Relationships have been the source of both the greatest pain and the greatest pleasure in my life.
When I was younger, some of my family relationships were nurturing, loving and supportive. Some were harmful, abusive and dangerous. The relationship I was told to have with a god always felt artificial and forced. The relationship I had with my peers were almost always adversarial (they hated me, I feared them.) Although I was a good student, there were some teachers that teased me and disliked me, as well as some that liked me and praised me. For the first 18 years of my life, I was told what relationships to have, with whom to have them, and how to have them. When I finally realized I could make different choices and develop relationships with the people I wanted, the way I wanted, I discovered a whole new world of happiness, support, friendship and love. I fell in like/love easy, my attractions were all over the place, and I desperately wanted to befriend everyone. I tried to make ever relationship work and last, and I became a people pleaser, doing, saying and being what other people wanted, to please them and “make” them like me. I got by doing this for awhile, but the relationships were often one sided, rarely nurturing, and often ended leaving me feeling hurt, abandoned and self deprecating. And I was still being barraged by messages that who I was attracted to was wrong, and that I did not have a right to a sincere sexual and emotional relationship.
When I finally met a man I was actually my real self with, and we decided to make a life together, we declared our love out loud and fought for our right to commit to one another the way we wanted. This battle caused us to re-think all the limitations, expectations and rules placed on us, our relationship and our choices by our families, peers and society. We were still being told, even within our community, how to behave, how to love and how to live. When we began making choices based on what we wanted for ourselves, our life together and our relationship, our choices cost us some more relationships, as people judged us and our choices based on their beliefs of what relationships should be.
As the years went by, we developed – and lost – various friendships, social circles and groups, for a variety of reasons. I learned that many people still wanted to dictate to me what they required in a relationship, and had no interest in what I wanted or needed. As long as I offered my home, resources, time and attention to entertain them or give them attention, all was well. Any time I expressed my wants, needs, limitations or expectations, I was labeled “toxic”, “needy”, “selfish” and “delusional.” Once again, I learned quickly that one sided relationships were unstable and destined to end, sooner or later.
As I grew older, I learned more about myself, my emotions, my attractions, my wants, needs, desires and relationship potential. I stopped believing I was wrong for how I felt and what I wanted; the problem was, I was trying to build my kind of relationships with the wrong kind of people. I embraced my self-liberation and no longer denied myself that which I wanted. I learned that not everyone I met was comfortable with the attachments I could and wanted to make or the communities I wanted to be part of and or cultivate. My choices were scrutinized, criticized and ridiculed as improper, foolish and unhealthy. But this was nothing new. My sexuality, my liberalism, my atheism, my activism, my behavior, my choices, and my general non-conformity had all been met with resistance and disdain, and I realized every choice I made, every relationship I developed, everything I believed, had a detractor somewhere. It sounds like such an obvious truth, but I finally figured it out: when I stopped trying to make everyone else happy, and I just started doing what made me happy, I would, in fact, be happier. And that’s what I did.
I do not lead a conventional life. I do not have conventional relationships and I don’t have conventional beliefs. But I am also not alone in the things I think and feel and believe. And I have been fortunate to find people who love those things about me, stick by and support me, and happily share their friendship, community, love and/or lives with me. Through my exploration, I have opened my eyes and heart to a world of relationship structures I never even considered before, and have seen people build the most beautiful homes and families and communities based on mutual love, respect, support and nurturing. Some more traditional, some not so much. But they all work in their own ways.
I hope I continue to meet new people and experience and build new relationships and attachments, in ways I know, and in ways I haven’t yet. I hope I continue to look at other people and their relationships through their experience, and not my own. I hope I never project on to other people my own personal wants and needs, but let them tell me who they are, what they want and need, and how they wish to develop their relationships, without the confines of societally approved ideas of gender, sexuality, ability, numbers, roles, dynamics, economic status, location, family status or behavior. I hope I continue to build on the love I have found, and nurture the relationships I have, without restraint or apology or explanation. And I hope all those I know, and those reading this, allow themselves the freedom to develop the relationships they want, the way they want, with the people they want. And if anyone else tries to steer you down a different course…kick them off your ship.