August 29, 2013 at 7:09 am #41383
I would really appreciate your opinion on what I’ve been going through recently.
My boyfriend and I are 22, have been together since freshman year of college- going on four years. We have many differences, but we are reflections of each others strengths and weaknesses. I value his perspective, and I know he values my own.
But it seems that we have been disagreeing about fundamental things recently, which scares me that we may not as be compatible as I would like to believe.
For instance, last night we had a lengthy conversation about compassion. Compassion is something that I have worked through. It has been very tough at times to practice compassion towards others, but more critically–myself. It is a very essential value to me, because it allows for self-love and gratitude. But he sees it differently; he thinks that compassion is weakness. That compassion is just an excuse. There is no reason to feel sympathy because it does no good. That it causes the poor and impoverish to stay on welfare. He thinks that all that those people need to do is to “work harder” and that will take them out of the situation. But No– I disagree. Because I have volunteered in developing countries, and have heard the stories of the unfortunate. It’s not anything that they can just snap out of. They are a product of their environment, their influences, and their attitude (shaped by others). Working harder is not the answer. Telling someone that does no good. But by practicing compassion you can help them. I honestly believe that.
But it doesn’t matter– we just have a difference of opinion there. The only thing that scares me is that I actually will need compassion sometime in our relationship. Because mistakes happen and to get past them I need compassion. He needs tough love; I need sympathy. Very different ways of handling hardships. And our future children will need compassion so that they grow up knowing that its okay to be vulnerable.
Speaking of children…we’ve had this talk before. I want two children- I can tell I have the motherly instincts and I know that I’ll be a wonderful mother in the future. He- on the other hand- is not for them. He says that he could suffer through having one. I realize that most men don’t want kids until they are older. But what if he doesn’t? What if having kids makes him miserable? I would never want him to go through that- and plus I wouldn’t want a partner that isn’t excited about having kids. It shouldn’t be a deal breaker, right? That’s what I keep telling myself.
Okay and here comes the final facet of this complex situation. Last night (yes, it was a veryyy long night), he told me that he a crush on my best friend. And he left it at that. It’s just a crush. It may be just a physical thing. That’s what he thinks.
She is a very positive person, very attractive, very fitness oriented (which align with his goals right now), and I think he’s just infatuated. But my friend and I have been close for four years, and he’s known her for that long as well. It wasn’t until the last two years that the three of us got really close. We have gone on vacations before, just the three of us and I’ve never been concerned because they are both very trustworthy people, and of course I was the middleman. Then two months ago they went on a trip–it was a marathon race in a different state– by themselves (i had work, i couldn’t go). They stayed in a hotel room together, and I thought it was very trusting of me to let them go, and be okay that they were so close. Nothing happened. So it was all good.
But when he told me how he felt last night, it makes me feel scared. There is nothing holding them back from being together. They are both really great people. And I know that he loves me and that we are best friends…but couldn’t they develop it as well?
He said that he told me because he wanted to be honest with me. I appreciate that. But at what point do I decide what to do? Do I let time figure this thing out?
Am I overthinking this? I know that I’ve covered a lot of different issues here. But I can’t talk about this to anyone. I don’t want my friends of family to have a skewed perception of my boyfriend because everyone loves him and I don’t want to involve anyone in our issues. Maybe an outsider’s perspective will help.
Thanks.August 29, 2013 at 7:52 am #41386
I didn’t want to read and leave without a comment, but I am not entirely sure I have much to say that can help you with your fresh perspective! I’m going to try my best though to give you some things to think about
I love your ideas on compassion, very inline with what I think At the end of the day you can’t change his opinion, just as he can’t change yours. Could his opinion be something of the alpha-male ideal – he wants to be the man who doesn’t need sympathy or compassion because he can do it alone and so on, when perhaps in a really tough situation he would quite like the compassion and love you’d give him I don’t know but something to think about maybe! I’m 21 and know that a lot of the guys I know pretend to be much more alpha-male than they really are. They think girls WANT a man who are all strong and cold emotionally!
Your children could also benefit from a mix of perspectives in the long-term (obviously as long as they get the love and compassion they deserve and don’t witness any of the differences of opinion in the form of arguments!). Just like with the topic of developing countries and the whole ‘they should work harder vs. not their fault’ thing possibly being somewhere in the middle of your ideas (if it does have something to do with attitude it could be be both personal and environmental in nature), perhaps your differences of opinion aren’t the be-all and end-all and could always comprimise? Your children would learn that whilst it is ok to be vulnerable and that we should be empathetic of people, we also shouldn’t compromise our own strength and goals and we should be driven to achieve things rather than relying on sympathy. Two-sided coin AS ALWAYS in life
At the end of the day are you happier when with him than without him? Is this worry about your friend and him causing more worry than happiness in general? Do you feel supported by him despite his views on compassion? Only you can decide how you really feel.
Good luck Katie,
Susanna xAugust 29, 2013 at 8:02 am #41388
I really enjoy your questions and perspective. Its clear you have spent a lot of time becoming soft and gentle, and approach your emotions and decisions with maturity and grace. As I read your words, a few things came to heart.
