i’d like you to be my biggest cheerleader, but i NEED you to be my biggest critic

Someone told me that my partner (I suppose they thought I could only have one, or perhaps it was a “general” partner, as in the “general” you) needed to be my biggest cheerleader. I appreciated the thought, while immediately dismissing it as not relevant to my own situation. “I don’t need a cheerleader,” I told myself. I’d dubbed this group of guys my “fan club” in high school, but I’d outgrown that childish need, no? In my more recent experience, a partner may happen to be our greatest cheerleader– but all too often this person showers us with praise and fails to provide any substantial support. And their words achieve very little, no matter their grandeur.

But, later, I reflected on this sentiment. Some night, I don’t remember, as I fell asleep. A tiny, almost aggravating thought. My partners, especially the one who stays by my side nearly all the time, are, in fact, my greatest cheerleaders. Always have been, and, frankly, I love it. Even my more casual partners– that may not be first to cheer me on, usually do to life conflicts– provide me the fullest support possible at the soonest opportunity.

Despite my initial resentment of the statement, (Of course I don’t need validation all the time from my partners and friends, how insecure do you think I am?) I kind of like the idea. I’m grateful my partners are my biggest cheerleaders.

My partners are there for me, clapping loudest and first.

They are the Princess Carolyn to my Bojack Horseman. They are the first to support me in an endeavor. They tell me, every day, how beautiful I am. They are the first to like an article of mine or follow up with a comment.

My partners are there for me when I fall asleep at night. When I wake up in the morning. And every moment in between. I rarely find myself without someone to offer me comforting words or a hug…or anything at all…whenever I ask for it. Often without any delay. They will tell me my dreams are amazing and I am wonderful and even when I’m down on myself, they’ll pick me right back up.

My own, incredible munchkins are the first to offer the sweetest, most sincere compliments out of thin air when I am feeling particularly low. Some say kids are terrible, callous, and cruel. I disagree, but perhaps only due to my personal experience.

Nobody, but nobody, could say their support system offered them more “cheers” than my own loved, chosen family– and it is beyond painful for me to recognize that it is not this way for everyone.

And, now, as I think about it, I do wish everyone had what I have in my…tribe? Polycule? Whatever you want to call it. I wonder if I instinctively dismissed the idea, not because I disagreed. But rather because I took it for granted. Like breathing. Some people cannot count on that “unconditional,” ever present love and comfort from anyone. Not their romantic loved ones, not their family, not their “best” friends…not even their own mother and father. How could they not desperately want that from someone?

It is an unfortunate reality that too many fail to have their partners offer them anything even close, which I believe is why the sentiment rings so loudly whenever it is spoken. Because a lot of people do not have partners as their greatest cheerleaders. God knows, enough people’s greatest abusers are those that claim to love them. And for many? Their most loved one(s) stay by them every day, but for no reason in particular. And that is…very sad.

So, please, support the sentiment!

I have trust issues, like many. I am not saying to simply trust pretty words and compliments. I’m exhausted, frankly, listening to story after story about a girl swept off her feet by the perfect guy who “did everything right” (read: said all the right words) only to have him drop her on her face, quite unceremoniously.

I also understand that not everyone speaks words of affection as their love language. I, as best I can, try not to push for sugary words and affectionate gestures (though as snuggly as I am, it can be hard not press for hugs!) So I can understand when my partners -might- not express such affection for me (though, curiously, they do anyway!). Nor would I hold it against them if they didn’t. (Of course, it’s all too easy to say you don’t care about that which you have. So take what I say with a grain of salt).

And, yet, would the world be worse off if we could do this for the person(s) we claim to love the most? What if we tried to be the most positive, the most enthusiastic person in that person’s life? Would that be so bad? I don’t think so. Although, in an attempt to keep myself grounded, I do also think this…

Please, please don’t forget, please, there’s something far more valuable in addition to being someone’s greatest cheerleader!

And that is to be their consistent (not constant, but reliable) check. I am glad, and grateful, that my partners are so wonderful to me and so generous with their words. But what I need more than that is for someone to pull my head out of the clouds. To say, Hey, I love you, but what you did was wrong. What you said was wrong. And you need to fix it. Because if they won’t, who will?

My friends, love them dearly, but they will never hold me to the same standard as my partner. Frankly, they haven’t earned the right. Nonetheless, they won’t do it. My family, bless them, will do it, but not to the same degree. And they aren’t with me every day.

I need that from someone who is always there with me. I’ve, for better or worse, clung closest to the ones who managed to find a way to criticize me and get through to me (I’m not always the most receptive to harsh words, by which I mean, I’m pretty awful about it.) And even though I’ll kick and scream the whole way, I haven’t left. I haven’t rejected those who tell me I’m wrong and I need to get it together. Because deep down, I know I need to hear it. I know it’s hard, but that’s life.

People all too often leave when it “gets hard.”

By which they mean, “when the person didn’t just agree with me like they always did.” And then they’ll shrug and say they “need a partner who will be their biggest cheerleader.” Something I’ve seen too many in my life do. I do understand, at least a little. Because we want one person to Just. Be. There. For. Us.

But that often means giving up on the most wonderful relationships. When we can’t deal with hard conversations from those who know us well, from whose opinions it is more difficult to escape. And it seems easier to find the next new shiny who will say nothing but sugar to us.

But if they can’t tell us the truth? All the fanciest cheers in the world won’t make up for it. And we need that someone, or those someones, in our lives. More than anything. Be someone’s cheerleader– don’t feel even a tinge of guilt over it– but when it comes to your nearest and dearest?

Be more.

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