When the words, “When men stop relying on the women who love us to do the heavy lifting of partnership,” scrolled across my Twitter timeline with a link attached, I couldn’t help but click on it. I mean, that sentence was so on point I knew I had to read the rest.
In his piece, “I’ll Never Be My Wife’s Equal,” Abdurraqib talks of once being an “emotionally stunted” man who grew up believing “a ‘healthy partnership’ meant a woman absorbing my failures — especially if the woman happened to be successful and respected in other areas of life.” He also admitted to blaming women “for simply not understanding” him when relationships failed, in part, because of his lack of emotional maturity didn’t allow him to take responsibility for his own actions, or inaction.
As many women already know, Abdurraqib’s past shortcomings aren’t unique. But while he grew up and realized he needed to do better, many of his peers did not.
I spent my formative years seeing romantic partnership reflected back to me in the form of dominant men living like children due to the safety net of a woman. Being in a relationship with someone who both has their shit together and has no time for me to NOT have my shit together is a crash course. I went from attempting to coast by on half-measures in our early dating, to waking up in a reality where I was really in a battle for our shared joy. And I was expected to take it on with her, at every turn. When Laura and I got married, we decided to take on each other entirely. We both hyphenated our names, partially for the sake of pre-existing publications on both of our ends, but also as a small symbol of us standing on the same ground, each with an equal view of the horizon.
A lot of men like to talk in gym locker rooms. I have always known this, but fully realized it last year, when the regulars at my gym found out I was getting married. The advice that I most regularly received was in the form of jokes from other men, generally in their 40s and 50s, who had been married for years. They’d lightheartedly tell me how much of a burden their wives were, before breaking out into laughter; they’d gift me tips on how to build a “man cave” and the importance of getaways. All the advice revolved around escaping the presence of someone you promised to love.
Abdurraqib attributed much of his metamorphosis to his wife, who helped him “accelerate the process of becoming less self-involved,” because she would be just as successful and awesome without him.
What Abdurraqib learned, that so many men and women must come to know if they are to have successful relationships, is that you can’t rely on your partner to do all of the work. One person can’t be the encourager, the lover, or the emotional and practical one. Both folks must work in tandem and show up if they want the relationship to last. Often times women are left to do it alone, but, as Abdurraqib writes, “When men stop relying on the women who love us to do the heavy lifting of partnership, we can name these things on our own” and become better people because of it.
Head over to Medium to read Abdurraqib’s entire essay. It’s totally worth it.