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More Than Two 5.2

What needs do I have from my partners, in terms of time, emotional availability, commitment, communication and intimacy?

That depends on the nature of our relationship.

Note: One problem with the English language (and maybe others, but I’m only fluent in English, so that’s what I have to work with), is that there are no really great ways to describe relationships with certain traits without falling back on imperfect terms, some with meanings that are beyond what I intend.  So, I use them and try to make do.  Anyways, back to the main plot.

In general, if we are dating, that generally means that we want to spend time with each other on a regular or semi-regular basis.  So, about a once a month, at the barest minimum?  With my central core relationships (Trydaen, Diplomat, and Lola), once a week or so seems to work out fairly well.  With Moss, we’re still figuring stuff out, but we have gone from once a month to about once every couple weeks (depending on availability) and that’s working out well for me.  My needs/wants around time are one of the main reasons long distance relationships just don’t work well for me – I desire more time together than long distance allows for easily.

As for emotional availability, this is a tricky one.  I need to know that my partners (both central and satellite) will listen to and acknowledge my emotions when I express them, on a soonish basis (like within a day or two, barring extenuating circumstances).  I need them also to be aware that I need to internally process stuff before I know what to do with it, how to feel about it; my raw, stream of consciousness emotions tend to not actually reflect how or what I think about things, just what emotions are closer to the surface on that given day or in that moment.  I want my partners to understand that either I may need time to process things (which I am getting better at asking for) or that they will be getting feelings that may have little to do with my actually feelings and thought on the subject.  As for my availability – I try to be as available as possible (because that is important to me), but there can be circumstances which make me less able to help them process or to deal with deeper emotions, such as prolonged or extreme pain flares, lack of sleep, or general emotional overload.

I define commitment as dedication to sustaining and continuing the relationship (even if it needs to change nature or substance over time).  I need to know if someone is doubting their commitment to our relationship, and if so, if they think that there is I can do to help (if there is anything).

Communication is the key to everything.  I want to know about my partners’ lives – the good, the bad, the ugly, what makes them tick, what drives their lives, what they need to stay the truest to themselves.  Sometimes what I ask for may seem like minutiae or unimportant, but staying in the loop is important to me because it helps me build my story of people.  I want to be kept in the loop about schedules (particularly anything I wouldn’t know to ask about or other out of the ordinary events, like trips or first dates or visitors), partially so I know when to bugger off for a bit or not to expect any sort of answer.  Because Words of Affirmation is so high on my Love Languages, I also need to hear that I am important to my partners and that they are thinking of me, even if it just means a quick text just to check in.

I am frankly not quite sure what the authors mean by intimacy.  Do they mean it in a euphemistic sense, as in to mean sex?  Or alone time together, or deep, personal connection?  I think this question may be a bit vague for me to actually answer it in any meaningful way.  But I do need all of those things on a semi-regular basis at the very least.

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Words of Affirmation

So I recently retook the 5 Love Languages test (I like to, semi-regularly) and got these as my results: 
9 Physical Touch
8 Words of Affirmation
7 Acts of Service
6 Quality Time
0 Receiving Gifts

None of which was a surprise. In previous years Words of Affirmation and Physical Touch have flip-flopped, but I think some of that does depend on what relationships I’m in at the time. Other than Receiving Gifts (is nice, but doesn’t really make me feel loved), they have always been tightly clustered. I think some of that is because they don’t differentiate between giving and receiving Love Languages and mine are somewhat different.

I give a lot of lip service to Physical Touch as one of my main love languages, but don’t really talk much about Words of Affirmation. Partially because the fact that that is up there on the list makes me feel needy and dependent on people – I need you to affirm me – with the hidden subtext being that I can’t affirm myself. Which, frankly, is bullshit.  I am a solid enough rock on my own – I built myself back up after I fell apart when Minx died and gathered a lot of tools to keep doing so along the way.  I can do me just fine.

The truth is, I need to hear it from others. I need to hear that the people I am with appreciate me, appreciate the work I put into our relationship (whatever its nature), find me worth spending time with, love me, and find me attractive (if that’s appropriate for the nature of our relationship). I can’t live with just assuming it – I need to hear the person say it.

I used to, and to a certain extent still do, have issues asking for these kinds of things, because it feels like I am putting words in their mouth and that’s the last thing I want – I want genuine expressions. The one way I’ve gotten around this is asking for affirmations in general – tell me I’m pretty, tell me what you like about me, tell me what you like about my brain, tell me why you love me – and most of the time that works.

I love words. I love the way words feel and sound in my mouth and to my ears, so hearing the good that people I care about think of me instead of having to assume it is very affirming and heart strengthening.

With Trydaen, I was very explicit in the beginning of things – if you love me, please tell me that you love me as often as you feel it – and that has worked really well. Sometimes it does feel rote, but I know that he will not lie to me (too much effort and no real reason to do so), and sometimes he will not say it when I tell him that I love him, and I’m ok with that. I trust him to be genuine.

