Sacrifice, Post-Puritanism, and the Usual Suspects
So earlier today I quoted a quote from one of you on the board, (I don't recall who, but it is in your signature :D ) and pasted it into my facebook status.
Here is the quote:
"Love withers under constraint; its very essence
is liberty. It is compatible neither with envy, jealousy or fear. It is
there most pure, perfect and unlimited when its votaries live in
confidence, equality and unreserve."
~Percy Byshe Shelley
It quickly blossomed into a discussion. Among the points brought up by folks was why sacrifice is a bad thing, whether jealousy, envy and fear are hard-wired, necessary parts of being human, and even whether the mainstream outlook on relationships can be called "Puritanical."
It made me think.
Firstly, about sacrifice. What does it mean to sacrifice, in terms of a relationship? Whether it's time, your health, your job, another relationship, etc., what does it really mean TO YOU when you think of sacrificing something in order to continue a relationship?
My two cents was this right here:
"Sacrifice is a generally deleterious intruder on healthy relationships in my opinion, (and remember that my opinion has nothing to do with children, and probably never will) for several reasons:
1) Most "sacrifice" is carried out without the foreknowledge or consent of the partner on whose behalf it is executed, and often becomes a tool for ... See Moreleverage on that partner when it is not "matched" by a similar sacrifice or acknowledged in an adequate (and often ad nauseum) manner. This is either brazen or unwitting manipulation, depending on how aware the sacrificer is of his/her own motives.
In my experience, each is equally destructive.
2) If sacrifices must be carried out to make a relationship work, it is my opinion that the relationship itself be scrapped in order to find one that isn't so much goddamned work. Things don't have to be so HARD. I think if we find a relationship is built around sacrifice, it ought to be scrapped for one with a less cracked foundation.
3) Sacrifice is often mistaken or substituted for reasonable compromise, therefore destroying the credibility of compromise in general within a relationship. This renders most forms of communication tainted from then on and also undermines trust. This point kind of ties in with the first regarding leverage."
As a little bit on "Puritanism," I'll reveal that I have a theory that lots of Western culture's caddy-wampus ideas about love and the nature of loving stem from a post-Calvinist influence, sprinkled with Catholicism and Puritanical ideals. This condensed idea of mine is that a lot of people tend to view the VALUE of their relationships in terms of how much pain it would cause them to LOSE that person, and/or how much suffering (sacrifice) they've endured to remain in that relationship.
The "Usual Suspects" referred to in this thread's title are those old friends Jealousy, Envy, and Fear. I think there is enough on them in this Forum already, so I'll leave well enough alone.
Interesting post. I can only add my thoughts on sacrifice.
I think its normal for us to have to sacrifice some things in order to get other things in life. However, I don't think this leads to healthy relationships, simply because it implies someone gaining at the expense of the other.
I have made sacrifices of things that I wanted in my marriage in order to get other things, but those things were other things that I wanted which I think is fine, as often the things that we want are simply incompatible with each other. If I was sacrificing things that I wanted simply in order only for my husband to get something he wanted then I don't think that would be sensible.
I think in most situations you can find a solution to make sure that nobody ends up sacrificing important needs, as long as you're creative enough in finding solutions and both of you are flexible enough to realise the solution may not look exactly like what you thought you wanted in the beginning.
I recognise reading this that in the early years I viewed my relationship with my now husband in negative terms (ie in terms of how bad I felt when he wasn't around) whereas now I feel so much more positive. If he's not there I feel normal, when he's around I have something much better than normal and I'm happier than happy.
Originally sacrifice meant something very different. As a rule, when people started sacrificing for things(like killing a dove for a deity) they did so for something. The closest thing we have today is many of the African diaspora religions(I sacrifice this cake, you *name of deity* give me a pony).
For me, that's the only way in which sacrifice makes sense. You are sacrificing for something. If anything, it is more like a merchantile exchange when you take the deities out of it.
Except in extremely rare cases, sacrifices that a person doesn't get anything out of tend to end in resentment(as the word sacrifice assumes that you are giving something that is valuable to you) and that is never a good place to be in a relationship.
I sacrifice something ever day; my time. I go to work for money, not fulfilment and so I sacrifice my time in exchange for money to live and do things I enjoy. Sacrifice is a part of reality in my opinion.
DharmaBum23 put it very nicely. Sacrifice without return will ultimately lead to the depletion of a person.
But when does it become the responsibility of the other party to point this out. Call them on their bluff. This usually occurs when you have someone desperate for attention.
Be careful going in that direction because items can become preachy. If we ever want poly to be recognized, you don't want to attack the foundation of the people that you want to have understand you (heck, you may not care about this, I am just putting it out there btw) While I don't entirely disagree, what is wrong with looking at someone you love and thinking of how much you would lose. You simplify it greatly by looking only at the pain of loss. But that pain can come from knowing the great things you would be giving up. What you may miss out in the future.
I believe sometimes its almost the opposite. People are too inclined to give up and walk away. Relationships take lots of work and sometimes sacrifice. There is no perfect insert for relationships. I would love to see stats on divorce and why, the real reason, they occured. I betcha quite a large percentage is because they hit a single rough spot (assuming relationships were all puppies and kittens) and decided to end it.
