I miss the days when, as a growing teen, I could eat anything I wanted and still weigh 105 pounds. I’d start each day with a huge bowl of cereal (about half the box), then proceed to the school lunch, on to whatever we cooked in Home Ec, then to an after-school snack of half a loaf of bread and a quart of milk before dinner. And still I wanted more. At dinner my sweet mother might be hungry, too, but she often gave me food from her own plate, because she always put her family first . . . that’s what women did.
Even today, when we’ve learned that to care for others properly we must first take care of ourselves, we women still put our needs second to everyone else’s. That is beautiful. And necessary—relationships require that we give to others. But giving can be tricky. We women are geared so much toward giving, we often don’t recognize when we’re getting nothing in return.
Which throws us into a moral loop: We know we shouldn’t give to receive; so noticing when someone does not give back seems counter to the very nature of giving. But to protect ourselves we must pay attention, especially within intimate relationships. When our partners fail to consider our needs, it’s easy to make excuses—they’re having a hard time at work, concerned about the bills, worried about the kids, even dealing with addiction or illness—and some of these are valid. But when consideration becomes chronically one-sided, the relationship is unhealthily lop-sided. Even the word “relationship” suggests a two-way street. So if you turn a corner to find compromise flowing only one way, it’s time to recognize and confront the problem: Talk with your partner, seek counseling; and if you must, walk away. There can be no “relationship” when one person merely caters to another—a place where many women live. That’s why we need to pay attention.
Healthy relationships require mutual love, respect, and consideration. If your partner does not compromise for you, a healthy, mutual relationship does not exist. Remember that being a good person does not require martyrdom. Life is too short, and you are too important. Don’t compromise your life away.
©Ellen Antonelli 2016
(Next Week: On Election Day: Shattering Glass Ceilings)