‘I have to keep telling myself that while this relationship seems perfect, it’s an illusion.’
Like most people, when I first meet someone, I try to present my best. I hide my fears and insecurities, my frustrations, my limitations. I present the fun-loving sexy side of me: the person I want to be. This phase can last days, weeks, or months, depending on the situation.
While I’m not ‘in love’ with the person I’m dating, or when I don’t want anything more, I like the person I am. I’m fairly relaxed, I enjoy my space, I don’t make too many demands, and I keep things fun.
The moment I start wanting more, seeing this person as a potential primary partner, I become needy, demanding and picky or worse, if I’m ‘in love’, I become insecure.
Insecure Me is every lover’s nightmare. I turn into HER, that jealous, psychotic bitch. Suspicious and questioning, I’m the girl who wants you to tell her over and over that you love her, that she’s sexy, that no one can replace her. But no matter what you tell her, it’s never enough. Never enough, because she had to ask first, because you used the wrong words, because the need in her is too great for you to fill.
I become someone I don’t like and don’t care to be.
On the other hand, if I’m with someone who makes me feel secure—either because I am not ‘in love’, and therefore not invested, or because they have managed to tame the jealous, psychotic bitch ME—I am not needy or clingy. I can give my lover all the space in the world, but just as importantly, take the space that I need.
When I’m with someone who makes me feel comfortable, I don’t need to adopt euphemisms. I am direct and articulate. I can have the difficult conversations without fear. But if I don’t feel comfortable, I struggle to hear my lover’s needs and to voice my own.
It’s the same with sex. I love being crazy, losing myself completely, but if I’m with someone inhibited, or someone whose opinion matters too much, I close up, and suddenly it’s all vanilla, or worse, there is no action at all.
These past six months or so, I have explored a more casual type of relationship, one where I don’t invest too much and where I actively choose to keep things fun and sexy. I can offer friendship and support, build my lover up, and only bring issues into the bedroom when I absolutely have to. I have been able to keep my jealousies and insecurities in check. I don’t allow negative emotions to activate; I have trained my brain to shy away: I have no right to feel this emotion; this is not my place. If I even start to feel jealous in a casual relationship, my internal dialogue turns the emotion away, rationalises it, and keeps it in check.
If my lover needs me, I am there, but in a casual situation, they will not demand too much. Similarly, I will ask the minimum from them, but take comfort knowing they are there when I do. While in this situation I have sought friends to support me, and not demanding all my support from a single primary partner, and I have found strength within myself simply because I have had to.
This is the ‘perfect relationship’ my F-Buddy described: ideal, perhaps, but also, an illusion.
For some reason, when I am in a primary relationship, the same check-and-balance mechanisms seem to fail. They are bypassed by the part of my brain that says, ‘this is my partner, this is the other half of me, they must share and share all. I am entitled to more.’ I need them to love the other sides of me, see me at my worst and still want to be with me, and love me unconditionally.
But why should a partner have to see me at my worst? Why should they have to pick me up again and again? I am not their responsibility. They are not a parent-figure who can put the Band-Aid on and kiss it better. They are not my ‘other half’; they are their own person to whom I happen to have chosen to commit. Don’t they deserve to see the best in me, not only the worst?
I start to wonder if it is possible in a ‘full’ relationship to make the same choices I have made in casual ones, to keep the insecurity checks and balances in place, to make a commitment to bringing the best of myself to the relationship. To keep the space fun and sexy, and only bring the serious when it is needed. I wonder if it is possible to be less co-dependent, to maintain the strong friendships, self-reliance and strength I’ve established while being single. Because don’t I deserve to see the best in me, too?
Some people write lists and have images in their minds of their ‘perfect’ relationship, their ‘perfect’ partner. I’m not one of those people, but lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps I should be, mentally noting the types of partners who bring out the best in me and the kind who bring out the worst.
But how does that translate into a list? And should it really be up to a partner to provide this?
That’s when I realise I am not looking for the perfect partner, the ideal relationship. I am not making a checklist of who I want them to be, but of who I am when I am with them. In a long-term relationship, a partnership, it’s impossible to keep your worst at bay. It’s part of who you are. But if I can commit to being a person I want to be, and find someone who encourages me to be that, surely I am most of the way there?
Because it’s not just about choosing a partner, a relationship; it’s about choosing who I want to be, regardless of who I am with.
This post first appeared in Rhonda Perky’s Bits on July 18, 2011