So here’s the thing. Occasionally (perhaps more than occasionally) I find myself in a situation where, because I care about someone, I want to do things that make their lives easier but which – because I also sort of a hate myself and can’t imagine why anyone would want to just hang out with me, or value my existence, just because – also conveniently makes me at least slightly indispensable to said person.
 
This isn’t the most healthy reason to do something helpful BUT it’s just Doing Something Helpful… up until it gets combined with simultaneously trying to be as needs-free and low-maintenance as possible so that you don’t drive the Cared-About Person away due to one having had the unmitigated gaul to, say, want to be valued intrinsically as a human being (a thing which, clearly, one does not deserve, see above).
 
And that’s where things get lopsided and gross.
 
Because if you (meaning I) set up a dynamic wherein I am always the helpER and someone else is always the helpEE, then it not only sets up an unhealthy dynamic that actually will (probably) make any decent human being run screaming in the other direction – because, frankly, it sucks to be viewed as incapable of doing things on your own and that’s kind of what happens when you set up a dynamic where someone can’t ever reciprocate your help – BUT it also does the following:
 
If you are like me, and you tend to minimize your wants/needs/whatever because you think nobody will want you if you maybe want to be taken care of on some level like any other human being (how dare you), while simultaneously trying to make yourself as helpful as possible because it’s awfully hard for you to believe, as Bear puts it, “the idea that [you are] worth keeping around even if [you are] not actively making [yourself] useful all the time”…
You may also set yourself up to become deeply suspicious of your Person’s reasons for getting in touch with you because, if the way you show you love someone is to take care of them, well… the way that they show that they love you may potentially be by needing you: By letting you feel needed.
 
I.E.: You, in your self-loathing, believing that nobody could possibly want to hang out with you, or value your existence, just because, may start to suspect that your Person will only ever contact you when they Want Something.
 
Cue deep-seated resentment combined with all the proof your brain weasels will ever need to bolster that idea that you aren’t worth keeping around if you aren’t actively making yourself useful all the time.
 
Woops.
 
For whatever reasons, I’m one of Those People who doesn’t think she’s worth keeping around if she’s not earning her keep, or justifying her existence, or whatever by Contributing (and asking as little as possible in the bargain). It’s one of the many strands in the awful Gordian Knot that is my messed up sexuality, and – in spite of having a streak of entitlement that’s probably a mile wide (otherwise, why get resentful when people don’t just intuitively give me time, energy, and attention, right?) – it’s a big part of why the only relationship that hasn’t fallen apart, one way or another, in connection with this particular bad habit, has been a power dynamic that put me on Top and gave me leave to Actually Be Demanding (cue: worrying that if I’m not Demanding Enough, I won’t be fulfilling my Person’s neeeeeeeeeeeeeeds and she’ll walk… I’ve mostly got that out of my system at this point, but it’s taken more than five years to do it, so…)
 
And here I am, with a shiny new partner, rather in love, and hoping against hope that I won’t somehow screw this one up… watching myself repeat this crap.
 
I’m kind of at a loss about what to do about it. I mean, in some ways, it’s just what you do about All The Things that brain weasels (mine at least) like to latch onto.
In the same way that I have to remember to give my People opportunities to reach out to me, in order to avoid creating a weird Chase Dynamic, I also need to give my People opportunities to be nice to me, to want me just for being me, to help me or give of themselves to me… Which means being vulnerable.
 
‘Cause that’s the thing, right?
 
There’s power in being the one who doesn’t need… at least when you actually don’t need anything. When you do, and you’re just pretending to be a Magical Fairy of Self-Fulfillment Who is Beholden to Nobody… that’s a different story. A really self-defeating one.
 
And, I mean, maybe it’s totally easy to Be Vulnerable when you’re fairly confident that your request is reasonable and your Person will probably be okay with it.
But when you’re fairly confident that you’re worthless and a massive waste of energy even when you’ve turned yourself into the most accommodating, wish-granting automaton who never asks for anything and anticipates the other person’s wants so well that you give them what they want before they even have the chance to articulate it… then chances are you’re also fairly confident that any kind of “could you” or “I’d like it if” or “would you mind” or whatever is going to be met not only with a big heap of Fuck No You Greedy Bitch, but also a side-order of shaming and punishment for having asked in the first place.
 
There’s a thing that comes up in Poly Discussions (among other discussions) which is: Give your partners the benefit of the doubt. Assume that everyone is coming to the table with an open heart and good intentions[1]. That nobody is going to be acting out of actual malice or malignant self-interest.
 
I need to remember that.
 
I need to remember that it’s actually pretty unlikely that someone who cares about me (and says so, and acts so), is going to say something sweet to me purely and entirely so that I’ll be predisposed to help them with A Thing shortly there-after.
 
I need to remember that it’s actually pretty unlikely that someone who cares about me (and says so, and acts so), is going to straight up ask me to have, and name, needs and wants and desires… only to yank some proverbial rug out from underneath me if I actually do[2].
 
I need to remember that it’s actually pretty unlikely that someone who cares about me (and says so, and acts so), is only pretending to be my friend sweetheart and, instead, is hanging out with dating me so that they can get together later with other people (who are clearly doing exactly the same thing) and laugh about How I Am Such A Loser, Ha Ha Ha[3].
 
 
Yeah. So there’s that.
 
And, yeah, recognizing that I’m doing That Thing is a lot easier than figuring out how to stop doing That Thing, but recognizing it is still important.
 
Anyway.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] And, yes, I’m aware that this isn’t always the case. Getting through relationships where that’s not how things go has left a whole lot of us, self included, fighting this stupid, up-hill battle against the red flags of “But sometimes they are lying, and we didn’t get out fast enough…” I know. Been there. Burned the t-shirt when I got out.
 
[2] I am not, after all, starring in Book Of Job: The Musical (although if I were… imagine the tunes in that beasty…).
 
[3] Did anyone else believe this when they were in high school? Just me? Okay.