Sunday, February 14, 2016

Not Worth It

Recently I've had some epiphanies and I seem to keep coming back to them which means i really need to get them out. It might be a bit circular so just try to bear with me.

I was asked recently about why a new and/or non-entangled partner might feel they have a better place to negotiate from than they really do. It is a thing i have seen often with new partners, whether from stories I've been told or seen in the poly forums I read. I think this is especially a problem for people who have previously only been in monogamous relationships.

Early in monogamous relationships, each person is finding out their partner's boundaries. There is all this new relationship energy (NRE) on both sides so at first, maybe the first 3-6 months, there aren't as many boundaries. But then the person wants to spend time alone with their friends instead of with you or their parents come into town and they don't invite you to meet them...little things start to happen where they draw lines. Maybe it's a "not yet" line, maybe it's a "not ever" line. But, especially because of how our culture views romantic relationships,  we tend to want to made a priority in their life, if not the priority. As we date older, that can be different because many people will have others who are a priority, children, ailing parents, etc, but that is usually spelled out very very early and can be a reason why someone might not date someone with children.

So you take someone who is used to monogamous relationships where this happens, who is very romantic,  who has had culture and media largely shape their ideas about what romantic relationships are like, and put them with a poly person who has other entangled partners. Once both people claim love for each other, the previously monogamous partner wants to be treated like they are in a loving relationship. They want to be a priority. They also largely don't see why they wouldn't be a priority. They are the fun, new, shiny. If you were really happy with that other person, you wouldn't be with them, right? They hear you bitch about that person, beacause you need to vent, but probably don't hear good things about that person because all those things you thought were awesome when you got together are now old hat and you don't talk about it. Also you worry about this person not dealing well with hearing the good things, because they are still adjusting to the poly and maybe don't want to hear it. But eventually they run into the previously invisible force field of the other relationship(s) in your life. They want something and think they are in a good position to get it but it is not something you can give them because of the boundaries of all the relationships. Many times it leaves the previously mono partner a bit stunned to realize that they are not being made the priority. (In fact, what I have read most often by people who tried poly and won't go back is that they want to be the priority.)

An example of this: early on with the Professor I knew that Ginger had two days a week off, sometimes only one of she worked overtime. That was their time together. I wasn't going to get to stay over then, unless Ginger specifically asked. I could text him but he might not answer at all and he would largely rather I not. Now, I did know that they both cared about me by then and I know that if something horrible happened, like one of my parents became suddenly ill, they would have been there for me. But they also wanted to establish early on this boundary for their relationship. I knew it was important that I show I could respect it.

Now, I think that we all do it to a certain extent. I'm sure Ginger or the Professor could come up with examples. But in thinking about this, I realized that why I have done slightly better than other people has been in part because I have worked hard to keep their relationship a priority, which then let me assert when I did need something of mine to be a priority. The shitty realization is that it is also in part because I don't feel like I deserve to be made the priority. I spent a long time in relationships where I was told that me being the priority either was never going to happen or would only happen if we married and that wasn't something they wanted with me, probably ever. Price of admission with Ginger and the Professor was that they were not out with their families and, unless we had children, they wouldn't be. Even while it made me sad that we were not, it still made me happy when they claimed me as their good friend or that they'd move in with me.

As we've been dealing with the V Ginger is creating with her long-time friend and now long-distance boyfriend, we've all had to deal with our feelings. In discussing my anxiety about his visit, I admitted, "I am just worried I'm going to end up out. I know that no one is ever going to choose me. That's fine. I always knew that. I'm not saying it for you to just reflexively tell me I'm wrong. But if Ginger has to choose between him and I, she'll choose him. And if the Professor has to choose between Ginger and I, he'll choose Ginger. I get that. But it means that I'm out and that makes me sad and anxious." For the record,  they both in their own ways disputed this, but it is what I have always felt like I had to accept to make this work. Well, i always had to accept that he'd choose her. The "Ginger choosing the boyfriend" has been a tougher pill to swallow but one I had to earlier in their relationship. Looking at it though, how easy it is to accept that I won't get chosen,  accept that no one will choose me....if I wasn't talking about myself, if I wasn't talking about someone else,  it would make me sad for her.