There is a distinct difference between compassion and gentleness. Compassion is being rooted enough that we can do what seems best, despite the way it makes us appear. For instance, in the polarity between tough love and gentleness, compassion is doing either one depending on the needs of the other. If a horse was in a muddy bog, and sinking rapidly, we might have a few options. We could gently approach them, speak loving words into their ear to let them know they are able to climb out if they extend effort. Or, we could grab a whip and crack them in the butt, where they jump away from the pain and out of the mud. Both are compassionate, both are considering the horse’s well being. Both tough love and gentle love are love. It is actually not compassionate to hesitate to crack the whip because we don’t want the horse to see us as mean. That is just us wanting to be seen favorably, which is selfish.
This doesn’t mean we walk about callously cracking a whip… that would be unjust. It also means we don’t just walk around being gentle… that would be unjust. The heart knows which and when, and as we accept that, we do what is right.
The reason I distinguish that is because of the situation with your boyfriend. Monogamy isn’t a law of intimacy, but it usually helps a lot. Close, romantic relationships are founded on trust, which becomes very complex once others move into the relationship emotionally, psychologically, or sexually. It is between you and your heart whether to be gentle or crack the whip. Said differently, if your heart just wishes to see him happy, and you trust that you can work through the difficulties that arise with openness and honesty, gentle is fine. Set him free to explore his desires. If your heart does not, crack the whip and set some boundaries. Of course it would be his choice to pursue her or not, but be clear that if he does, you close the door.
The other questions of kids is similar. Just because he “could suffer through one” doesn’t mean that he either won’t shift after he has one, or that he won’t compromise. Again, being gentle can often be an excuse to self sacrifice to bend to the desires of another. Its our right and responsibility to ask for compromise, and if a compromise cannot be found, to move on. Also consider that females develop faster than males much of the time, and for him, children might be a “distraction” from fun, which is something that many boys grow out of as they become men.
Be patient, you know that the further down the path we walk, the clearer things become. Keep looking and asking, and you’ll find the answers you need. Buddha said the sangha is one of the pillars of development, because it is difficult to see beyond our own confusion, and submitting our perceptions and ideas for the evaluation of trusted friends and family will often lead to breakthroughs of understanding and insight. But you know that. Namaste!
MattAugust 29, 2013 at 11:08 am #41395
It’s reassuring to me that your work is done by way of your compassion. In general, I’ve heard (and seen) that feeling one’s way through is more of a woman’s way of navigating the world, and the man’s way is more thinking oriented – more head than heart. It may be, as you suggest, that your boyfriend’s take on compassion – that it’s just an excuse and a weakness – is his (male) way of dealing with the world, and of finding and sustaining his place in it. Regardless of his gender and indoctrination, I believe, underneath all the words and beliefs, that his compassion certainly does exist. It’s the way all “higher” animals are built, not just humans. Without compassion as a primary motivating force, our species would die out, emotionally, then physically. It could be that your boyfriend is simply afraid of his own, deep feelings, and afraid his showing compassion, rather than getting the job done by simply “working harder” (forcing rather than allowing), would indicate his weakness.
I know you’ve been with this guy for a good while, and, while I’m not at all suggesting you part ways, am suggesting you both follow your own paths, regardless of what one thinks or feels the other should think, feel or do. This is not at all in disregard to voicing your feelings and opinions. You have the job of living your life; expressing who you are, your feelings, your wants and needs. (But in doing that job, don’t expect others to change to accommodate you.) Be careful not to let what you want and need come from someone other than you. Our entire social structure is designed for consumption, and sells itself by getting you to think in its terms. Everything you see in the media encourages co-dependency as your God. And when you pray to it (actually, fall prey to it), it’s easy to fall into a trap of needing to adjust or fix any external circumstance to maintain your own acquired (and often, hidden), agenda – and continue the sense of security you find in it, even if it’s painful. Within the co-dependency agenda, you may be driven to get your partner to operate from a place of compassion, try to get him to be excited about having kids, be driven to figure out what it means that your boyfriend has a crush on your best friend, be concerned that your family and friends might have a skewed perception of your boyfriend because… …because, because, because…. And it’s all crazy making. To answer a question, you’re not over-thinking this, you’re OTHER-thinking it.
It’s a bit like driving a car by way of looking through a series of mirrors instead of through the windshield. And anytime, either by accident or intention, one of the mirrors gets misaligned, you have to quickly re-align it to continue on your course. Driving by way of looking through the windshield is keeping YOUR vision – knowing and pursuing what YOU want, regardless of what other people think or do. If someone knocks one of your mirrors out of line – if they have feelings that don’t suit you, want to do something other than what feels good to you, even develop a crush on your best friend – you’re still looking through the windshield. Whatever they do with your mirrors is their business, not yours. Undoubtedly, you will have feelings about what other people do. It will provide you with the opportunity to take a look at your true self, how you’ve been dealing with your life and what you wish to do with it. It will help you find your true values. Have your feelings, and don’t let them have you. Have other people in your life, and don’t let them have you, or let them determine what’s good for you. Don’t “throw out the baby with the bath water.” You don’t have to give up your mirrors to keep looking through your windshield. Use the mirrors as indicators of what other people do and where they are with themselves to determine if they will be good for you to live with.
If your boyfriend wishes to investigate his life, make some changes – or not, it’s his business. Keep steadfast to your values, and don’t lose sight of your dreams. You’ll find them through your windshield, not your mirrors.
Love and Peace,