I start to get frustrated when you're away I forget all the reasons I love you seeds begin to stir inside my subconscious spinning stories of mistrust and cynicism I fill the space between us with thick shadow unshakeable doubts that make me shudder cringing at my own incompetence in communication afraid of looking foolish in the face of disinterest Prepared to push away when you pull me in rehearsing my preemptive rejection for self-protection perpetually surprised when I immediately melt and let you fold me tenderly in your arms again Set at ease by your soothing, sultry smell the stability of warm skin under soft fingertips stilling the tumultuous tide churning deep inside replacing it with gently waving fields of sweet grass Stay with me a little longer let me linger in this sacred, silent connection let it seep into my cells so that I cannot forget the simple, supple harmony between our hearts
Conflict breeds closeness a concept I've never quite understood how can fighting foster connection? I've always favored a clean break Torn, tired muscles grow back stronger every time I suppose this is the principle I've never applied Emotions too big to express evaporate on my lips speaking out signals vulnerability it's safer to pretend I don't care Always held at arm's length trading isolation for immunity from all the messiness wound up with others Relationships aren't worth the risk this mantra once protected me always alright, but alone and uninspired sometimes it feels too late to change
Pain makes me brave. Pain makes me honest. Pain makes me face the world with everything that I have. Sometimes it takes pain to show me what really matters, what I’ve been missing, what I’ve been taking for granted. When I’m comfortable I get bored. I become afraid to make any change at all. Even when it’s a change that needs to be made. I’m so afraid of shaking up the status quo that I’ve become accustomed to that sometimes “comfort” can be transformed into something worse than pain. Like a frog slowly being cooked alive in a tepid water that gradually begins to boil. I don’t realize how bad I’ve allowed things to get until it’s too late.
When something abruptly smashes into my comfortable complacency, there is fear, there is agony, but there is also opportunity. I am forced to change direction. I am forced to gather up the pieces of my life and create something entirely new. I am forced to be my own ally again. There is a haunting, fierce, indescribable beauty in pain. There is strength and resiliency and the birth of new hope after the fall. There is even a sense of surprise and pride in finding out just how much we are actually able to take without being broken. There is something awe inspiring when we lift our head from our tear-stained hands and realize, “I’m still here. I’m alive. This isn’t the end.”
There is great freedom in the feeling of having nothing to lose. There is a boldness that emerges, a confidence, even an urgency to go after what we truly want. Pain brings clarity and curiosity. Everything feels a little more real, a little more defined. Pain is the springboard for passion and creativity. It is a necessary evil. These are the reasons I find myself having a very complex relationship with pain, grief, and loss. Part of me finds a strange comfort in pain, an odd feeling of safety after losing it all. The burden of trying to hold it all together, the burden of grasping and clinging on to life is lifted for a moment. This brings a twinge of pleasure that blends into the pain. For me, pain is always bittersweet.
I’ve come to realize that the reason communication and confrontation are so hard, is not because I don’t know how to articulate my thoughts and feelings. It’s not that I don’t know what to say or how I feel. I’ve never had any issue explaining myself to a third party. But when I find myself facing the person I really want to talk to, I become so consumed with fear that I can’t focus. My mind becomes clouded with thoughts of what they will think or how they will respond to what I’m saying. Are they going to look at me differently? Are they going to be upset? Will they leave? Will our relationship change? Will they misunderstand me? Will I be able to respond adequately to whatever they say back to me? These concerns are so overwhelming that I tend to stay silent instead of having some of the most important, necessary, and intimate conversations. It is only once I feel as though I’ve already lost someone, that I find the courage to be open and honest with them.
In an instant our most painful experiences can become our greatest sources of strength. I look back on some of the darkest moments in my life with a sense of compassion and a knowing tenderness. It’s only much later that we gain the perspective to see the ways in which the harrowing experiences we go through are the very things that strengthen us, give us courage, and provide the pivot we didn’t even know we needed in life. Yes, pain is hard. Loss is hard. But it’s been said that anything worth doing is hard, and pain is always worth it in the end. Something even more complex and beautiful and real rises from the ashes every time. Be patient.
