It’s not likely I will ever know the privilege of a romantic relationship.
I don’t say that because I think I’m unworthy or undeserving or hideous or terrible. I’m quite proud and fond of the person I have worked hard to be. It’s not a matter of not wanting romantic connection or lacking sexual desire. I have fallen fully in love twice in my life, both sadly unrequited but I get what they write all the songs about, and I am as capable of arousal and attraction as the next person. I simply take romantic intimacy very seriously.
I view it as an immense privilege which, among other things, encumbers it all with a great deal of weight and meaning. For me it would need to develop out of a mutually close and valued connection, one not only cable of taking on all the weight but one which would actually want to. Thanks to my nature, a completely blank list of firsts from holding hands on down, and to my ‘rejection only’ experiences I don’t have a ‘casual’ setting. The very few people who have actually attempted any flirtations with me unfortunately have not understood me and come at it from that angle. I’m not the kind who dates, I’m the kind who falls in love with a close friend and I’m incredibly picky about my friendships.
I get a lot of grief from friends and family when I talk about having accepted my likely life-long solo status. They love me and want to see me happy, nothing wrong with that. If I talk about the difficulties of feeling disqualified from the romantic world due to incompatible difference they want to help. They want to find a solution so I can be happy and not feel hurt or saddened. It’s lovely and I appreciate how much they care and want to help.
Unfortunately those conversations invariably circle back around to me apparently needing to be someone other than who I am, explanations of my nature and perspective tend to be met with a lot of ‘that’s not how it works’. Things which are incredibly important to me need to be less of a big deal. My path to romantic intimacy needs to be less specific. The bars for connection, investment, and trust for the initial preceding relationship need to be less ‘once in a life-time’. I need to let the word ‘just’ be more part of my vocabulary.
For good or for ill, I know myself. The good, the bad, the strengths, the weaknesses, I know what I am capable of, and what I am not. Between a base introspective nature and a closeted adolescence I have spent a great deal of time looking inward, figuring things out for myself, and making peace with the consequences of being ‘other’. I am all too familiar with knowing what feels right and true to me not matching up with the world around me.
When you spend so much time alone in your head and heart you have two essential choices about how to tackle disparities with the outside world. You can spin and reframe and outright distort the story to suit your inner desires and self-heroizing, the fault and obligatory responsibilities all belong to other people. Or you can plant your feet, square your shoulders, and force yourself to see things as they truly are. Both the beautiful and the less so.
The key to genuine sustainable health and growth is to be as honest with ourselves as possible. Not only can we not be fully honest with others if we cannot first be honest with ourselves but at our core, no matter how masterful or convincing, we know a lie is a lie. Truth can be painful at times but the constant fear of lies being discovered and the ensuing loss and fallout are draining, toxic, and a price tag we always end up paying. Always.
If being honest with ourselves was as simple and easy as raising our hand vowing to do so we would all be doing it all the time and there would be a great deal less strife and confusion in the world.
Figuring out the truth can be difficult and messy but maintaining lies gets far messier, stressful, and saturated with panic and fear. Holding ourselves accountable and standing by our truth can be painful and costly in the moment but it empowers us to deal with the world as it really is making potential future rewards more fulsome and truly ours to hold.
5 Methods For Self-Honesty
Life can get heated, hectic, loud, chaotic, and a million other distracting and aggravating things. In order to truly hear own thoughts we have to be able to actually hear them. We need time free from distractions and interfering, or potentially confusing, input. Once our truths and instincts have been found, honed, and ingrained we can rely on them in the flash of the moment but to figure them out in the first place takes time and contemplation.
Quiet can look vastly different from one person to the next. For some it can be literal quiet contemplation curled up in bed, a comfy chair, out for a walk in the woods, meditating. For others it can be the refuge of repetitive and relatively mindless tasks, cooking, knitting, folding laundry, working out, fishing. For those lucky enough to have truly good listeners in their circle quiet can also look like conversation with someone who lets you sound out your thoughts without trying to colour or steer them.
The key is to find space where you can explore your thoughts and feelings free of additional information, a space where you can put the issue in front of yourself and examine it critically and honestly. And since true answers rarely arise from a single contemplation, and can also constantly evolve over time, we need to have sustainable and repeatable methods for getting quiet.
Constantly Ask Yourself ‘Why?’
We can get so swept up in the rush of events and emotion that, at times, we aren’t even really aware of ‘what’ we are doing. The mob frenzy is a powerful force even in the absence of a literal mob. If we want to have control and true choice over ‘what’ we do then our most important tool is knowing and understanding ‘why’ we are doing it. Having a firm grasp of ‘why’ can help us shift from being ‘reactive’ to being ‘proactive’, put us in the driver’s seat rather than the passenger seat or the back seat or the trunk.
Knowing ‘what’ we want and need in our lives is important but knowing and understanding ‘why’ we want and need them gives us the power to guide and potentially reshape our lives.
Why do we want ‘the thing’? If this is something we have faced many times why is it happening again? If it is something brand new where has it come from? What do we hope to gain? What do we hope to achieve? Which needs or wants are behind the wheel? If we know the ‘why’ behind our drives and motivations then we are in a much better position to make choices which might actually achieve what we are seeking. We are more likely to spend our energies on relevant and effective targets with a greater chance of success.
When we ask ourselves ‘why?’ we might not always have an answer. And that can be just as useful. The absence of an answer can act as a handbrake requiring us to pause and ponder rather than charge ahead blindly expending our efforts to little or unforeseen effect. There is always a ‘why’. It may not always be weighty or complicated but there is always a reason behind our impulses and desires. The more we understand those reasons the better shot we have of actually doing right by them.
