So! I just watched Ten’s first youtube video in their I’m Having A Feeling series. It’s a good time. It’s a short vid about, basically, Using Your Words. It’s a good video, and I’m looking forward to more.
I’m also using their video – or a specific part of it – as a jumping off point for my own ruminations. Because, guess what? I’m having a feeling, too!
 

“Undine” by Arthur Rackham (1909, based on the story by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué)
Public Domain via Wiki Free Images
A Watery Tart in romanticized Medieval garb stands by a river (her own, one presumes) in a dark wood, her hands pressed to her face and her expression distressed.


 
Something my lovely wife and I periodically have discussions about is that I don’t tell her when something is bothering me.
Which, like, obviously this is not ideal. She loves me and would rather know when I’m getting upset about a thing that she is doing, or not doing. Which is part of why she is great.
It’s also part of why she is unusual if you look at my dating history. Whether for reasons of being selfish assholes or for reasons of unexplored and definitely unresolved traumas/Mental-Health-Stuff of their own, or for reasons of A Little Bit Of Both, most of the people I’ve developed attachment bonds with, over the course of my life, have been people who wanted me to just shut up and stop having a problem with Whatever It Is. See also: “Why are you so sensitive/needy?”
 
Now. Because I’m human, and I have this pattern, perhaps it’s relevant to ask: Hey, Ms Syren! What are you getting out of these relationships? Because it’s obviously something, or you wouldn’t keep repeating this pattern!
 
Good question!
I don’t know the answer. Though I have some theories:

1) Mommy Issues. One of the people who pulled the Why U So Sensitive on me, for the better part of 30 years, was my own mother. Which sucks. At this point, I’m pretty sure that my mom has the same kind of fight-response-oriented generalized anxiety crap that I do, so most of her jerk behaviour is/was probably due to her own undiagnosed and unmedicated weasel-brain winding her up into a state of anything from “twitchy and irritable” to “lashing out pretty harshly in order to bleed off the excess panic”. So I don’t hate my mom over this (uh… any more) BUT I do recognize that, since our first attachment bonds are generally with our adult care-givers AND since those bonds tend to set our expectations (<– see what I did there?) about what attachment bonds look and feel like, there's a solid chance that my relationships with both my frequently unavailable (he worked in a different city and was home on the weekends) Dad and my reliably available, but frequently (and somewhat randomly) emotionally-violent Mom maaaaaaaaaaaaaay have some effect on how & why I develop attachments to people who, surprisingly often, are both (a) not around that often, but also (b) can't really be trusted not to treat me like crap and then tell me it's my fault that I feel bad about it.
 
2) Shame/Low Self Worth/Indispensability. Call this one what you like, it basically boils down to “If so-and-so NEEDS me, they will never abandon me”. Which… isn’t entirely correct. They might never abandon me, but they will probably resent the heck out of me if I keep wanting to have a relationship based on mutuality and So-and-so really just wants me to endlessly take care of them without having any pesky needs of my own. (I may be a little bit bitter about some of my former romances). Basically, the idea is that For Whatever Reason, I secretly believe (have a personal cosmology that tells me) I’m unworthy of love and belonging, and so constantly need to be “earning my keep” by being necessary/indispensable lest I be cast out into the cold to die, frozen and alone, in the snow. (For real. That’s literally the end-point where all my fears are aiming. Dying, frozen AND alone, specifically in the snow).
 
3) Issues Around Vulnerability. This one is pretty heavily related to #2. (It’s also something that Ten talked about in their video. AND it’s something that Brenee Brown tends to talk about a lot as well). BUT it may also have some relationship with #1. If I need less than a given co-attachment-bondee, they will be leaning on me more often than I am leaning on them, which will mean I’m not being Too Needy (note: in situation #2? Needing anything is needing Too Much, so… this doesn’t actually work) and will – hahaha – not be abandoned or cast out due to being too much work, and similar. But also: If I need less, just in general, then when my co-attachment-bondee is… not available, or reacts with outsized anger at my expressing wants and needs, then I won’t have to deal with personal disappointment, or exposure to outside threats, nearly as often.
 
