So… I’ve started reading Conflict Is Not Abuse.
It’s… difficult. (There are going to be a lot ellipses in this post, which I know can be irritating, but please just bear with me).
I’m not yet 50 pages in, so I have some hopes that it’s going to get easier, that the author’s theories about powerful individuals or groups reading threat & danger into what would more accurately be called resistance to oppression will find a better fit when she’s talking about white cops and unarmed black men, or occupying forces and the people they’re terrorizing (she uses Israel and Gaza, but could just as easily be talking about Canada and the many nations contained within, and overlapping, its borders). But at the moment, we’re at the “micro level” of this theory, talking about interpersonal relationships, flirting and dating, power plays, “shunning”, and… you guys, it is not going well.
It’s hard to read this book, or at least it’s been hard so far, because a lot the stuff that the author is saying – and probably feeling pretty confident about her professionalism in saying, given that her publisher is the kind of place that has a slush pile, professional editors, and a number of titles that wound up on Canada Reads – sound like the inside of my own head when I’m not doing well at all.
So I thought I’d talk about what goes on in my own head.
Which is a scary thing, in and of itself, because a whole bunch of it? Is probably really wrong.
So. Here we go…
The first thing is this:
Boundaries are complicated.
I mean, yes, they’re also really, REALLY simple. They’re as simple as “No”. As simple as “Stop”. The words that two-year-olds say over and over and over – No! Mine! – because they are at the developmental stage where they start actively differentiating Self from Other and that difference is HUGE big news.
But they’re complicated – for me, if not for everyone – because they are many-layered things. Boundaries are No and Stop. The place where I begin and You can’t cross.
But they are also the place where You begin and I can’t cross.
The place where my privileges end.
But also the place where my responsibilities end.
I had such a lightbulb moment, years ago now, when my therapist told me that she wanted to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – AKA “talking to chairs” – with me. With much trepidation and a lot of side-eye, I told in all seriousness that I was willing to try it, but that I couldn’t guarantee that I would know where I was supposed to go with it.
And she said something along the lines of: “You’re not supposed to know where to go with it. That’s my job. Your job is to trust me and give it a shot. See? Boundaries.”
It was a total penny-drop.
But I still have trouble with it.
I try to anticipate what a given partner or friend will want/need/feel so that I can have that base covered by the time they’re wanting/needing/feeling it. If my life were a movie, the results would probably involve Zany Hijinks, or at least Hilarity, ensuing but… this is real life so it mostly just involves me putting undue pressure on myself and then needing a lot of reassurance that I’m not doing something wrong just by existing in a not-actively-helpful way.
I try to chess game my way through Hard Conversations (job interviews, relationship transitions, crisis moments), to know how my interlocutor is going to react, so that I can address whatever comes up perfectly, so that they won’t be scared or angry, so that things won’t go completely to hell, so that the person won’t Leave Me. So that I’ll (hopefully) get what I want, whether that’s a happy and invested romantic partner or a realist-artist who wants to hire me again; a friend who is eating a real meal, with protein, for the first time in three days, or an acquaintance who’s interested in meeting me for Pho at a confirmed date and time.
…And the more intimate the relationship, the more invested I am in it continuing, the higher the stakes are when I have to go into a conversation (even if it’s with an empty chair representing my own inner child, if you will) where I don’t know what the path to the other side really looks like.
So that’s the first thing.
The second thing is… My primary love language is touch.
So, yes, when a romantic partner and I have sex together, I’m speaking (and listening to) my love language. But that’s also what happens when I offer my hand across the pub table to the friend who’s having a really hard week, and she takes it. Or when I hug my favourite auntie (or my mom, even if our relationship is still a little bit fraught), and she hugs back. Or when my wife snuggles up and spoons me at night, and I twine my fingers with hers. Or when I scratch my pal’s recently buzzed scalp and they lean against my shoulder, while a big group of us chat over brunch.
And that’s all lovely. That’s all consensual and delightful and good.
But things get pretty fraught, pretty fast, when you are asking (pleading with?) your partner to start speaking your love language… and that language is touch.
I don’t think that happens nearly so much, or to such a degree, if one’s primary love language is, say, Caring Actions. In which case, maybe what you’re asking for is “Can you be at the train station to meet me? Can you call, out of the blue, to offer to pick me up from work in the car so I don’t have to brave OC Transpo during flu season? Can you know what my favourite food is and keep it on hand and make it for me sometimes, Just Because? Can you surprise me by hanging the pictures while I’m out getting groceries, so I come home to a house that feels a little more finished? Can you put a photo of us, together, on the lock-screen of your phone, or the desk of your home office, so that when I visit, I can see it and know that you are wishing me close, even when I’m far away?”
…As opposed to asking that someone to “speak your love language” in ways that, whatever they happen to be, all boil down to “Can you touch me for longer durations, and/or in more intense ways, and/or with greater frequency, than you are probably comfortable with, because if you were comfortable with them, you would probably already be doing so?”
That can turn into scary-pressure really fucking fast, and I’m not sure where the line between “advocating for my needs” and “pressuring someone else” really is in that situation. (If I’m upset that someone said No (I don’t want to have sex with you; I don’t want you to hold my hand right now; I don’t want to sit next to you; etc) do I have to hide my upset forever, or can I talk about it the next day? If the next day isn’t okay, what about the next week? Can I ask for touch at all, or is that pressuring someone in and of itself? Is my level of skin hunger abnormal? Does that make it bad? If it’s not bad, why is it so hard for someone else to meet me where I’m at? Is there something wrong with me?)
So. That was the second thing.
The third thing is that I’m still trying to internalize/grok/something the relationship between “Abuse is too much closeness, NOT too much distance” and Covert Boundary-Crossings like lying, manipulation, and gaslighting. Because I think there is a relationship there. (The gaslighting link talks about a thing called “glamour gaslighting”, where someone puts you on a pedestal and then gets mad, or freaks out, and pulls away when you start asking for support or care which, like, “Oh, hai, extreme familiarity”… And it feels very much like “too much distance” to the gaslighted party, and yet… may still qualify as abuse?)
