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Expectations Without Responsibility

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My dear Jil, the notion of rights without responsibility defeats the very purpose of a relationship. You can’t have expectations of your spouse or partner and not imagine you owe him responsibilities too. A relationship conceptually breaks down when one side expects but has no sense of obligation to the other party. That is not the formula for a happy marriage or happy ending. It’s not a balance-sheet, it’s a one-sided ledger. And it’s a debit system. Someone keeps withdrawing from the emotional bank of the relationship, never deposits. Over time the debit system will bleed the love bank dry and dry up the emotional component in the relationship. And if you think your Aunt Elizabeth is a model conjugal partner maybe you should ask your Uncle Sam. He married her. Don’t copy selfish marital practices; don’t deem them models worthy of emulation until you talk to the other party involved. Being at the receiving end he knows how it feels in a unique sort of way.

And those kinds of relationship produce a pain-induced shell marriage. Never confuse the longevity of a marital union with its quality of happiness. A marriage can endure for years without the nutritional value of joy. In which case, it is long-suffering. The parties risk becoming dutiful marital zombies, fulfilling functions but lacking in essential happiness. The two parties merely resign themselves to their fate, especially if they deem separation costly. It’s the economics of emotions and difficulty of separation that keeps some people together not happiness. Especially if children are involved. They reach a state of equilibristic unhappiness. Difficulty of separation can keep an unhappy couple going, until they run out of credible runway. They may even hate each other but still keep up marital appearances for the sake of society. Call it civil unhappiness.

There are many of these shell marriages around. They’re just functional appliances and PR covers. The two parties exist in separate worlds whose orbits intersect at critical junctures of life – children and society. Indeed the two parties may have other relationships going on outside the marriage. But to all appearances they are “happily” married. And people praise the longevity of their marriage. It’s a longevity of pain and test of endurance stamina. A marriage shouldn’t be so. A partner who believes in rights without responsibility always has expectations of the other party. He or she expects the other party for example to take care of all expenses in the marriage. He’s also expected to take care of all emotional nutrients in the marriage. It’s his duty to love. The other party becomes a god or goddess who must be pleased, and to whom oblation must be made. And when he or she contributes economically or emotionally it’s just a token. There’s no acceptance of duty. If you truly love someone you won’t assign all responsibilities in the marriage to the person. Marriage is a contributory scheme. You contribute love, emotions, finance, effort, goodwill. You contribute care, affection, happiness, prayers, support, desires, partnership, faith, hope, oneness and unity. You can’t claim to love someone and treat the person with emotional aloofness and impassive harshness.

For marriage to succeed there must be reciprocity of care. Without it the marriage will lack in emotional vitamins. And it’s some form of sophisticated pride, this demand for rights with no sense of dutifulness. Those who demand rights without responsibility believe they’re doing the other party a favour. But such assumptions eventually prove vacuous when the marriage breaks. This is often clearly discernible but pride blinds one to the realism of the state of the union. And undergirding it all is selfishness, even wickedness in some instances. They treat their other half as if he or she is a third party. There’s no emotional attachment whatsoever. The other party is a “he” or “she” to them, not “my husband” or “my wife”. “Has HE done this”, “has SHE done that” is the language, not “how are WE going to do this”. They punish their partner severely with that emotional detachment, despising him or her. Lacking in emotional nourishment the other party suffers enormously in the marriage. But pride always leads to a fall, and pridefulness in marriage is subject to the same law.

Since the lack of emotional contribution is willful it’s actually some variant of vindictive purposelessness. It’s a despite of the other party, a getting away with bad behavior gone too far. At some point the other party will not be able to bear the perpetuation of emotional malice again. He or she will be forced to seek to leave the relationship. Either he leaves or he risks bad health, even death. Or he will seek compensatory affection from a third party contributor. The marriage tilts to the edge of doom, or it becomes a sham marriage, an empty shell sustained by secrets.

I think you ought to sit down and ask yourself what you really want in marriage. I can volunteer a few suggestions. You want love, you want happiness, you want peace, you want harmony. And you want etceteras. You can’t have these things in adequate doses being emotionally and materially selfish to your partner. It is a highly productive venture studying the secrets and principles of successful marriages. But it’s also highly instructive studying the science of failed marriages. Don’t choose bad role models for marriage. You only see in part. The full picture is not so cinematic. A long marriage lacking in love and affection is solitary confinement in a calaboose. When the quality of a marriage is right, longevity is assured. Should the worst happen you want your partner missing those moments with you, especially the little moments. But if you depart for the great beyond and your partner secretly does thanksgiving, erm…cough! In a good marriage no party wants the other to go nowhere. You hope to die together in very good old age. When someone you truly love goes home, he or she doesn’t leave a hole in the heart, it’s an excavation. Would he do thanksgiving, or would he grieve on end if you depart?

Your mentor, LA

© Leke Alder |

Tags : Responsibility, Marriage
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