Habits of a Lifetime: "For You" VS "In Your Stead"
Being Good to Yourself is Good for All: “For You” VS “In Your Stead”
Maintaining relationships can be a challenge, as can keeping your own mood, needs and desires uninfluenced by your partner’s. Sometimes it’s hard to recognise where you end and they begin.
© 2005 Leah Cooper
The other day, my boyfriend was syncing his iPhone before going out. He was about ready to head out the door, and I cold-unplugged the phone and handed it to him as he left the bedroom. What ensued was a very painful and clear lesson in the virtue of doing something “for” someone and the damage that can be caused by doing something “instead” or “in the stead” of them. Knowing the difference can help create a stable base from which to interact with those with whom you have close relationships.
How can we stay true to ourselves, to our own dreams and aspirations, to our own well-being and happiness; while simultaneously carrying on a deep and meaningful relationship with another person? A wife who waits on her husband hand-and-foot and a girlfriend who insists her boyfriend call her whenever he changes locations: you may agree or disagree that these are related behaviours. It may be argued that either one or both of these behaviours are perfectly fine, natural, even wonderfully caring. Can it be denied though, that a wife who puts her husband’s needs before her own is putting her own needs to the side, if temporarily; or that a boyfriend who feels obligated to stop and text his girlfriend every time he wants to go somewhere else is “giving in” to the requests of someone who is absent? How can we truly be who we are and follow our own feelings, staying in our personal natural flow, when we are constantly checking it against the desires or expectations of another, whether they are imagined or not?
It’s quite the dilemma on the surface, but if we look closely at the concept of selfishness we can have it all. Now, I prefer the term “selfull”, a (granted) made-up word that may or may not be met with chortles or barf sound effects.
Let’s look at the definition of “selfish”:
1. Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
2. Characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself; selfish motives.
I’m not going to argue against the word selfish being negative, the use of “only” in both of these definitions makes it abundantly clear that being selfish is to the detriment or at least exclusion of others. So, let’s ask ourselves: what if we took out the “onlys”? Can there be a word for positive selfishness? Take a moment, go back and reread those two definitions, omitting “only”.
You back? All right… so doesn’t it give you the warm fuzzies? It’s quite an innocuous and extremely empowering concept. There doesn’t seem to be an adverb with such a meaning, at least in English. We can’t use the word “selflove” as that’s the new PC term for masturbation, isn’t it? What if selfish motives were actually a noble and wholly necessary pursuit? What about being devoted to or caring for <i>yourself</i>… regardless of others? It sounds wonderful, really. That’s what “selfull” means. When I attempt to use selfish in a positive way there are still so many stigmas and remembered reactions, I reject it on some level. So, I embrace being “selfull”. Having established that looking out for one’s self is a thumbs up, let’s move on to how we treat each other.
When searching for a relationship, “finding my other half” or “being made whole [by my partner]” are widely accepted as valid priorities. The apparently harmless and sweet notion of union with another person is one that is still the norm; as are small, innocuous habits, such as telling someone else what food your partner likes or reminding your partner in public of something they said earlier that contradicts their current actions. These are just natural behaviours of an exclusive intimate partner, correct? Now codependency, a collection of behaviours initially defined from the habits and interactions of those who are close to an addict, is seen as the opposite of natural. It is at the other end of the spectrum: controlling, emotionally manipulative, self-abasing and pretty much clinically unhealthy. Certainly, there are extreme cases, but what about a girlfriend who parrots her boyfriend’s opinion on just about everything? How about a husband who obsesses constantly over his wife’s woes at work? Mentioning both of these ideas as related to each other may not connect comfortably, but when each side of this apparent spectrum’s behaviours are closely analysed, it becomes clear that the line between having and holding someone and making a relationship more important to you than you are to yourself is pretty blurry.
© 2003 Leah Cooper
There are many gentle and subtle things we can do in order to keep ourselves in a healthy balance between being a fulfilled individual and being in a satisfying partnership. The lesson that finally came into focus for me when I “helpfully” messed up my boyfriend’s phone, is that of the difference between doing “for” and “in the stead of”.
When we do something FOR someone, it is a gift, whether it takes physical, emotional or energetic form. The preposition “for” has many uses, but in the case of doing something for someone what you are doing is temporarily suiting your actions to the purposes or needs of someone else. You are being of use to them, making their life easier, showing you care, being of help or assistance. For a moment, you are shifting your attention upon someone apart from yourself and using your energy, time and lifeforce in their interest, not your own. Motives aside, “for"ing is a temporary state that ends with the task being completed.
In the case of doing something in someone’s stead or instead of someone you are acting on their behalf, as a substitute or replacement for your loved one. You take on a task they could very well do themselves, such as unplugging a syncing iPhone. My boyfriend knew the phone was syncing and would have checked to make sure it was done, then hit eject and successfully unplugged a properly synced phone, not one with half the tracks he was planning to listen to grayed out. There are of course so many times in life when doing something in someone’s stead is more than necessary and even requested; although, as I’m sure is the case with nearly everyone, I hardly ever stopped to determine this before acting.
If I am to be lovely old selfull, and my boyfriend is to be selfull as well, then wouldn’t my making an executive decision about whether or not he does something interfere in his flow? Being mindful overall is an important part of gratitude and getting in and staying in our own flow of greater good. The more attention we pay to our own selves, attitudes, emotions and actions, the more we benefit "The One"s in our lives. It’s a win-win, certainly.
How about this little exercise? :
When you are about to do something for someone you care about, stop for a moment and ask yourself, "Am I doing this FOR my hunnybunny, or INSTEAD OF my sugarbritches?”
If you’re not sure which it is, ask. I truly believe that we are all one, and I also believe that separated as we are into these single-occupant physical bodies, only we can know our own needs and wants (especially of the moment). It can seem scary, sad and upsetting to acknowledge our disconnection; but at the same time, isn’t that what makes relationships so amazing? Life is full of contradictions and dichotomies, all of us being one and separate simultaneously being a good example. No one who is following their passion in life and flowing in all their possibility would want to be with someone who is exactly the same as they are, we are each unique and have our own contributions to make. Diversity and contrasts are what attract us to each other, what bring us joy and expand us and make us want to love each other. I want someone <i>else</i> to share my life with; a beautiful, one-of-a-kind awesome being who happens to be separate from me. There is no other option, anyway. That being the case, I will be mindful and do things for my love, rather than in his stead.
© 2003 Leah Cooper