I want chaotic devotion an unhinged hellfire of passion vibrating thread-thin heartstrings creating a buzzing harmony of mutual happiness a flurry of fearful excitement rapid ragged breaths between whispered confessions of love and longing the overflowing feeling of unbearable emotion something that can't be named or tamed or taught only found, only felt an undercurrent of sugary sharpness carving through heaving chests ribcages torn open revealing true beauty, blood red is this a chemical reaction or something that can be crafted perhaps a perfect storm of coincidence creates it it's hard to ask for what can't be explained harder still when to ask is the last nail in the casket I don't want to ask, I want to not have to communication comes easy when I am handed a heart stripped bear reciprocation is my realm, not initiation my heart gives back what it is given tenfold but shrivels, hardens, and grows colder when confronted with hopes turned hollow I'm embittered by the idea of creating everything myself a childish hatred so sour it stings and contorts spoiling all the seeds of love inside of me I want to be bold and brave and tear forth all that may be hidden I want to know and be known deeply fear burns the hand that reaches out from within anger, hatred, and frustration quickly cauterize the dripping wound of the unfulfilled heart
They gather like wolves on the boardwalk below, they’re howling for answers no wolf could know.Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume; Mewithoutyou
After realizing on New Year’s Day that my boyfriend has never made me laugh, and might not reveal himself to be funny as I was waiting for him to do, I’ve been sick with anxiety and rumination. I love him. The time we spend together makes me happy. I miss him when he’s gone. But at the same time, I can’t imagine being with him and only him forever if he can’t make me laugh. I just don’t think that would work out in the end. Not only is that a very attractive and important quality in not only my partners but my friends as well. I just know without that lighthearted, playful dynamic, after this little honeymoon phase, I will start to get pissy with him. With nothing to diffuse and mitigate my sour moods, I would surely become a bitter nightmare to be around. I am easily turned towards resentment.
I’ve been in this spot before. Unsure whether to be happy where I’m at and just wait out this concern, or to cut and run as fast as possible to save us both time and heartache. (Not that either would be entirely spared at this point.) Each time I find myself in this stressful situation, I can’t help but feel resentment towards society for forcing us all into monogamous relationships. When I take away that looming threat of “no one else, only this one person must meet your every need and desire for the rest of your life!!!” I feel no issue between us at all. Without that ridiculous, intimidating idea hanging over my head, I am perfectly happy, content, and deeply in love.
Polyamory has always been the perfect solution for me. Not only does it allow me to accept each person in my life for exactly who they are without expecting them to be more, it also relieves me of the pressure of always being available to my partner. No one can be everything for someone else. Even if they possess all the desired qualities, it’s too much to put on a single person, especially for a lifetime. This is why half of marriages fail. It’s a faulty, unrealistic system. It sets up this weird binary where you either want to be with this person every moment of every day until you die, or never speak to them again. It leaves no room for grey area. It tries to smash every relationship and every human interaction into a stupid little box, that to be honest, barely any truly fit into.
I’ve seen so many perfectly happy couples part because of this imaginary pressure put upon them. As soon as that initial spark begins to dim, welp I guess you don’t really love them. Better leave. As soon as you notice an attraction to anyone else, no matter how subtle, you never really loved your partner. Not only must you leave them, it would be cruel to stay with such wandering eyes! Your “soul mate” must be someone else. I’ve always known that my expectations and requirements for a partner are unrealistic. How many atheist, vegan, feminist, liberal, funny, tall, charismatic, outgoing, intelligent men and women could there possibly even be in the world, let alone near me? Even when I find someone with the vast majority of those qualities, I can’t help but feel like it’s a huge sacrifice to give up even one of those qualities forever.
Sadly even though polyamory solves a lot of my romantic relationship issues, it still isn’t a perfect solution. Say my boyfriend was okay with it and we allowed one another to see other people, we would have to either hide this aspect of our relationship from everyone we know and love, or be viciously judged and criticized for it. It would be a spectacle that would constantly have to be explained. Not only that, the structure of society leaves very little possibility that my partner would even be okay with it. When you hear your partner say they want to open the relationship, we have been conditioned to hear: I don’t love you. You’re not enough for me. And no one wants to hear that from the person they love. No matter how fervently you might insist that isn’t true, there will always be a lingering sense of doubt and insecurity spoiling things.