I went to Kai Cheng Thom’ and Kota Harbron’s “Monstrous Love” workshop on mental health and intimate partner abuse, about a year ago. It wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, but it was an interesting workshop. There was an example given by the presenters wherein they roll-played two conversations, in which the respective people in a romantic diad each confided in a friend about something scary and uncomfortable going on in the romantic relationship. Then the presenters asked the workshop participants to identify who was abusing whom in the shared scenario they’d just performed.
One partner was clearly experiencing anxiety because of something their partner was doing to them (asking a lot of questions about what they’re doing with whom, when, and getting angry or otherwise upset when they weren’t home or made plans to hang with other people), whereas the other partner was clearly experiencing anxiety because of something she was doing to herself inside her own head (replaying situations from a past, painfully-ended romance and assuming that the same thing is happening in her current relationship).
I have a really hard time discerning when I’m reacting to stuff in my head versus when I’m reacting to stuff someone else is doing to me.
When my friend says “we should do coffee soon” but never follows up with possible dates and times (nor responds to my suggestions of dates and times), am I feeling angry and blown-off because my friend is actually blowing me off? Or am I feeling angry and blown-off because I’m hyper-sensitive and/or believe that I have a closer relationship with this person (friend, as opposed to friendly-acquaintance?) than I actually do? Is someone actually doing something to me (blowing me off, suggesting a thing and then not following through) or am I doing something to myself (having unrealistic expectations about the kind of relationship I have with this person, expecting follow-through when “we should do coffee soon” really means “it was so nice to see you at this public, group event, I hope I’ll see you here again”).
When I ask the person who refers to herself as my girlfriend to act like she likes me (see: love languages, limerence behaviours, the general idea that one can – one hopes – expect a reliable degree of acceptance, empathy, validation, and reciprocal disclosure from one’s romantic partners) and she tells me that I’m being unreasonable or needy, is she reacting to something she’s doing to herself (replaying an earlier romance that devolved into stalking, or a childhood situation where she was made to take responsibility for the emotions of an adult care-giver, or a limbic-response that relates to her ambivalent/avoidant attachment style), or is she reacting to something I’m doing (Am I actually being unreasonable for wanting those things? Am I being needy/pushy/demanding in how, or how often, I ask for them)? And is my upset/panic/spiraling at her reaction based on something she’s doing to me (punishing me for wanting care or reliability, gaslighting me about what are, or are not, reasonable things to expect from a partner) or something I’m doing to myself (my own limbic responses as relating to my insecure-anxious attachment style; replaying stuff that happened in earlier relationships – a minor schoolyard disagreement at age nine directly resulting in years of ostracizing & bullying; my ex-husband insisting that there wass nothing wrong with how he was treating me, and that the problem was clearly my having a problem at all – and believing they are happening again)?
A lot of the time, I suspect it’s a little bit of both.
But I am an absolute MESS when it comes to sorting out… basically, how much of that “little bit of both” is stuff that I’m doing and can therefore (ha, in theory) control, or at least make decisions about.
So that’s the third thing.
But. Back to Conflict is Not Abuse.
There are things that the author says in her book that are… unbalanced. I get the strong impression that the grace being asked for in interpersonal conflict situations… doesn’t go both ways.
That the author is asking the reader to extend a lot of empathy and compassion to someone whose “being interpreted as abusive” behavior is (probably) coming from a place of unexamined, maybe even unacknowledged trauma & anxiety, but that they are not asking the reader to extend that same compassion to someone whose “reacting to perceived abuse” behavior is ALSO (probably) coming from a place of unexamined, maybe even unacknowledged trauma and anxiety. Honestly, I kind of feel ike maybe we, as readers, are straight-up being asked NOT to extend that compassion towards the “reacting” person. That it’s cruel and wrong to force someone to back off (by cutting off all contact), but not cruel or wrong (quite the opposite) to force someone to keep talking, keep meeting (in person, no less) with someone they don’t want to be around anymore.
And that’s just majorly fucked up.
Even I know this. Even I have my shoulders up around my ears (when my eyes aren’t rolling skyward, at any rate) reading some of this stuff, and I understand really, really well the feelings of loss, anxiety, abandonment, and hopelessness that the author describes the “perceived as abusive” person feeling when all contact is refused.
I have SO been there.
Deep Breathing through hours of unanswered texts or days of unanswered emails & social media messages, trying to find a balance between the Captain Awkward axioms of “Silence Is An Answer” + “People Who Like You Act Like They Like You” (I swear, Captain Awkward is how I learned what boundaries actually are in practice) and the million Totally Reasonable Reasons that someone might not have gotten back to me yet.
Fighting off yet another goddamn anxiety spiral because I ended a message with a question mark – “How’s your day?”; “I’m free for coffee and knitting on Tuesday. Want to join me?” – and the vulnerability built into one stupid piece of punctuation, the rawness of showing even that much wanting, needing, is overwhelming. (I… don’t actually have a clue why it’s that overwhelming, but there it is).
That place of doubt, where you can’t actually tell if you’re really asking for way too much or if it’s within reason to expect the other person to probably be game for snuggles/hang-outs/sex/writing-critiques/confidences/coffee/whatever most of the time, or at least be up for proposing alternatives; where your own desires seem utterly monstrous specifically because (apparently) they’re not returned; where you feel so lonely and so nuts…
That’s a hell of a shitty place to be.
But you don’t get to call the other person “childish” just because they don’t want the same things as you. And you DO have to at least be willing the see the possibility that, while you feel like you’re starving or desperate, or whatever, the other person is maybe feeling crowded or eaten alive, or otherwise overwhelmed by the closeness you are asking for, however minimal that might be, or might be right now, or might be in a different situation but NOT right now, or whatever.