4)Saviour Complex. Otherwise known as: I actually get a lot out of looking after people, so maybe I fall for people who want/need a lot of looking after. I don’t know how much of that is due to items #2 and #3, versus how much of that is just, like, the Gender Programming just took really well over here, versus how much of it is actually me getting something genuinely fulfilling (Oh, hai, Cancer Moon) out of mending my partner’s dresses or bringing my friend a casserole. But let’s go with “at least some of it”.

 
So. Those are my theories about why I have this particular pattern going on.
But! That whole list is really just kind of a tangent because what I was saying was: It’s not typical, in my relationship history, for my bringing up unmet wants and needs to be met with a willingness on the part of my partners (mostly) to try and meet them.
Which brings me back around to those discussions that I have with my wife.
 
Long before I met my wife, I got to have “counseling in exchange for odd jobs” and, during these sessions, I started addressing my tendencies to lean towards martyrdom through Not Using My Words to express my wants and needs. So I’m better at expressing that stuff out loud than I was. I still have a tonne of fears around “asking for too much and thus losing everything”, and I still tend to get kind of choked up and… unable? to talk about stuff when someone asks me directly about what I specifically want, especially if there’s some kind of audience involved (because the only thing worse than being vulnerable in private is being vulnerable in public, am I right?), so I’m not exactly out of these particular woods. But I’m far better at it than I was.
 
Which brings me to the point of this whole post.
The reason (the other reason?) why I have a habit of not bringing it up when I’m having The Feels around something that… maybe?… pertains to unmet wants or needs, is this:

When I find myself experiencing feelings like resentment or consternation or frustration or anger or disappointment around A Thing that is or is not being done, I have trouble discerning WHY that feeling is happening.

 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because my liquid anxiety is sloshing around trying to find something to define itself by, and so I’m aiming my anxiety-derived irritability/snappishness/frustration A Thing because it’s conveniently available and I can tell myself “Oh. See? I’m not upset because my idiot brain is convinced that Some Nebulous Bad Thing is going to Happen. I’m upset because of This Specific Thing that pertains to one of my attachment relationships. I’m not a high-strung mess because I’m a high-strung mess! I’m a high-strung mess because Co-Attachment-Bondee is mistreating me in some way!
E.G.: Back when I worked for Rainbow Health Ontario, I generally had a couple of all-staff meetings in Toronto every year. This meant that I generally went traveling on my own while my wife stayed home. Around about the second night in TO, I would get ridiculously angry/frustrated with my wife over some dumb thing like “She says ‘um’ a lot on the phone”. This is something which I fervently hope never actually showed up in my behaviour, but which was definitely going on. It took me a few rounds of this to realize that this was actually a mix of (a) stress due to interacting with a LOT of people for many hours a day, and (b) anxiety around having deprioritized someone else (my wife) in favour of myself (by traveling and not being available by text for a lot of the day) which, as we know, is The Worst Sin according to my own shitty metanaratives/cosmology. This was 100% coming from inside my own head, a preemptive “Fuck you! I don’t need you!” born of a fear that Someone Will Be Mad At Me For Letting Them Down.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because I’m Hangry.
This one’s pretty self-explanatory.
See also: I need a nap, or a shower, or some introvert time, or to know for sure that I’ve got enough money for the heating bill this month.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because I’m not nearly as self-aware or good at self-soothing as I’d like to think, and this is actually a problem I can solve myself by taking a bath, doing some anti-panic breathing, eating some protein + having a glass of water, journaling to try and figure out why this call might actually be coming from inside the house, and otherwise doing self-care and self-work rather than expecting other people to manage my feelings for me.
E.G.: I am, by now, well aware of how threatened I regularly feel when a partner gets a new partner, or when one of their already-existing partnerships levels up or becomes more entwined in some way. But, as recently as five years ago, I didn’t really know that my generally pretty negative feelings about new metamours were at least in part due to my own fears of abandonment and being replaced. Learning how to better self-sooth, as well as doing a bunch of self-work to figure out where those feels were coming from, went a long way to smoothing my relationships with my metamours.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because A Specific, Concrete Thing that I asked of a co-attachment-bondee, in order to meet a particular need… isn’t actually doing the trick, BUT I can’t figure out why, and so can’t articulate a new Specific, Concrete Thing to ask for that will better meet that need.
E.G.: I once asked a long-distance partner to text me when they got up in the morning and when they went to bed at night. My live-in partner does this pretty reliably with most of her non-live-in sweethearts, so it seemed like a very reasonable thing to ask of someone one theoretically would be missing me as much as I was missing them.
I thought the need I was addressing was for contact. The kind of thing that might be named “quantity time” and that might be related to stuff like the “parallel play” of two adults hanging out on the couch next to each other, each one reading a book, not interacting much but being close together and getting something out of that proximity.
I was SO wrong.
Which is maybe (or maybe not) why a couple of auto-texts per day were really not doing it for me.
The needs I was actually trying to meet were
1) The need to mutually affirm “I’m here for you. I’m listening and will be as available as I can be given stuff like work hours, other partners, and life in general” in the morning, and to assure each other “I’m still here for you, I still care about you, even though I’m sleeping and/or on a date and will be mostly not available for the next 8-12 hours”. I wanted to let my partner know that stuff. I needed to hear that kind of stuff from them, too.
and
2) The need for frequent, albeit brief, emotional connections at regular intervals. My primary love language is touch. In a long-distance relationship, I don’t get to speak, let alone hear, that language very often or even very reliably. Which means I need to lean more heavily on secondary love-languages like “words of affirmation” or “quality time” or the kinds of “caring actions” that can be done by text/phone such as asking me about my day/life, listening to the answers, and then responding to what I’ve said as though it matters.
But it took me until several months after that partner and I broke up for me to understand why my Specific, Concrete Action (text me at regular intervals) wasn’t getting me what I actually needed (affirmation of mutual love and care; reliable and frequent-ish moments of emotional connection and mutual support through the gifts of our respective time, energy, and attention).
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things for the reasons Ten talked about in their video: I don’t feel like I have the right to ask for my partners’ time, energy, and attention.
E.G.: Because demanding those things makes me a shitty metamour or Bad At Polyamoury. Because if she really wanted this power exchange, I wouldn’t have to ask for X Task to be completed anywhere near as frequently as I do. Because they’re going through a really hard time right now and don’t have the emotional energy or attention to offer, even if I psyche myself up and ask for it. Because if they wanted to prioritize spending time with me, they would take some initiative and ask, instead of leaving it to me 100% of the time. Because, if she wanted to spend more time with me, wouldn’t she be kinder to me on the phone? Because if I keep reminding them about X Significant Date in my life, they will feel stupid or like I don’t think I can trust them to remember stuff that’s important to me. Because asking for stuff, when that stuff isn’t forthcoming after asking once, is being a pest at best and being abusive at worst, and I don’t want to give them reasons to be uncomfortable with, or irritated at, me. The list goes freaking on.
 
