From time to time, I hear from a former “man” friend. I love it when I do; I’ve known some very special men.
Without question, that enjoyment and appreciation is reciprocal. I adore men who adore women… who adore men! Sustaining a relationship post amorous end-of-the-line has come naturally. I chalk it up to a foundation of genuine caring, and I consider myself the richer for it.
So where am I going with this?
Is this just one more reason that I find French men irresistible? Is this a personal penchant for continental culture? Or am I describing a relationship reality that fits my style of strong woman – yes, that would be me – with decidedly specific tastes in a certain segment of masculine men?
I believe that femininity and competence are not mutually exclusive (anymore than femininity and brains, or masculinity and sensitivity). I also insist that men and women in all their individuality can love each other without selling off the “self.”
Can they manage this in marriage?
That’s a different question, and not the one I’m exploring here. But I would like to consider the issue of selfishness in the context of relationships.
Are you a selfish partner?
What role does selfishness play in your relationships? Are you a taker or a giver? Are you a people pleaser – perhaps to excess?
I have found – for myself – that successful relationships involve a core of common values, a willingness to listen, mutual respect, a sense of humor, and time. Moreover, just because a relationship comes to a natural end doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good relationship while it lasted. Ideally, it involves give and take. (Easy to say, harder to do.)
What else is required?
Come on, now. We know that chemistry is essential. Anyone who has lived a sorrowful demise to marriage or a long term relationship will acknowledge the importance of sexuality, or more specifically, intimacy that is enhanced through sexuality. Dwindling physical engagement is either cause or effect as a relationship loses steam, isn’t it? Even if the cause is dramatically divergent libidos, doesn’t sexual disengagement strain the bond?
Relationships glue: laughter, flirtation, generosity
Having gotten a quick bonjour recently from a former amour, I am pondering the elements of our post-love relationship. One that continues to be an important friendship for me, and I believe for him. And what I find is an intriguing absence of selfishness, while maintaining self-interest.
There is respect, laughter, a little flirtation, generosity of spirit, and the knowledge that we might each help the other at some point in the future.
There is value for him that I am here, on this side of the ocean for now; there is value for me that he is there. A healthy dose of self-interest. Caring for the self, and caring for the other.
And generally speaking, I see no need to sacrifice the “self” on the altar of love. Nor is love a game of “winner take all” except in the arena of the narcissist.
“Very much a man”
As for the gentleman I mentioned, he is self-interested, but not selfish: generous with his time, generous with his attention, generous in bed… generous. And I don’t mean materially.
He is also complex, imperfect, and very much a man. Now how do I mean that remark? Grin if you will, but I’ll sum it up this way, fully acknowledging that it’s a matter of taste and perspective:
- His smarts are sexy
- He is a man of honor
- He is wickedly funny
- He is unafraid to let down his walls – selectively, and with time.
And yes, of course, he knows his way around a woman’s terrains, and is the enthusiastic recipient of equal exploration.
He speaks his mind. He doesn’t compromise what matters most to him. He takes care of his own needs – personally, professionally, and sexually. Does this make him selfish? And if we said the same of a woman, would we think her selfish?
Character, chemistry, and ten titillating tips
With media mired in a mountain of “mean girl” activity (and cast members targeted at every money-making market segment) – we’re steeped in a dreadful model of “acceptable” unacceptable behavior. I bristle half the time I turn on the television, and wonder why anyone considers rude, screaming, disrespectful individuals entertainment-worthy, much less celebrity fare.
Whatever happened to a modicum of manners? To just the right mix of character and chemistry? To relationships of substance?
As for that inimitable sizzle (the je ne sais quoi?) – we extol its virtues – and rarely go the next step to see what seals the deal. And isn’t that hanging in? Sticking around to do the work when work is necessary? Have we ceased to celebrate qualities of character – to sing their praises, tell their stories, offer up their examples?
Men and women write daily of relationships – how to find them, how to ascertain if they’re “good” or “good enough,” how to keep them, how to keep them hot, how to leave them, and how to start again.
Do we really believe we can distill life lessons into ten tips? Must we discard each other so brusquely? Isn’t it worth the time to uncover the character of the partner you’re with, and isn’t it in your own best interest?
Selfishness and Self-Interest
Selfishness, by definition:
excessive or exclusive concern with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others
Self-interest, by definition:
a concern for one’s own advantage and well-being; one’s own interest or advantage
When it comes to a relationship, is the distinction between selfish and self-interested a matter of determining what is excessive? Don’t we all need to know ourselves, respect ourselves, own ourselves if we’re to find a balance of give and take? Would some call that selfishness?
I am attracted to a man who knows himself, who has the confidence to be himself, to pursue what he loves and the person he loves – without sacrificing character or honor. Nor do I reject the realities of the physical and personal qualities that turn our gaze and ignite our desires. None of this has to do with money, with status, with position, or the traditional trappings men often believe that women are seeking.
Perhaps this is a statement of my own journey and nothing more – my personal balance of self-knowledge and self-interest, the gift of time living in another culture, of very special relationships. If so, I repeat: I am the richer for it. And for the standard by which I measure any future possibilities.
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