And I get that.
So it’s really uncomfortable to see what are basically My Worst Moments – the stuff that scares me when I think it, and that I try to never let come out of my mouth – published in a mass-market paperback, as if they were totally reasonable things to think and act on.
It’s a bit of a tough go, you might say.
So, we’ll see how I do with the rest of it, but… I don’t know if this is going to be something I’m able to finish or not.
 Whether that means “not hire me” or “break up with me” or “retreat into shame-hiding and massively disordered eating” or some other thing doesn’t really matter in the context of this post. It all tends to boil down to “don’t leave me” when we’re talking about my brain.
 And here’s the thing about me: I don’t even know if that’s true. If my assumption that someone would be doing the things that tell my limbic system that I’m safe and loved in return if they were comfortable doing them, that I wouldn’t need to ask (at all, let alone over and over) because it would come naturally… Would it? I have no freaking idea.
 As happens during limerence – AKA New Relationship Energy – when your brain chemistry tends to lead you to want to share as much time, energy, and (various forms of) attention with The Other Person, whether or not you’re actually thinking about, or putting conscious effort into, it.
 For some reason, “Silence Is An Answer” translates in my head as “If an answer is not forthcoming within a two (txt) or 24 (email) hour period, you should just wrap your head around the idea that the recipient of your message has finally gotten sick of your shit and is either waiting for you to get the hint that you are no-longer friends, or else has moved on already”.
 Phone died; driving; person is at work or has a date or other social event; their in-laws visiting; Maybe they… kind of didn’t feel like talking? (<– This one sucks SO MUCH, but it’s still an option, and it’s not actually the end of the world); they needed some introvert time, or didn’t know how to respond to the question; Got swamped on some other front and then felt embarrassed (I have been here, too); was in the middle of a really good novel and didn’t hear the phone; etc…
 For real. I figured out last… February? That I am waaaaaay more likely to get antsy or worse about an un-answered text or email if I’m asking the recipient a question. Because a question is a request for contact, and an attempt to build or strengthen ties, and if it’s left hanging, maybe it means that I’m the only one who wants those ties in the first place.
 Yes, I know Normal People don’t do this. That a text message, an email, or a tweet suggesting that “we should do coffee soon” isn’t actually a referendum on a given friendship/partnership/lovership/whatever. It was kind of a clue that maybe I have Actual Problems and am not just, I dunno… weak-willed or “too sensitive” or some other bullshit.
 Except here, clearly, where I’m telling you all about the mess that is my insides.
Tag Archive: All About Me
So, below, is a fairly large excerpt from this other post I wrote for Urban Meliad as part of the New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (if you’re a Woo Person, you may want to give it a go yourself). Given the subject matter, I thought it was appropriate to post it over here, as well.
As a heads up, I’m talking a little bit about dissociative things I do in (some) sexual situations but I’m not getting into discussions or depictions of sexual trauma. Also, I talk a bunch about tarot cards which might be a little out of left-field here, but is context-appropriate for the way I’m doing the Experiment over at Urban Meliad.
The first time I looked at the Osho Zen depiction of the Queen of Cups (Receptivity), what I saw in her double-helix-stemmed lotus blossom body was the Chalace (Brittish Traditional Wiccan style, in case you missed the metaphor). I keep thinking about the message to Slow Down from back in early April, and about not being as in my body as I thought I was and, maybe it’s because of the afore-mentioned sex-and-money rabbit hole, but I kind of feel like the Hard Thing I’ve been putting off is sex, specifically bottoming in sexual situations. (It’s something I can do, and something that I can enjoy a LOT… but I’m also really out of practice, and the last few times I’ve tried it, things have not ended well. I’ve wound up clinging to my various partners asking them over and over “Are you safe? Are you okay?” – a dissociative Thing where it’s pretty easy to spot what I’m really asking. FML.
I’m fucking tired of it!
So I did a Hard Thing the other night, and asked for something sexually specific from someone specific. And the someone specific said Yes.
Which you’d think would have been it for the hard part, but you would be wrong!
Turns out, there’s a whole other Hard Part that I didn’t even know was there!
So. Working this out:
Brené Brown writes (in The Gifts of Imperfection, iirc) that Joy is one of the most vulnerable feelings out there, and that because of this, people (i.e.: ME) are quick to numb out joy with things like Preemptive Tragedy or by setting up a permanent campsite in the Slaugh of Despond (perpetual, pre-emptive disappointment).
Slogging through the internal landscape of what I think I am, and am not, Supposed To feel:
I’m not supposed to want things
I AM supposed to “want things” but only in-so-far as I’m able to psychically predict what other people want to me to want, which I an then present to them like it was all my idea OR Wanting specific things is greedy, and makes you a burden/bother, and you should know better than to be like that
You can WANT things all you like, but actually ASKING for them is heaping social pressure on someone else to do what you want, whether they want to or not, so you might as well just tattoo “rapist” on your forehead and get it over with, you horrible, horrible, self-centred, demanding jerk
…Slogging through that stuff is hard. Getting the words out of my mouth is hard. But, for me at least (and in a situation where there was at least a 50% chance of getting a Yes in the first place), it was even harder to get through what came after.
The Hard Thing, it turns out, is stopping myself from slamming my own fist down on hope and joy by telling myself All The Stories – stories like:
They’re just saying yes to be ‘nice’ to you, they don’t really want to do this and you should just let them off the hook before you screw this up even worse;
Okay, you’ve asked, and they’ve said yes. Now what happens if you freeze up and reneg on the deal? What happens then, huh? You’ll have Led Them On and then Let Them Down, that’s what! Maybe you should just call the whole thing off before you screw this up even worse.
The hard part is staying open, and it took recognizing the feeling as one I’d had before (over a year ago actually, back when C first said they were interested in me and I spent a train-ride home from Toronto wanting to sob my eyes out because I was so full of hope that was trying so hard to turn into despair) for me to figure out what was happening.
