Compromise, sacrifice, and where is the line?

When my relationship of near eleven years fragmented (ostensibly) because I was chronically ill, rapidly moving on disabled, I was incredibly angry. So incredibly angry. Incandescent, really.

But I didn’t know it at the time.

I didn’t realize it until fairly recently, until all that suppressed rage came spilling forth from somewhere I never knew existed.
I didn’t see it, because I’d been told by society that it made sense to be abandoned for chronic illness and disability.
I’d been told, by everyone I knew and by the general world, that it didn’t make sense for someone to put down their entire life to be with me, that it was asking too much.

And because I’d been told, my entire life, as a person seen and considered to be a little girl, that love was sacrifice.
My sacrifice.
Love was compromise.
My compromises.
Nothing was perfect; it was up to us to make it as near perfect as possible, through the giving of ourselves.
Us? What us? Women-us.
Life was suffering, was universal, so it remained up to us to make the best of it.
Again, women-us.

In a sense, my leaving without complaint, without shrieking about past promises broken and past vows tossed into the trash, was the last proof of love I could offer.

And even then I was in the wrong.
Wrong for “giving up” when reality was, I couldn’t do it anymore.
Couldn’t do all that being in those relationships entailed.
Couldn’t take care of myself anymore, much less another person.

I look back and I am agog.
Excuse me?
Or rather.
What the hell?

A few years past, some aunties were talking to me about marriage.
Why I wasn’t searching.
Why I wasn’t anxious.

And I looked at them, genuinely baffled, and said: “Um, literally all the marriages I’ve seen (including theirs) are terrible affairs and I have negative interest in getting into that kind of mess.”

Plus, I simply wasn’t up to any of it anymore.
Wasn’t up to bearing a child.
Wasn’t up to taking care of a household.
Wasn’t up to working.
Wasn’t up to emotional labor in the form of playing nice with in-laws who might or might not be resentful of what I would or wouldn’t do for their offspring.
Wasn’t up for sex.
Wasn’t up for putting forth effort to be conventionally pretty.
It was just nopes all the way down.
I just didn’t have the spoons.

And instead of being reasonable, loving, supportive aunties, their collective response was:
This is just how life is. This is just what’s expected. Yeah, most men suck, and as a chronically ill, disabled person, your marriage is likely to end up tragic, but that’s just what you’re expected to do and you should do it.

And that was when my brain stumbled hard enough the rage broke through.

Note that these aunties weren’t of the “marry someone rich, live off your husband” crowd.
As, according to them, men weren’t reliable long term and there was no safety for a woman except what she made for herself.

…pardon the rough language, but, what the actual flying fuckity fucking fuck?

So what would the point be?
Was it just to get me out of my parents’ house, so I wasn’t their problem anymore?
In which case, it really was up to my parents to tell me they didn’t want to keep me alive any longer and I should find a convenient place to die, not their place.

I didn’t get it at the time, but generally my current belief is that too many people just don’t want to see anyone free and happy.
Too many people want the next generation to suffer as they did, hopefully suffer harder.
Seeing someone break free, saying “oh, that is utterly ridiculous, why would any reasoning person choose such a thing” makes them think that choice invalidates their choices.
Makes them think that condemnation of a certain situation is a judgment on them and their choices within a situation that probably isn’t really the same.

When the reality is, it’s not about them.
My aunties thought they needed to get married to escape their abusive home of origin.
I make no judgment on the Truth of that, but my generation has less need to use marriage to escape and slightly more understanding if they move out from a stifling household.

But also.
Funny, isn’t it, that cis boys don’t get told as much that love is sacrifice.
They don’t get told to compromise, to bend and bend and then twist until they are the correct shape to support a marriage’s continued existence.
They don’t have endless, countless reminders that life isn’t perfect as-is, so they must needs carve out parts of themselves to fill in the gaps.
Perhaps you know all this already.

But did you know, that with this sort of socialization in place, cis het men who didn’t receive the support they wanted as infants and children sometimes turn to their romantic partner for the kind of mothering they desire deep down?

And did you know, contrary to what a lot of shitty media claims, that mothering a man doesn’t make them love you more? Or at all?
Most days, it doesn’t even get their gratitude.

Instead, because most men don’t want to fuck their mothers and most women don’t want to fuck their sons… so suddenly there’s probably some sexual frustration. Possibly a lot.
And guess who gets blamed for that? Especially if the woman picks up on the dynamic earlier, and subconsciously just “doesn’t feel like it” anymore.

Eventually, as the “son” grows up and got what they need, then what often happens is they go out and find an actual wife rather than another surrogate mother.
Leaving the starter wife baffled and devastated.