Maybe I’m feeling those things because I have asked for The Thing, and my co-attachment-bondee is dismissing my want or need by telling me that I over-think things, or that my emotions are exhausting, or that I’m too needy (or too sensitive), or that expecting fair treatment and basic kindness from someone who says “I love you” to me is expecting waaaaaaaaaaaay too much. Or whatever. (Which, btw, is why I was having such a feeling of Consternation while watching Ten’s video). Maybe my co-attachment-bondee’s behaviour is not matching up with their stated feelings/intentions, and I’m feeling Actually Fucking Bonkers on top of feeling frustrated and angry.
 
See?
Sometimes those feelings are a definite indicator that something is wrong in one of my relationships, and/or that I need to talk more explicitly (or even just remind a given partner) about what I need and how to help me get it.
But a lot of the time, those feelings are the result of stuff that I’m kind of doing to myself. Brain weasels. Limited and relatively new coping techniques for dealing with same. Ignoring basic stuff like feeling hungry, tired, or socially drained.
Between that and a history of my needs being poorly received, and often dismissed, when I’ve expressed them?
I find it’s generally a less risky, but also more-likely effective, plan of action to take a look at how I can solve my problems myself.
 
Which would be great, if some of those problems didn’t take literal years to solve.
Which would be great if, by doing so, I wasn’t also reinforcing the hopefully-false belief that “People only want me if I give them things am compliant and low-maintenance (easy to ignore when they don’t want something from me)”.
Which would be great if these behaviours and assumptions didn’t make it easier for other people to manipulate and gaslight me around whether the things I want and need are “reasonable” or not.
 
It’s kind of fucked up. Equal parts necessary self-work and possible/probable self-sabotage, and I’m not sure what to do with it all.
Clearly I have more work to do in this area.