Maybe if (when?) I feel that feeling again, I’ll be able to recognize it and tell myself: “Wait! This isn’t something that you have to squash! Stay hopeful! Stay open! This is already going somewhere good!”
Staying open felt like being filled up to overflowing (with something really positive), feeling a little overwhelmed and like I needed to dial things back or else Something Would Go Wrong… But it didn’t, in and of itself, feel bad. And staying emotionally open had some er… pleasant side-effects on the physical front? Yay? 🙂
I think that feeling – brim-full and possibly overflowing, but able to accept that more is coming – is the Queen of Cups Feeling.
I read something in Healing Sex (which I’d forgotten I’d bought years ago and in-which I’d already made a bunch of notes) the other day, about how as you push through barriers, you are going to feel all the uncomfortable, crappy feelings all over again, and you’re going to have to figure out which of those uncomfortable (emotional and/or phsyical) sensations are crappy-and-triggering because you don’t like them, versus which ones are uncomfortable but actually okay (like: If you try to stop yourself from getting turned on because of bad experiences or feelings around getting turned on during a Bad Situation, it’s okay to continue with a Good Situation, even if you are trying not to get turned on, and you might be able to let yourself get turned on in those Good Situations eventually). This reminds me a little of that.
Learning (or remembering?) how to discern which Intense Feelings mean “stop” versus which ones mean “keep going”, rather than treating all of them as “This is Too Intense! ACK!” is… kind of a big deal? I feel kind of like I’ve had a penny-drop moment, albeit probably one that’s going to involve a lot of practicing before it becomes something I can do without having to talk myself thorugh it on a concious level. (Although talking myself through “stay hopeful, stay open” in the emotional sense is actually a mega-tonne easier than talking myself through “stay in your body, don’t over-think everything” in the physical sense has ever, ever been, possibly for obivous reasons).
I have a chunk of rose quartz tucked into my bra, near my heart. I have Plans for this, but one of them is a little bit of self-glamoury to keep some love-for-me close at hand when I need it.
Touching on the Two of Cups again [EDIT: this is the tarot card I chose to represent this prompt over at UM for a bunch of reasons which you can read all about in the original. /EDIT], the Mary-El version, as Beth Maiden puts it, depicts the “[…J]oy of emotional connection, the sublimity of blending energies[…]”. Of offering and accepting and receiving and offering back; of feeding each other.
I want to do this with my partner(s).
I want to build on this and keep opening.
I started taking singing lessons when I was seven. When your body is your instrument, you need to be in it all the way. Now I work as a model, and being aware of my body as it exists in space, is a big part of the job. I have (relatively minor) back and joint pain that, for the most part, just doesn’t go away.
You would think that this would mean that it’s easy – maybe not always pleasant, but easy – for me to be In my body all the way.
I’ve actually prided myself on the assumption that I am In my body all the way, and that it’s easy for me to do, that it’s normal or second nature.
… And I realized about a month ago that this is not the case. Not really.
I realized that the part of my body that I occupy, that I think of as “me”, that I can be In without having to think about it or work at it is… not very much. It’s the part from my arm-pits up. Sometimes I go a little lower than that – although that might also just be an awareness of where my bra sits all the time? – but the part of me that I think of as “me” is… my arms and hands, my neck, my shoulderblades and traps (at least the tops of them), my shoulders, my neck, my face, my scalp, my head.
It explains a lot.
Like why I tend to Notice other people from about the same point up and don’t pay a tonne of attention to the rest until after I’ve decided “Oh, I think that person is pretty”.
Like why I like going down on my lovers to the degree that I do, and (okay, there’s more than one reason for this) it’s so much easier to have someone’s junk in my mouth than in my cunt.
Like why my lovers feel “so far away” when their hands/mouths/attention are focused below my waist.
Like why kissing is SO Amazing and is my favourite part of sex.
Like why wrapping my arms around someone feels so intimate.
So here I am, going “Ohhh…” and wondering how to change that. How to be a whole-body experience all the time.
So, many years ago, fairly early on in my relationship with my now-wife, when I was trying to figure out if what I was feeling for her was Capital-L Love, I realized something about myself:
Most of my experiences of loving someone else have been deeply tied to the fear that they were going to leave. Insecure-Anxious Attachment Bonds R Us apparently goes deeper than I had thought. My Ghost was my first love relationship where I wasn’t afraid of losing my partner.
Which is not actually a true statement. Because I was afraid of losing her, quite frequently, and wrestled a LOT with fears around not being a good enough domme to keep her service-side happy, not being confident enough (in any arena) to earn her loyalty, not being secure enough, or compersion-y enough, to avoid trying her patience on the polyamoury front. All sorts of stuff.
But I was also fairly confident, on some level, that she would keep coming back.
Because she did keep coming back.
It was a pattern that kept repeating itself, and every time it did, it chipped away at that deep-seated fear, until one day I wasn’t afraid anymore. Not in the generalized fear-of-abandonment way, at any rate.
Except that being free of that particular fear meant that I ran smack into another one, one that I hadn’t expected to even exist, let alone be something I’d have to contend with:
I was suddenly afraid (yep) that, if I wasn’t afraid of losing my partner, there wouldn’t be anything left of the Feelings I was feeling for her. I was shudderingly (and irrationally) terrified that my feelings of love for my partner would evaporate if I wasn’t coding them through the lens of “fear of loss”, and wondering if, were I to stop fearing being without her, would I then just not caer if she never contacted me again? If I wasn’t afraid that she would never come back, would I do the WORK of maintaining the relationship? Would I make phone calls and emails and dates and invitations if I wasn’t afraid of Never Seeing Her Again? And if I relaxed around that stuff… well, if I wasn’t doing it, who would?
