On Selflessness And Humility

by Annie Kaszina on July 27, 2010

I just had to read Lori
Gottlieb’s “Mr Good Enough”.  From what the press had said about it, before it was published, it sounded
like a book I would loathe.  In reality, I do not.  

The title may sound controversial, but the book is very valuable.  It has the kind of message that you may, initially, want to argue with – or, at least, I did.  But then I found myself increasingly convinced and impressed by it. 

Yes, there is a note of self-pity
in the book, but Gottlieb incorporates a number of useful observations from
relationship experts. 

 

She notes that having common
interests is far less valuable than sharing values and aspirations about the
kind of life you want to create together. 

 

What struck me most powerfully was
one expert she quotes who says that the qualities, in a man, that bode
well for a long and happy marriage are selflessness and
humility
.

 

Contrast selflessness and humility
for a moment, if you will, with the characteristics your abusive partner brought
to the table. 

 

We both know that there was plenty
of selflessness and humility in your relationship. 

 

And we both know that it was all
very one-sided; your side.

 

Quite possibly, like a woman I was
working with today, you had not considered that selflessness and humility could
be masculine qualities also. 

 

Why not?

 

When I mentioned to my client that
masculine selflessness and humility are qualities that nurture a loving,
enduring relationship, at first, she struggled to grasp that idea.  Then she
said, referring to my last ezine: “Like the man who went out of his way to bring
his wife a latte
?”

 

Precisely so.

 

By now, you may be wondering how
masculine selflessness and humility can nurture a wonderful relationship, when
your selflessness and humility never managed it.

 

The answer has two distinct
strands to it.  First, Gottlieb describes a world of functional men and
picky, more or less functional women.  


You, and I, were decidedly
less picky than we might have been.  Also, we did not find a partner in
that world, but in the zoo, at the edge of that world.  Second, selflessness and
humility do not have to indicate a lack of critical faculties, as they did in
your case and mine. 

 

I am all in favour of selflessness
and humility.  In fact, I am at least as much in favour of being the recipient
of selflessness and humility as I am in favour of bestowing it on others.  When
selflessness and humility are reciprocal and spontaneous they are truly
wonderful things. 

 

And, there again, reciprocity
(like spontaneity) is predictably absent from the skewed world of abusive
relationships. 

 

But how, you might ask, is it
possible to be selfless and humble without turning into a doormat?

 

Humility and selflessness are
precious gifts to bring to a relationship.  They are also gifts that
have to be earned
; gifts that are only to be bestowed on people who have
proved that they are worthy of them.

 

Your abusive partner proved, time
and time again, that he was not worthy of the gifts you brought to the
relationship.  Yet, you continued to lavish them on him.  And, in his hands,
they turned to dross.  (But then, most things turned to dross in his
hands.)

 

Gottlieb suggests that single
women in their 30s and 40s have set the bar too high.  My guess is that her
thesis is very much coloured by her own experience; not that it really matters
here.

 

What I would argue is that abused
women have two bars: one that you set way too high for yourself; and another
that you set way too low for a partner. 

 

The fact that you are reading this
now means that you have served your time and your days of struggling with high
bars are over. 

 

You are entitled to be the
recipient of selflessness and humility.

 

Don’t ever settle for less,
again.

 

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