First of all, go listen to this:
Second, go read this:
Finally, my turn.
Let’s talk about RESPECT.
The beautiful and classic Aretha sings:
Ain’t gonna do you wrong while you’re gone
Ain’t gonna do you wrong (oo) ’cause I don’t wanna (oo)
All I’m askin’ (oo)
Is for a little respect when you come home (just a little bit)
Baby (just a little bit) when you get home (just a little bit)
Yeah (just a little bit)
When I was a lass, early on in my first real relationship, with my skewed ideas of self-sacrifice and love and my juvenile grasp on self-sufficiency, my boyfriend (eventually fiance) told me progressively that he didn’t like:
– dangle earrings
– eye makeup
– my playfullness
– my talking (politely and respectfully) to anyone of the opposite sex
– my affectionate behavior
– my talking in public.
Yes, you read that. There was more, but luckily it all escapes my memory.
My young self, with my stunted emotional independence and church mouse conformity, readily threw away or gave away every article of clothing, accessory, and personality trait he disliked. I worked my @ss off trying to be what he wanted me to be.
Lucky for him, and even luckier for me, things went downhill quickly and we broke things off. He went on to marry the exact opposite of me, and someone who by nature fit the criteria I was forcing on myself.
You would think I would’ve learned from this relationship, but I didn’t.
My next relationship was about 5 months long. This guy had me convinced that his unwillingness to touch me (in 5 months of dating he only ever gave me a side hug) for the sake of purity was normal. I changed my perspective on things that were or were not appropriate, and I took my standards way “up”, in a manner of speaking, so that he felt I could match his level of “purity” (i.e. drinking was a sin, even one drink, and secular music was a pitfall… things like that).
This one ended when I began to realize how unhealthy the pattern was, and I stood up for myself.
My next serious relationship was my marriage. I flew through the process because of the passion, and looking back I wish I hadn’t, but at the same time, I know I would’ve made the same decisions with the maturity I had at the time, so I do not regret it. Life is a learning curve.
Compromise to me, in this relationship, meant a heavy adjustment of goals and priorities both for the sake of military life, and for the comfort of my partner. If my goals and dreams and likes and dislikes upset him, I backed off, suppressed, changed.
I’ve learned this can only last so long.
In each of these relationships, the other person was threatened in some way by my differences, opinions, personality, and dreams. Not only did they each have their own issues, but they were not secure enough to accept the respect I offered, and to offer the same.
I can legitimately, honestly, with integrity say that in my relationships, I am never the one to make demands. I want, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and clearly to an extreme, the happiness of my partner. I will sacrifice everything to secure that. In some ways, this is not healthy. In other ways, I am very proud of how secure I am in of myself to be happiest when my partner is happy, even if things the like, want, do, or change are not my preference.
Here’s the not healthy, and how I’m learning to address it.
1. Respect is a two-way street.
Only boys will project their insecurities onto you. If you have done nothing but honor, care, respect, and love, and they decide to be cagey, jealous, angry, possessive, controlling, and demanding, that is not respect, and it is an undeserved projection of insecurities.
2. Compromise requires constant redefinition.
We like to say relationships require compromise. In a situation, for instance, where I wanted my Master’s degree and was offered an amazing opportunity, was told to turn it down, and did, that was not compromise. Compromise would’ve looked like patiently and lovingly evaluating the situation and making a healthy, adult decision of my own out of a desire to both pursue my dreams and honor my relationships. Compromise is also a two-way street. If there’s something that you don’t like or that makes you uncomfortable, you discuss it openly (you don’t sit on it for months), immediately, and from a heart of love and support, and you do this on a regular basis.
3. Respect requires communication.
When I was deeply hurt or confused by the actions of my partners, I would internalize because I didn’t want to be “that girl”: the bitch that makes a big deal out of emotional, physical, or mental hurt. WRONG. When you respect yourself, you are open with hurt in a mature way so the other person can know they’ve disrespected you. You may be forgiving, but those little hurts, over time, will undermine a relationship.
4. Changing the things you really want, and the way you really are, is only temporary.
If you go with your gut and you choose to recognize who you really are, what you really believe, and what your own standards are; the core values, the personality, the strong preferences and the things that hurt you or bring you down; when you own those things, you recognize you cannot change them. If you try, and many, many people try, it will eventually wear you down or wear off, and the other person will feel hurt and disillusioned and angry because you’re being yourself.
5. The deepest and most beautiful relationships have mutual respect.
Respect that also includes an autonomy: a value of self. Respect that says I love you for your ESSENCE. If you want purple hair and a butt tattoo, I might not like it, but that’s on you. Respect that also says I want to be attractive to and to encourage and uplift my partner, so there are things I can recognize as trivial and can give up or change because they aren’t a part of my essence, I’m not changing who I am. Respect that values the other person’s dreams, goals, ambitions, personality, differences, and delights in them. Respect that cares enough to go deep, to push someone further, to see their potential and help them realize it, even when that means challenging them in difficult ways. Respect that does not lose the value of self in being fully absorbed in someone else, but still wants and desires and longs for the companionship and partnership of the other person.
Next time around,
I want to know I’m valued for the deepest parts of who I am. I want to feel honored and supported. I want to know I have the liberty to do what I like, so that I can make conscious choices to compromise from a place of independent self-assessment and not oppressive control. There are very few things I want so badly (VERY few) that I will not give them up for someone else, but there are now a few things I value so deeply that I will not sacrifice them.