I’ve discussed some of my old programming when it comes to romantic relationships. I’ve made some real progress, however slowly, in rewriting many of the larger of my stumbling blocks.
But just like Satine in “Moulin Rouge,” there are still some of my definitions of what is expected of me in romantic relationships that take a while for me to actually see as an issue.
In my marriage, I let myself be celibate (and damned near asexual) for a dozen years because somehow I excused my ex from making our sexual relationship a priority. Now, life is life and often that means many issues become a lower priority temporarily. But, if a relationship is going to be healthy, except for those times of crisis, dealing with the issues — sexual or not — should at least be in the Top Ten of priorities for each person in the relationship.
It’s about meeting each other halfway.
Now, admittedly, I did not confront the behavior or choices. Oh, I would bring it up time and again, but my ex would assure me that he was “working on” those issues. Silly me, I believed his words over his actions.
There’s a second dimension to this because I am a polyamorous woman. When a person has multiple love relationships, there is a need for balanced time management for each relationship. It also depends upon whether the relationships are in a hierarchical system or a non-hierarchical system.
Some polyamorists set up their relationships as a hierarchy, making one person a “primary partner” and other relationships being either “secondary” or even “tertiary.”
Others refuse the hierarchical model, attempting to have each relationship of the same priority.
Either model works — IF AND ONLY IF each person in each relationship is fully on-board with the model.
The problem is that far too often the social programming of society means that one (or more) of the people will manipulate, coerce (through histrionic behavior or simple excessive melodrama) and in any other way attempt to monopolize the time and energy of their partner. If one has too many relationships with people like this, their other relationships stagnate. Resentment of the central partner (i.e. manipulative partner connected to central partner connected to non-manipulative partner) is often a result of this monopoly.
For someone like me, it isn’t so much that I feel resentment. It’s that I feel insecure because I feel I am not a priority to the central partner. Sadly, my typical reaction to feeling insecure is not that the person is contributing to the emotion has to change, but that my own expectation of how important that I am to that person has to change. In other words, I am punishing myself for feeling insecure by lowering my expectation of how valued I am by the person. In other words, I give in to that programmed emotion of unworthiness or the thought that I simply do not deserve to be valued.
When I give my trust to someone, I work very hard to assume the best of that person. In the case of relationship priorities, I tend to believe someone when they say they are working on being better.
And right there is one of those stumbling blocks laying around in the ruins of myself. The honest truth is that I have cleaned up many of the huge boulders that were littering my mindscape of relationship health. It’s these smaller rocks that I still stumble over.
When it comes to romantic relationships, I seem to only ever have an ON/OFF button to the issue of trust. Either I totally distrust someone or I trust them 100%. I don’t seem to have a dimmer switch for it. It’s like every time someone I trust violates that trust, that I “forgive and forget” about it because that is how love is supposed to work.
I’m not advocating holding a grudge for trust violations. No relationship can survive that kind of emotional immaturity. But there is a point where I am going to have to learn that there is a difference between “forgive and forget” type excusing behaviors and standing up for my own worth.
In some parts of my life, I am very good at acknowledging my worth as a person. Those parts of my life are where I have spent energy to not only acknowledge my own value, but also have developed confidence in that aspect of myself.
In romantic relationships alone, I lack not only that self-acknowledgement of my value but my confidence in my own worth. Some of that is because of societal programming because fat people have no value or worth in our society. I’m not sure why I can’t seem to leverage that confidence and self-worth into this one aspect of my life.
Oh, I can take the easy way out. I’ve been treated as valueless and worthless in romantic relationships for most of my adult life, so why shouldn’t I have internalized that perspective? While that might be true, it is a cop-out. It’s choosing the fatalistic idea that because it has happened repeatedly in the past, it is inevitable that all romantic relationships (present or future) will automatically mean that my partner views me as worthless and valueless.
But that way inevitably leads to bitterness. I refuse to become bitter, because if I become bitter then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that all romantic partners won’t value me.
I’ve never been one for taking the “easy road.”
So, how do I reprogram that part of myself? I’m not sure. But I’m going to keep trying.