“Love is Selfless”: A Raw Deal for Women?

Here are some more arguments against “love is selfless.”

If you love someone, you want them to be happy. And it’s very nice to think that you can make another person happy, but it’s also very arrogant. What really makes a person happy? Lots of things: family, friends, hobbies, work, and more. It will be your job to add to their lives and help them be even happier.

Exactly, in that you contribute to your partner’s happiness simply by being who you are.

Also, from the same writer:

If a relationship depends completely on one partner doing all of the forgiving, all of the loving, all of the sacrificing, then it is not a fair relationship, and you deserve a fair relationship. Don’t let anyone tell you that real men misbehave and real women forgive. Find someone who is prepared to be just as loving and devoted as you are.

See, “marriage is for others” is exactly what women have been told for centuries, and it’s done a lot of harm. “Marriage is for the family” kept women ashamed of their marriage problems and too scared to divorce their husbands. “Marriage is for children” has kept multitudes of women locked in abusive marriages “until the kids are grown.”

[Source: Wayne Self, HuffingtonPost.com 11/6/13]

Sometimes it is a gender issue. Sometimes, on the surface, women do get the raw end of the “love is selfless” fallacy.

However, like any irrational idea, the fallacy is a raw deal for everyone involved. Men who treat women poorly and expect to be forgiven lack self-respect as well as respect for the woman they love. They’re living a lie, posing to the world as married, committed and in love, while in private behaving and feeling exactly the opposite.

Love, properly understood, is the physical and emotional embodiment of all that you value. When you hurt the one you love, you’re stepping on your most cherished values. Hurting the one you love is contradictory. It’s like hurting yourself. That’s why it takes a strong, proud, self-respecting individualist to truly know how to love.

Men (or women) who treat their romantic partners like doormats have failed to find someone they consider a worthy equal. Or, if they have, they’re not treating their partner as one. That’s a terrible mistake and it’s lethal to any love that might have once existed between the two individuals.

The member of the relationship always in need of forgiveness is in a position of weakness. He’s like a child. The woman, for example, who “stands by her man” even though he fails to treat her like he really cherishes her is playing along with a gigantic, illogical contradiction. Contradictions are like dead end streets. Sooner or later, you simply stop moving, and must reverse course. Marriages/relationships based on contradictions always flounder, and deserve to end.

Historically, women did not enjoy equal individual rights with men. It was undoubtedly adaptive for many women to put up with things they would never have tolerated, if only the opportunity to pursue a career, or own property, had been available to them. Times have changed socially and economically, but many men and women play out the same dynamic that may have been (in some sense) adaptive before, but no longer applies today.

The root of the issue is not gender, however. Basically, a relationship must exist between two equals. As Mr. Self put it above, a relationship with one person doing all of the sacrificing and forgiving is simply not fair. A real man or woman respects him- or herself deeply. Such a person cannot help but equally respect the one he has chosen as his or her life love.

Claiming that “love is selfless” gives a superficial advantage to the weaker partner, enabling him or her to demand sacrifices of that spouse. However, it’s not really an advantage. Unless you consider being in a position of weakness and entrenched emotional insecurity a strength, the “love is selfless” fallacy is just as destructive for its supposed beneficiary as it is for its obvious victim.

First comes self-respect; then comes love. Any attempt to reverse the order of things will inevitably result in heartache and disappointment for all concerned.