Ohhhhh, yes, that would be every woman taught to be of service to others, especially men. We were raised by families and societal groups who gave us extra points whenever we made concessions for others.

Go get daddy his drink, go wake up your brother, help mom do the dishes/laundry/cleaning/errands.

Be nice to that kid who just pushed you down or took your toy away — [s]he’s having a bad day/just being a boy/didn’t mean any harm.

We learned that taking on additional responsibilities or going the extra mile or being the “understanding girlfriend” or “good wife” would make us more lovable, as if we aren’t perfectly lovable as ourselves.

I recognize myself and pretty much every one of my girlfriends in your essay, including overworked administrators and breast-cancer survivors whose underemployed or unemployed partners (male and female) resemble overgrown adolescents, prone to temper tantrums and irresponsibility.

My last boyfriend (addicted to video games, prone to ignoring me at family events) kept repeating “you see me as I could be, instead of who I am.” It took years for me to shift my bitterness over how that played out into a sober awareness that the only person I could re-program is myself.

Still working on that.

Ethnoecologist and #VanLife Coach exploring humanity, the natural world, and multispecies relationships. More at http://jeaninepfeiffer.com