So once again, I’m left alone in my mind with an impossible decision to be made. Knowing I’ll likely find a way to regret whatever I choose, and I’ll definitely be deeply upset either way. I’ve been so distraught and fixated on this issue that I even had a dream that he made a witty reply to me last night. I woke up feeling comforted, only to realize that wasn’t real. I’m left with the feeling that no matter what, from this point on, that blind, blissful happiness of having someone has evaporated before my eyes. And the loss of that has left me in mourning, where I see myself remaining for quite a while, exhausted, frustrated, guilty, and disenchanted.
I often have a hard time getting to know people. I’ve noticed that I tend to be very passive in my relationships with others. I am not great at coming up with good, open-ended questions to ask, nor am I forthcoming with my own personal information. For these reasons, I get along best with people who are very outgoing. The people that know me best are the ones that ask me a lot of questions. The people I know best are those that talk freely and openly about themselves, their likes/dislikes, their hopes and desires, their values, etc. Unless someone offers that information to me, I basically never find out. And if I’m not asked something directly, I don’t volunteer it.
I haven’t given this aspect of my social life much thought. However, now that I am dating someone who is extremely similar to me in values as well as behavior, I find myself in a strange spot. I desperately want to those conversations where you really get a good sense of who someone is at their core, but I don’t know how to initiate such conversations. Part of me is extremely frustrated by this. I want to pout or pull away from the relationship all together. But I’m tired of only doing what’s easy in a relationship. I think it’s time for me to be mature and put in the work. Besides it could be fun to learn how to get someone to open up as well as learn how to express my genuine self without waiting for others to pull it out of me.
So here is a list of questions I’ve been coming up with that will help me to discover the things I really want to know about someone:
- How would you describe yourself to someone who’s never met you?
- How do you think a friend would describe you to someone else?
- How would you like for the world to see you/who do you aspire to be?
- What about yourself (qualities, accomplishments, etc.) are you most proud of?
- What are 5 values that are important to you?
- What are 5 memories that you cherish?
- In what ways do you think you have grown and changed since childhood/high school?
- When you are upset how do you like to be comforted?
- Who are three people (famous or otherwise) that you admire? Why?
- What is one of your biggest regrets?
- What is one experience in your childhood/youth that you believe impacted who you are as a person? How did it change you?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- What qualities do you enjoy most in friends/partners?
- What does your inner voice sound like? What are some common phrases you say to yourself?
These are just a few of the questions that I’d eventually like to ask my boyfriend so that I can get a better sense of who he really is. I may end up just giving him the full list one day and maybe we can both answer the questions for one another. Even if it feels gross and artificial at first, I want to make an effort to step outside of my comfort zone in my relationships this year. I’ve always been a curious person, but I’ve never had the confidence or skill to allow that curiosity to guide me when it comes to people. My natural inquisitive nature is stifled by my social anxiety. I know with practice, though, I will overcome that and hopefully discover even more things that will bring me closer to the people in my life.
I’m not sure if I’ll actually decide to give you this letter, but I knew I had to write it either way. I just have to put these thoughts down into words. Even though our family has never been very outwardly affectionate, I have always had a deep well of admiration and love for you for as long as I can remember. We may be pretty close in age, but I’ve looked up to you my entire life. All I ever wanted was for us to be friends, and it means the world to me that we are now.
It’s hard for me to come up with the right way to phrase everything I want to tell you. I guess primarily I just want you to know that most of the aspects of my life that I am now so proud of were introduced to me by you. You are the reason that I draw. If it wasn’t for you, I may have never found an interest in that hobby. I can still remember how good you were with colors and blending even when we were still using crayons. You should see the way I show off the paintings I have of yours to everyone that comes to my house. I know you don’t even use it anymore, but I’ve shown so many people your website. I am just so proud to have such an incredibly talented sister.
Even though mom and grandma raised us, you have always been my primary role model. One of the most influential times in my life was living with you again at mom’s when you came back from Florida. I doubt you’re aware, but a lot of the “self improvement” things you brought back with you during that time shaped the course of my life in the years since then. Remember when I first started writing pages with you every morning? Even though I no longer do that exact practice, that may have been the first daily self care habit I ever had. I can trace back a lot of my beneficial daily routines to that time.
