I recently doled out some advice that I am proud to say was handed back to me on a silver platter. I especially love this return of kindness because when I got it back I received a whole new level of understanding of myself in relationships.
Last month my friend Kathy was in a crisis. Her boyfriend had let her down when she was in major physical pain. She needed him to take care of her. He didn’t do her bidding, so she translated his behavior as 1) he didn’t care, 2) he was an asshole, and 3) he didn’t deserve her. Thoughts like these always make a lot of sense when we are in crisis. It’s black and white: he’s good or he’s bad.
I remembered a piece of advice a friend shared with me years ago. His therapist had warned that if we rely on our partners for nurturing, the relationship is doomed. When I first heard this advice it seemed extreme. Yet, over the years I have seen its wisdom: depending on your partner to deal with physical or emotional discomfort is a slippery slope.
On my darkest day of preparing for my upcoming move, I had a couple of friends not show up to help me as promised. I whined that a boyfriend would come in very handy right now, and that I felt I couldn’t do it all alone.
Kathy acknowledged that I deserved someone to help me, make me dinner, draw me a bath, and hand me a nice glass of wine. She said, “But since you don’t have someone to do that for you, you need to treat yourself just like you would want them to treat you.”
When she said that I needed to do it for myself, I felt relieved and empowered. I realized I have everything I needed to tend to my well-being, and to recharge my battery for the next day.
Kathy gave me the one missing link in my understanding of this theory: I can take care of all my needs - physical, spiritual and emotional. We all can. A healthy relationship is between two whole people, not two halves needing completion - or anything - for that matter!
My Lazy Woman co-author, Judie O’Neill has been married over 40 years. Years ago, when I was between relationships during the holidays yet again, she warned me to not envy those in relationships: “There’s nothing worse than feeling lonely when you are in a marriage.” Her point was that there are no guarantees that your partner will ever give you what you need when you need it. The age old complaint “I’m not getting what I need!” is one of the sharp rocks on the slippery relationship slope.
There aren’t any cool sign posts on the relationship road. I think, though, I might be a little more aware of upcoming slippery slopes now. And, I know there is gold in ‘dem hills: treasuring myself in my weakest moments is priceless.