The Power of Partnership
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
“Marya, I do not want to be the man who disappoints you. You do not deserve that.”
It took forty-three years for me to hear these words from a man. The man was not my husband, my son or even a man I was in a romantic relationship with. It was from my partner at work, Edvin. We work as a team and like all partnerships rely on one another to follow through, show up, and support one another when the other may need that extra boost. The expectations are similar to all these above-mentioned relationships, but the only time I have ever felt that someone was concerned with my disappointment was from a transformational conversation with Edvin.
The power of those words were tremendous. I sat and reflected on them for days and now when I think about how men in my life have responded to me, I realize what has been missing.
I have spent years catering to the needs of men and proving that I am worthy of their love and affection, that I didn’t even consider I should feel that same level of care returned. My disappointment has never mattered to anyone. In the past when men apologize, their words were from a place of their own comfort and needing to create a less tense space or move forward to get what they needed from me. They knew that I accepted those responses and would continue things I effortlessly provide without conditions; affection, genuine concern, attention to every aspect of who they are and what they need to feel seen and validated. I am a giver, because I want to see the people around me happy and not wanting for anything I could possibly provide.
I give and give until I am depleted. Overfilling the cups around me while mine is dry to the bone.
In the case of Edvin, I had planned to get together for a meal and share with him that I was feeling depleted and stretched and needed a partner to show up and be someone I can trust and put my faith in. But before I said any of those things, he knew what I was experiencing and told me the powerful words that I opened this post with.
“Marya, I do not want to be the man who disappoints you. You do not deserve that.”
He chose that moment because my disappointment mattered and he paid attention to how I was impacted by things leading up to that morning. I wasn’t showing up with all the Marya energy and positivity I had always been. He noticed and took note. That means through that week he listened to how my tone changed. He watched how my body language was less open and more tense. He noticed how my conversations were simple and less engaged. Without me realizing my obvious nonverbal signals, he saw them. He knew that in our partnership, those moments would impact the health and wellness of our relationship and what we could accomplish together as a team.
He also knew that he might hold a part in this shift. He cared about my disappointment enough to think about what he needed to do differently before I had to tell him. He knew the words I needed to hear that gave me reassurance and helped me know that it was safe to put my trust in him and believe he had my back. He told me this before I even had an opportunity to share my needs. And as I heard him utter the words, the emotions flooded through me. I was speechless (which is rare for me) and starting to tear up because that level of validation and affirmation was so foreign to me.
I had never considered that my disappointment mattered to anyone.
I was accustomed to conversations that started with me expressing a need or sharing a feeling about a man’s actions and the response being “ That is just who I am and I who I will always be.” It was a take it or leave it kind of attitude. No possibility of bending or adapting for me.
There was no validation of my emotions or considerations for my experience, it was simply that change would be outside of his comfort which means he was not willing to try to grow even for me. I felt invalidated and invisible. Then over time, I began to believe that my needs were not important and did not need to be fulfilled while continuing to meet his.
That is not a partnership. It is control and ego dictating a dynamic that only benefits one person.
In contrast, Edvin told me how valuable I was as a person and the way I showed up as a partner for him everyday. I was a consistent friend. He relayed his admiration of my professionalism, knowledge, kindness, support and genuine heart. Therefore, he would never want to disappoint my expectations for a partner.
He asked what I needed from him to know that I felt supported. Then, for the moments, days and now months after, he has done everything to make me know I was not alone and had someone to lean on. All this, while we continued to connect with our stories and daily lives and laughed often in our interactions. We are friends who also have each other’s back.
The heavy conversation was had, the actions we had to take were clear and now we just needed to focus on engaging with each other with the same care and levity that makes our dynamic work. We moved toward our shared goals while also recognizing the presence of each other's humanity.
This is a partnership.
A strong partnership impacts what a team can accomplish. The power of this became evident just this week. That morning we spoke he admitted challenges he was facing in his professional transition and with life situations. These things had made it difficult for him to show up for himself or me the way I needed him to. Then this week, it all came full circle.
During a presentation we were giving, he stood in front of a group and masterfully facilitated the conversation. His swagger and command of the space demonstrated confidence and thoughtfulness. The man who a few months ago questioned himself and his skills, was nowhere to be seen and instead a leader who felt sure of himself and knew his power stood in front of this audience. Edvin saw himself as this man and showed up with that energy.
This is the beauty of partnership. When he told me that he didn’t want to be the source of my disappointment, I was able to feel safe and seen. I then in turn continued to have his back and allow gave him grace while providing what he needed to grow and be a reliable partner in return. He saw my needs, and I saw his. We then showed up in this dynamic willing to make sacrifices and alternate taking on a heavier load at times, because we never wanted to disappoint the other person and knew how it would impact our overall goals. This was a professional partnership that moved through some growing pains with purpose and intention, but the same formula applies to romantic relationships.
Strong and sustained love is a partnership.
You admit your role in making the relationship work and you stay attuned to what the other person needs to feel supported while leaning into trusting them. These dynamics require humility and confidence, care and push and consistency that we can count on. Relationships that last require the role of partnerships. Ideally this comes from friendship that blooms into a romantic dynamic. Both people are active and responsible for the partnership to flourish. This is where each person takes on avoiding disappointing the other person as one of their goals.
It’s never full proof. We will all make mistakes and missteps along the way, but when we are willing to sacrifice our ego for that error to be a lesson in how we may need to be better and do better for each other, we are open and ready to see and listen for the signs that indicate we need to take a step toward our partner to eliminate the possibility of their pain or discontent.
Relationships that have this element allow for both people to strive and bloom together and individually. I now recognize that If I truly held a significant place in someone's life, my disappointment would bother them. It would make them consider what they need to adjust and most importantly they would think about my harm and hurt before or in reflecting on their words and actions. A partnership requires two people willing to make an effort and placing the needs of the other in those decisions.
This is the kind of love that sustains when life unexpectedly changes course or makes you question yourself. Leaning on someone who is willing to stay in that space with you and open to getting in the trenches to help you heal and move through things is easier when you know they would do the same for you.
I recognize that no one will show up the same way I do in any relationship. I don’t think that is a fair or even reasonable request. My partner won't be me. However, a man can have my back and care about the harm I might feel when I am unsupported or let down. From as small a thing as thwarted plans to the immensity of me honestly bearing my soul.
I don’t need equal energy, I just want someone that shows they value who I am in their life to avoid seeing me disappointed or left unsure. Edvin showed me it’s possible and wields a lot of power to sustain commitment to each other in a relationship.
We all deserve that.