Romance and Gratitude

July 20, 2012 at 9:49 am (Real Life, Relationship, Uncategorized) (, , , )


Earlier this week I caught myself thinking, “I need more romance in my life.” I almost tweeted that silly thought, but I stopped to wonder what I really meant by “romance.” What was it really that I was longing for? I don’t personally feel a need for the candy-gifts-and-flowers commercial brand of romance, so what does romance mean beyond those cliches?

I posed the question to Twitter, and got some wonderful responses:

  • “A text the next day would be nice…” [@QuantumTree]
  • “I leave special notes that say how much I care, in unexpected places. I do things for my loves that may not have thought of.” [locked user]
  • “Knowing what I like and don’t like – especially food-wise…” [@OpenSourceHeart]
  • “Going out of your way for someone, creating for them, & understanding that tiny things make a big difference.” [locked user]
  • “I’d rather have little moments that count than flowers. Finding my chores done b/c I’m behind. Words of affirmation when you think of them. Making time to hang out even if it’s ridiculously short…” [@darkersunshine]
  • “A soft touch, compassion and understanding. Support when you are are you weakest. Passion, Desire and Desperation.” [locked user]
  • “Emotional and moral support. passion that extends beyond the sexual realm. understanding, patience. quiet.” [@anne_athema]
  • “The burning itent to make your mate feel loved; to know how they have become an integral part of your very being.” [@Where_Do_I_Fit]
  • “When they do/make/buy something that solves a minor problem I was having but I didn’t realize they noticed.” [@LadyMadhu]
  • “Less flowers and gifts..more little moments and surprises that show I’m cherished and he KNOWS me. Memories.” [@meditativeme]
  • “A connection deeper than just pure need. Talking about aspirations, desires. Sex at a higher level than just orgasm.” [locked user]

The thread through all the comments is that romance is in actions, not objects. It is how the connection between lovers is maintained, with communication, intimacy, and clear expression of emotion.  I agree with these definitions of romance and would adopt all of them for myself.

So then I wondered, am I receiving these things? What am I missing that leads me to this sense of lack of romance?

And the answer is… well, I’m not really missing any of them. I just don’t always see them. I’m starting to understand that romance isn’t just about what is expressed or given, but it’s about being open to receiving those expressions with warmth, gratitude and appreciation for the intent with which they are given.

I struggle sometimes to see the wonderful things I have in the shadow of what I think I want. When I do stop and look more closely, the things I have shine brighter, and the things I think I want start to fade away. There’s a lack of gratitude in my life sometimes, but not a dearth of romance.

He will walk me down three flights of stairs to his door when I leave, just to have a few more minutes with me and kiss me good-bye one last time.

He will text me on the random occasion just to say “I love you.”

He offers foot rubs and enjoys giving them.

He will agree to be the designated driver.

He will flirt with my friends when they need it, but he’s never insincere about it.

He tells me that my breasts are phenomenal.

He has made me a few little love tokens and notes  that I cherish.

He will talk to me about anything, and he respects my opinion, even if I disagree with his.

Romance? I’ve got it. I just need to be open and recognize it when it is given.

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Earning Love

July 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm (Polyamory, Real Life, Relationship, Uncategorized) (, , , )


I started seeing a new therapist in June to work through some issues that were coming to the surface during bouts of PMDD depression. I’ve meshed with her much better than I did with the therapist I saw last year, and I feel a lot more comfortable with her and the work we’re doing. It doesn’t feel like work yet, four sessions in, but we’re getting to it, and in our last session I had two revelations that created a shift in my thinking. I’m still not quite sure what to do with them, but they definitely gave me pause.

The first came from discussion of a pattern I already knew existed. Since the decision to end my marriage, I’ve said several times that I will never marry or even cohabitate again. I’m very aware of what I do when living with a partner – I very easily shut off parts of myself that I think may displease that person; I become the caretaker, the responsible one; I strive to be as adaptable for and accommodating of that person as possible. Of the four men I’ve lived with in romantic partnerships, I’ve done this every time. I mentioned this to my therapist, and we dug into a bit, and suddenly the pattern came to the surface.

From childhood onward, I’ve been driven by an enormous desire to please others, to earn praise, respect, and love. I’ve always seen love and caring as things that must be earned, that I must prove myself worthy of. In my romantic partnerships, that same inner drive pushes me to give, give, give – particularly in the form of actions, taking responsibility for things, getting things done, being the stable, consistent, reliable partner, being helpful. I’m very conscious of the inner hope that by doing the things I do, I can earn the love I crave. But at the same time, this leads to a heavy doubt… am I only loved for the things I do, the help I provide? Am I only valued for what I give – my time, my money, my willingness to carry the burden of responsibility – and not actually who I am? So I become fearful through this doubt, and even more hungry for signs of love and affection, which drives me to do more, to give more, which leads me to more doubt. It’s the dog chasing her own tail in a sad and frustrating emotional circle.

So the first revelation was how this pattern was of my own creation. The next step is to try and break it. Stop giving unless I really want to give out of simple love and happiness. Stop taking responsibility for things that are not my responsibility. And learn that love probably won’t be taken away because I stop doing those things.

That one is pretty clear, and on the surface at least, pretty easy to do something with. The second one I’m not so sure about, but it took my breath away and leaves me with a lot more questions to explore. It was regarding a brief relationship I was in late last year, and how I felt in that relationship, in comparison to my current & ongoing relationship and how I feel in it. There have always been distinct differences to me, and as I started to dig into those with my therapist, I realized with that person, I had never felt the need to give, to do, to try and earn his love. In the brief span of that relationship, I knew exactly how he felt about me. I never doubted, wondered, longed for affirmation. I didn’t feel like I had to work for it. I didn’t feel unworthy, either. I had no doubt that I was loved for who I was, not what I might give.

I realized in one big flash that I had never felt that certainty with anyone before. Every man I have ever loved, I felt like I had to work to be loved in return. But he saw me as I was – he knew more about me leading into our relationship than probably anyone else ever has – yet he chose to open up his life to me, and himself to me, knowing exactly what my flaws were. He saw me clearly and he loved me and never asked for anything except for me to be me and to let him love me.

I don’t know why I felt no drive to earn his love. I can’t say that others haven’t freely given their love to me, and I just felt for my own reasons that I had to work to deserve their love. I don’t know why it was different with him, other than maybe it was just who he is, and who I am, and the circumstances that led to our relationship, and the points in life where we both were at the time. I don’t know. I’ll be thinking about this more, asking more questions with my therapist, digging in to why it is so hard for me to just open up and be loved without trying to earn it. I want to. I want that experience again, that confidence and comfort of being held, emotionally held, with love that doesn’t ask to be earned.

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