It’s makes sense that this love language lays, smack dab, in the middle; because the first thing I have to do is be open to receiving the act as something genuine. I can fully acknowledge that I battle with seeing a partner’s act of service as fully genuine. Don’t get me wrong, a good deed is a good deed, I simply wonder if there is an ulterior motive behind the act.
I grew up hearing “men only want one thing” or “he did this because he wants that”. So, it only made sense that whenever I dated a guy, if he did something (without me asking for it, first) I would quietly question, why did he do it? I used to believe that if people did something nice for me it was because they genuinely wanted to do it, I was 8 years old; today, life and dating has since delivered me some very rude awakenings.
The most important one being that; no one does anything without receiving something in return. Sir Isaac Newton’s third law states that; “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. However, that reaction isn’t always visible. For example: A business man on the train gives a dollar to a homeless man. It may appear that the businessman is receiving nothing in return; but if you allow yourself to consider not every exchange has to be tangible; you’ll see that the reaction is emotional. It felt good for the businessman to give that dollar, and that’s why he did it (in addition to it being a good deed).
With the above being understood; sadly, there is always an internal tug-of-war between my mind and my heart. On one side, my heart wants to receive the act with no questions asked; while my mind is scanning for an ulterior motive.
In the average relationship, when people perform acts of service, it’s because they’re working to maintain their relationship and to get to that ‘Happily Ever After’. All the deeds one did to show love and care appear to be totally self-less, until the relationship is over. When the relationship ends, all those ‘self-less acts’ turn into sacrifices made. The once, “this is for you my love” turns into “I sacrificed this for you”. A self-less act rapidly transitions and becomes something that was actually a bargaining chip in disguise. I hate to admit it, but I did the above to an ex and I’ve had it done to me.
In a past relationship, I financially supported my partner. I paid his phone bill, his metro card, and when we went out- I often paid. We met online, while he was in Trinidad. He was a runner, but was in recovery from an injury. He had an opportunity to come to the U.S. to train with a special coach, and to be with me; but he first had to buy himself out of his contract, which left him with very little money when he finally arrived. I felt that he had made a sacrifice for me; so, for a while I did what I could to support him. The only problem was, every time we got into an argument, he would threaten to leave and I would weaponize what I did for him. He would say “I should’ve gone to Jamaica to train instead…” and I would say “Really? with all that I’m doing for you!” I was by no means rich, so helping my partner out while I was only making $30K (before taxes) at the time was a real financial burden. But I had convinced myself that it would only be temporary; he would land an athletic contract, we would move out and live together, and everything would have been worth it. As time passed and that fantasy drifted farther and farther away, I grew to resent him and all that I had done for him. I blamed him for my financial struggles, and when I finally ended the relationship, I declared that I would never make the same mistake again. In my mind, I was supporting my man because I wanted what was best for him; but my subconscious knew that if and when the tide finally turned, I wanted to be there to ride the wave of success with him. I wanted him to see me and all that I had sacrificed for him and declare that I was worthy to go on the journey with him. I later learned that was not a truly genuine act of service.
Those feelings and lessons learned in that relationship still fuel my perspective today. As much I love it when a partner does something nice for me; being who I am, and knowing my history, I worry that one day their acts of service will be thrown in my face, if things don’t go the way they intended. In previous posts I stress the importance of being selfish and, with my feet firmly rooted in the dirt, I stand by that. I like to think that I am fair in how I choose to date. I never ask a partner’s income, but I take note of what they say to get a general idea. A while back, I had a partner offer to help me out financially, although the situation wasn’t yet a reality, I declined the offer. I knew that their desire to help me would only further hurt them; the same way me financially helping my ex hurt my abilities to save and get financially stable for myself. I firmly feel that if helping someone today has the risk of turning into something sacrificed later, don’t do it! That’s like doing someone doing a favor and then holding it over their head in arguments; you either want to do it or you don’t. There will always be a looming question of an ulterior motive. Why are you here? Why are you doing it?
As I’m learning and growing with love, I’m learning to work on aligning my brain and heart, and to trust the actions of those that I love; it’s not easy, but I’m working on it.