In my research for this article, I came across a beautiful editorial on what Latinx love looks like. It spoke highly about the way our culture embraces tradition, family, and our distinct way of living life. While the article mentioned how beautiful love can be in Latinx communities, it had me thinking about the way I perceived love growing up. The success, challenges, and what I most often noticed: the sacrifices made in the relationships I saw around me.
It left me wondering, are sacrifices an intrinsic part of Latinx relationships? My father made the sacrifice to part ways with his young new bride and unborn child to come to the United States to be able to provide for us. My mother made the sacrifice to take on the role of both parents once both my sister and I were born. Once we reunited in the United States, my parents continued to play these sacrificial roles their entire lives, sometimes working 14-16 hour days and sometimes going without sleep to get in a few hours of quality time with their children. My mother has constantly used her time and energy to make sure her husband and children were always taken care of, living a life of deprioritizing herself to make sure those around her flourished.
The normalization of sacrifice as a love language became part of the way I learned how to love others as well. It wasn’t until years later that I realized this sacrificial way of loving was deep rooted in machismo: the idea that I had to serve others before my own needs to feel loved and valued. Even when I did realize it and tried to distance myself from it, the machista tendencies would subconsciously make their way into the way I lived. In my romantic relationships it showed up by providing constant service to my partner while deprioritizing myself.
For many relationships this happens when you start to adopt your partner’s happiness as your own. You might eventually feel unhappy and resentful without realizing the toxic culture of machismo and that the normalization of it in the Latinx community has allowed it to seep into your own relationship.
So the question here is how do we combat machismo in our romantic relationships?
Learn to love and accept yourself
Easier said than done, huh? We hear it all the time, if you can’t love yourself you can’t love others. However, we think these feelings aren’t mutually exclusive. You can love someone else and feel pretty broken yourself. However, feeling worthy of love and learning to accept your whole self will help you shift the way in which you accept love from others. If you’ve been looking for a sign to invest in yourself, this is it. Amiga, call that therapist and set up the appointment.
Talk about your love languages with your partner
There are more love languages than just service! In fact, there are five of them and if you haven’t taken the chance to talk about it with your partner you’re probably playing a guessing game on how you and your partner best receive and give love. The five love languages consist of words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, physical touch and acts of service. Don’t know where to get started? We recommend taking this quiz.
Openly communicate with your partner
What if I say the wrong thing? What if I make them feel bad? What if this relationship ends? These are all common questions we might have when we’re wondering how to speak up about our emotions. For so many, communicating can feel like arguing and arguing (or anything that resembles confrontation) can lead you to shut down. Because so many are taught service above self when growing up, openly communicating can feel more selfish than helpful. Work through the uncomfortable feelings, set ground rules when communicating with your partner, and speak your mind!
Show vulnerability in your relationship
Vulnerability is hard but it’s a practice that has great returns. There is a sense of relief when you can tell your partner your feelings and emotions without fear of judgement. It’s a practice that doesn’t come easy but one that you’ll find strengthens your relationship. Of course, there are partners who might not respond well to your vulnerability,leaving you to feel insecure or even regretful about sharing your emotions. In those cases, it might be time to consider if you’re even in the right relationship. Has this person taken the same steps as you to be present and vulnerable for you and the relationship? If not, this might require further introspection to find out if you’re compatible.
Romantic relationships do not have to be like novelas, where partners are constantly sacrificing things and themselves. Sacrifice is a part of any normal relationship, but not the machista type that has you prioritizing their needs above yours constantly. We invite you to try out these ways of effectively investing into yourself, and see how you grow. You got this, mija!