Tag Archives: boundaries

What I Learned From Dating A Lot

If a relationship ends, it’s not because it failed. A smart person I know says that “all relationships eventually meet their level”. What I think she means by this, is that  most relationships end up sorting out if they are friends in passing, coworkers, long-time lovers, a flash in the pan, etc. There are so many kinds of relationships we have in the world and it is important to really value them across the spectrum, not just our romantic and sexual relationships.

 

Most relationships end or do a slow fade. And sometimes they return! And sometimes they don’t.

 

Dating should be fun! And I know that “relationships are work” but see that’s the thing, they TAKE work but they should BE work. For myself, it took a long time to suss out the difference between “dating in such a fashion and such people that I think is the cool thing to do” and “dating in a way that feels sincere and also while I have some flexibility I am also not so anxious to be interacting with another person and concerned about whether or not they like me that I have no idea whether or not I am having fun.”

 

Couples counseling is not a sign your relationship is failing. It will also not resolve your unresolvables, but hopefully it can give you more tools to communicate effectively with your sweetie, and maybe broaden empathy.

 

In our lives and in our childhoods, we adopt certain primary coping mechanisms, and through time we usually overdevelop them. As often as not, we seek out partners that have complementary skills, and often those are the things that we initially are attracted to in them though over time, those are eventually the things that we find really challenging and/or annoying. Ultimately, if we can strive to see those things as our sweeties seeking security/balance, we can understand those behaviors better. (especially when they come up in conflict!)  In which case we can better see “I’m not doing this to make you mad, I’m actually doing it because it’s the thing that makes me calmer.” Also see: Chaos Muppet/Order Muppet.

 

Sex should also be fun. Also, you should talk about it, before and during and after. There is no blueprint for How You Should Be Having Sex. Again: There Is Not Only One Way To Have Sex But You Should Be Enjoying It As Close To Definitely As Possible.

 

Homework: Go read “Yes Means Yes” and “What You Really Really Want.” Enthusiastic consent: use it.

 

Also, if people are not in your hot hot nakedness, then they do not deserve to see it.

 

You can have casual sex with people and still be respectful. I hear that especially for women, having casual sex makes you undesirable later on. Or means that you’re “cheap” or “loose” or “slutty.” Or, god forbid, it seems as if you ENJOY sex. While many of like to toot our own horn about how we’re being bad, bad girls and getting into dirty business with some very scandalous people, just remember: those scandalous people are people too. They are not demeaning you, and you are not demeaning them, and they are not cheap or tacky for having sex with you. You are having communion in the High and Holy Church of Sexy and Awesome. And I hope that it is Sexy and Awesome, or at the very least Pleasant and Interesting.

 

People have really different preferences for dating, relationships, and how much space they take up in your life. Some people want one date, some people want dozens, some folks want to live with their partner, some folks only have partners that live out of town. That’s fine. See what you like. Communicate openly, respectfully, and often.

 

Half the fun of dating is figuring out what you like! And, inevitably, the thing you like is not the thing that your sweetie likes. You can work with/around that, or you can draw things to a close. One thing, for sure: you cannot make anybody want the thing that they do not want. You cannot cajole, shame, seduce, or sweet talk anybody into wanting something they do not want. They may go along with it, for a little or a long while because they like you, but that is not the same as wanting it. And eventually the wheels will fall off. Make arrangements before the wheels fall off.

 

Also, your sweeties are hopefully on Team You, but there are many, many players on Team You. Like your friends! Don’t ditch your friends! Many of them will be around longer than your sweetie- be reliable with your friends, make time and space for them, honor your relationship, be accountable and grow with them. Celebrate friendaversaries. Spend time with your friends away from your sweetie. Allow your relationships to grow and change over time to accommodate your different needs but maintain your vital connection.

 

The most important thing I learned from dating was: there is not a scarcity of sex, love, or affection in the world. It may require a certain amount of alchemy, timing, and shared intention for you to get the particular thing that you are aiming at, but the ways in which you are worthy of all kinds of sweetness, affection, deep love and scandalous flattery are everywhere. There are so many people out there in the great wide world who want to tell you how damn charming you are. Now go say hello.

 

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Drama! And How Not To

Some people manage to wade through life entirely unmitigated by forces of drama, unnecessary upset or emotional upheaval. I don’t know who those people are.

 

That being said, while many of us like a good intrigue, or some salacious gossip, most of us do not love the drama factory working on overtime. Once upon a time I was a person who would make jokes about putting a sun porch in my drama factory because it was clear I spent most of my time there, so I might as well build a place for people to pull up a chair.