Great points above as well. :)
ps, I feel no shame in the fact I needed to look up calvinism. Thanks for the read acroxander :)
Sacrifice and authenticity in relationships
In Chess, sacrifice is a strategic giving up of a chess piece. It is allowing or forcing an opponent to take one of your pieces or pawns so that you can gain an advantage position. I don’t consider this to be a necessarily good tactic for personal relationships……but
When defining sacrifice as the giving up of something valuable or important for somebody or something else considered to be of more value or importance, I find this to be a worthwhile endeavor and in fact necessary if a person wants to live a life of fulfillment.
This requires one to be aware of their own personal values.
In the past, I have found that (on behalf of a relationship) I was willing to extend myself in a few areas in ways I had never extended myself before. Basically, spending more time as well as physical and emotional energy on activities which were not activities I would have chosen if left on my own. Although I do not regret having done this, and in fact I look back on these times fondly, I tend to be less willing to extend myself in this way at the present moment. On some level, I thought the extra effort might cement the relationship….and maybe it did, but a relationship is two way (or 3 way, or 4 way etc.) and there is only so much I can personally do to insure its continuance.
I now believe that the best way a person can contribute to a relationship is by being true to themselves and by offering the things which come natural to them. I believe that each person has certain tendencies, specialties, gifts and talents. A lot of people don’t even know what their gifts are. In my opinion, remaining aware of your own personal gifts and talents and then utilizing those in a way that the people you care about will benefit from them is the best way to invest your time and energy in relationships.
The constant striving for self awareness may seem selfish at first glance, but when people remain true to themselves and continue to express themselves in an authentic way- it is my opinion that this is where they have the most to offer to the people they love.
I suppose my meaning became lost in the text somewhere. :D
These aren't attacks by any means, simply observations and a request for input. I try to avoid proclamations with any kind of certitude. They freak me out. ;)
Good points, of course. I will remain ever vigilant.
TS Eliot, in Little Gidding, mentions "A condition of complete simplicity/(Costing not less than everything)" (okay, admittedly, TS Eliot isn't the *best* source for relationship advice, but...)
How's this for sacrifice. Conversation with a 70 year old Christian friend of mine, let's call her Gloria.
Me: "I want the best for her. (My separated other)"
Gloria: "The best? Ha. You know what the best is?"
Me: "Well, hmmm. Unconditional love and acceptance? Freedom for her to be who she is?"
Gloria: "Ha. No. That's bullshit. This is the best: that a man lay down his life for his woman. That a man completely renounce his entire life and give himself without reservation and with complete abandon to his wife. No more sexual possibilities, no more adventures, no more "what ifs," no more sexual conquest. Complete abandon, 100% surrender. What does the woman give up? She gives up her will. The man is her head, he takes the place of God for her. This is the best. Both sacrifice what they hold most dear, what seems like everything, in order to gain everything with each other. This is the true meaning of monogamy. This is the step into real, grown up relationship the way God intended it. Everything else is just scared kids fucking each other."
I love hanging out with Gloria precisely because I get this window into the core of our cultural values. Old fashioned? Ha. Gloria is often positively medieval. But, really, is her construction any different from the Rom Com idea, the Myth of The One, the watered down, namby-pamby idea of monogamy that is promoted by our advertising culture? What's missing from our contemporary lovey-dovey monogamy myth is the absolute renunciation of the man and the absolute submission of the woman. But these absolutes are certainly hinted at in our modern fairy tales. In all "romantic" fairy tales. What's missing on an even more essential level is the central source and ground of this particular old vision of "the best": God. We have become uncomfortable with God and have removed Him (with a capital H especially) from our consciousness, conveniently and expediently, yet we still rely on the old (really primal and really old) vision of monogamy in much of our fantasy of what "love" is. We then wonder whence all the misery? We are trying to drive through a very dangerous neighborhood in an ancient vehicle that no longer even has the engine in it.
Working monogamy now seems to have an entirely different basis and seems much more conscious. But the transition from myth to conscious reality is a bitch.
I suspect I know nothing of true sacrifice, having never experienced it. But I do begin to sense that all sacrifice is essentially the same: each one is a step toward "costing not less than everything." Otherwise, we only think we are sacrificing. We ordinarily only sacrifice those things which are not important. Also TS Eliot: "We are only undeceived of that, which, deceiving, could no longer harm."
Time to do laundry and go to the post office!
I was talking to one of my male lovers yesterday and he said something about a serious relationship is about sacrifice and compromize. I found myself saying this to him. "I don't want to be in any relationship which requires either of the partners to have to sacrifice something of themselves on behalf of the relationship. I desire relationships in which both partners are able to say "no" to somthing they are not interested in because it requires a sacrifice or compromise that they are not comfortable with. At each encounter, the partners are together because they desire to be together in that moment. And if, for some reason, one or both partners are no longer enjoying their time together.....for god's sake, get some space and come back when you have a desire for your partner again.....but that's just me.
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