I was talking to Nancy recently. She’s the 40 year old daughter of a friend of mine and is a woman who is beginning the process to end her second marriage. Nancy is creative and smart and independent. She has always supported herself. She likes men who give her lots of freedom and time and space to pursue not only her work but her hobbies as well, which include singing and garden landscaping.
In our conversation Nancy was lamenting the fact that she yet again finds herself in a relationship with a man who hooked all his reasons for being on her. He would say he only wanted to help her by doing for her or that his joy was in supporting her and making life easy for her. What he was saying, in fact, was that Nancy was his ‘cake.’
The ‘cake’ is the main deal. It’s the core of a person, their ability to be creative, to grow, to be happy with themselves; it’s the thing we look to within ourselves in order to survive in the world. You can’t be someone else’s ‘cake,’ because that means they put you ahead of themselves, which is just plain unhealthy and puts pressure on you to be and do for them, which is not good for either of you. While you can’t be someone’s cake, you can be their ‘icing.’
The ‘icing’ is the thing that makes everything better. It’s returning home after a long day and being excited because that other person is there. It’s about having someone to share troubles and difficulties with, knowing that that person won’t judge you and will really listen and try very hard to see your point of view. It’s knowing that going to the party, movie, play or vacation is enhanced by that person’s presence with you.
Nancy feels suffocated and tied down and responsible for the entire happiness of her partner. She feels like a delicate butterfly who wants to experience all the world has to offer but is being restrained by an ever-tightening grip of a partner who needs her to define him.
Trying to be someone’s cake is suffocating and unhealthy. Being the icing is joyous and exciting and uplifting for all involved. It gives space and freedom to both parties to grow and expand their own cake. While Nancy has lots of work to do around her choices, we all can learn about the ‘cake’ and the ‘icing.’ Are you allowing your partner, family member, child, etc., to experience their own ‘cake’? Do you demand to be a part of that ‘cake’ or do you just want to share your ‘icing’?
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