 

But eventually, I got tired, and I wanted to be able to maintain my friendships and relationships without so much upheaval. Most of our friendships tend to ebb and flow a little bit, but the up-and-down can be really exhausting, even if you love the emotional rollercoaster. So here are some ideas I came up with, if you want to slow or stop production in your drama factory.

 

1)    Turns out, drama mostly does not just happen to you.

I used to insist, “These girls! They are all crazy! All of them! They all find me! And bring their drama!” to which my good friend replied, “Yeah, and you shake your butt at drama and say, ‘nyah nyah, bet you can’t get me.’” And she was correct. There is some reason, if it’s about attention, or if intimacy is scary unless there is a torrent of uncertainty and push-pull happening, which distracts from Big Feelings. Whatever it may be, there is some reason you are shaking your booty at drama and daring it to come get you. To which I say, What Are You Avoiding? And What Would Happen if The Drama Slowed Down? (also, another fun project: not calling people “crazy.”)

 

2)    Figure out what it is that you do when things get drama-rama.

As far as I can figure out, most people cause/get involved in drama because of some whack coping mechanism that they picked up a long time ago that isn’t serving them anymore. Like fr’instance, when I was in middle and high school I got really good at instigating fights between two friends of mine, who would then be angry with each other, but instead of talking to each other about things, they would just tell me all the mad mean stuff they were feeling, and I would relay between the two of them. This mostly just escalated things, but it was a highly not-good way of being in everybody’s business, which is kind of like being good friends and having good times and everybody liking me best, right? 

 

Point is, there’s probably something you’re doing that’s not serving you. Some need probably isn’t getting met, somewhere somehow, and there is some funky thing that you are doing to manage your Needs and Feelings instead of addressing them. Turns out those things don’t go away.

 

3)    Sometimes it’s not drama.

Some people refer to anything as “drama” that they do not want to deal with. This goes for feelings, (theirs and other peoples) abusive relationships, hard feelings, transition, change, whole grains, etc. And that is not the same as unnecessary drama. That is Bad News Bears and should be handled accordingly.

 

4)    Use your words.

And I know this is easier said than done, especially because of things like sexism and white supremacy, where people with a historical weight of oppression are discouraged from taking up space and stating their needs because they’re not entitled to have needs. But your words are one of the most powerful things you have to bring to the world, and your relationships. There are a number of Well-Meaning or Nice people who know much better how to engage with you in ways that work for you if they know how. Avoid Not Nice people whenever you can.

 

5)    Nobody can read your mind.

 

This goes back to #4. Hinting broadly does not count. I am a well-meaning doofus most days. I cannot read your mind and neither can most people.

 

6)    Boundaries are good.

 

 No is a complete sentence! It turns out! Even if it may mean people think you’re rude/pushy/frigid/self-centered. Folks who have been socialized to appease other people have a really uncomfortable time setting boundaries and maintaining self care. Sometimes it’s a learned survival strategy. Also, here’s the other thing:

 

7)    You are entitled to have boundaries and get your needs met and take up space.

 

It’s true. Because you’re a person, and therefore you are entitled to those things, even if nobody in your whole life has invited you to take up space or asked you whether it was okay to hug you or asked you what you needed.

 

8)    You cannot control anybody else’s behavior. Ever. At all.

 

Unfortunately. It is much to the chagrin of everybody everywhere that their friend/partner/co-worker/bus driver just can’t get it right in spite of polite reminders/text messages/tantrums/death glares. Most people are open to influence, but most folks will resist being controlled, and really straight up, stuff is out of your control.

 

And while there are lots of things you can do to ease your own aggravation, obnoxious people will probably still continue to be obnoxious, and that is hard.

 

Sometimes, when I am at my wit’s end and I cannot think of anything at all except how bad I want to say cutting things to people, I have one very basic strategy. I imagine what it is like to be that person. In one particular recent case, I imagined what it would be like to walk around every day in a grumpy mood, feeling defensive from the minute I woke up, and snapping at everybody around me. That would suck.

 

9)    PUT IT DOWN. LEAVE IT ALONE. WALK AWAY. RESIST THE URGE TO SEND THE TEXT MESSAGE. USE FACEBOOK FOR GOOD NOT EVIL.

 

10)  Take good care of yourself.

Usually drama is a function of some kind of avoidance of Feelings or Loneliness. You can’t unlearn drama unless you’re figuring out some other way to take care of yourself. Political organizing? Online dating? Gardening? Whatever it is, go find a hobby that you love. Make an active practice of being sweet to yourself. Notice when other people’s behavior pushes your buttons, and before you launch into an anxiety spiral-or in the middle of one-catch yourself. Reel yourself back down to earth and get situated wherever it is that you feel solid.

Good luck darlin.

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