Which kind of makes those layered fears into a bit of an Ouroboros, since underneath the fear-of-loss-of-fear is the fear/assumption that I’m the only member of a given diad who is going to put in the maintenance hours on that relationship. Which… is weird, and maybe foolish, and definitely not kind to my partners… and also an accurate representation of most (not all, thank the gods, but most) of my friendships and romances between the ages of ten and thirty, so… maybe not actually strange that I was feeling it.
All that being said, when I realized what I was dealing with, I let it go.
I let it go.
With Ghost, I let go of the feeling that I should be a shuddering ball of anxiety every time she went to see her other partner.
That didn’t mean that, as she accumulated more sweethearts, I didn’t routinely go through the same song-and-dance of actual (if unfounded) fear that I would be replaced or pushed to the side-lines. I totally did. But I stopped forcing myself to feel like crap when I didn’t actually feel that way.
So, Go Me. I overcame a Thing.
You can sense the “But…” lingering, can’t you?
In a twist that will surprise none of you, I find myself with my (relatively) new partner, going through the same silliness all over again. Tying myself up in knots over the suspicion (mostly my jerk brain talking through its usual scripts) that said partner might not care about me as much as: (a) she says she does / (b) her other partners / (c) I care about her / (d) pick something, I’m sure I’ve worried about it… and then, when faced with the (repeated, from numerous sources, human and otherwise) suggestion that I actually trust my partner (what a concept), running into the fear that, if I do that, if I stop freaking out about whether or not she cares about me… that I won’t care if she stops contacting me or, worse, that I won’t care if she disappears for a while, and then comes back to me.
It’s the same thing all over again. Even though I figured out I loved her ages ago, back before we started dating, when I caught myself thinking “I want you to be happy and safe”, and then realized what that meant. Even knowing what loving her actually feels like, I’m still goddamn dealing with this nonsense about how “Love feels like fear of abandonment. That’s how you know you’re in love”.
It’s fucking stupid, is what it is, and it irritates the heck out of me that this is an issue even when I know what love-without-that-fear feels like and can recognize it. But at least I caught it quickly (ish) this time. Here’s hoping that I can build on this knowledge in the new year as I try to stop my “scarcity thinking” on multiple fronts.
Wish me luck!
I have noticed something important: they often can give, but they can’t receive. They can reach beyond their walls, but their walls don’t let anything in.
I bought into the bullshit that my value was only worth what I could do for other people.
Take those words. Couple them with this passage from Cuntext’s Hurt People Hurt People:
Last relationship’s shit fucking this one up good, and most of the time, we don’t get to compost it and we don’t get to take that rich soil and grow something better next time.
…And you are going to get an idea of what this post is about.
Twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five fucking years ago, that’s a quarter of a century, people! Twenty-five years ago, my brother – in the way of elelven-year-olds looking to find out where their power lies – gave voice to my most deeply and dearly held fear, the metanarrative that has been shaping my life for waaaaaaaaaaaay too damn long.
They only like you ‘cause you give them stuff.
I believed him.
I believed it.
I still believe it.
And I have no idea how much having those words said out loud by someone other than me, as though it was obvious to everyone and not just some horrible suspicion I held, made it true – or truer – to my ears, my mind, my heart… But it’s something I’ve been dealing with ever since.
It’s more than a bit of a piss-off, I don’t mind telling you.
Because this stuff goes deep and it takes for fucking ever to get through.
Linear time is a coercive lie of the white colonial patriarchy and it is fucking all of us up. Growth happens in circles and so does healing. We come back to the same hurt over and over, we come back to the same patterns over and over, and this is not failure, just life.
I know that my jerkbrain tells me stories – you know the ones (maybe your jerkbrain tells you the same ones) about how the people who say they love you don’t really love you, how you’re unloveable, unwantable.
And my jerkbrain is reeeeeeeeeeeally good at spotting the signs that it’s right, finding the proof, noticing the patterns that back it up, but completely missing the ones that contradict those stories.
I’m getting better at catching it, but I’m a long way from “fixed”, and I fall down my own rabbit holes a lot. Like weekly. Sometimes I can pull myself out of it without letting it show, or without saying anything more than “Brain weasels. I’m dealing with it” and then just dealing with it… And sometimes I need a lot of help.
It occurred to me, today, that I’m thinking of my partners – on some level – as though they’re stray cats. They’ll come around as long as I keep feeding them, as long as I don’t try to get too close, too fast, or start expecting them to turn up.
They couldn’t possibly want me because there’s something good about me that they actually like. Oh, no.
So I think it is really important […] to acknowledge how hard it can be to receive. Because receiving a gift is risking closeness. […] Each time someone gives you the gift of any kindness—acknowledge the gift, breathe and take it in like a long drink of water. Drink it way, way into your roots like a tree that has lived through a drought. Because it has.
I keep a file of text messages from people who love me, saying kind things to me. I keep it so that I can read them when my heart hurts, when I can’t physically remember the last time someone said “I miss you” or “you’re beautiful”. I can open up that file and find examples with fucking date-stamps on them. They’re not wishful thinking. They’re right there.
Given that “feeling nervous and uncertain” is called “having cold feet”, I doubt that I’m particularly unusual in this, but:
I get super-phsyical reactions to emotional stuff.
Like: My feet are a barometer for my sense of security. If I can feel it, know it in my bones, that I’m safe, loved, wanted, that I have Enough… I am warm-warm-warm, pumping heat out from the core of me, right down to the tips of my usually clammy toes.
When I feel the opposite, though, when I feel afraid, like I’m on perpetual probation, like if I put a foot wrong I’ll be abandoned, swiftly and unceremoniously dumped – whether that’s literal (getting kicked out of my home, getting fired, having one or both of my partners end their relationships with me) or something closer to getting ghosted, reaching for support and finding out that I had fair-weather friends only – my feet, and often my legs up to almost my knees, turn to ice. I’ve given myself frostbite (once) while in a heated building. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances (I have some nerve compression in my back that effects my toes, and the day this happened, it was -51C outside my ground-floor apartment… even if the thermostat said 22C indoors, it didn’t change the fact that my floating floor had been installed over a parking lot without much in between the two), but still. Frostbite?? That was weird, folks. O.O
Unsurprisingly, I’m far more used to feeling cold, but in the past… 8-12 months, let’s say, I’ve started really paying attention to it, and noticing how my temperature relates to how I’m feeling. Being warm and being loved, being wanted, safe, secure, and cared for… those are all the same feeling in my body. (Seriously. All that “Fear freezes, Love thaws” stuff from Frozen? Bang. On).
