Why it’s easier to swipe right on ten instead of opening up to one.
Recently, I had an exchange with my boyfriend that left me utterly happy and more sure than ever that he’s the most loving, supportive and generous man I’ve ever met. But behind the kindness I so adore are some very troubling questions:
Why is Adam’s constant generosity something I value so highly? Why is it that this is the first relationship in which I value myself enough to accept it so willingly? And why did I not demand the same kind of treatment from former lovers?
It’s possible 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, sure. But there was always something missing, always some sort of withholding. And I was very much used to that.
My first serious romance was with a sweet buffoon and he was kind enough, but I wouldn’t call him generous.
We allow men and women to ghost on us. We allow them to go on multiple dates with multiple 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 never feels like enough and both parties are left frustrated and unsatisfied.
At first, he withheld his time from me. He constantly showed up late for dates, avoided 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, mostly in helping to take care of the house, but his generosity was somehow never fully realized. And so it didn’t last.
My second serious relationship?—?with the ex who helped me realize what I truly wanted for myself?—?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, but I told myself it would all be okay somehow.
Until I met Adam, the man who will someday be my husband, I never expected dates to be generous to me. Sure, they would be nice, sending flirty texts, taking me out for drinks, treating me generally well. But “generosity” wasn’t a word I really ever thought when dating. 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.
After years of lukewarm dating and receiving terrible advice, I now find myself in a situation I never would have predicted: dating a man who is generous in every way I ever hoped for?—?and plenty of ways that never occurred to me, as well. He gives freely of his time, his love, his devotion, his empathy, his money (not that this is a good measure of anything), his understanding, his support. It’s just there for me, and my accepting it feels extremely 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 this? When is he going to realize I’m not all that?
And then, the worst: What’s wrong with me that makes it so hard for me to understand Adam’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 my current love is and how great AND guilty that makes me feel?
Having so much of Adam now makes me nervous. And what’s even worse, I fear someday it will go away. Adam’s generosity is quickly becoming something I’m getting used to and (even worse) possibly 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.
All these questions boil down to one truth: Before Adam, I never allowed myself to accept generosity in dating. And it’s because I permitted former boyfriends to train me to not demand it.
I didn’t demand it, I didn’t expect it, and I certainly didn’t think it was okay for me to have it. But now that I experience selflessness in my relationship on a daily basis, I understand how difficult it is to date these days. We have a serious generosity problem, and it begins when we settle for less than what we are worth.
We allow men and women to ghost on us. We allow them to go on multiple dates with multiple 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 never feels like enough and both parties are left frustrated and dissatisfied. I know this because I’ve spoken to friends on both sides of the aisle?—?male and female, gay and straight. We ALL do it.
And I think I understand why now. It’s because we have closed ourselves off from believing that true, honest generosity is something it’s okay to want in another person. We spend our lives browsing apps, hoping to find the perfect mate for a time, whether for that night or forever, 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, 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 be ungenerous with my dates, too. The truth is, I was part of the problem.
And the problem is EVERYWHERE. I’m not sure how it started for me. It could be that I didn’t see a lot of generosity growing up, or I had a fondness for dating emotionally unavailable jerks—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 to Adam as he is to me. Because isn’t mutual self-giving and vulnerability really what it’s all about?