In my relationship with H, an early commitment was to be her servant. But my intention was never for that to be one-sided. I did not want a relationship where she felt indebted, nor one where I was trampled on. In my mind this was clear from the first, traumatic year of our marriage: I would serve H in the hope that when she felt loved and secure she would also serve me. (Is there any difference between mutual servanthood and mutual love?) But instead, she has experienced my service as oppressive – perhaps as a debt she cannot repay – and built a wall of protection around herself, founded on a mistrust of my best intentions, that prevented any mutuality at all.
I’ve always called it servanthood, but as she rejects that core element of my self-image, my self confidence is shattered. Is it just she who has misunderstood, or do others share the same perception that I am arrogant and judgemental? Have I built my life on a bad idea?
Perhaps generosity is a more helpful image of essentially the same desire. I love being generous: generous with my money, with my time, and in the way I interpret other’s motives. I love the giving of myself to others, and never more than to H.
The whole of our marriage has been made hollow by a lack of intimacy, which makes me wonder what it is that I have lost by now being separated. It’s not as though past intimacy has suddenly been taken away. What’s different now? Even though H didn’t allow herself to be intimate with me, I embedded myself in a sort of one-way intimacy. Always generous to her. Always hoping she would one day see and appreciate it: like Wesley’s repeated “As you wish”. Always serving in the hope that she would one day reciprocate. But my Buttercup never came to that life-changing moment when her eyes opened to the realisation of what mutual love could mean.
What’s different is not any change in what I can expect from H, but that I can no longer express my generosity, my intimacy, with her.
No, that’s rubbish; unhelpful rationalisation. What’s different is that I can no longer feel her warmth next to me in bed, can no longer feel her softness under my hand, no longer exchange a kiss, a cuddle. No longer delude myself that she wishes those things from me.
I knew that she was taking advantage of my generosity, though I mostly chose not to know it. She would never engage in a discussion of it and I drifted in a quicksand of optimism, dreaming that one day she would understand. I should have listened to a counsellor who, very early in our marriage, warned that servanthood [I assume he meant servanthood that is not mutual] is not a good basis for a relationship.