I’m trying to sort out how the connection works. Like, if I’m feeling horrible, if my brain weasels are screaming and they won’t shut up, will making myself hot, good food and wrapping myself in a blanket help? (You’d think but… beyond adressing the basic “Everything Is Awful and I’m Not Okay” stuff? It doesn’t actually do anything. Hm). Can I figure out a way to push heat frommy core into my feet and toes and, if I can do this, is there a corresponding possitive change in how I’m doing emotionally?
Part of what has me thinking about this is the recent piece over at Cuntext, where the author writes:
We do not exist without our bodies, we do not exist without our bodies, we do not exist without our bodies. Mind and spirit and body are all parts of each other; body and spirit and mind are the same; same space, same person. Even after all the self-love work in the world, all the cum and sweat and mirror-work, the good loving friendships, and only following aesthetic blogs that feature fat babes, femme babes, dark-skinned babes, disabled babes, trans babes, and learning that not wanting touch or sex or romance is okay, even after all that self-love work, there is still so much in this world that tells us our desire is wrong and so are our bodies.
And so we are crazy. Many of us.
And also partially because, honestly, I’m tired of sitting on this nail and, frankly, I spent this morning PMSing like fuck and, consequently, dealing with the same damn Brain Weasels that have plagued me for 20+ years. And I’m really fucking tired of it. That and I don’t want my fears to fuck up my relationships (again) (any more).
I’m tired of “having cold feet”.
My wife got me a copy of Girl Sex 101 the other day, and I’ve been devouring it,trying to figure out (at 36) (with two partners) how to fucking flirt without either (a) actually getting pushy or being too demanding or putting pressure on my partners to do stuff if they don’t wanna, OR (b) feeling like that’s what I’m doing. (Femme problems…)
I spent the afternoon giving myself a tarot reading on the question of “What Do I Need” while, at the same time, reaching out for emotional support to a partner who hasn’t seen much of my insecure side (though I would guess she’s seen more of it than I tell myself I’ve shown her, so…) and spending a shockingly agonizing hour Just Breathing through the waves of fear that she might have ghosted on me when I asked for emotional support.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha has a poem, that is more like an essay, that is a chapter/piece in her memoire Dirty River: “The Opening”. But what if there is nothing more precious than a femme with her legs open?
I am tired of expecting the kick or the curse when (if) I open my legs/hand/heart/arms and ask for something. I’m tired of expecting that, and I’m also tired of projecting that (presumed) impending, casual cruelty onto people who aren’t actually going to hurt me.
I gotta tell you, it is a weird fucking feeling to be holding, in one hand, the faaaaaaaaaairly confident certainty that you already know the (affirmative) answer to “Do you still love me” and, holding in the other hand, the really, really deep need to hear her say so out loud, while, down between your frozen feet, are the twin fears of “What if I’m wrong? What if she doesn’t answer me at all?” and “What if, by asking that question at all, you are just being emotionally manipulative? What if you drive her away because you’re too much like her mother/asking too much by asking at all/being passive-agressive, and it triggers the shit out of her?”
I mean, how messed up is that?
And yet? Me.
But I asked for what I needed.
And I got it.
I got it.
My feet aren’t exactly toasty right now. But I’m doing a lot better than I was.
 Yeah, I read Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, the other day. that phrase is basically shorthand for “You are going to keep repeating your patterns and making the same mistake until you are actually sick and tired of it and decide to take some steps to change how you deal with stuff.
 My period’s never been massively regular (except for about a year or two in my very early 20s), but when I get super klutzy/uncoordinated (more than usual) and have a LOT of difficulty getting on top of the shame-rage-grief-fear spiral that lives in my head? It’s a good indicator that I’m about to start bleeding.
 And also this (relevant…):
Linear time is a coercive lie of the white colonial patriarchy and it is fucking all of us up. Growth happens in circles and so does healing. We come back to the same hurt over and over, we come back to the same patterns over and over, and this is not failure, just life.
 She hadn’t. And I knew the answer already, anyway. But sometimes I need to her it out loud, just to confirm that I’m not just kidding myself, and given where my head was at, it was not an easy hour.
So, about four months ago, maybe five, my wife formally came out as sex-positive asexual. The way she describes this is “It’s like… I love food, it tastes great, eating is wonderful, sharing a meal is fantastic… But I never get hungry”. Basically, any time she’s inclined to pursue sexual interaction with someone, it’s because she’s made an intellectual/emotional decision of “Oh, hey, don’t mind if I do,” rather than because her body is sending her physical cues that translate in her unconscious brain as “Maybe this would be a good idea now”.
It’s a good analogy. One that I’m planning on stretching all out of shape over the course of the coming post.
Yeah. In the going-on-six years that I’ve been with the woman who is now my wife? I’ve generally been the “good partner”, meaning that I’ve tended to be the one who didn’t need constant reassurance, or late-night crisis counseling, or otherwise demand that she be On Call for emotional and psychological support 24/7. For good or for ill (oh, for ill…), I’ve put a lot of store in my “status” as The Good Girlfriend, the one who was NEVER Too Demanding, or High Maintenance, or Neurotic, or whatever. The one who could, more or less, process her own crap most of the time.
And, right now, that is emphatically not the case.
Blogging, as they say, is cheaper than therapy. I did a tarot reading, almost a month ago, that basically said “Honey, get out of your own way”. So I’m going to blog about this, and talk a little bit about where my head is at, and how I’m getting in my own way.