Look At All The Angles
I am the kind of person who just instinctively takes every situation and runs all the possibilities I can think of out the end of every conceivable branch. A built in part of my core nature or a habit built as a survival tool in a closeted adolescence? A bit of column A, a bit of column B…
There are always near infinite sides to every story and no two instances are every entirely identical. Even if it is a situation we have encountered countless times there will always be new and differing variables in the mix and within ourselves.
The more certain you are you have seen it all before the more certain it is you aren’t looking hard enough.
This holds just as true internally as it does externally. We are not the same person we were even yesterday. We are always growing and changing, slowly over time or drastically in the span of a moment. The parameters of our situations are eternally shifting so we need to keep our eyes and minds eternally open. If you’re not finding any new information try to change your perspective as much as possible.
Look at your situation as if it were a scene in a TV show or movie. What kind of scene would it be? Comedy? Tragedy? Drama? Game-show? If you were the one writing the scene what would you keep and what would you change? Alter the scene and make one of the others involved the main hero. Does it change the nature of the scene? Does it change the nature of the characters in it, including your own?
The more angles we look from the more information we gather and the more accurate a picture we form. It might reinforce what we previously thought or could completely upend our assumptions.
True honesty requires variety of information and perspective, it needs to be challenged and examined because the truth can handle it.
Is This A Need Or A Want?
We all want things, it’s natural and constant. Trying to separate ‘needs’ from ‘wants’ might seem like semantic hair splitting but it is actually a crucial distinction as the potential stakes involved are very different. The loss or lack of something we want can be disappointing, even powerfully so, but the loss or lack of something we need can be absolutely devastating to our health and well being. We want concert tickets but we need music. We want to hang out with Bob but we need companionship in our lives.
Before we take action to pursue something which could have massive possible impact on our lives it is vital we understand if we are doing so on behalf of a want of a need.
To use the title example, I want to share my bed with someone but I would need to know they wanted to be there with me and everything that comes with me not just a warm body they find attractive. In many ways I envy those who are able to be more casual about physical intimacy, to function simply from a space of ‘want’, and in a geekish way I’m always a little mystified that people actually get to have those kind of interactions in their normal daily lives and not only as some rarefied special occasion. My body is certainly capable of ‘wanting what the body wants’ and at times I am even able to understand and ‘get’ how people can work that way, for a brief moment the whole thing can seem so deceptively simple, but I’m not able to divest that from the deeper need for an intimate connection.
For me physical intimacy is a further expression of an existing intimacy not a substitute or precursor for it, a sentiment which tends to illicit a lot of the ‘that’s not how it works’ tone from well-intentioned friends trying to talk me down from ‘big deal’ mountain. It’s also a sentiment which is potently reinforced by that blank list of firsts. I once explained to a friend that there was no version of events in which I would ever use the first kiss ever in my life to figure out if there was going to be a second or third date.
Understanding which are ‘wants’ and which are ‘needs’ is vital to ensuring we are aiming our time, energy, and exertions in the right directions. Helping us determine which things we can let go of and which we have to roll up our sleeves and commit to the potentially messy work required to attain.
Pretend To Give Advice To A Friend
A bit like the idea of the TV scene this can be an excellent way to expose and road test our understanding of a scenario. As the saying goes, the best way to test your own understanding is to try explaining it to someone else. Best done when no one is watching, if at all possible, literally pretending to give a friend advice on the situation we are actually in not only offers the advantage of an outside angle of perspective on ourselves but it also gives us a chance to hear our own thoughts spoken aloud.
Something which sounds perfectly logical inside our heads can ring with sudden obvious discord when we speak it out loud. And we humans have a long track record of being more patient, generous, and ardent champions on behalf of other people.
Infinite patience and compassion for others, virtually none for ourselves. A tragic habit but an all too common one.
After hearing out the case you argue on behalf of your friend ask yourself if the advice you would give yourself would be different, which it very frequently is. If so, why? It doesn’t mean either set of advice is right or wrong but noticing and understanding the difference can help keep us clear and honest about what we want and expect for and from ourselves.
I get accused of giving up on myself by accepting the unlikelihood of ever experiencing a romantic relationship and I suppose I can’t entirely dismiss all truth from that. I would most likely say something similar to a friend who was pushing back their chair and resigning themselves to a probable ‘never’. But I have spent a lot of time holding my own feet to the fire over it and I both know which aspects are wants versus needs and I fully understand the ‘why’s behind my motivations.
I take physical intimacy seriously, as an expression of serious intimacy, because that is my nature and I view it as a privilege because my only experiences have been ones of rejection. I have accepted the probable ‘never’ because I acknowledge that the weight and specificity of my ‘needs’ rather than ‘wants’ makes the windows of possibility narrower not wider. And I do my best to make peace with that ‘never’ and all the various emotions it provokes because the ‘want’ aspect will always be with me as will the potential constant reminders of my otherness in a culture where sex and coupledom are absolutely everywhere all the time.
I strive to be as honest as I can with it all because I don’t have the fuel in me for blind optimism and that part of me is too fragile to be reckless with as it only plays with ‘all in’ stakes. Being honest isn’t always pretty but it allows me to embrace the life I have rather than pine for one I don’t, most of the time, and lets me be happy for others who are able to have romantic intimacy in their lives rather than resenting the fact that I don’t. Most of the time. I know why I don’t and more powerfully I know why I have made, and make, the decisions which put me in that position.