We don't do things for each other.
This is perhaps the most damaging relationship advice out there: "when you're in a relationship, you need to put that person's needs ahead of your own."
In my experience, people who adhere to this advice have a bad time, and here's why:
When you concern yourself first with the other person's experience, you project, you try, and you're off center.
To be able to address the other person's needs, you need to know what they are. That's where projection comes in. We each use the experiences from our own lives to project a value system onto the other person. We assume the other person feels and thinks similarly to how we do, we assume they like what we like and hate what we hate.
This is an incredibly important process, but if you let it happen entirely subconsciously, it will fuck you up the way being 3 degrees off your course at the beginning of a flight leaves you hundreds of miles from where you wanted to be.
Then, putting yourself in their shoes, quite literally, just being you but with their shoes on, you try to do what it is you have come to believe they need. You depart your own pleasure zone in order to attempt to create a pleasure zone for the other person based on dubious information about their preferences. You go into the realm of "things I don't do without a reason" which also happens to be "things I only do if I receive proper compensation" (compensation in the form of love, appreciation, reciprocity, attention, sex...) AKA you move away from devotion and into transaction.
As a result, you're off-center. You're not in the space that feels nourishing and comforting and safe to you, you're somewhere other than where the bulk of your bliss occurs. If the other person were to love you exactly how you wanted to be loved, you wouldn't be there to feel it. You are out of your own pocket, and your best shot at feeling love is from within your pocket.
When both people do "for the other person," neither of them gets what they need.
This is why my partner and I don't do things for each other.
We do things for ourselves.
Now, I want to also lay a distinction here between shallow, uninvestigated hedonism and what I like to call Holistic Self Interest.
Holistic Self-Interest is what I call it when I prioritize what *really* nourishes me, no matter where on my value-system I egoically place it. Holistic self interest is about what brings me peace, growth, meaning, and gravity. When I pursue holistic self interest, that's when I'm really *living.*
That means there is some risk. There's a willingness for hurt and upset. There's skin in the game. There's danger. There are hard lessons I refuse to learn any other way. There's my love of being the victim-who-rises-above. There's my craving for conflict I can skillfully resolve.
There's all the pleasure I get from seeing others happy--pleasure I want to deny when I believe the right thing is to want others' happiness more than I want my own. If I own how much I really enjoy doing things for other people, can I really say I'm doing those things for them? Don't I cancel out the "for them" part when I enjoy it too much? Part of doing things for others, in this mindset, is sacrifice and suffering.
On the other hand, when I'm playing all-out for my holistic self interest, I am magnetic to a partner who complements that. Our devotion to our own experiences keeps us in our respective pockets, where we are each capable of most potently receiving love. It keeps our love flowing out the exact way we find it enjoyable to love on another person. And it just so happens that the way he loves to love on someone is the way I love to receive his love.
Because all of HIM is in there. And that's what I'm really wanting when I want his love--I want to feel it backed by his desire and his will, I want to feel HIM there, loving me. I don't want to experience halfhearted loving acts from someone who's suffering to perform them.
That's the thing I fell in love with--him and how he loves. How his love is enabled by his fierce boundaries, how I can trust that he will not inconvenience himself on my behalf, so I can trust that all he does for me is flowing from his self-interest. It is free and unencumbered, it's happening because it's the thing that makes him alive.
Neither of us ever feels resentful or any sense that the other person "owes me." Instead, we are living on our own centers, in our own pockets, and exclusively interacting from that ideal place. We get to be our best selves because we are our most nourished selves, and we each benefit from the other person staying at their best.
This is intimacy--satisfaction with reality, exactly as it happens. That is devotional love.