First, a little security notice: this week, I have started searching for graduate jobs, and as such have set my Facebook and Twitter accounts to private, as I am all too aware of the likelihood (read: near-certainty) of potential employers stalking me online. I do hope to be out as polyamorous in future workplaces, but that very much depends on individual situations, and I don’t want to risk sabotaging my chances before I even start.
SO – please, if you know me personally or know my full, real name, please do not link Love is Infinite to that name in any way online. Share this blog all you like, repost things, Tweet/blog/Facebook about it – I love it when you guys do that! All I ask is that you don’t link my full name, if you know it, to this page. When it comes to what to call me, Jess or Miss Amaranth is fine! Thank you for understanding, guys.
With that out of the way, one more quick announcement: Love is Infinite now has a Facebook page! If you’re a FB user, please click the ‘like’ button (left hand side of this page, under the Blogroll) for regular updates of new posts and any other poly-related content I find and share!
Oooh! Also! Also! Nomad and I have booked our places at OpenCon Catalonia! We’re making a little holiday of it and taking a few days to go sightseeing as well. I’m super excited! Any of you going to be at this ‘Con, lovely readers?
And now, onto today’s topic!
The Neediness Dilemma
I’ve come to notice something of a contradiction in terms within the so-called ‘rules’ (term used very loosely) of successful polyamorous relationships.
I’m a very firm believer, as are most of the people I know in healthy relationships (poly or not,) that it is hugely important to be able to ask for what you want or need. This doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you will always get exactly what you want – but being able to express your needs, preferences and desires, and having them listened to and respected and met as far as is possible, is a fundamental part of good, happy relationships. After all, if we can’t express our needs, how can we expect our partners to fulfil them? They’re not psychic!
But who hasn’t ever been afraid of being seen as ‘needy’ in a relationship? I know I have, and it’s something I still struggle with on a regular basis. I like to think I’ve got the ‘knowing what I need’ aspect of things down pretty well. I’m always learning new things about myself, of course, but I am aware of things I need in order to be happy in a relationship: things which include regular contact even when we’re apart, regular face-to-face time, to be supported and encouraged in stuff I do, to take things s-l-o-w-l-y sexually, plenty of physical affection, to regularly be told I’m loved, to be kept in the loop about anything going on in my partners’ lives that may affect me (including, but not limited to, being told early on if they’re likely to be embarking on any new relationships.) There are more nuances and specifics which I won’t go into, and of course it varies somewhat with each relationship, but that’s a decent outline of the Care and Handling of Your Jess.
However, even though in theory I’m a firm believer of ‘ask for what you need,’ in reality I often find it very difficult to do. Why? Because I am afraid of being labelled as ‘needy.’ Even now, two and a half years in, I sometimes get irrationally afraid of asking Nomad for something – like I’m a Bad Partner for having needs in the first place. Luckily, he is outstandingly supportive about listening to and validating my needs, and meeting them as much as possible (and helping/suggesting ways for me get them met when he’s not able to right then.) It’s an issue in new relationships, too. I am constantly afraid of potential new partners running a mile when they see that I’m not super-cool-laid-back-chick-who-never-needs-anything.
Of course, this might sound silly. After all, everybody has needs. I know that, as I’m sure we all do. Nobody is super laid back about everything all the time, and I know I wouldn’t want a partner who never expressed any of their needs or desires to me. But in our culture, and particularly as a woman, needy seems to be absolutely one of the worst things someone can be labelled as in a relationship. Us women are taught from a young age that our principal role is to make our (male) partner’s lives easier (those How To Please Your Man or How To Be The Perfect Girlfriend articles in glossy magazines, anyone?) We’re taught to relegate our own desires to lesser importance than everyone else’s, particularly men’s, that being a Good Woman is putting others above ourselves absolutely all of the time, and that being ‘needy’ (whether of time, affection, support, celebrating a special occasion, or whatever) is this Bad Evil Awful Thing that must be avoided at all costs – so of course expressing what we want and need is likely to be difficult!
(Why do so many of these things ultimately boil down to deeply-ingrained cultural norms and expectations?)
Everyone deserves to have their needs listened to, and to get them met if at all possible. As is so often said, one of the beautiful things about polyamory is that we don’t need to expect one person to meet all our needs, all the time. I’ve discovered since being with Nomad that having my needs listened to and taken into account makes me feel so much better about actually having them.
I suppose I just need to gently remind myself (often) that Perfect Girlfriend doesn’t exist, because nobody is perfect, and that being a good partner is not synonymous with ‘never wanting anything.’
Has anyone else experienced this particular internal conflict or struggled with ‘the neediness dilemma?’ I’d love to hear your thoughts!