You were even the reason I started doing yoga! Doing those poses in the rec room with you all those years ago was probably the first yoga I ever did. I was so impressed when you showed me that you could plant your palms flat on the ground in a forward fold. It was the first time I realized that maybe yoga really was something regular people could become good at, not just famous internet influencers or people that had practiced it their entire lives. I would have never become a yoga teacher if it wasn’t for you opening that door for me.
Another major part of who I am today that I want to thank you for is veganism. I’m not sure I even knew what a vegan was before you. I know it took me a while to get it, but once I did you were the anchor that kept me sane in the beginning. You showed me so many delicious new options. You were pretty much the one that taught me how to cook, albeit indirectly. Your culinary skills are another thing I can’t help but brag about to everyone I know. I cannot wait to have Nick try the Gross Sandwich. I’m sure I would have struggled so much more with a vegan diet if it wasn’t for you feeding me for the first couple years.
You have so many amazing talents. I am so grateful that I have had you in my life to constantly inspire me and challenge me. I would not be half the person I am today if it weren’t for you. I just want you to know how much I love, admire, and appreciate you. And how much I always have, even when on the surface it seemed as though we didn’t like one another very much. You are an incredible, funny, intelligent, creative, and unique person.
Finally, I want you to know that even if Val and I pressure you to make more art again, the things you create aren’t what give you value. You could never touch a pen or a brush again and I would still love and respect you just as much. I’d still be just as proud to be your sister. I only want you to be happy, because you deserve to be happy. You have no idea how much it fills my heart with joy to know that you’ve found a wonderful man who loves you and can be by your side. Not only that, but the fact that he has an incredible young daughter for you to help raise. Alice is so lucky to have someone like you in her life to learn from and look up to. I guarantee you have already permanently altered the course of her life for the better. She may write you a letter like this herself one day.
With love and gratitude,
I’ve been dating someone now for a couple of months. It’s the first time in years that I’ve had a partner and on paper he’s absolutely perfect. He’s handsome, smart, progressive, atheist, and vegan. He reads, dresses well, lives a healthy lifestyle, and is always trying to make me happy. We agree on practically everything. We’ve never had an argument. We’ve recently even started saying, “I love you.” Everything is picture perfect. We make a very handsome couple.
Yet hesitation still lingers in my heart. This always happens. I get excited, then I worry I’ve rushed in too quickly. I start picking at every little thing. Such as the question of whether or not he’s funny. Being able to have that easy, witty banter with someone is very important to me. And while he checks an unbelievable amount of boxes when it comes to what I want in a partner, he has yet to check that one. It still feels like we’re nervous and awkward around one another. I keep waiting for us to become more comfortable, but we never seem to make much progress. I know that’s partially because he lives so far away and we don’t get to spend that much time with one another. Part of me fears that we may never find that easy companionship with one another though. Is he not funny because he’s nervous or holding back? Or will he genuinely never make me laugh? Is it wrong to continue on feeling this hesitancy? With everything else that is so amazing about him, does he also have to be funny?
If love is supposed to feel the same each time, regardless of who you are in love with, then I may be making a mistake. However, not being well versed in the art of love, I wonder if maybe each love has a different flavor and flow to it. That is what I hope for. Because I desperately want to be in love with him. He does bring me great happiness. He makes me want to be a better person. I enjoy talking with him. I miss him when he’s gone. I’m sad when he is too busy to text me all day. Is it okay to be cautious in love? Does love have layers? These and so many others are the questions I don’t have answers for, that I find myself having to face alone, too fearful to share my doubts with my partner.
In my past love, everything came naturally. It always felt easy, passionate, overwhelming, magical. Is it possible to build those aspects of a relationship over time? Or are they things that are either there or not? Is it okay to continue on being unsure? This is one of the reasons I have always been interested in polyamory. Nate may not be perfect for me in every single way, but he is perfect for me in a lot of very important ways. I don’t want to have to pick and choose what I’m willing to live without from my one and only partner. No one is going to be everything I need. But it’s hard for me to tell which of my needs should outweigh others. I always end up focusing on the areas that aren’t right rather than the ones that are.
If I knew I was free to have other partners to fill my other needs, I wouldn’t be having this difficult conversation with myself at all. I would more easily be able to love and admire him for who he is rather than worry about who he’s not. I could have one partner that is hilarity and passion, and another that is tenderness and safety. It seems unfair and unrealistic to expect one person to be absolutely everything you need. I feel so conflicted. I feel so guilty for feeling conflicted. I genuinely don’t know what the right thing to do is.
