The balancing act


I was sat in traffic the other day listening to the radio. By the way, and just for clarity, I do mean sat in a car waiting for the queue to start moving. I wasn’t actually in the road with a radio next to me. That would be odd. Even for me. 🙂

One of the interviewees mentioned that now well-loved phrase: putting on your own oxygen mask first. As the traffic began to move, so did the rusty gears in my head. 🙂

Thinking about some of the parenting books I read – which, admittedly, is now some time ago – they also used that phrase. Looking after yourself before you can truly be able to look after others.

But, and here’s the question, what happens when your needs create friction with the needs of others?

I’m being hypothetical here: does my partner need her hubby to be all man all of the time? Is it selfish for a person to ask for time to be themselves? Is it better than some hobbies/activities are solo? Is compromise always the answer or it is a case that one party should always have a red warning card if things go too far for them?

Is the answer to any of the above: well, it depends? 🙂

I think it comes down to balance. A balance of each party’s needs, where no one feels too put-upon or denied. Walking such a line won’t always be easy. Juggling the needs of others and your own can be tricky at times. Perhaps, provided there’s always some give and some take – and not all on one side – the balance can be maintained.

Take care,


  1. Hi Lynn
    I don't think the oxygen mask analogy is about selfishness or 'me first' per se, but based on the fact that in an emergency, if you don't have your own mask on, and are therefore in a confused, panicky or befuddled state, you may do more harm than good when you try to intervene for somebody else.
    That's how I read it anyway.
    In terms of trans and partnerships, that means making sure you know exactly and realistically what you want, and what compromises you can live with, before you approach your partner with a list of needs. (But hopefully not demands or ultimata, or it's all gone horribly wrong somewhere up the line.)
    A very lucky few of us have not just accepting but actively supporting partners, which makes the whole thing easier. The rest of us have to tread a careful middle ground. For instance, I have more leeway than you over the removal of body hair, but a lot less in even mentioning, let alone discussing, anything trans related with my partner. She knows, of course, but it is a clear case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. That means we lead largely separate lives, mentally and perhaps emotionally. And while I can deal with that for the moment, in the long term I don't honestly know. Whoops, this has been a lot longer and more confessional than I intended. So what happens? Well personally, I always give ground first. After all, I brought the issue to the table (I'm mixing metaphors horribly all over the place). But you have to know the point at which the next concession you make would remove your own oxygen mask (see what I did there) and be careful not to go beyond that point. Not out of selfishness, but sheer self preservation.

    1. Hey Susie. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm with you on the 'oxygen mask' for emergencies. I think I'd taken that metaphor as something that helps you breathe (mountaineer/diver) rather than someone wishing they weren't X thousand feet up being told 'brace for landing' 🙂 Let us hope we never go there.

      That balancing act does seem very important.

  2. Sometimes it's less "putting on the oxygen mask first" and more how our behavior can a way of sucking all of the oxygen from the room. I gave up the balancing act completely five years ago because my wife and I were both choking from it. We recently celebrated our 46th anniversary, and we plan on continuing to breathe much easier the rest of the way.

  3. What Susie said: the oxygen mask analogy doesn't mean "think about your own wishes first", it means "you're no help if you're totally incapable".
    Recognising the difference between self-preservation and selfishness is essential, as all our actions affect other people.

    1. Maybe I'm looking at things slightly from an odd angle. It wouldn't be the first time 🙂 So if the oxygen mask is self-preservation, what would a self-care metaphor look like? Any ideas?

    2. Absolutely, Demelza (fab name. I fell in love with Angharad Rees in the first incarnation of Poldark [that dates me], which may go some way to explaining why Susie turned out to be a redhead). In fact I tend to go too far in the other direction, in that I am the first to back down from any hint of domestic conflict or disapproval of my own trans feelings. That can lead to brooding resentment which can be equally damaging. There's a very fine balance between – as Lynn puts it – self care (feeling good in yourself and in a relationship) and selfishness.

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