The Lobster and the Eel: So Happy Together

I’m puzzled I don’t attend church more regularly, because I always come away inspired each time I do get my butt outta bed on Sunday mornings.

Recently I visited my parents in Cincinnati to attend a Bengals game (they won in an amazing come-from-behind fashion, yeah!) First we went to church and the sermon was about happiness in marriage. In romance, do we only look out only for our own happiness or do we focus on the happiness of our partner?

Like most things in life, I believe there needs to be a balance between our happiness and our partner’s happiness. If we focus solely on ourselves, we won’t have partners for long! If we focus solely on our partners, we get lost in the relationship. We become spineless, wet noodles.

A folktale I read in Eating in the Light of the Moon demonstrates this balance nicely. The story is about an eel and a lobster working together. On the ocean floor, a lobster sits at the mouth of a dark cave, and an eel lives inside. The cave’s opening is an ideal place to attract food for both the lobster and the eel. However, eels EAT lobsters. So, Ms. Lobster needs to keep one antenna pointed out the cave to sense incoming food, and one antenna pointed behind her into the cave to sense an oncoming attack by hungry gobble-gobble Ms. Eel.

What a wonderful metaphor for successful human relationships. We need to point our antennae both inward and outward, sensing our own needs but also cognizant of the needs of others. When those needs differ, that’s where communication and conflict resolution skills come in. Hopefully we can avoid the “claws” coming out or a shocking attack from behind, hee hee.

What do you think about focusing on your happiness vs. your partner’s, in life or fiction? One aspect I disliked about Twilight was how selfless Bella was, but many readers seemed to love her character.

Time for the Meet an Author Monday Blog Hop, which will run through the month of October and then fade away into the blogosphere. Thank you to Lisa Sanchez for hosting the hop all these months! Check out her blog for instructions.

10 thoughts on “The Lobster and the Eel: So Happy Together”

  1. Very good post. I'm afraid I can sometimes be guilty of thinking too much about Rodney's needs above my own and being a wet noodle as a result. I have been known to go along with what he wants even when it's not what I want just to make him happy. \”What ever you want\” became my catchphrase. I have been working on it over the last year because I know it can lead to resentment. He has, on occasion, pointed out that I don't do enough for my own happiness in general. He is willing to compromise, it's me that struggles to speak up after a life 'doing' for others first and me second.


  2. Carol, I hear ya. I'm a reformed caretaker as well. Once I learned to use my voice and speak up about my preferences, communication worked so much better in relationships! I think many women are socialized to worry too much about others' happiness, throwing the relationship balance out of whack.


  3. What an inspirational post, I really quite enjoyed it. Though I'm currently not in a relationship(I'm only 20; I've got time) I have had experience. I've just have had a bad experience; you give your whole heart and the next thing leads to another; he pressures you, you say no and just kind of goes downhill from there. But when put in those kinds of situations is it best to submit b/c you do love him? or like you said take care of your own needs? Hmmm, I don't know about taking care of oneself; it just isn't me…


  4. I'm not in a romantic relationship either, Lacey, but these dynamics certainly come into play in all relationships (including those with friends, family, coworkers, etc.) What a total bummer to give your whole heart and then you finally say no and the guy bails. Grr. I think there needs to be some submission–there's always a give and take–but I don't think total submission should be necessary. It certainly is uncomfortable to think of our own needs when we're not accustomed to doing that. Great discussion!


  5. Your post reminds me of a book that I read once upon a time \”Men come from Mars and women from Venus\” . Basically the author explains that what men are looking for in a relationship is to \”take care of their woman\” so a woman should show him she aknoledges his efforts, and be thankful. While women deeply want to \”be taken care of\” (hu?.I've been in a relationship for almost 23 years now and…well it's true that my man likes it when I thank him for taking care of me… when I'm not asking for anything ;)but he also wants me to take care of him (without him asking) so I don't look like I'm \”selfish\” either.Complicated, isn't it? I think if I forget MY needs I won't be able to aknowklege nor understand HIS needs. It's a partnership, that needs to be well balanced in order to work smoothly. But maybe in fact I'm just a selfish spoilt woman after all, so what?:)


  6. Thanks for commenting, Cilou! The Mars/Venus book taught me that in communication, men are problem solvers and women want validation, so they're at cross-purposes. I didn't remember the message about men wanting to take care of their women and be acknowledged for it, so thank you for mentioning that. I do think it's nice to be cared for as long as our men ask HOW we want to be cared for instead of them assuming they know what's best for us. But we also like to be spoiled–good point. 😉


  7. Great topic, Jen. I love the eel/lobster analogy. My mother happens to be a wet noodle. She's like that with everyone, not just my dad. Though she pretends to be happy, she's often miserable inside and will occasionally snap over a relatively small issue. She is my shining example that you cannot live your life to please others. Thankfully, my husband and I have a fairly even relationship. Though I have to admit that I am more spoiled than he is. 🙂


  8. Hi Darcia, resentment does seem to build when we don't take care of our needs. That's awesome you've learned a different way of relating. I'd say a lot of us women have selfless role models in our mothers, making it tough for us to find that balance. Thanks for stopping by!


  9. I don't think that being selfless means that you're spineless or that you're stupid like Bella (seriously did she really think the vampire would let her mother go?) You can lookk after others and yourself by doing so. I find it a lot easier to be happy if I help my husband be happy, but I'n not a slave to filling his needs and not my own.


  10. Ha ha, Bella did make some questionable decisions–namely, falling for a stalker vampire as boyfriend. 😉 I agree we do benefit when we consider our partner's happiness. You know what they say–if mama's not happy, NOBODY'S happy!


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