Q: I started dating my first boyfriend a few months ago, and I’m a pretty independent person. I’m a little confused because my dad says that I should allow my boyfriend to help me even if I don’t really require his help. Is this an old-fashioned mindset? And what should I do about it?
A: Thanks for the great question! You’re obviously an independent young woman. I can sense that you have a good head on your shoulders and know yourself well, so I understand why you’re a little confused about this feedback that you’re getting from your dad. Truthfully, I’m not exactly sure where your dad is coming from. Every case is a different, and this could be a generational or traditional thing, or it could just be him trying to help your relationship. Maybe it’s a bit of both! I think it’s important to remember that there was a time when women were expected to take all the help they could get from the men in their life because women weren’t regarded in the same way as they are today. They were expected to grasp onto the identity that the man in their life provided for them. We’re now allowed to be independent, go to school for whatever we want, live on our own, make our own money, travel the world and create the life that we want for ourselves with no input from others, if that’s what we want.
So what do you do about this situation? First of all, let’s put it out there that your boyfriend likes you just as you are and probably loves that you’re independent and have a strong sense of self. I doubt he wants that to change. Also, your dad likely knows the same thing, which is why he actually felt the need to mention this to you in the first place. It may have been something that you wouldn’t have even thought of it. In fact, you may even be a little bit like me and be stubborn, and want to do everything yourself instead of letting others help you. My first question is, have you asked your boyfriend what he thinks about this? What is his definition of “helping you”, and how does that fit in with your relationship? Is it something that makes him feel more needed in the relationship? Have a discussion and see where you land.
I also think it’s pertinent to have a discussion with your dad to see where his views are coming from, just so you can get some clarification from him as well. I also decided to poll some of my guy friends to see if this was something that was important to them in a relationship. I’m not inside a guy’s mind, so I wanted to make sure I was giving the best advice possible! What I heard from them is that yes, it is important. They like helping you because it makes them feel needed. They know that the world we live in is one where women can do most things, and that a lot of women are independent and manage things themselves. However, if they are with someone, they generally do want to be able to do things for that person. So in the end, maybe it’d be a good idea to let your boyfriend help when he offers, or when you really do genuinely need help.
When you’re in a relationship, it’s important to learn how to be open and vulnerable with that person, even if it’s tough and something that you’re not used to. It’s a way to continue a growing connection between the two of you, and supporting and helping each other is a part of that. It’s all about balance and being content with the way things are going. If there are things that you are perfectly capable of doing on your own, do them! And if there’s something that you wouldn’t mind your boyfriend helping out with, ask him! And remember, you can and should support and help him too.
What’s most important to remember though is that by letting your boyfriend help you out with certain things, it doesn’t mean that you’re giving yourself up. You aren’t losing your identity. You aren’t losing your independence. You may be allowing yourself to become a little vulnerable, but that’s not a bad thing. I have complete confidence that you will figure this one out, while not losing any part of your independent self along the way! Good luck!
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