The tricky part with this is that I am not always super great at giving Words of Affirmation as a love language. I think this is partially due to not knowing when an appropriate time to say these kind of things is and a fear of looking awkward if it is an inappropriate time or situation. Or saying something that seems rote, because I say it often.

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More Than Two 4.6

What makes me feel afraid in relationships? Why?

I feel afraid when I don’t have scheduled time, a plan to schedule time, or a definite continued interest in scheduling time together.  When this drops off, it tends to be the death toll for a relationship, so I get afraid when it happens in relationships that I am emotionally invested in.

I feel afraid when I realize what will break us up.  In the past, this has meant that the relationship has less than 6 months left.  And if I’m still emotionally invested in the relationship, then this is painful to my very core.  Now, I’m not sure whether this is an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, or just something that happens to happen every time, but it hurts.  To clarify, this is not an “I think this may be the case” or “this may cause a split” because those are usually addressable or short term.  When I have this realization, it has been an ongoing issue that seems irresolvable.

I am afraid when people yell at me or corner me with their bodies, especially men and other folks with deeper voices, even if they have no history of raising a hand against me.  This reduces me to a gibberish mess of crying and defensiveness.  If I’m already feeling vulnerable, I will just curl into a ball and disappear (mentally and emotionally) to protect myself.

I fear being in the position that I have to borrow/take money from my partners.  It took me a lot of time and effort to separate myself from my parents financially and, to me, that marked my final step into adulthood, not being financially dependent on any other adult to make my way in the world.  So to put myself back into the position where I borrow or take money from my partners makes me feel like less of an adult – when I do, I have to set up strict schedules for repayment so I can control some part of the process.  

However, I realize that some of how I choose to live my life depends on other people financially – I live in a house where my rent is income-based, so I depend on people to pay their rent to still have a place to live, and I tend to be the person who pays less often when I go out with my partners because I make less money.  I feel better about these because I know that these are adult transactions and that we all entered into them in full knowledge of what they meant to our lives.  And they can change if they need to.

I am terrified of the idea of the people I love dying.  I already lost Minx and that was devastating to me – there were months where all I could do was just put one foot in front of the other and get through that day.  And the next day.  And so on.

I am scared when people stop talking to me.  I understand and can usually reassure myself if someone just needs some space, but if they just drop off the map or only talk to be about banal things, I feel like I am no longer interesting to them and why are they in a relationship with me if I am no longer interesting to them?  And…brain weasel circus!

I feel afraid when a partners’ other relationships are going poorly or they are having conflict, especially if they are relationships that preceded my relationship with them.  I don’t want to be the cause of any relationship splitting, even if it is really indirect.  And I do tend to personalize this kind of stuff, regardless of whether it makes any sense to do so or not.  Stability tends to be better for everyone’s emotional health and I hate seeing people hurt.

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More Than Two 4.5

What makes me feel cherished, loved and secure?

In no particular order:

Having regular scheduled get togethers with my partners (the more entangled/involved the relationship, the more likely I am to want this to actually be on a given day that is ours.  With my more casual partner, we just see each other when we can, with the understanding that we want to keep doing that, but we’re both fairly busy people.)

Random touch – reach for me when we’re out walking,  give me a hug, cuddle up next to me on the couch, put your head in my lap

Random communication – reach out to me when you’re thinking about me, even if it’s just to check in or share something that you think I would like.

Occasional gifts – whether it be a physical object, time, or service, just giving of yourself to me occasionally makes me feel really loved and cherished

Active/communicative listening – when I say something or share a story, a problem, or a bit of advice, acknowledging that (even if it isn’t anything you’re interested in).  I’m not asking for right away, just at some point.

Tiny celebrations – celebrating the little anniversaries, the little victories in life with me makes me feel like I am important to you

Integration – The one thing that makes me feel the most secure in my relationships is working towards integrating me and our relationship into your everyday life.  There are a number of forms this could take: introducing me to your other partners, introducing me to your friends, taking me to events that matter to you, introducing me to your partners, inviting me to events with my partners, including me in pictures that you keep around, you spending time in my living space and you spending time in mine, opening up lines of communication for me (if/when needed – not a matter of depending on that in the long-term, just mostly as an introductory measure), and spending time with our cule as a group, just as examples.

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More Than Two 4.4

What do I bring to the table for others?

Questions like this require me to promote myself a bit and I am not very good at that, but let me try.

Passion:  If something or someone strikes my fancy, I tend to get very into it/them. I will, at least for awhile, talk to the moon and stars about it/them.  I don’t do things half-heartedly.  This has resulted in a near encyclopedic knowledge of some weird subjects.

Cooking skills:  I am a pretty decent cook/baker.  Tell me your dietary preferences/restrictions and I can make something you’ll probably really enjoy.

Humor:  I have a dry, British sense of humor.  It can verge on dark and sometimes morbid, but I can laugh about it.