As you may know, my boyfriend and I have been doing the long-distance thing for nearly a month now. I was somewhat surprised that it didn’t happen immediately, but the other day he finally asked me about sexting. This is the point in a relationship where my emotional and sexual immaturity really starts to become clear to me. I’ve mentioned before that I have hardly any sexual interest. I believe this is partially due to the SSRI I am taking, but I digress. The point is, I wanted to tell him that I’m not comfortable with sending pictures of myself. I don’t really mind dirty talk. I can actually have a good bit of fun with that. However, for some reason instead of just being honest, I told him I was okay with everything. I guess I’m still just afraid that if I’m honest he won’t like me as much.
I hear my mental voice saying these things and I just want to scream. I sound like the fourteen year old girls that I meet at my child advocacy center. It makes me feel so ashamed that I can’t be a better role model for them. Not that they would ever have any clue what I do in my personal life, but still. I feel like a hypocrite, advocating for these young girls, telling them that they have every right to be comfortable and expect their boundaries to be respected. Yet in my own life, I cave to social pressures just as easily. I don’t know why I struggle so much being true to myself in these types of situations. I’m embarrassed by how embarrassed these topics make me at twenty-eight years old.
Now my dilemma is how to go about finally telling the truth about how I feel. At first it felt like it was too late. I said okay, so now I have to keep going along with it. Then I felt ridiculous for thinking that. Consent can be withdrawn at any point. I believe that for the young girls I work with, so I must also believe that for myself. It’s not even that I fear Nate being upset with me. I know he’s an amazingly kind boy and will be completely understanding. He would probably even feel guilty knowing that I’ve been allowing him to push me past my limits.
Which brings me to the next issue I’ve been having. Nate is a very kind, considerate boyfriend. He asked my permission before he kissed me the first time. He routinely makes sure what he’s doing is okay with me when we are together. While I respect the hell out of him for that and wish more men were like him, especially given the things I hear every day in my line of work, it doesn’t really suit me personally. This is where my “problematic” sexual preferences come in. Given that I’m not very often even interested in sex, I have very specific turn ons. Mainly, they all center around being submissive. I like to feel like the reluctant, innocent, object of desire. Quite ironic since in the rest of my life I am a violently outspoken feminist.
In the past this hasn’t been much of a problem. Most men I’ve been with are very forward and sexually aggressive. They didn’t ask permission and my hesitancy was seen as an opportunity for persuasion rather than a signal to back off. Now normally, I’d say that is really walking the line of coercion and consent. These are dangerous sexual situations to be in for both parties. Yet I think that’s part of the reason it excites me. A lot of my turn ons are unspoken assumptions. I like to feel like my partner wants me sooo much that they can’t help themselves. That’s the only way I ever really feel “sexy.” I don’t want to be asked if I want to have sex. I want them to convince me.
Poor communication is where it all starts to become problematic. I know that if I explained the way I feel to Nate, he would be more than happy to oblige me. However, just knowing that he’s doing it because I told him to ruins it. Now do you see my issue? The only thing that gives me a small amount of comfort is knowing that other women have felt this way. I still remember a comedian joking, “I’m just supposed to rape you and hope you’re into that?” Yes, frankly. But I see why that’s not okay from the man’s point of view. I’m really at a loss of what to do about it.
I realize that this is a VERY personal topic to be discussing in the open forum of the internet. However, I want my blog to be a safe place where I can be completely open and honest with myself and the world. It helps that I don’t know anyone on here personally. Despite that, I’d genuinely like some feedback. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on how I can approach these sensitive issues? Have you ever had similar sexual problems? Were you able to resolve them? How? Any and all advice, questions, or comments are welcome. I can use all the help I can get.
I was talking to my friend the other day on the phone. I wanted to know some of the less discussed details about the beginning of her relationship with her now husband. When did they first kiss, how long did they wait before having sex, etc. Even though I know that these things are highly personal milestones in any relationship, I felt like it would help me to have some idea of the timelines for other people. Discussing this with her was highly therapeutic for me. I realize that I don’t need anyone else to justify my decision on waiting to have sex. In the end it’s my decision and whenever I choose to have sex with a partner is valid. Yet it did help me feel more confident and reassured after hearing someone else’s perspective and experience.