Another thought train I had-
I was listening to the Hamilton soundtrack yesterday and I was struck by something. In the song "Helpless," Hamilton and his wife Eliza meet, court, and get engaged. After they're engaged he sings "  Eliza, I don't have a dollar to my name, an acre of land, a troop to command, a dollop of fame. All I have's my honor, a tolerance for pain, a couple of college credits and my top-notch brain. Insane, your family brings out a different side of me. Peggy confides in me, Angelica tried to take a bite of me. No stress, my love for you is never in doubt. We'll get a little place in Harlem and we'll figure it out. I've been livin' without a family since I was a child. My father left, my mother died, I grew up buckwild. But I'll never forget my mother's face, that was real and long as I'm alive, Eliza, swear to God, you'll never feel so (Helpless!)" Though I know it isn't explicitly stated there but it felt like he wants to create a future for them, that he's going to put in work for her, doesn't want her to feel as helpless as his mother after his father left, etc. It made me think of times I've heard in movies or tv or read in books of a man who'd fallen in love saying that he was going to better himself for her. He might not have anything now but he was going to do it for her. I rarely hear that these days and I started to wonder about why.

My first thought is just that we marry older so we've often started that work before we meet the person we'd want to do that for. If you were my grandparents who married at 15 and 20, you largely hadn't made anything of yourself yet. Colleges used to have housing for married couples because many men were married as undergraduates but especially if they were graduate students. Now if people waited until they had found that person to do it, they'd be in their late 20s or early 30s.

Then I realized that is what happened to me. It wasn't until this relationship that I realized if I wanted to keep it I'd have to work hard in my work life. Early on I told a friend that I realized the pants-shitting amount of fear it can create in you to realize that if you fuck up, your family could be fucked, and had a new appreciation for men in single-earner households. I will grant that the hard work of getting my mental house in order was something I'd already started and come a long way in. You could argue that I did that for myself, but I remember the conversation I had on that first day with my therapist. I told her that I knew I couldn't live like this because someday I'd want a job, a partner, maybe a kid, and I couldn't do any of that like I was. So I did it for future me and for future me's loved ones.

I think there's a struggle here. I think there's this idea we're taught that says that if someone loved us enough, they'd do this thing and be able to do it because of the strength of our love for them and their love for us. Then life happens. We know that there were things we just couldn't do, no matter how much we loved someone else, addictions or habits we couldn't break, shit we could not get together, parts of ourselves we couldn't change. Maybe we even were able to change it after they left, which ads insult to injury when that ex we couldn't do it for sees us do it with our new love. We realize that people we love will never change for us, have to either accept or move on when they won't do or not do this thing or that thing. But despite that, there will always be that part of us that says, if they really loved us, they would.

So why do so few of us frame working harder outside our home as something we do for others? Why are so many of us in relationships where we know they'll never work hard and sure as hell won't work hard for us? Is this because I let my pussy decide my relationships and not my brain? Are all those marriages where women have stopped wanting to have sex with their husbands because they picked someone who did for them and worked hard at it 24:7 instead of just someone they wanted to fuck 24:7, all other things be damned, so the sex eventually dropped away? I know that I dated men who either were financially stable or were working hard on it and at least one who might have framed that as something they did for a partner if in love, but I was not sexually attracted to them hardly at all, definitely not the way I am the Professor.

This is where it comes back to the other point, where I feel I accept it in part because I completely accept that I am not worth doing these things for. Most people might think "since they won't do/not do x, they must not love me enough," but I think no one is going to love me enough to do anything hard or out of their way, I'm not worth loving that much. I feel really happy when someone does do something but I don't expect it.

My partners accused me of Lesley Knope-ing them by buying them great gifts when they didn't know what to buy me. They never even celebrated it before me. I like celebrating and, like Christmas, i know that if I do most of the work, they'll humor me. I wanted to give them gifts because it's what you do and I wanted them each to see that the other two of us cared, as i did the gifts with each one for the other person. Honestly, i had just prepared myself that my gift was just us getting to go out and be together. Especially lately, they've had lots on their mind and aren't feeling well physically. I even wrote a post about how the things I wanted were in tangible, were just about feeling like I belonged, being out back in my place, feeling like they saw me and what I do. I work hard and do many things that in other dynamics or maybe other situations I would expect help on, but it feels like that blends into the background. Sometimes I feel like I don't get noticed unless I'm exploding. I'm trying to be a good girl, make everyone's life easier, but that means I feel like I don't get noticed. Tonight as everyone went to bed and I got the one kiss I got all day,  have hardly been touched for days, haven't been fucked for a week and half, haven't been played with for longer, all I could think was that I accept this because I don't think it's possible for anyone to love me in a way that would make them want to work for me at all. I am difficult enough already with the crazy that no one will love me if I'm any more difficult,  in fact not if I don't make up for it by making other things easier. I try not to expect more because I'm not worth more. 

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