She’s lost years, possibly decades of her life in an ageist society that hates older women.
She’s lost the person she loved, or thought she loved.
Possibly her entire social circle is shattered, because all of her friends are his friends and people take sides and everyone hates a nag.
Maybe she’s left her career on hiatus or dialed back the intensity because playing mother to a man is exhausting, thankless, and incredibly stressful because of the bonus gift of resentment for “you’re not my mother”.
Never mind that he made her become his surrogate mother.
Maybe, just maybe, she has stress related autoimmune disorders, possibly cancer.

I didn’t know this, because that’s not the convenient story for the patriarchy to tell.
They say, you get what you put forth into the world.
They never tell you that sometimes investments cost you the earth.
They say, don’t be selfish.
They never let on that a chronic inability to say no might not only result in depression, but more serious diseases, like cancer.
They say, get married because you need someone for companionship.
They never mention how the divorce rate for women with cancer is around 20% versus 2.9% for men.
Of course, not all cis het men.
Not even all emotionally damaged and traumatized cis het men.

It’s not even really reserved for men at all.
Part of the reason I’m not looking for a romantic partner is because I suspect I have daddy issues that I don’t need to inflict on an unsuspecting innocent person.

But, how can you tell? What are the signs that you are probably playing unwitting and unwilling parent to the person you think you’re in a romantic relationship with?

What I’ve observed, between my experience, my friends’ experience, and the terrible marriages of my entire extended family:

When, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.
This includes “deliberate or malicious incompetence”. Example is when, somehow, an otherwise perfectly capable person just cannot manage to learn how to load the dishwasher.
It also includes if you have to manage resentment and anger from the other person after the thing is done.
If the thing is done messily and then you have to praise and coax the other person…welp.

When, suddenly everything is your responsibility.
They don’t like to go shopping and you don’t mind, so that’s your chore now.
They forget to do laundry regularly, so you pick up the slack.
They never learn how to drive, for reasons, so that’s all on you.
They don’t know how to deal with simple repairs or fixes, so for some reason you end up being the person to look up user manuals online.
…to the point where, for some reason, when your neighbor lights a fire in the driveway behind your parked cars, you’re the person who has to insist on calling the fire department.

When you always have to be the well-balanced, clear-headed partner.
When you don’t get to be upset or stressed because it upsets them and suddenly you gotta soothe and comfort them instead.
When they get to be rude and belligerent and you have to place peacemaker and be the one making apologies to other people.

When they present themselves as “adorably incompetent across multiple aspects of life”.
Oh my god, run from that.
Even if they’re another modern day Einstein, then they should take those smarts, create something and patent it and hire a housekeeper instead of expecting their partner to manage their life for them.

There is no such thing as “adorably incapable of taking care of the self”.
There is, eventually, only conflict about why won’t they go to the doctor even though they’ve been coughing for weeks.

Arguments about why they didn’t eat the food you’ve cooked for them because they don’t know how to cook and they’ve chosen to eat take-out for the months you were away and now all the food is freezer-burned.

Or screaming fights after you’ve made the food and you were hoping they’d reheat it so you could both have food after you get off work and instead they’ve been doing Something Else More Important all day. Something Else More Important like talking to their online friend or gaming or whatever that’s more vital.

When somehow you’re responsible for if they’re bored or not, if they’re self-actualizing or not.
When, for some reason, they can’t manage to figure out money.
Until, of course, they can, usually right before they inform you of your impending divorce.

There are other things, of course.
In the earlier stages (years?) of mothering there’s often the “barnacle” stage where they want to tag along to everything. Never mind if your friend doesn’t want to be a third wheel.
This often has the side effect of ruining friendships, which is an added bonus for them.
In the latter stages (when they’ve a bit more self-confidence and are starting the “rebellion phase”) that’s often reversed and there’s no getting them to do anything with you. Not chores, not anything fun, nothing. They’d rather be on their phone on the couch rather than interact.

Of course, what’s most telling is when they start complaining that you nag worse than their mother.
I mean, once that’s happening, it’s past time to bail.
Too bad by that point it’s usually been years.
Good news is, it’s never too late.
Even if they walked away first, it’s not too late.
Consider it a gift, that they took out the trash for you.
There is always hope if you’re alive.
There’s always salvation in “no”.
You can always turn around and choose yourself.

Say “no”.
Say “no” every single day.
Listen to that stifled voice within yourself.
Dance in the kitchen if you want to.
Leave the dishes for tomorrow if you have to.
Have pizza for three days straight if that is what’s called for.
Say “no”, so your body doesn’t have to say no for you.

Edit notes: Best beloved (Thene) pointed out a problematic sentence. Original: “Funny, isn’t it, that beings assigned men at birth don’t get told as much that love is sacrifice.”
Corrected because I didn’t mean to say that about trans women. Apologies!

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