’t agree with a great deal of what is in the bible, but I also know that people are quite willing to interpret most of it in ways that make them comfortable.  So when we’re discussing this, while he’s saying his opinion is based on what is in the bible, I know that we’re actually discussing his opinion vs. mine.  I don’t quite remember what reference my father spouted out at this moment, but I do remember this “reasoning” that followed:
A woman should agree to sex with her husband, even when she does not want it, because both spouses should be putting the other’s wants and needs first.  Also, if you would turn down sex with your spouse, why get married in the first place?
Well, as I’ve yet to tell my father that I will, in fact, be living in sin for the rest of my life (it’s too early to break his heart just yet, he’ll figure it out in time), my response ended up more like “Oh, I don’t know, why would I get married to someone knowing that there will be times when I don’t want to have sex?  Even though I would also know that the times I do will outnumber the times I don’t?  It’s not like there will be things like bad days and being tired and just not feeling up to it to take into consideration.  Perhaps because I’d expect a future husband to respect my boundaries, and not assume that he has dominion over my actions and my body because I happen to want to spend the rest of my life with him?”
Which, you can imagine, didn’t go over well.
It was only later that I calmed down enough to really think about the other part of his argument…the part that says that each spouse should be worried about the other’s wants and needs more than their own.  I don’t see how this works.  Obviously, when it came down to what the woman wanted vs. what the man wanted in the situation we were discussing, the man’s wants were more important.  How exactly do you decide whose wants and needs are more important when they come into conflict?
The simple answer is that it doesn’t work, and there will be too many situations in which there is no way to fairly decide.
The truth of this, as far as I see it in my parents, is that the wife’s needs end up being less important than the husband’s.  I don’t think either of them would admit to this, but it is how it has ended up.  I suspect that’s how it would end up in many relationships.  One spouse is going to be the one to constantly give up what he or she wants and needs in order to fulfill the wants and needs of the other.  Whether this would be the woman or the man really depends on the relationship, but if we’re following the biblical “wives, be subservient to your husbands; husbands, try not to abuse your wives or treat them like crap” model (Ephesians 5: 22-33), then the person to sacrifice will be the wife.  It’s a fucked up way to carry out a relationship either way, but it’s even more fucked up to say that’s the way relationships should be when you know you aren’t the one making the sacrifices.
Of course, if you do decide to engage in a long-term, possibly permanent relationship, there will be times when your wants and needs come into conflict.  There will be times when compromise will come easily, and there will be times when compromise is difficult or impossible.  And each couple will work through this in their own way, or they won’t.  But I cannot agree that they should place their own wants and needs second, always, in every situation.  The past-me, the one who would have had children she didn’t want (wow, does that sound both horrible and ridiculous to me now), who would have gotten married and kept her mouth shut, perhaps she could have agreed to that.  But I know all too well how easily putting yourself second is taken advantage of, as well as how problematic it is to think there’s nothing wrong with doing so.  There are many people I love and care about, people for whom I will engage in unpleasant activities, people I will worry about and try to protect.  However, I do these things strictly because I want to do them.  I do these things because I decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether my small sacrifice is worth the trade-off.  If I think it’s too much, if I think it will make me unhappy, if I just really don’t want to do it, I won’t, because I am unashamed of (what is often considered selfishness) looking out for myself first.  I get one shot at this, one chance to enjoy my life, and I choose to leave behind the self-sacrificing past-me and embrace the selfish present-me.  And you know, I’m happy about that decision.  It’s one I don’t think I will regret.
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