What do I want? Part one

friday1Over the weekend I’ve learned that I am not as good as saying what I want as my b/f, because he pointed it out to me. I love that he is so able to say simply and clearly what he wants or needs without any fuss. Of course at times life throws spanners and blindfolds, but in general it seems to be a natural process for him. Not so for me.

I immediately wondered whether I am less good at even knowing what I want. It’s not the only factor, for example I do know that I have a real thing for wanting to appear amenable, flexible, easy going, willing to adapt… I am always getting people to express their preferences so we can go and do things that I know for certain they are going to enjoy. When I get a massive passion for something and persuade people into doing it with me who wouldn’t normally be into it, my tension and confusion about whether they are going to like it and whether that ultimately matters, can spoil it for me, and so sometimes I like to do things alone, just to make sure I don’t spoil it for myself!

And what about when there are choices that don’t make me burn up, choices I can sweet-talk others into making? I wait until they have expressed a preference, then suddenly perhaps I find out how I feel about the options for the first time. It’s easily said that choice can paralyse us, even though it’s touted nowadays as the be all and end all of market driven society. But this paralysis isn’t something new that comes with the explosion of consumer goods and entertainments. Surely it’s an older dynamic, which comes into play wherever we are not quite sure of our footing. If we are constantly unsure of our rights, our power, our relation to the other parties if there are any, choices are inevitably fraught. How does this become a trait? By being overdone, relied on too heavily for too long? Have I been punished for my choices? Well yes pretty much.

But it’s time to know what I want. An excellent piece of advice to know what you want from a relationship before you go looking for one was given to me by a great friend and it stuck fast. I had just separated from a 9 year relationship and was determined not to jump into another one as seems to be my way. Although I never wrote the checklist, it compiled itself steadily in my head in all it’s logical, illogical, deluded glory, until the moment when I met my new boyfriend and I had to completely burn it.

Not knowing how brilliantly good for me someone I had never met could be, my little list was composed of wants that I thought would make life easier or better. The real person makes life fuller and richer, partly because he enables me to be more me. Some of the the ways in which we are similar aren’t even things that we would call good – but when we see ourselves both doing them, instead of despairing we laugh.

That said, there was one massive new criterion on my list that another friend gave me in post break up advice, which the new guy meets. “Maybe this time you should go out with someone who likes you.” If you have never tried this, I can tell you now, it rocks.

Getting what you want isn’t achievable just by list making, unless you interpret your list with extreme retrospective pragmatism. But list making and list thinking focusses the mind and can give you a massive leg up when it comes to assessing a complex real life situation with confidence. I have started to think about how I can improve my ability to know and say what I want in the moment.

One part will be less chatter in my mind about the options (Tea or coffee? That’s a good question, did you know they contain different types of caffeine which do different things?…). One part will be literally tuning into myself more deeply to increase focus on the things that really matter in my life so that I can stop sweating the small stuff. I will know what I want. I will work hard to find out. I will probably bend people’s ears. As always, writing will help me get there.

For example, I need to think through what it is about the place where I live that I like and dislike, so that if I ever move I will be choosing somewhere that has or offers or is, what I want. Compromises and surprises are inevitable, but I’ll have a logical illogical list to start me off. Tuning into this question will be fun and illuminating, and I’ll be back to write about my utopian visions very soon.



On Adultery as a Cunning Plan

Coming up to seven years ago, I broke up with my ‘husband’ of 13 years, through the age-old device of adultery. So effective is adultery as a strategy, I didn’t even have to have sexual intercourse with anyone for it to work. Unfortunately I did not have the intelligence to stop and assess how much damage would be done to all parties involved (regardless of non-intercourse), an error which has caused much direct and referred pain, as dentists like to call it. In retrospect, a different approach, like his approach: “I think we are moving in different directions,” may have been less like a nail bomb.

The plan I thought I had, was that when my partner saw how much in love I was with my gorgeous, platonic friend, that I had finally succumbed to the overwhelming romance in our friendship, he would immediately see that polyamory was the only way forward for us. And behold! My platonic friend was already in a polyamorous relationship – the coincidence! The opportunity for radical life-experimentation!

This plan failed because a large part of the charge that fell me into love with my friend was his intense attention to my hurting from the ebbing loss of my partner’s love to another woman. Yes, with our radical hats firmly on, he helped me to theorise the options available (while being massively, unbelievably gorgeous). Was polyamory one of them? Alas… his real-life sexually open relationship was one in which, not only were intimately-loving extra partners not factored in at all, even (mere) sexual partners that lived in the same geographical locality were enthusiastically discouraged. Polly-don’t-bump-into-me.

Besides my crazy plan, it turns out that I had another, unconscious plan going on: When my partner sees that my love for my friend has grown so unmanageable that I cannot hold back my passion for him any longer, he will immediately understand that I have become completely and utterly distraught at the loss of his true love for me, and be shocked into action. “How could I have overlooked what you are going through,” he will say, “fool that I am! Come to me now and let us be reborn.”

This plan really never stood a chance. When I told him I had not held back my passion, he immediately saw that I was a selfish, sexually untrustworthy Bitch From Hell with absolutely no thoughts or feelings for Anyone But Myself. Naturally this included being a Homewrecker. No points at all were awarded for holding back from penetrative intercourse.

Apparently my final, fall back plan, so deeply unconscious that I wouldn’t have acted on it in a month of Sundays, was to shock my partner by being romantically unfaithful, so that then when he chose to pile all his bad karma onto me the scales would fall from my eyes and I would be freed from the tyranny of loving him – to see, as one friend put it, that he was a dick.

Or was my plan in fact to grant him his freedom? Was it so hard to accept the loss of his love that the only way I could let him go was to make it impossible for him to love me? It is true that I believed the other woman to be better suited to him than I was. Or did I want my own freedom so badly that I had to repel him utterly, in a way that made me irredeemably untouchable, lest he find it in his heart to forgive me and Try Again? I can tell you one of the most terrible stages in the break-up was waiting for him to articulate that it was over. Did I create his outrage to violently silence my own voice, because I had no courage to say I wanted it to end?

So many plans.