Why is it so hard for us to accept true generosity when we date?
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I wrote this piece in a bout of excitement, elation, love, wonder, guilt and generally feeling both really happy and a little down on myself. It’s been a month and a half since that moment, but this still rings true. Enjoy!
Tonight, as I lay in his arms, I asked my boyfriend if it was okay for me to get out of bed because I was inspired to write – inspired by the love that we share, the special gift that he shared with me that evening and the constant flow of kindness I experience from him.
“Of course,” he immediately replied, and my heart fluttered with happiness even further. He’s the most loving, supportive and generous man I have ever met, and I knew he would practically kick me out of bed to ignite the creative spark that suddenly rose in me.
But behind the happiness that I so adore lies one very troubling question: Why is this man’s constant generosity something that I value so highly? Why is it that this is the first relationship where I value myself enough to accept it so willingly? And why did I not demand the same kind of treatment of former lovers?
It’s possible that I never before knew what true generosity meant.
Previous boyfriends treated me well enough. I’ve never been abused or neglected – much – and they were nice enough, sure. But there was always something missing, always some sort of withholding. And I was very much used to that.
My first love was a sweet buffoon and he was kind enough, but I wouldn’t call him generous.
At first, he withheld his time from me. He would show up constantly late for dates, avoid calling me his girlfriend and was perpetually afraid to introduce me to his friends and family. Even worse, he held back the one thing I really needed from him – verbal confirmation that he loved me. He was generous in his physical strength, in helping to take care of the house mostly, but his generosity was somehow never fully realized. And so it didn’t last.
My second serious relationship – with the person who I credit for helping me learn to be assertive about my needs – didn’t go much better. Although he taught me how to stand up for myself and demand what I want in a relationship (“After all,” he always reasoned, “I can’t read your mind”), he wasn’t truly generous either. A huge part of him was always holding back emotionally, and I knew it from day one. We weren’t going to last either, and I told myself it was all going to be okay somehow.
Up until I met this wonderful man who I know is going to be my husband one day, I never expected dates to be generous to me. Sure, they would be nice with flirty texts, taking me out for drinks, treating me generally well. But generosity wasn’t a word that I really ever thought about in the dating world. I expected men to devote their time or money to me, but I never felt overwhelmed by either – and certainly not the two of them together.
And now I find myself in a completely unpredictable situation.
Here I am, with a man who is generous in every way I could have imagined – and plenty of ways that never would have occurred to me. His time, his money (not that this is a good measure of anything), his love, his devotion, his empathy, his understanding, his support. All of it pours out of him as if it was nothing. And it’s unending.
It comes easily to him. He doesn’t even think of it. It’s just there for my taking, and my taking feels odd to me.
All kinds of weird thoughts creep into my mind. Why is he so generous to me? What have I actually done to deserve this? How can he keep this up when I am SO not worthy of all of this? When is he going to realize that I am not all that? And then, the worst: What is wrong with me that it’s so hard for me to understand this man’s generosity? Why is it so hard for me to accept that he loves me and would do anything for me? How is it that I’ve been so messed up about men in the past that I obsess over how generous Adam is and how great/guilty that makes me feel?
Ultimately, the question of generosity comes down to me: I’m the one who has trouble accepting it. And it’s because I am the one who allowed myself to be trained by former boyfriends to not expect it much.
Having so much of it makes me nervous. And what’s even worse, what now also makes me nervous is that someday it will go away. His generosity is quickly becoming something that I am getting used to and (even worse!) addicted to. I still don’t understand how he’s so generous, but every minute of it makes me love him even more, makes me crave it, makes me want to burst with the excitement of (finally) having it.
I never allowed myself to accept generosity before.
I never allowed myself to expect it or demand it or even think it’s okay for me to have it. But now that I do, I understand how difficult it is to date today. We have a serious generosity problem, and it begins when we settle for less than we are worth.
We allow men (and women) to ghost on us. We allow them to go on multiple dates with multiple other people. We allow them to never call us, to take forever to ask us on a second date, to keep us guessing about their affections. It’s never enough and both parties are left frustrated and unsatisfied. I know this because I’ve spoken to friends on both sides of the aisle – male and female, gay and straight.
And I think I understand why now. It’s because we have closed ourselves off from believing that true, honest generosity is something to want in another person. We spend our lives browsing through apps hoping to find the perfect mate, whether for the night or for a lifetime, but we never allow ourselves to be generous with our hearts.
It’s much easier to swipe right on a dozen people, strike up conversations with half that, and maybe get a coffee with a few of them, than to truly open up to a single person. Just as I trained myself not to expect my former boyfriends to be generous, I trained myself to not be generous with with my dates either. The truth is that I was part of the problem too.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t see a lot of generosity growing up. Or maybe it’s because I had a fondness for dating emotionally unavailable $&@!%!@&$@^$ (and not just those that I was in serious relationships with, but those fleeting, short ones as well). Or maybe it’s just that online dating makes it really easy to be closed off in many ways. But now that I have what feels like a real, genuinely generous partner in life, I simply can’t get enough – and I try to be just as generous with my love.
Still, I can’t help but to keep asking myself over and over and over again: Why was it SO EFFING HARD for me to accept this man’s generosity? And why did I never learn to demand it for myself before?
After all, don’t we *all* deserve someone who’s going to be incredibly kind and loving and GENEROUS to us? I’d like to think so…