How do women remain true to themselves and their desires while in loving relationship with others?
I know I am not the only one considering this.
Despite my intersectional feminist roots, I still struggle balancing my own needs with that of my partner. I’ve noticed I feel guilty & shameful when I want to move in ways that go against patriarchal norms. Not because anyone else is shaming me rather, because my inner voice will sometimes whisper, “You aren’t being a ‘good’ woman. No one will want you if you put yourself first.” When these thoughts arise, my insides feel like a battlefield. On one end, I understand why it’s important for me to nurture the relationship I have with myself. Years of “doing the work” has helped me see it’s the only way I can genuinely show up for others in loving and compassionate ways. The other part of me feels bogged down by the voices of women who’ve come before me; the ones who felt trapped and couldn’t imagine it being any other way.
Ask me for a list of ways women can honor themselves while being in a relationship and I’ll rattle off 10-20 things, no problem. When it comes to the art of living it, that’s where I sometimes fall short. I can get really frustrated with how easy it is for me to revert to old ways of relating however, I’ve learned to invite compassion into my life & am meeting myself with grace. A healthy partnership rooted in mutual respect and unconditional love isn’t something you see everyday, so when I feel like I should be doing better, I cut myself some slack. If we aren’t seeing visual representations of what’s possible, it’s likely that we won’t even know where to begin. Like a tango, the journey of relearning often feel like two steps forward, two steps back.
So I ask, when was the last time you saw a woman in a heterosexual partnership who felt free to live life on her own terms? Where self-sacrifice is discouraged because it no longer symbolizes the declaration of her love. Consider how often we commend our mothers for their selflessness and sacrifice, all the while as adult women, we grieve parts of ourselves that we gave up for the sake of others. So many of us grieve dreams lost because at a young age, we understood our role lied in supporting the vision of others. Even if that meant abandoning our own. Why is it that across various cultures, women are conditioned to prioritize the lives of everyone but ourselves?
There’s no in conclusion because I don’t have the answers. I’m still in the process of asking these questions & figuring it out myself. My intention is that through sharing my thoughts, you are inspired to think about how you or someone you know may relate to this. How can we be more supportive of each other? How can we teach our young girls that there is another way of being? One where they can be their fullest self. Where their dreams can come true AND they can be in healthy, loving relationships. Not that they feel they have to choose one or the other. How can we rewrite our narrative around caring for ourselves and imagine a new way of being? How can we embody this so that our young girls grow up knowing that they too, like their male counterparts, can have it all?