“I want it all! I want it all! I want it all! And I want it now!”
—Queen: I want it all
The other day, I heard the Queen song, I want it all, and have not been able to get it out of my head since. Sometimes I am so aware of my own mortality, of how short life is, and of how much there is to feel and do and experience before it's game over, that it is difficult to be patient. I want it all, and I want it now! As Freddie Mercury might have told you, tomorrow is too late, for tomorrow, we die! This is not a rehearsal, this is the final performance, and it will be over before we know it.
One of my friends has complained that I live my life at the speed of light, but to me, it sometimes feels as though everyone else is standing still, letting life slip through their fingers unlived. I am greedy for life, for love, for passion, and for knowledge, and my time feels too precious to me to fritter away in the name of politeness. If I don't want to see a friend or answer an email message, I don't. If I thought that I would live for ever, things would be very different (and I'd probably upset fewer friends with my impatience and what they perhaps see as my “selfishness”!) but they are not different.
So when I see a woman friend of mine impatient for intimacy, wanting her man to take control and do it now, wanting him to take a leap of faith and dare to accept the authority she is offering him, wanting real dominance and discipline and wanting it harder, more extremely, more, more, more, wanting him to take the risk of trusting her totally, wanting him to have the courage to go onward into love and life, I understand. And when I see a man I know wanting a woman so much that he is going out of his mind with desire and love for her, wanting it all, and wanting it now, and sometimes pushing her so much he overwhelms her, I understand.
But we have to remember that other people, including those closest to us, are not us. They are separate individuals. They have their own wishes, their own preferences, their own needs, and their own concerns. Ultimately, we all need to control our own lives. This includes the man you women so desperately wish would take the reins of your relationship, and it includes the woman you men wish would hurry up and take everything you are offering.
Pushing them won't help, it will only drive them away. I know, because I've been there too. You can only move as fast as you can move. No matter how much you might want to be able to go faster, love more, give more, understand more, be more be more obedient, or more in control, you can't effect these changes by an act of will. It takes time and creativity, and it is not something that can be done by someone else: you have to do it yourself.
It may seem obvious to you that your lover should change, and how, and when (now!) but beware self-evident truths, for they are often false. You do not know everything that is in your lover's mind, you can only ever know a small fraction of it, and you can only know a small fraction of the considerations your lover has. So when you think you know best how your lover should conduct his life, remember that maybe you don't actually know best at all. It is his life, not yours, and he must live it as he himself thinks best. He can only live it as he thinks best.
Yes, I know. How he lives his life affects you, so your pushing is not about getting him to change his life, it is about getting him to change just that part of his life which affects you. It's about give and take, it's about getting your legitimate and reasonable needs met, it's about being in this together rather than two separate, unconnected lives. If you may not give voice to your thoughts or ask for what you want, just what kind of relationship is it anyway? Can it even be called a relationship at all? Aren't you supposed to be a team? How can it be you and him against the world if he is dragging his feet? If he loved you, he would want to meet your needs. He'd find a way to give you the control you want. He would understand your need for discipline and consistency and deep conversations and little romantic gestures.
Maybe he would; maybe he wouldn't; but what about his wishes? What about his needs? Do you think that he is wilfully failing to meet your needs out of spite? Do you think he is failing to take you in hand because he wants to make you unhappy? Do you know what this feels like to him? Consider the sort of things people often say:
- “I need him to take me in hand and he's just not doing it.”
- “If you'd just put yourself totally in my hands and obey me…”
- “If you loved me you would want to spend more time with me.”
- “Why can't you be more like Blush's Gary?”
- “This has got to change [or else!]”
What it feels like is a lack of acceptance. Have you ever suffered the pain of a lack of acceptance by someone you love or care about? If so, you will sympathise with the person who wrote:
My relationship went sour because my woman decided that things were always my fault. There's no way to live with someone who's decided they are perfection and you are scum.
How true. In her article, In praise of Fascinating Womanhood, Charlotte said that one of the things that book has taught her is to look at life and problems with a positive attitude:
I've found that simply seeing my husband in a different light has made a whole lot of difference in our relationship. When I started reading this book, it was to fix our marriage (and that means my husband). It turned out that what needed fixing was me and my negative attitude. I can now see how that was spoiling everything.
I too like this aspect of Fascinating Womanhood. It is a fact that if you keep thinking about all the ways in which your nearest and dearest fail to live up to your expectations, instead of accepting them as they are, you are much more likely to feel miserable. If you can't accept those you love as they are, and they do not want to change, it may be time to move on. Spending years trying to change a person is a recipe for unhappiness for both of you.
Sometimes, when you are in this sort of situation, you can't see the wood for the trees. You see only your own unfulfilled needs, and fail to see how painful it is for the person you love to be on the receiving end of the lack of acceptance that your unfulfilled needs represent. You feel like a victim, so your spouse must be responsible, and jolly well ought to change to meet your needs. Your needs are a tacit demand that your spouse be a certain way (whether he wants to or not) and do certain things (whether he wants to or not). Only then will your spouse become acceptable to you. Until then, your spouse is hurting you, wronging you, victimizing you—whether he wants to or not.
Think of it from the other person's point of view. How does it feel to be on the receiving end of your partner's unfulfilled needs? How does it feel to be held responsible for the unhappiness of someone you love, when you want more than anything in the world for that person to be happy? How does it feel to be accused of not caring, when you care very deeply? How does it feel when the one you love makes it perfectly clear that you are unacceptable and will have to become a completely different person or suffer their wrath for ever? It's enough to make a grown man cry. That's how it feels.
I was once hauled over the coals for absent-mindedly wandering ahead instead of waiting for the man I was with, when we were visiting an art gallery. Even after I had explained that it was not a slight, just absent-mindedness, he felt angry and slighted for ages afterwards. No matter how many times I assured him that I would never want to slight him, he just could not stop feeling aggrieved. That was just the start. It got worse.
He had a whole list of things I do or don't do that are Unacceptable, and he insisted on telling me about them, repeatedly. And it didn't matter how tired I was, or what time of night it was, or how many hours we had been on the phone, he had to be allowed to tell me then. And when I could take it no more and told him that I needed to sleep (well three hours ought to be enough conversation for anyone, surely?!) he would accuse me of never giving him time to talk, or of trying to avoid difficult subjects. Ouch! He also accused me of not caring about him. I cared very much, so this accusation wounded me deeply. But all he could see was his own pain. He was so wrapped up in his own needs and wishes that he rode roughshod over mine, and worse, angrily blamed me for failing to meet all his needs.
In failing to be whom he wanted me to be, how he wanted me to be, do what he wanted me to do, and feel how he wanted me to feel, I was, he thought, wronging him. I was hurting him. I was being nasty to him. I bore the responsibility for his pain, he thought. He said he was in love with me, but it did not feel like love. Given that everything about me was so unacceptable to him, I think his love was little or nothing to do with me. He informed me that Things Would Have to Change. They did. I showed him the door. Without acceptance, there is nothing.