‘But feelings can’t be ignored,
no matter how unjust or ungrateful they seem.’ – Anne Frank
When I read the above quote supplied to us by LittleSwitchBitch for this week’s Quote Quest my mind went in so many different directions it made it tricky to know where to begin. The truth of the matter is that as a massive people pleaser and someone who dislikes conflict, both of which are linked to my anxiety, I am adept at keeping my feelings to myself for fear of causing upset if I voice them. If I am honest I have been this way since I was a child.
There are so many times in my life where no matter what I was feeling or why trying to explore those feelings with someone close to me would have resulted in my feeling bad for causing them distress with my feelings or feeling like I was a terrible person for feeling the way and I did and not another more logical way.
One of the things I have learnt as I’ve explored kink and non-monogamy is that all feelings are valid. We all deserve to be able to say ‘hey, this is how I’m feeling’ in a safe space where it can be discussed without fear of those feelings being dismissed, picked apart or turned into something to be used against us.
Even when I knew this though, I still didn’t advocate for myself and my feelings enough. There was so much I should have expressed in my last relationship, I didn’t though because I was with a nice guy and I knew some of what I might say would upset him or change our dynamic. In many ways I regret not making myself heard, especially given the fact we were non-monogamous and a lot of what I wanted to say could have expanded that experience for me.
I’m not non-monogamous at the moment and I’m extremely happy with that decision. When Mr F and I began dating there was a stretch of time where we weren’t exclusive, but to the best of my knowledge neither of us actually entertained other folks. When we had our ‘let’s be a couple’ chat Mr F straight up said he wanted to be monogamous. He didn’t dance around it, didn’t try to soften the blow in case I wanted something else, he just laid his cards on the table and waited to hear how I felt.
Luckily, I was feeling the same. Even though I still had options open to me in terms of play with others, Mr F was all I wanted. I was done with how tied up non-monogamy got my brain and my heart was hurting from all the things I felt like I was missing out on. When I met Mr F and realised how simple and straightforward it was to spend time with him, my heart was all ‘fuck yes, please let us have this, just this’.
It isn’t just the negative or difficult feelings that are hard to voice though, I spent 4 years in my last relationship trying not to be ‘too soppy’ or ‘too lovey dovey’. I tried to minimise how much I said things like I miss you or I love you and I tried to gain a sensible perspective on every feeling I had before I voiced it. I didn’t want to be too clingy or too needy and I realise now I also made sure I didn’t seem like I was asking for too much ‘vanilla stuff’. I allowed someone else to outline the terms of that relationship and I stuck to their wishes rigidly, unless they voiced a change. Which meant even the nice feelings were kept under control and that is something I have had to unlearn with Mr F, because that shit just ain’t gonna roll with him.
He expressed a while back that if he ends up being the one who is always saying ‘can I see you? or ‘I’m coming over’ he would start to feel like the feeling wasn’t mutual or the effort wasn’t equal. Putting myself out there though and saying ‘oh you’re in with no plans tonight, okay I’m coming to see you’ or suggesting things for us to do together because I’m eager to do with them was a nerve racking thing to do. I was so worried I’d be butting in on his alone time or disrupting his plans with others that I just couldn’t be that chill about announcing, not asking that I was heading to his place.
I have definitely got better though. A week or so back he finished work at 10pm an dI knew he probably had online gaming planned until late with his mates, but I just wanted a cuddle and to know we’d be in bed together at least for a little bit. So off I went and just did my own thing at his place until he came home from work. Turns out he was considering coming to mine too, but having promised his friend they’d play Call of Duty he was bound to his place. We both got cuddles though in the end and that wouldn’t have happened if I’d written those feelings off and decided I was being too needy by wanting a cuddle.
I often use the phrase ‘I’m too old for this … ‘. While at 35 I appreciate I am not old in the way that makes people screech ‘don’t be silly you’re not old’ as if I am somehow doing myself a disservice by acknowledging the years I have accumulated on this earth, I do feel I am too old to be untrue to myself. I left my marriage because I had an unrelenting need to be more me and I definitely found many facets of myself during the last 6 years since we separated.
It is only in the last year though that I have found the part of myself that is willing to say ‘fuck it, I want ALL these things and it’s high time I stopped being afraid to admit that’. I let the world convince me I couldn’t have everything I wanted but the world was wrong. I have found a man who makes me happy emotionally, sexually and with a desire to live life in the same way. I had been convinced before this that I could have the fuckery without the romance, or the romance without the fuckery, and the home life I wanted but probably with no decent romance or sex. All lies, I can definitely have all the yumminess and loveliness without having to miss out on something that feels crucial to my happiness. More importantly I can have all that while still being true to myself, being who I want to be and without hiding my feeling of joy at who I get to do it with.
As summer turns to autumn and winter is around the corner, this is usually a time of the year I dread. I have for the last 6 years convinced myself the lack of sunshine was to blame, alongside those dark evenings and unfortunately for me a few memorial dates that sit uncomfortably close to my birthday. Then there’s Christmas to contend with, which I just haven’t connected with in a long time, overall winter has sucked for a good few years now.
This year though I have found myself thinking about how to make Christmas easier and better. I bought my first Christmas present on 31st August and I have a list in my phone of gifts to buy between now and December. Then I found myself pondering how those dark evenings will be cosy nights in front of the fire with Mr F, the blustery autumn days can be spent walking in the forest and Christmas one way or another might actually be festive. Then there is the fact he is purposely making space in his life for my birthday, there has been talk of cake and presents, plans that no one has made for me in a very long time.
I wonder if that’s a lot to land on someone, the pressure that two entire seasons now seem revitalised because they are in your life but in the spirit of not holding back I told Mr F that I was for the first time in a long time excited about winter. I also expressed that I think this is because I have the right person to spend it with. His response, also excitement, because funnily enough he is also excited at the prospect of spending time with me too and those mutual exchanges of happiness make things better, not worse.
I have spent a lifetime trying to adjust my feelings in accordance with those around me. For fear that regardless of how I perceive my own emotions others will see them as unjust and ungrateful and I know people will call me out on that and I hate it, it hurts, it feels belittling and it puts barriers up between myself and the person calling judgment on what I have expressed. Even people who I know have loved me, deeply in some cases, really not at all in others, despite what their words said, even those people have made me hold back my feelings, both good and bad, for fear of their reactions.
As I reflect on this I feel sad. In part for myself, because I wish I’d learnt to own my feelings sooner. Largely though I feel sad for other people. People I have parted ways with because I couldn’t share myself with them fully. In some cases I think those people have missed out, either because they didn’t get to keep me, or they just didn’t truly get to know me. I wonder if they will ever find their way to being more open, more accepting, less afraid, but I suspect they may never change and that to me is the saddest thing of all. I think some people are missing out on life, love and happiness because feeling and emoting is just too frivolous and logic should always win out.
The sadness is not to be dwelt upon though because I have moved on and I am learning to say what I feel, both good and bad and express those feelings with my partner knowing he is there to support me, not suppress me and he is definitely happy to encourage the feelings of wanting him and needing him, which might be one of the most wonderful things of all.