I was a greedy child. No, seriously. Looking at the pictures of me as a little kid, all legs, teeth and eyes, you wouldn’t know I had to have a lot of lectures on not taking the better portion of (whatever) when we had guests.
Last time I was back in Portugal, I was talking to my dad and he got into his early years of marriage. Dad is an enlightened male, particularly for his time and Portugal. (Yes, he still has weird stuff, like it’s not manly to carry plastic bags, but that’s because he’s human.) He got mom from a far more traditional family, so he told me with some indignation that when he first married her she insisted on giving the bigger portion or the best portion to him, while she and my brother took the rest. He thought this was upside down, because d*mn it, his wife and kid should have the best. He cited this as “the bad habits I had to get her over.”
I did not tell him his attempts had failed. Long before I was marriageable age, mom had instructed me in “let your dad have the biggest or better portion. Men need this.”
Yes, I hear feminists in the audience pull their hair out, so let me say right now: mom was wrong. She was also right.
She was wrong in thinking MEN needed this. There is after all a reason that dad thought women and children should have the best (and it’s a good reason, evolutionarily speaking.)
She was right if you just put it as “let your spouse/friend/relative” have the best part/the decision/the thing he/she really enjoys doing.
Look, I put it up above that I was a greedy child. I’m also an incredibly self-centered person. Part of this is being driven. I have so much to do, I want to have my break the way I want it. I want to enjoy my meals the way I like them. I want to–
The problem with that is that if you do that, you’re not only going to end up divorced, you’re going to end up alone.
My first year of marriage, I often felt as though the inner child were throwing a massive tantrum. “But I wanted that food/amusement/time.” But I had had early training. “Give him the best part.” And the training helped. I did.
After a while, I found that he did too. I.e. he was doing things/not doing things because he knew my tastes and was seeking to accommodate them.
I know this sounds horrible. “But then neither of you were doing what he/she likes.” Ah. but it doesn’t work that way. The way it works is more that you find things you both like to do, or you learn to take pleasure in what the other likes.
I’m fairly sure 90% of our museum thing is me (I think.) Watching silly movies is Dan (and yea I do it too, when I’m not infernally busy.) As is finding goofy restaurants and having long talky meals. Or finding cool new music. I’d never listen to any music without Dan.
Eventually, by both of us trying to cater to the other, we’ve forged several things we like doing together, as well as giving each other enough time alone to pursue what each needs to pursue.
And we’re still married.
But this is not for spouses only. Robert, for instance, has this thing with elephants. When he was really working very hard in undergrad, I started forcing sudden holidays to “go look at elephants” because it always cheered him up.
Would I have preferred the Natural History Museum? Sure I would. That’s my thing. But elephants are HIS thing, and I learned to enjoy it, just because it made him so happy. And we developed other, joint, favorites. Secretary birds, for instance. Or the red pandas. And just walking in the zoo in the rain.
Then there’s my friends. Sometimes what they like is goofy, but I’m so cheered by seeing them enjoying themselves that I’m willing to cooperate.
The thing is, if you insist on keeping the better portion/bigger portion/the “right” thing in any relationship, it won’t last long. You’ll end up in a desert of your own making.
So mom was right. Give him the best portion. She was wrong too. Give her the better portion too.
And you’ll find it comes back to you a hundred fold.