A while before I met Minx, one of my single friends fell in love with a boy and they subsequently moved in together. She would tell me the most amazing stories about him – he was the most communicative, self-aware, emotionally together boy I’d ever heard of. More emotionally together than my friend, who had pretty recently broken up with someone else and was still riddled with issues and hangups from that relationship. She would tell me stories about having nightmares/anxiety issues/etc. and her (new) boy gently and expertly coaching her through them. The only specific detail I remember from her stories is that one time when she was feeling anxious he asked (among other things) “where does your anxiety live?” as in, did she feel it mostly in her throat or her stomach or her shoulder muscles or what? And I thought to myself, holy shit that is so hardcore.
My last major relationship had been my marriage, which was uncommunicative to say the least. My husband did not talk about his feelings. Ever. He mostly didn’t know what his feelings were. I’d occasionally try to address or analyze an issue we were having and he’d just get snippy with me. He refused to go to couples’ counselling. He dealt with my frequent bouts of clinical depression (or any other upsetting things in his life) by drinking.
Sometime after my marriage dissolved, I had the huge yet obvious epiphany that relationships take work. It had seriously never occurred to me before to do things like check in with my partner periodically to make sure he was happy, identify when I was having an issue about something and bring it up so we could negotiate a solution, etc. (the attempts at communication I mentioned in the previous paragraph weren’t maintenance. They were desperate last-ditch efforts when I was already at the end of my rope). I guess I believed that if you really love someone, that will magically keep your relationship with them on track. I distinctly remember, once I got married, thinking “Well, there’s the ‘romance’ part of my life all squared away. Now I can focus on other things, like my career.” Famous last words.
I decided that I didn’t want to drift aimlessly in and out of relationships anymore. I wanted to find someone awesome and commit to making it work. I wanted to be with someone not just because they were cute and we had good chemistry, but because they actively contributed good things to my life. I decided that a good romantic relationship should be supportive and make each party into a better person than they’d been on their own.
And that was the headspace I was in when I met Minx.
There are two problems with my philosophy.
1) I think I took it too far – way past supportiveness and into codependence. I wanted to have a boyfriend like my friend found – someone who would help me unravel all my minor little psychoses and fix me – and I was willing to do the same for my partner in return. But, y’know…in retrospect I think I was so gung ho to be helpful and “make Minx a better person” that he stopped thinking for himself and started relying on me to do all the work. Which in turn caused regrettable shit like this to happen.
1)a) I had my emotional shit a lot more together than Minx did, so the helping and fixing was kind of one-sided. Mostly it was just me trying to pull him up to my level.
2) I love being taken care of, but I myself am fundamentally selfish and can only stand to take care of someone else in short bursts before I get bored or frustrated (this is why I need a submissive, service-oriented partner…). I was trying so hard to be an awesome human being for Minx that I was in a constant state of vigilance, looking for ways to make his life better – which made me exhausted and cranky, and obviously it wouldn’t be fair to take that out on Minx, so I internalized everything instead. It drained a lot of my energy.
So clearly, trying to be The Most Helpful Girlfriend Ever was not a great strategy for me – or maybe the bigger issue was that Minx wasn’t really equipped to reciprocate. And yet, I loved the intimacy that resulted from him, say, having confusing feelings about an ex and me offering to help him work through them. And yes, sometimes he managed to help me with my emotional stuff, too, and that was amazing. But ultimately I took on way too much responsibility for our relationship and it crashed and burned, and now I have no idea how much help and support is the right amount.
With The Doll, he actually seemed more emotionally advanced than me…he’s had a lot of the same anxiety and agoraphobia stuff but he mostly conquered it. And so my temptation was to throw myself at him and go fix meeeeeee!!! but I felt that this would put too much pressure on him and smother the relationship so I didn’t. I did ask for minor bits of help though, and he was very good about it. I think I may have gotten the balance right, there.
With The Pedant, we ran into those issues where he’s frustratingly vague about scheduling time with me and perpetually shows up late; when I called him out on it, he mentioned that he has a hard time committing to concrete visiting times because he always feels like he probably has something to do on a given day that he’s not remembering; it sounds like he lives in fear of double-booking himself. I wanted to jump in with “OMG, ‘phantom previous engagements’!!! I get that, too! It seems to happen most often when I’m depressed. Do you think you might be depressed? Do you sleep enough? Are you eating well? Do you use a calendar or day planner to keep track of your social life?” …But I didn’t, because frankly I burned myself way out on that shit with Minx. Also, I wanted to see if The Pedant would be able to fix things on his own – and so far, it looks like he has. My happiness was important enough to him that he got his shit together somehow, and I didn’t even have to oversee it. Fuck yeah.
If The Pedant had asked me to help him, or if he’d brought up all the possible reasons for his previous fuckupitude as though he were looking to discuss it, I probably would’ve played ball. But his default setting seems to be to take responsibility for his own shit, and far be it from me to get in the way!
When The Mensch suddenly went silent on me, I had a feeling he was panicking at the idea of possibly getting his fantasies fulfilled at last (a lot of newbie subs have this panic. They’re afraid the reality won’t live up to the fantasy, or they’re afraid the reality will be better than the fantasy and they’ll never be able to be vanilla again and it’ll cut way down on their dating options – or both). I was right on the verge of writing him an email intended to defuse those feelings when he preempted me by telling me he’d met someone else. If he hadn’t done that, I would totally have written that email and not regretted it. The Mensch seemed pretty amazing and if keeping him would’ve meant addressing his fears and putting them to rest, it would’ve been worth it. And anyway, I wasn’t gonna hold his hand through it. I was just going to tell him that I assumed he was being silent because The Fear had kicked in; that The Fear is normal; and that if he manages to get past it and still wants to see me, I would progress the kink only as quickly as we were both comfortable with so he doesn’t have to worry about me suddenly overwhelming him with a bunch of hardcore D/s stuff or anything.
I dunno…I guess the right balance is to let people solve their own shit unless they specifically ask for help?
I can’t believe I’m almost 40 and still having so much trouble setting boundaries.