It’s the small things, always the small things.
May 19, 2023
Relationships are incredibly difficult. The longer you’re with someone, the more invested, the more there is at stake. The harder you work at building the intimacy that begets longevity. It becomes imperative to learn about the other’s desires. Their needs, yes, it’s critical to understand one another’s needs. But also, preferences. The things, the little things, that bring them joy.
David is very independent and has only been with independent women. I am independent, but I also like to be served. Not waited on hand and foot, not pandered to, but I like it when my partner thinks of little things he can do to make me smile, to make me happy. To me, those little things are evidence of love.
I require nothing of my partner I don’t require of myself. I’m always thinking of what I can do to make David feel loved, valued and cherished. Because he is all of those things. He is a dear man, one whom I did not anticipate finding. It’s quite a miracle for me, but I do believe in miracles.
It’s not just for David I do these things, it is my habit to serve. It is my love language. I know. Overused. But sometimes the most trite and overused concepts are the most accurate. When I get up to go into the kitchen, I always ask my mother if she wants something. And if she does, I get it for her. That’s a value I was raised with, and small acts of service, seemingly insignificant, give my life purpose and meaning. They often bring more joy to me than to the receiver.
It’s the small things, always the small things. They build on one another. They lay the groundwork for deeper connection. There’s an aspect of dependence, but it’s more a fostering of interdependence. It’s partnership. It’s the kind of symbiosis which leads to greater enrichment and a strengthening of our bond. That’s what I want. I believe that’s what David wants, too, but he’s not been conditioned in this way of acts of service. That’s not to say he’s insensitive to my needs. But he can be clueless. Maybe that’s just a feature of his being of the male persuasion. Maybe. I believe it’s more likely the conditioning of his childhood and how he learned to act with previous partners. It’s what worked for him in the past.
This rigid self-sufficiency he’s so invested in – his reluctance to ask me for anything - it’s not working for me. I’m discontented. I’m pressing him to be different, to be more. Often, I feel entirely justified. I do believe, and perhaps it’s simply arrogance, but I do believe when it becomes second nature to be always cognizant of the things I can do for my partner which affirm him in such a way as to increase intimacy and his sense of security in who he is, there is more joy all around.
I’ve tried to explain this aspect of my nature. He tries to wrap his mind around it and accommodate me. But it doesn’t come naturally. Again, he’s not insensitive. He is in fact very generous with me. And yet there are places where he is unable to meet my needs, and I’m not sure if it’s genuinely that he can’t, or that he won’t.
I keep pressing in those areas, because it’s important I know whether it’s a conscious choice he’s making, or if it is indeed something so integral to his nature, he is simply not able to accommodate me at all. But oh my, he does try. I see it. But he’s not doing it enough and he’s not doing it fast enough. Or is he? Is the misperception on my side? Am I being selfish? Inappropriately demanding? Are my expectations out of line?
I do want him to change, and I know that’s not right. Or is it? Shouldn’t my needs be just as important as his? The answer is, of course, yes. And yet, I have often told him my needs don’t trump his and vice versa. So how much compromise is enough? I feel I’ve compromised a great deal. And I’m using the term “compromise” in its most positive connotation. How much compromise have I the right to expect from him?
I’ve done quite a bit of compromising, and it’s been a good thing. There are ways I’ve accommodated David’s personality and his wants which are incredibly gracious. And because of who he is, because he’s so incredible, I feel fortunate for the opportunity to know him and do what I can to meet his desires. Because of the effort I've put into this relationship, I've become a better person. Love does that, though. It makes us better.
Whenever I strive to be more giving with another, more emotionally generous and more accepting, there is a depth of intimacy which develops that is far more rewarding than any perceived sacrifice. I’m not talking about enmeshment; I’m talking about deliberately moving towards unconditional love. I’m not talking about subordinating myself to another or taking a lesser or even gender-based role. I’m talking about doing the things, the small things, that show my partner he is loved and cherished. And… expecting the same of him.
When we are together, when we are apart, I struggle with this quandary: Can I live with who he is, right now, right this moment – is this enough for me? And if not, can I make it enough? Can I change inside of me, can I alter my perception in such a way as to see how he does express love towards me and have that be enough? And if I quash my natural desires for greater expression of love and affection, will I become resentful over time? If I see it as “quashing”, then the answer is, of course, yes.
Resentment is, in fact, the cause to which I attribute most failed relationships. The resentment that results from unmet expectations. Partners check out, detach, take one another for granted. Auto-pilot relationships, where partners simply give up. I’ve seen it in every one of my friend’s failed marriages. Then they tell me, “I just don’t love him anymore,” and it sickens me. Because when you love someone enough to join your life with theirs, I can’t believe that kind of love can’t be nurtured and tended to and made to endure – that is if both people are willing to put in the effort. And that is the biggest factor – both people are matched in their desire for a meaningful relationship. Without that component, failure is inevitable.
I’ve learned already with David it is easier to let go of some things, to ignore some things. It’s easier to not address the areas where we are significantly unmatched. And he’s the same. We don’t tiptoe around that stuff; we lift our knees high and step over it completely. I know that’s incredibly foolish and short-sighted, but I can’t bring myself to address those issues. When I’ve brought things up previously, fear overtakes him. Not only does he fear the end of our relationship, but the effect of my words is devastating. He receives my criticism as a condemnation of his basic nature, his very personhood. I won’t do that to him, that’s not something I can live with.
From that perspective, the only option I have is to walk away, to free him completely from my expectations. So, is that the best and most right solution for both of us?