Whether negotiating a peace treaty between warring nations or who will do the dishes, each side has in mind a desired outcome. The parties come to the table girded for a war of words, their negotiating tactics firmly in mind. Each party, whether they admit it or not wants the upper hand, wants to win.
Do you find yourself wanting to win? Maybe just who makes the coffee in the morning or whether the coffee cup belongs in the sink or the dishwasher sometimes these simple things grow into what breaks us with resentment. Marriage, partnerships whatever we find ourselves in are not hearts and flowers all the time despite what we would like others to believe; indeed they are often something far more challenging than negotiating a piece of contentious legislation or world peace.
With the pronouncement of solemn vows, the agreement to love, honor and cherish something shifts. We think the honeymoon will last forever, it doesn’t; truthfully it cannot life has a habit of moving in with you when you return from paradise. We may believe roles don’t or won’t change, they do and they will.
No matter how clearly we have drawn our lines in the sand, written our boundaries (in our heads), those little words “till death do you part” have a profound effect on both of you. Whether it is social norms, cultural norms, gender norms or a combination of all of these, whatever you thought during courtship will change.
In the politics of relationships our hearts and our futures are on the line, we have often invested years in our marriages / partnerships. It is what you do when negotiating your relationship, your boundaries and your future that makes or breaks you. Not just your relationship but you.
- Concede – Accede
- Appeasement – Concession
- Compromise – Reconciliation
The above are words we might think of, might act out in the rough waters of our marriage or partnerships. Only one pairing has a good outcome, yet all too often, we find ourselves doing something other than what is healthy, what is good for our relationship and ultimately us as individuals.
We make concessions, or concede our positions on some points. Perhaps these are minor, things we can easily give. Concerns that have no real bearing on our long-term happiness or the foundation of our relationship or the agreements we thought we had made. But wait, before we accede do we talk about them, do we discuss why these concessions matter or do we simply give in, setting the pattern for all future interactions within our relationship.
With each concession, do we allow our resentment to grow? Do we disappear under the weight of another person and his or her demands for ‘their way’? Do we become a passive member of our relationship simply to appease the other, out of fear of loss, fear of public condemnation or shame, fear of loneliness. What happens to our ego or our boundaries as we appease, as we concede positions?
The boundary we established for ourselves that line in our mind the one that said we would be a full partner has now changed. We have agreed to a different more passive role in our relationship, without realizing or acknowledging the change in our status. Our emotional investment in the relationship is greater than our partners, it is no longer an equal partnership. Truthfully, it is no longer a partnership at all, rather it is a relationship without balance.
Can a new balance be established?
Is it possible for you to reassert yourself, redraw the boundaries and redefine your needs within a relationship where you have practiced appeasement for peace. This is a question I suspect many women in my generation ask
themselves. We teeter between fear of growing old alone and resentment when we have given too much of ourselves away. We are a hybrid of our mothers and Betty Friedan, we burned our bras yet shopped for the perfect wedding dress. We demanded equality in the workplace, yet remain uncertain how to negotiate equivalence in our homes.
We talk a good game, yet we still lose ourselves within our desire to be loved, needed and not alone. Initially we might say, it is small perhaps even it is nothing. The coffee cup in the sink rather than the dishwasher, the bed unmade or love notes unwritten on our heart. It is important though, are we conceding authentic self, our true need for the sake of not being alone? Is not being alone enough?
These are questions I hear from more and more women today, women my age. Women in long-term marriages, both first and second go-arounds, seem to be questioning their relationships and their standing within those relationships. Are we having another awakening?