So. If my lovely wife describes herself as “never getting hungry”, I’ve personally felt like I’ve spent the last couple of years, well, starving. Hungry to the point that I’ve forgotten what “normal hunger” feels like and don’t even notice it until I’m shaking and having trouble staying upright.
Recently, I’ve come to learn that:
A) What I thought were pleas for food (“food”) so loud and obvious and desperate that they were laughably pathetic in their naked neediness, were actually so subtle – or so easy to lose in the generalized “all smoulder all the time” signal that I’m apparently constantly putting out (really?) – that my non-Ace partner couldn’t spot them either.
B) All the things that made it difficult for my wife to cook (“cook”) with me? Those are still factors. She still has constant joint pain. I still have constant back problems. Our respective ideal sleep schedules don’t overlaps as much as we’d like. She still has as many partners as fingers and we all have a claim to some of her time, energy and attention. That hasn’t changed (much), it’s just that now I know there was a root cause underneath all of those factors that played a larger role than I ever knew.
C) I’ve buried my need to eat under so much shame and guilt (“I shouldn’t be this hungry, she’s not hungry, what’s wrong with me?”, “Stop pestering her for food, she obviously doesn’t want to cook, just wait ‘til she’s at work so you can eat crackers without her having to see you doing it”) that I seem to have developed some kind of an eating disorder where being offered food, sure, fills me with longing… but it also fills me with aversion and the distinct impression that I probably won’t be able to digest that, no matter how much I want to eat it.
…Which, I think, probably stretches the “hungry” metaphor to the breaking point. Moving on.
When my wife got shop space outside of the house and was able to Quit Her Day Job (more or less) and work for herself full-time, I had high hopes that my over-worked, exhausted beloved would suddenly have the extra time and extra energy to come back to me and be my sexual partner again.
And she did.
Maybe not in the way I was expecting. I wasn’t particularly expecting a “Honey! I know what’s up with me! I never wanted you sexually in the first place! But also I still love you and do want a sexual relationship with you, even though I’m not wired to feel sexual desire!” (I’m paraphrasing, although not by much).
Cue a solid MONTH of trying to find a way of talking about this that didn’t send me into a complete tail spin. (This is where the “never feel hungry, but enjoy food” analogy came from).
What I’m saying is that she did come back to me, sexually. She started making advances. She started flirting with me a lot more. She was trying, and still is.
But I was running smack into a wall of rage and resentment that I hadn’t even known was there. Telling myself that she didn’t really want me, couldn’t really want me, so why was she faking it for my benefit? Telling myself that, if she’s faking it for my benefit, and I’m faking it for her benefit (so she feels like a good partner, so she’s not wasting her efforts), why the fuck are we even bothering? Why can’t we just fall asleep in each other’s arms like we’ve been doing for years? Why can’t I be left with my loneliness and sadness which, while they suck, are at least things I know how to fucking deal with??
Note For Readers: I do not actually want to be left with my loneliness and sadness. They suck, and they are not improving with time.
It’s easy to get angry. It’s SO easy to think things like “Why do you even care? It’s not like it’s any skin off your back if we NEVER FUCK AGAIN!” So easy to think “Oh, sure, after years of NOTHING, years of broadening my definition of “sex” to the point that I could claim “two minutes of making out, in a four-month period” as a reason to believe we were still sexually involved, NOW you expect me to turn on a dime, rebuild all of the desire that I fucking squashed out of existence, and act like none of it ever happened?”
Maybe she was expecting a dam to burst, too.
I know I was.
She says she misses me.
I know I miss her, too.
My Feeeeeeeeeeeelings situation is affecting our relationship – because the last thing someone who’s devoting most of their spoons to pain management wants is to have to play counselor to someone else at the same time, but also because the amount of ruminating I’m doing means that I’m distracted and miserable half the time we’re in the same room – and it’s affecting my relationship with my out-of-town partner, too (because she can’t, by her own admission, be the only “place” where my sexual needs get met. That’s way too much pressure to put on someone who only sees you for two days in a given month).
Every message I’m getting (like “message from the universe”, ‘cause I’m Woo like that, but also straight up “message via actual words out of someone’s mouth”) is all Baby, Just Say Yes! and I’m still balking like woah. My wife says “Be selfish, it’s okay.” She and my girlfriend have both noticed that kissing me tends to drag on and on and not get any farther than that and… I sort of know what that’s about. But that doesn’t tell me how to move forward. How to move myself forward.
For whatever reason, I’ve convinced myself that I’m always going to want my partners more than they want me, and I’ve been watching for “back off” and “that’s enough” cues to the exclusion of the ones that say “come closer” and “I want more”. Thing is, I’m doing that around myself, too, and I’m learning that the way I talk myself back into my body isn’t helping, because it involves a lot of “calm the fuck down”, a lot of clamping down on whatever I’m feeling and quashing the good stuff as well as the stuff I don’t want to be feeling. (Like that thing that Brené Brown says about how you can’t just numb the “bad stuff”, you numb out everything).
My wife says “Why not come to sex with goals of what you want to get out of it?”
And, big surprise, I’m drawing a HUGE blank on that one. The only “goal” I ever learned, around sex, was “everybody (in theory) gets an orgasm” and that’s… not actually reasonable under the circumstances. So, to take a page from Captain Awkward (I read a lot of Captain Awkward), let’s see what kind of goals I can set wherein the accomplishing of those goals is something I can actually control:
A) Suggest one thing that I would like to try – “Could you touch me like [xyz]”, “Can I do [xyz] by [abc]?” “Put your hand [here]?”
B) Use my words to express a particular need – “I need to stay warm while we do this”, “I would like you to do the thing that you mentioned wanting to do, but I need you to do it specifically like [lmnop]”
C) Try a thing that you suspect might feel good, regardless of what your brain weasels are telling you. (It’s okay to stop if it’s not as fun as you thought it would be).
