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RA Takeaways Part 3

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Love and respect instead of entitlement, revisited

“Staying away from entitlement and demands is the only way to be sure that you are in a relationship that is truly mutual. Love is not more “real” when people compromise for each other because it’s part of what’s expected.”

--Andie Nordgren

I’m coming back to another aspect of the entitlement issue because it’s been such a growth edge for me, this aspect of obligation vs desire. It also brings up plenty of questions and complexities. I'll start with a more obvious scenario, though not necessarily a simple one. Say I’m invited to an “important” social gathering, say an annual family reunion or friend gathering, where I can bring a +1 (not going to get into the couple assumptions/privilege here; the situation still presents itself). Do I assume that this person who is very close to me will come because that’s what good partners/friends do? Or do I ask them if they want to come? (and is it curiosity, or a test?). Do I want them to be there in order to avoid potential stigma/questions/assumptions if they’re not there, or would both of us really like to be there? If I’m going out of a sense of obligation, do I feel entitled to the other person taking on that obligation as well? If so, why?

But the basic question is still, "Do I want to attend?" My decision and my responsibility. Do they want to attend? Their decision and their responsibility. Do we really want someone to endure an event with us because they feel obligated, any more than we would want them to endure sex with us or food they don't care for or a band they don't like? How does that fit into any palatable definition of love? In other words, how can desire be truly mutual if there is no real choice? Acting out of obligation in this sense seems to have more potential for building resentment and distance than for fostering closeness and connection.

The trickier situations for me to parse are when we find someone close to us needing a higher level of care than they previously have, due to illness (mental or physical), an accident, losing a job, etc. Those situations get more bogged down in expectations associated with roles, in my experience, and those scripts, around "family" and "partners" particularly, can be pretty ingrained, hard to recognize, and brutal to rewrite.

Then there are the little compromises we often make when we're in a more entwined collaborative endeavor, like sharing the same living space (for just a few weeks or for years) or working on a shared project (creative, entrepreneurial, etc.). When is a compromise just the level of flexibility you need to move harmoniously together with others and when is it suppressing something integral to ourselves? Still noodling and experimenting with that one.

Find the earlier posts in this series here: Takeaways from the RA Manifesto; RA Takeaways, Part I; RA Takeways, Part 2

If you have a great example or a burning (or even simmering) question, feel free to leave a comment.

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