I received an inquiry recently, during the No Man Diet program, around the desire to be provided for – and specifically, the desire to be provided for financially.
I find that this is a really layered conversation, mostly because as feminists in the 21st century, we want to be seen as strong or powerful or capable, and that seems fundamentally incompatible with a desire to have others, specifically men, provide for us.
I think this results in a bit of a disconnect between our minds and our bodies, as well as the people and expectations surrounding us, because we feel that these two aspects of our identity are in conflict with each other.
Because we feel our desires are in conflict with existing aspects of ourselves, or our lives, and because we feel they are impossible to achieve, we don’t allow ourselves to even fully feel those desires. We won’t let ourselves dream about them, or even think about them too much, because we imagine there’s no point. (Cue separate rant about the misunderstanding that desires have no ‘point’ except ‘fulfillment’).
So how can we resolve these seemingly conflicting desires and aspects of ourselves that feel as though they can’t coexist?
Let it all out
If you don’t already, I encourage you to take on a desire journaling practice. Create time and space to journal about your desires for your life, relationships, and your future – and really try to let all parts of your identity exist at the same time. Don’t worry about problem-solving, or the logical conflict resolution that most of us instinctively jump to; instead, just let everything coexist on the page.
What would it be like to consciously begin to allow the multiplicity of all of these desires within your being? Practice cultivating the capacity to hold what seem like disparate beliefs or desires or thoughts at the same time. Allowing ourselves to describe everything we want and to let them all be true in our own minds and thoughts is the first step to finding a way of resolving them.
We don’t have to figure out all the answers as to how our desires can coexist. We don’t have to understand how they work together. We just need to let them have space in our brains and get comfortable with them being there together.
Breaking down our more complex desires
In order to properly resolve what seem like conflicting desires within our minds, we must first get clear on what they actually mean.
We often stop our analysis at the point of discovering that first disconnect, and we don’t let ourselves get into the nitty gritty of, “what does this actually mean, what do I actually want most of all, and how do I imagine fulfilling this desire will make me feel?”
Now, this isn’t quite as abstract as some things, but being ‘provided for’ (financially) is still a pretty big abstract idea, and if we couldn’t label it that way and instead had to call it something else, how would we name it? Is it on the same level as being loved by a partner? Being desired? Being respected? Does ‘provided for’ mean you don’t work outside the home at all? Do you feel more ‘provided for’ if you imagine they earn all the money, but you do all the housework? What about if that were flipped? What is the lifestyle you are imagining living? Is it the feelings of stress you have about paying your bills that you are wanting to eliminate?
We can’t begin to hold our desires in a healthy and positive way until we have a true understanding of what they actually are, and what they mean for us at their most basic level.
Self-awareness and self-worth is key
Over time, through my work, I’ve started to notice that even though many men and women rebel against some of our cultural, gender-specific norms, I often see that on a deeper level, many people do want to be the one provided for, or the provider. As a result of these deep-seated desires there can be an unconscious assumption of ownership or obligation that goes along with them. We are suddenly playing by these unwritten, unspoken agreements that we’ve both sort of assumed of each other, but never explicitly agreed to – so when one partner is unhappy in some way, it’s often experienced by the other partner as a complaint against them.
This leads to a place of chronic dissatisfaction, which often ends up becoming deep, deep resentment in couples.
One of the main ways I’ve seen this play out in more hetero-normative relationships is the man trying to make enough money to make the woman happy. This is a losing game, because money does not equal happiness. (We all know this, and yet many of us still play into this illusion unconsciously.) What I often see is that then the man becomes resentful because why the fuck is he working so hard if she’s not even going to be happy about it?!?!? And then the woman becomes resentful because she feels like he’s criticizing her – and she’s just ‘trying to express herself!’
This is where this becomes an important self-awareness or reflection practice.
I find that the deepest place of satisfaction and happiness, fulfillment, and true joy in a relationship comes from both partners having a sense of purpose and contribution – in the relationship and in their respective lives. In order to achieve this while still acknowledging our desires for structure and somewhat-traditional roles, we need to ask ourselves questions like: What do you think you would experience differently if you were provided for financially? What in your current life actually feels like relaxation, and what feels like letting go? How can you allow yourself to relax and get to a place where you don’t need to worry about finances, so that when someone provides for you financially you are able to enjoy it? How do you want to contribute to your relationship? Is that what your partner actually wants from you? This isn’t about tit-for-tat, but it is important that all parties involved take some responsibility for knowing their own needs, and pay attention to what the other wants from them as well.
It can be difficult to know if we are actually getting to the root of our own feelings about this, especially when talking to others about it and trying to come to an agreement on what our boundaries, desires, and issues regarding a partnership are. This is because, sometimes, these abstract concepts aren’t as clear cut as we think they are.
One of the things I experienced with my ex-husband was that we both said we wanted family and we both said we wanted community, and it seemed like we were on the same page about so many things, but then when the rubber met the road we realized that when I said community is important, it didn’t mean the same thing to him. When he said family is a priority, it didn’t mean the same thing to me. And suddenly we were face-to-face with some big issues and differences in our ideals and values that we didn’t even realize we had.
Obviously, these kinds of conflicts are important, and can be deal-breakers. But the desire to be provided for while still being a largely independent woman who can provide for herself, is not necessarily a conflict in this same way. For example, you could perceive yourself to be in conflict because you want to be hugely successful and totally free and self-sufficient, but you also want to be partnered with a hugely successful man who can provide for you. All you have to do to resolve this perceived conflict is to discover what hugely successful means to you, what being totally free means to you, and what self-sufficient means to you.
For me, there was a period of time several years ago when I was working harder than I had ever worked in my life, and I was happier than I had ever been in my life, and I realized that I still wanted to be taken care of in certain ways. Being able to fully support myself and my children was profound for me, and dramatically shifted my relationship with both the fathers of my children. Understanding that there were still ways I wanted to be cared for and taken care of was also important, as I walked my own path around dating and partnership. My own self-inquiry in these areas was what allowed me to hold both the knowledge and satisfaction of my own independence simultaneously with the desire to be provided for.
Find your true joy
In my experience, watching people over time, if we don’t do this work to become confident in our own finances and our lives without the help of an external provider, then we likely won’t be able to be truly happy while being provided for. I think sometimes we actively don’t want to do this work, because we’re afraid that if we become happy and fulfilled just the way we are, then we’ll miss out on being provided for, or taken care of. The truth is actually the opposite. Finding our own inner capacity in these areas, while still acknowledging and honoring our desires to be provided for are what allow us to truly and deeply receive!
There’s actually a very important part of this work that is the act of making a gesture towards our true joy. This means discovering what consists of “true joy” for us, no matter the external circumstances of whether or not we have a partner, whether or not they can provide for us, and whether or not we have enough money to provide for ourselves alone.
We have to discover what it means to be really, truly, and deeply happy with our lives even if those external circumstances change. This is what will enable us to feel more at peace with those different variations of being provided for, and it is what allows us to resolve conflicting aspects of our lives and personalities.