Marina asked:

“I often go out of my way and do different things for my fiancé. For example if he wants me to stay and do something with him, I cancel what I have to do and stay with him. But he never does the same. He takes care of whatever he feels he needs to. Then I’m filled with resentment towards him. Can you explain what is a loving way to be in relationships? Do we just do what’s best for us or do we have to sacrifice at some point to make the other person happy?”

Marina is operating under the false belief that sacrificing herself is a way to get love. But giving herself up is a major form of control as well as of self-abandonment, and will always eventually lead to resentment rather than to a loving relationship.

By giving herself up, she is training her fiancé in how to treat her. Sacrificing ourselves says to the other person, “My needs don’t count. My feelings don’t count. You don’t need to consider me because I’m not considering myself. You don’t need to respect me because I’m not respecting myself.”

Marina is also operating under the false belief that it is her job to make the other person happy, rather than her job to make herself happy and his job to make himself happy, so they can come together to share their love and happiness. In a loving relationship, we don’t give ourselves up and take responsibility for the other person’s feelings, and then expect the other person to do the same. By not doing these things, we prevent unnecessary resentment from creeping into our relationship.

If Marina Were Loving Herself…

If Marina were loving herself when her fiancé wanted her to stay and do something with him, she would first tune in to what she wants. If she wants to cancel her plans and spend the time with her fiancé, then she would not be giving herself up if she did so, and she would not feel resentful.

If she tunes in and discovers that she doesn’t want to cancel whatever she has to do, then she would kindly say to him something like, “Thanks! I’d love to spend the time with you but I have things I need to do. Love you. See you later.” By honoring herself and what she wants to do, she is letting him know that what she wants and needs matters.

If he routinely doesn’t support her in what’s important to her, then she would need to re-evaluate the relationship. In a loving relationship, we support our own highest good and the highest good of our partner – which means that we support each other in doing what brings us joy and in what is important to us. It means we can tolerate disappointment without taking it personally.

Marina asked, “Do we just do what’s best for us or do we have to sacrifice at some point to make the other person happy?” It sounds to me like she is saying that if we do what is best for us, we are being selfish, so she might want to redefine ‘selfish.’ Doing what is best for us is self-responsible. Selfishness is expecting the other person to give themselves up for us, and not caring about the effect our behavior has on the other person.

Marina, I hope you start doing what’s best for you, while also caring about the effect your behavior has on your fiancé. If he is sad that you don’t stay and do something with him, you can be compassionate about his feelings without feeling guilty and taking responsibility for them - which is not loving to either of you.

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