I got in a fight with, um, well, now he’s my ex. Yeah. I got in a fight with my ex. And he pulled out one my favorite lines to hear in an argument with a significant other: “You’re selfish.”
I love it when men call me selfish. It makes me feel like I’m succeeding in life. Mostly because, according to normative gender roles, women are supposed to be the emotional caretakers in the relationship. She’s supposed to nurture her partner, support her man, and clean the house. Likewise, according to normative gender roles, women are not supposed to be the breadwinners. Personally, I don’t really like conforming to society’s expectations, and my response to society is to be as independent and self sufficient as possible. I’m lucky that I can pay my own bills and buy myself nice things.
I believe in myself and my own success. I love myself, and I believe that I deserve the world. So I am out to get the world. Heaven knows no man is capable of doing that for me. So I do it. By myself, for myself.
In relationships, this can be an initially attractive quality. When the fruits of my labor are shared at a communal table, everyone is happy. But when someone is asked to leave the table – then it becomes a problem. When someone gets excluded from the feast, I become selfish. Qualities that were initially lauded by my partner suddenly become faults. A desire to succeed becomes selfishness.
I have never met a man who was comfortable with a woman not needing him. It’s grossly codependent, but it’s a desire I’ve come face to face with time and time again: every time a man starts to suspect that I don’t need him for my happiness, my financial well being, my day to day activities – it’s a fucking crisis.
The reactions vary, but in this most recent occasion, he pushed me away because he sensed that I didn’t need him. It was a self defeating solution, one that was meant to make me feel pain. And, yes, it was painful, but it was bearable. He left me alone when I needed him, and then I realized that maybe I never needed him in the first place.
I guess this is confusing for me because I grew up in a society that told me that I needed a man in order to survive. But I saw the way that men reacted to that set up – women were burdens they were forced to carry. I didn’t want to be anyone’s burden. I wanted to be an equal. I didn’t like the social contract of needing someone – it looked too much like indentured servitude. I wanted a relationship that existed not out of dire circumstances or a need to survive, but out of a genuine desire to be together. I thought that being independent would be more attractive, not less.
I don’t know if the world is ready for that level of equality. It’s hard, and it’s scary. When you give someone a pure sense of freedom in a relationship, they lose the comfort of the chains of codependency. It becomes a free fall of the unknown. Not everyone can be comfortable journeying blindly through paradise.
So, what’s the difference between independence and selfishness? I may never figure that one out. All I know is that they are both punishable offenses.