The Kind of Partner You Don’t Want

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
– Proverbs 21:9

To put things simply: You don’t want an ENTITLED partner.

An entitled partner will never really be grateful for the things you do for her, yet she’ll be quick to spot what you don’t do. Maybe she’ll tell you, maybe she won’t, but she’ll spot it in her heart. Now someone who is never really grateful and is quick to spot your failures will never appreciate you. To be appreciated and respected is something everyone wants.

An entitled partner will never be able to meet your different needs because the attention will always make its way back to her. Everyone has needs, and the beauty of relationships is that the people in it support each other and serve each other. Entitled people always put their needs, their wants, their situation first. Guess where your needs, wants, and situation end up?

An entitled partner will not grow. Why should he? It’s never his fault. There’s nothing to grow out of.

An entitled partner stores up ammo for the future, and it will come up on the most opportune times. He or she will turn your mistakes into bricks and use it to build a wall. We end up with what we build. If we build walls then don’t be surprised if we find ourselves separated.

When I hear stories of wives pitching in to help their husbands during periods of crisis and digging deep to do what’s necessary without entitlements, I am always moved. I remember, many years ago, reading the story of a husband get removed from his job, and how, instead of worrying or berating him, his wife pulled out savings she had put together on her own and told him, “I’ve been saving this for this time. It’s time for you to write that novel you’ve always wanted.” Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, but I think it’s really more seeing someone go beyond her role to love. I remember looking at my relationship at the time and thinking, “She would never do that for me.” And I knew it was time to move on.

One of the serious drawbacks of a more empowered people comes when these people don’t understand the concept of social contracts. When people are empowered to think they’re awesome but not taught how to be awesome for others, we end up with entitled people.

We end up with people who abuse freedom, who think they’re entitled to do whatever they want, when they want how they want, why they want, with whom they want.

We end up with a million opinions and too little action.

We end up with churches who think they can bully truth into others instead of reaching out and serving like Christ did.

We end up with rich people who won’t give and poor people who won’t work.

We end up with boys who think they can sleep with anyone.

We end up with girls who think they’re empowered by being bitchy.

We end up with bosses who won’t develop and subordinates who won’t grow.

We end up with parents who don’t lead and kids who don’t follow.

We end up with expectations that no one will ever fulfill.

Yet, when I see a different story, like the lady who saved for her husband’s dream, like the story of old couples who continually serve, like how I see my grandmother be a true companion to my grandfather, stories of people who have surrendered what they could have and maybe even should have, for the sake of someone else, I’m moved.

Men have been obviously entitled for decades but its seen in women too.

One common line I hear many girls say is this, “Where are the good men? Why are there no more great men for me?”

My answer to them is always the same, “They’re staying away from you.”

I don’t say that to be mean but from a very logical thought process. Here it is:

If I was a great guy, I probably became a great guy by developing myself through discipline, hard work, study and learning, surrounding myself with the right people, and applying myself to the difficult challenges of not merely making money but making a difference. Now if I were that kind of guy, I would  not be attracted to someone who has the entitlement to say, “Why are there no good men for me?”

Entitlement ruins many things. Entitlement is simply thinking we deserve something and is most obvious by how we respond when we don’t get it. Many times, when we respond in anger, hurt, or complaining when we don’t get something, we are exhibiting entitlement.

Entitlement always comes up with me. It’s something I always have to fight. It starts with unmet expectations that grow into resentment and bitterness, and it chokes the beauty of things because when we get something we’re not as grateful as we should be because we’re “entitled” to it or we deserve it, and if we don’t get it, we think like we’ve been treated unfairly, because, again, we’re “entitled” to it.

I find that the only way I can defeat entitlement in my own life is to think less about me and more about others. It’s a very simple decision to put other first and to think of the benefit of others first. There’s really no other way. To stop thinking so much about what others bring to me but to be passionate about giving my best to them. It will become incredibly obvious who the people are who offer amazing things and it will be just as obvious when others don’t offer much. 

If you’re not sure whether you’re offering something amazing then the simple answer is you’re not.

It’s not complicated to be amazing for others. The first step is to think of others more than yourself. I find that some of the most selfless people I know are not the most flattering or funnest to be with. They are sometimes wrapped in rough edges and tactless remarks but their actions speak volumes. Many times the most selfish people I know are those who seem friendliest and most sociable – but actually give little thought to how things affect others as long as they get to do what they want.

Again, I see this in myself, so must look out the window again and look out the window more.

Learning to Paint

Many times, when I look back, I find that a lot of what I’m thankful for was NOT having or NOT getting what I thought I so badly wanted or needed. It’s the business that didn’t work that could have grown more problems. It’s the opportunities I didn’t have that made me more resourceful with the ones I do have. It’s the relationships that didn’t work that could have gotten in the way of the ones that do. It’s the family money we didn’t have that helped teach me that family values are more valuable. It’s having no money for new furniture that taught me how great simplicity is. It’s not having “feel-good” bosses that taught me to be strong enough to carve value into a tough world. It’s not finding all the answers right away, or at all, that continue to teach me to strengthen my faith, to trust God when I can’t trust anyone, and to be patient.

Pride leads us to think we’re more important and know better than anyone what we need. But sometimes what we need is to NOT get exactly what we think at the moment is so important. It reminds me of learning how to paint with my art teacher, how on the first few meetings all we did were shapes and tonal values and shades. I kept wondering why I was using a charcoal pencil and not a paintbrush and a rainbow of pigments instead. But the black and white work didn’t stop. I finally said, “I wanted you to teach me to paint. Why are we doing this?”

He said, I am teaching you to paint. Because if you can understand what I’m teaching you now, you’ll be able to paint anything – and make it standout. I’m teaching you how to make anything from simple lines. I’m teaching you contrast. I’m teaching you about negative space. I’m teaching you how to build complexity and interest. When you’re ready, we’ll jump to color.

Sadly, my art teacher, Jess Puertollano, passed away a few years later, but his lessons have remained. I’m thankful he held back color from me for that season in order that I may appreciate how simple things and limited lines and black and white can make beautiful things. And he was right, when we introduced color, it was more than just red, green, blue, and yellow. They were shades of red, shades of green, shades of blue, shades of pieces of a prism.

I like to remind myself to be grateful at all times, even during the times of seeming lack and seeming disappointment, because just like my art teacher was doing, my Heavenly Father is teaching me the things I need to harness all of life’s color.

Facing Ambiguity

One of life’s big challenges, and a recurring one at that, is dealing with ambiguity. Ambiguity is uncertainty. A large part of maturity is learning to respond to uncertainty – and not always relying on others to provide that certainty or assurance. It also means growing from the uncertainty and adding definition to our lives, when others used to define us as kids. A mature person is like an artist who takes a blank canvas or a block of stone and creates a masterpiece. A mature person takes the 24 hours of a day, the surprise open doors, the unexplainable disappointments, the unknowns, the maybes, the what ifs, the questions, the surprises, and lives them into a masterpiece. They do this by seizing each day when they’re free to stay in bed. They do this by working through what others surrender to. They do this by having convictions in a gray world. They do this by responding to the season at hand, including the spring showers and summer rains. They do this by being resilient, being humble enough learn, yet be too stubborn for defeat. They do this by being brave. How does one remain brave during uncertainty?

By faith. To see beyond the haze of the current reality and to trust the light, even if it’s just the Light in your heart.

“Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”
– 1John 4:4