A friend of mine is in love with a man who does not love her back. She fantasizes about him and thinks of him every waking hour while he couldn’t care less about her. Such a one-sided affair is nothing but a big heartache. She spends countless hours in unproductive daydreams just to frustrate herself in the end.
Her choice is clear. She needs to call it off. It is an unhealthy use of energy and serves nothing good.
But a rational mind was never a reliable cure for matters of the heart.
People experience one-sided affairs all the time. There is plenty of heartache to go around.
Today, however, I want to talk about less romantic one-sided affairs. I would like to talk about situations when people invest love and energy without getting much in return in order to maintain or achieve something larger than them.
For example, taking care of an aging but bad-tempered parent or in-law, providing a secure and healthy environment for a teenager who does not want the attention (and just hates the parent for doing so), or staying in a bad marriage to keep the family together.
Very often women end up in these situations. Who knows why. We are socialized into being the caregivers (Simone de Beauvoir has argued as much in her famous and classic book “The Second Sex”). Or perhaps women are more community oriented due to their reproductive nature. Probably a little bit of both (no contradiction there).
But by no means do only women sacrifice their time and energy without receiving much in return. I know a few men who care for their aging but thankless parents for example.
When are such sacrifices justified and when are they too much or unhealthy?
Much of this, of course, is a personal decision. We all pursue different goals and have different tolerance levels. What is worth the pain for one person may not be worth the pain for another.
Zooming out to the level of society however, I wonder, are we all better off when people pursue these one-sided affairs? Does it make for a less selfish society or a society that suppresses some for the benefit of others? Are those that sacrifice themselves less able to stand up for themselves and therefore suppressed even more?
Take for example care-giving. Many working adults these days have to care not only for their children but also for their aging parents. Are these countless personal situations just personal situations or do they in fact constitute a social force that changes society? Are they more or less likely to participate in the political process, in the cultural and economic process? Are their needs articulated and do employers for example see them as a liability or an asset?
Furthermore, where does the energy go? Remember, energy is changing form but is never lost.
What do you think? Leave me a comment!