Research skills: Tell me what you want to know and I can find it for you.  I am really good at using the resources at my disposal and forming the right questions and keywords to find out basically whatever I want to know.

Emotional awareness: I have a decent understanding of how my emotions manifest in my head and in my body, so I can tell you how something makes me feel.

Loyalty: I am very loyal to my partners.  I will tell you if I think something is a bad idea.  I will support you and your endeavors, even if I disagree with them.  I will talk about your charms to the people I care about.

Openness: I don’t believe in hiding the people I date, from each other or from other people I care about.  The only places I’m closeted are at work (even so, I have a picture of me and my partners at my desk and would be honest if anyone ever asked me about it) and to my extended family (working on that in therapy right now – it is my plan to change that within the next year or so).

Gah, that’s all I can think of for now.  Maybe will edit to add some later.

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More Than Two 4.2

What do I consider essential, indispensable elements of a relationship?

Trust: I need to be able to depend on you to follow through with your words and actions.  I need to know that I can count on you.

Honesty: I need you to tell me the truth.  Sometimes even if you think it will hurt me.  I am not made of china – the only way I can improve myself is to know what I can improve.  This doesn’t mean you have to be mean about it – diplomacy is a valuable skill.

Communication:  I need to know that you will communicate with me about things that come up.  If our plans need to change, if there is a boundary somewhere that has come up, if you don’t want to do something with me, if you’re having a feeling about something and want my help addressing it, I want to know so we can work it out together.

Emotional Labor:  I need to know that I can ask you to take on some things that I can’t handle, for whatever reason.  This doesn’t mean I need you to take on all of my emotional burdens or some of them all of the time – I have a therapist I can talk to things about and I have mechanisms in my own brain for dealing with my emotions.

Desire for Personal Growth:  I need to know that you are working to deal with your own issues and not just letting them stagnate until they become capital P Problems.  I will most certainly help, if you would like help with them or would like someone to run an idea by.  But I cannot and will not do your growth for you.

Affection: I need you to want my company or communication every once in awhile.  I want you to look fondly on me and speak kindly of me.  This tends to grow over time, so I don’t expect it from the get go.

Acknowledgement:  I need to know that I matter to you, that I have a place in your life.  I prefer that I am acknowledged to those people who matter in your life.  I will not be a dirty little secret.  I’ve been there before.  This is not something I can do.

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More Than Two 4.1

Why do I have romantic relationships? What do I get out of them?

I have romantic relationships to fulfil my desire for romance.  More, I have them because romantic relationships tend to have an emotional intimacy that I crave.  Not to say that I don’t get emotional intimacy from non-romantic relationships – I have, and I do.  But in this case I have someone to build a story with, to build something with.

I have a certain metaphor that I like to use that explains a lot of how I view love.  I’ll give a short(ish) synopsis.

Love As A Home

When I start a relationship with someone we start building a metaphorical house together, starting with the foundations – what do we want our relationship to be, at the moment or moments we start it?  What concepts resonate with us so much that we want to incorporate them into our relationship?  Where do we have space to grow, in the context of the relationship?

Once we have this laid out (no matter if it changes, just the initial layout) we can start building.  

Do we want to have a sexual relationship of some sort?  We build one room for that.  

Do we want to do kink together?  If so, what kind, in what roles, etc.?  We build a room for that.

Do we want to go out on dates?  If so, how often do we have space for? We build a room for that.

Do we want to spend time just cuddling?  We build a room for that.

Do we want to travel together?  We build a room for that (maybe on wheels?).

Do we want to give each other big hugs?  Room for that.

Do we want to nerd out about Doctor Who, music, politics, cats, whatever?  Room for that.

And so on, and so forth.  For each thing, we build rooms.  If we agree that it is a big thing to both of us, we build a big room.  If it’s a thing that we agree that is not a big thing for us right now, we build a smaller room.  The idea being that this gives room to change and grow as the relationship changes and grows – we can remodel and resize rooms as we see fit.  It encourages purposeful communication – do we agree on these things?  Do we agree on what size we want the room to be?

If we don’t agree, then what can we build that may work for now?  Because we can revisit it until we find consensus, or find a space that works for the both of us, even if it isn’t ideal for either.

Also, my house with someone doesn’t interfere with their houses with other people.  We have our own space to develop our homes and they will all look different and will all be unique (because all relationships are).

In long term relationships, like with older houses, we need to be sure to keep up “maintenance”.  We need to keep having these conversations, keep up with each other as things change in our lives.  We can’t just let it go, and hope for the best for too long.

End

The main point being – I love building these houses with people.  I like the romance rooms.  That’s why I have romantic relationships.

To clarify – this metaphor does not just apply to romantic relationship, even though that is the context that I developed this metaphor from, back when I didn’t have a great idea how to contextualize my non-romantic but still meaningful relationships.  I do want to come back to this idea of non-romantic houses, but this post is already quite long, so I’m going to leave it be for now.