Many of us long to live in a world where we shouldn’t have to do anything for anyone else. We set the course for our own lives; we decide what paths we will take; and nobody should have the power to derail our dreams. Freedom is our rallying cry!
What I can’t figure out, though, is why freedom is so great. So many of us are so busy proclaiming our autonomy, saying “you can’t make me do this,” that I wonder if we’ve ever stopped to question whether being beholden to someone is actually such a bad thing.
Modern day feminists, for instance, cry that no man should be able to tell a woman what to do, and that no woman should twist herself in knots to get or keep a man. Instead, she should seek to fulfill her dreams, and any guy who wants to tag along had better adapt.
Yet speaking as a woman who is greatly in love with a certain man, I have to wonder why it’s so bad to want to please him? What’s wrong with wanting to make the house nice for him to come home to after he’s been on call for thirty-six hours straight and he’s exhausted? What’s wrong with doing his laundry? After all, he gives great foot massages, and he contributes more of the income! But even if he didn’t, isn’t it nice, sometimes, to have someone to fuss over?
I don’t do these things because I have to; I do them because I want to. I know some would call me an oppressed wife, but I don’t think those people have ever really experienced the joy of a give-and-take relationship. Besides, he cleans off the car for me, takes out the garbage, and figures out how my Bluetooth device works. It’s a two-way street.
It’s not only feminists telling women that they should never change for men, though; a new cohort of young men has concluded that they don’t need relationships, either. One night stands might be fine, but commitment is out of the picture. In fact, one man in a very open relationship once reported to me that he was as happy as he could imagine; neither of them made any demands on the other, and because of that the relationship was perfect.
Five years later that relationship is long gone, and I often wonder if ultimately they would have been happier if they had made demands on each other—demands that they stay faithful, do things together, be nice to one another, forge a life together instead of just side by side.
When we focus our lives solely on what we want life becomes rather shallow and awfully erratic. We can never achieve real intimacy with anybody, whether friend or significant other, for when we don’t make or accept demands, nothing can be permanent. And if nothing is permanent, we can’t be vulnerable. We can’t really open up. Sure, you may be able to pursue surface things, but what about our deepest needs to be accepted, loved, affirmed, and cherished? Without vulnerability and transparency, which can only come when we do make demands on each other, real intimacy can’t be achieved.
Loving someone isn’t a burden; it’s a privilege. Sometimes we should do things we don’t really want to do. Sometimes we should let someone else set the course. True love, after all, whether it’s with a sibling, a spouse, a child, or a friend, is so much better than autonomy. And, in the end, it’s far less lonely.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of four books, including To Love, Honor and Vacuum: When you feel more like a maid than a wife and a mother. She blogs at http://tolovehonorandvacuum.blogspot.com and has a great newsletter called Reality Check.
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