Working at a child advocacy center for over a year now, I’ve learned a lot more about sex and consent than I expected. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear the stories of some of these teen girls who we see here. Their stories all sound so similar. They tell us they didn’t want to scream or make a scene. They second guess and doubt their own intuition and perspective. They are ashamed. They blame themselves. They don’t know what to do. They feel bad for their abuser even, at times. After a while, something finally clicked inside of my head and I began to see my younger self in a lot of these girls. Some of the scenarios they describe sound so familiar.
When the Me Too Movement first started a few years ago, I felt somewhat conflicted. I saw everyone around me sharing stories of times they had been abused or disrespected by men. It seemed like all women had at least one story. Yet after searching my memories, I felt I didn’t have any of these types of experiences. I felt lucky, of course, grateful, but I also felt confused. Why didn’t I have any of these stories when so many other women did? I couldn’t find a satisfying answer. Of course my self-hating, low self-esteem mind told me that it must be because I’m not attractive enough to be assaulted. Which I know is offensive and ridiculous.
Since that time, I’ve thought about a lot to different sexual encounters I had growing up. It feels weird to say, but looking back, I feel like I was victimized at least twice without even realizing it or acknowledging it. How can that be possible? I’ve asked myself that question, and I still don’t know. Maybe the only separation is whether or not you feel like you’ve been traumatized. That doesn’t seem right to me either though. Just because a lot of the kids we see at our center are in love with their abuser or even enjoyed the sexual experiences they’ve had, doesn’t mean how things happened wasn’t wrong. It doesn’t mean these adult men haven’t broken the law and done egregious things. Does the fact that at the time I was complacent or believed I deserved what happened because of the situation I put myself in make what happened to me acceptable? I don’t think so.
It’s not as if I want to go after these boys from my past or have them prosecuted. Although I’ve come to accept I wasn’t to blame for what happened back then, I don’t necessarily put the blame on those boys either. I think what’s more important is to address the toxic, sex-phobic culture we were raised in. The culture that led me to believe being drunk and alone with boys meant it was my fault if I was then sexually assaulted. The culture that taught these boys what they did was normal, perfectly alright behavior. This is what I want to address. I don’t think the boys from my past had any intention to harm me or even disrespect me. They were just doing what young boys are expected to do. I doubt they viewed themselves as sexual predators, nor do I necessarily want them to. I just want us all to learn together how we can communicate better and respect one another so we can facilitate healthy sexual experiences, especially for teens and young adults.
During that phone call with my friend, we talked a lot about my sexual promiscuity when we were in college. Her impression was that I just had a high sex drive, that I was being care-free and having fun. She seemed surprised and somewhat saddened when I told her that actually wasn’t the case. I just didn’t know myself well enough, didn’t understand relationships enough, to make the right decisions. Given that my first sexual partner was someone that I was dating and who I was deeply in love with, I didn’t really grasp the correlation between love and sex. Desperate to feel that same emotional intimacy, that spiritual closeness, I found myself confusing it and conflating it with physical intimacy. I really didn’t have desire for the actual act of sex with most of the men I’ve been with. What I desired and hoped to obtain from sex was actually love and tenderness. As you might imagine, it took me a long time to understand and process the pain of never finding it.
This is one of the many reasons why we need to teach our children how to have these important conversations surrounding sex. The more prepared we make them, the easier it will be to talk about with their partner when the times comes. I wish I had been wise enough, brave enough, to ask more questions of my partners before having sex with them. Questions like: what does sex mean to you? where do you see our relationship going, if anywhere? do you have romantic feelings for me or are you only interested in a physical relationship? I always made the mistake of just assuming we were on the same page. Then I felt heartbroken and wronged upon discovering that wasn’t the case.
In addition, we need to emphasize that while no means no, only an enthusiastic, informed yes is true consent. Pressuring someone until they eventually give in is not consent. An obviously reluctant partner that hasn’t verbally said no is not consent. It is so important that we all work to improve society when it comes to its ideas and understanding of the complex issues surrounding sex. I only wish I could go back in time and share this new, deeper understanding with the young girl I once was. Instead I will try to help other young girls avoid my same mistakes.