I visited my sister last weekend, and there’s trouble in paradise. She has been with her boyfriend for seven years, since high school, moved across the country together, live together, and only a year ago, he was excitedly looking forward to marriage. Over the last year, though, things have fallen apart and she, a headstrong committed feminist, is finally asking for advice. I thought her experience could be a good reminder how bad things can get, and quickly, if we make certain mistakes in our relationships, and an example that even feminists can be receptive to our advice when their beliefs fail to yield returns.
What happened a year ago? They graduated college, and she began a PhD program in philosophy with a 22k stipend. He started working as a computer engineer making six figures. Due to her commitment to the equality ideology, instead of appreciating him and admiring him for his career, she began to subconsciously resent him for it. She began bringing him down in many ways, criticizing everything he did, how he spent his free time, and even calculating the hours she spent working on her PhD to prove she works just as hard as him and as an argument for splitting house duties down the middle, demanding much from him and begrudging her own contributions. Day by day, he began laying bricks around his heart. They used to have mandatory date nights, but as his love for her began to cool, he would use any excuse to not go, and when he did, they were devoid of romance. She suggested they try something new: a mandatory “romantic gesture” they would trade off giving each other weekly. After a few tries, he gave that up because nothing he did was “ever good enough for her.” As things got worse, she became more desperate. She suggested as a solution that maybe they both try for four months to be the absolute best girlfriend and boyfriend to each other possible. He said that sounded like a long time.
My advice to her: try anyway. If this was something you’d be willing to do as a couple, do it on your own. Be the best damn woman you can possibly be, for as long as you can maintain it without any reciprocation. I believe that she can correct for her mistakes and recover lost ground, that the wall can be taken down piece by piece. She’s scared that he won’t respond the way I’m predicting – and that’s possible. It might be too late. But she has to realize that she cannot change him, she can only change herself, and she can’t expect him to fix it, or demand that he love her the way she thinks she deserves.
“That’s not fair.” Nope, it’s not. That’s the point. If you are exceptional, extraordinary, generous, feminine, understanding, grateful, sweet, and loving, his attitude might shift from feeling like maybe life would be better without you, to realizing he has to step up his game to deserve such an incredible woman. And further, she will gain fulfillment and peace from loving him and giving generously for the sake of giving. Remind him why he fell in love. Why he moved across the country to be with you. Love must be given selflessly, and in service to one another, not in competition. When you find a man worthy of this type of love, shower him in it though it came from a bottomless well. If love still is not returned to you, it unfortunately might be too late, and it might be best to move on. But Helen Andelin documents many marriages in far worse condition that were saved by the woman becoming the best she can be, and awakening a powerful love in a man neither one knew existed. I have to believe it is possible. My heart aches for her, for being so misguided by modern women. And unfortunately, I think this is not unique in the slightest – I think this is how many feminism-minded couples live for years, resenting one another and themselves for not being able to make marriage based entirely on “fairness” work the way it was supposed to.
Take a moment tonight to admire and appreciate your man extra, even if you’re already in a happy, traditional relationship. It means more to him than you know. And give, generously, daily, and the return is more valuable than the world.