A good friend of mine was married to a bit of a chump. Let’s call them Sasha and...Dick. Dick was a massage therapist. One day, he shared with Sasha that one of his patients had explicitly invited him to have an affair—which he politely declined. Sasha, being the regular meditator that she was, was super-chill. "Fidelity is so hot, babe," she congratulated her man.
"So, what did she say when you told her you couldn’t treat her anymore?" As Sasha explained to me, Dick "got that angry, shamefaced look." Because he’d already booked her for another treatment. Sasha then said, pointedly, "You’re not going to rub her naked body every week now that she’s put the moves on you, right?"
Three couples therapy sessions later, Dick reluctantly agreed to consider letting this client go. Sasha and I were having one of our regular multitasking morning calls while making our smoothies. "Am I being a demanding freak?" she asks me. "Maybe I should just try to lean into this and be more trusting, like Dick says."
"This isn’t about you being a crazy, jealous lady—which you’re not," I said. "This is about really basic respect. He should have shut this shit down the first time the chick propositioned him."
"Yeah," Sasha said, and paused. "But he’s just coming from that place where he’s all wounded and then gets all stubborn." Sigh. "I get it. Hurt dogs bite." I said. Then, "OK, loud noise." Which is where we both mute our phones and turn on our blenders.
Sasha plowed through dozens of relationship how-to books and worked herself into an overanalyzing frenzy about the principles of unconditional love, relationships being your mirrors, and how the divine feminine is supposed to give the divine masculine more "space." Meanwhile, many couples therapy sessions later, Dick still hadn’t stopped greasing up the potential adulteress—in a professional capacity, of course—on a weekly basis.
The relationship was doomed for many reasons. After Sasha and the Dickster eventually split (hallelujah), a bunch of us girls were in my living room. One of the new girls in our circle asked, "Why’d you stay with him for so long?" Sasha sighed. "I thought I could love him into changing. My loyalty was, like, insane."
Truth. More truth: It’s not just guys like Dick who take advantage of tolerant partners. It’s a two-way street. Many growth-oriented individuals use what we call "love" as a form of power to try to get people to conform to meet our needs. I love you, so I see you. I’m rooting for you and I can help you. Just let me help you. Subtext: I know better, and you need to change. Please change. And maybe "they" do need to change—desperately.
But if we were operating from real power, rooted in self-love and respect, we'd steer clear of people who obviously aren’t going to meet our most important needs. We would avoid taking on relationships as "projects" and instead seek relationships centered around growing together. We’d get with people who see us as clearly as we see them—and we’d co-write a true love story in that beautiful light.
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