These are things I can try. These are goals I can accomplish. Even though it’s scary as fuck. Even though the starving part of me is insisting “You can put up with things not being exactly what you want, if it means getting something into your system”, even though the entitled, angry part of me is demanding “Why do I still have to do the hard things??” These are still things that I can try to do, can make a point of doing.
Wish me luck.
 She says she sometimes wishes she’d never told me, because I’ve got such a hang-up about it. I’ll get to that bit in a minute, though.
 Which is, in fact, the opposite of what she was saying in both word and deed, but conveniently (“conveniently”) was exactly what my Jerk Brain has been telling me for the past 25+ years. Funny thing, that.
So, I popped over to Kink of the Week today, and what should the topic turn out to be?
So I decided to talk about bums.
Because, to my continual (for some reason) surprise, I am a bit of an Ass Lady.
I say “surprise” because (a) I’m deeply ambivalent about my own butt, and also (b) I’m not butt-oriented in general… and yet… Honestly? Three girlfriends in? I’m noticing a pattern. ‘Cause every one of them has (a) had a great ass, but also (b) had said great ass totally captivate me on many an occasion.
You know “callipygian”? “Having a shapely behind”? It’s that. All of my lady-loves have had these gorgeous, curvy, meaty rear-ends that I just want to get my hands on and my face into.
Not me, apparently.
I mean, gods know I have A Type, even if I don’t always date to it.
And yet: bodacious asses.
So one of my partners and I were fooling around the other day, and she wanted to check in to see if I was up for something a little more hot and heavy than making out for the sake of making out. The way she asked was… a little awkward, to say the least, but it gave me some Useful Information about my own sexuality and what my pacing is like. So, in true Challenger Generation fashion, I’ve decided to talk about it on the internet.
See, one of my Nearest and Dearest identifies as Grey-A, and we’ve talked about it using the metaphore of “mainland” and “island”. It goes like this:
Non-sexual interactions take place on the mainland. Sexual interactions take place on the island. (This is where the metaphor starts getting a little bit clunky, but bear with me). Most people live on the mainland, most of the time (some people live on the island, most of the time, but that’s another story) and, if they want to have a sexual interaction with somebody, they need to take the bridge across to the island.
With me so far?
My Grey-A Interlocutor says that, for her, there is no bridge. She either has wings that day (and can fly across the water, which is also tiring) or she doesn’t, in-which-case the island might as well not exist no matter how much she wants to get over there.
For non-ace-spectrum folks, it’s more like “how does a given person cross this bridge?”
Which is what I wanted to talk about.
I figure that, for some people, there’s the mental/emotional/cellular-leve equivalent of a shuttle bus that goes by every 10 minutes if you happen to want to hop on and go to Sex Island for a quick stop-over or an afternoon of fun. For others, there might not be a shuttle bus, but maybe they can phone a private car that will, at a moment’s notice, turn up to collect them and deliver them to their destination in style and comfort. For still others, there might be a swaying, rickity footbridge of rope and half-rotted planks, and getting to Sex Island means edging along above turbulent waters, one very-carefully-placed step at a time, with a lot of safety precautions in play… and they might still have to abort the mission unexpectedly.
In my case, my footbridge is no-longer the swaying death-trap it once was (Woohoo!!!), but it’s still a long-ass bridge and it takes a fucking while to cross it. Like, yes, sure, sometimes – as with OC Transpo, funily enough! – I can catch a bus when I’m part-way across and the stars have properly alligned, and yes, sure, like all good bridges, it has a bit of an arc to it, so things move a little faster and more easily once I’m past the halfway point, but generally speaking I’m getting to Sex Island on foot, at walking pace.
Which is good to know.
As in: It’s information I can give a partner.
“I’m totally down for beating the fuck out of you, but I need you to be gentle and receptive about how gradually I do the build-up, because this is also the warm-up for me, and I’m a better, more solid and less literally-shakey, top when I don’t rush myself by trying to get to your desired intensity-level faster than I’m actually comfortable with”.
“I’m definitely up for switching sexually, but are you cool with taking the Bottom spot first? That way, I can warm myself up while I’m doing Wonderful Things to you, and I’ll be ready for you by the time we trade places.”
“I’d love to [receive intense-for-me genetal play] but, before that can happen, I’m going to need a solid hour, give or take, of slow, full-body carresses, deep kissing, and breathing each other’s pheremones.”
I like the footbridge metaphor. It helps explain (to myself, if to nobody else) why so many of my “reliable go-to” sexual activities are the kind of “still a virgin” things that geeky-nerdy kids (and probably other kids?) do when they’re not quite emotionally/mentally ready for Actual Fucking, but definitely have all the hormones and neurons and what-not to be physically into it. Things like making out and sensual massage and fooling around with our clothes still on and cuddling & whispering together and, okay, also hanging out together in the miniature hot tub and nuru-gel wrestling in the inflate-a-pool. But you get the idea. I may not know how to turn wrestling into sex, the way S. Bear Bergman describes it in his essay, “Brother Dog”, but – if someone wants to get there with me – I definitely know how to turn cuddling and gentle closeness into sex. It’s the road I know best. I may walk it at a heartbeat pace, but it gets me there every time.
 you can blame/thank Catherynne M. Valente for that term – though I can’t find the post where she first used it. (There’s a handy definition here, though).
 I’ve tried to get there at a run on so many occasions, and it mostly just means that I get tired half-way across and need to straight-up stop, or else I get to Sex Island only to realize that I’ve got a stitch in my side and everything hurts and I need to catch my breath and just… enjoying myself now that I’m here isn’t going to be easy.
 Maybe more, depending on the day and/or how long it’s been since I’ve seen you.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
 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.
 I am not, after all, starring in Book Of Job: The Musical (although if I were… imagine the tunes in that beasty…).
 Did anyone else believe this when they were in high school? Just me? Okay.