7 Tips to Find Out if Your Crush Likes You: and how to handle it if they don’t.

I wrote this specifically for guys dating gals because I’ve noticed a pattern among some men and I think this can help. However, my advice is in no way strictly related to men and all types of folks may find it useful so switch the pronouns around as it fits you and run with it till your hearts content. 

Here is the scenario I often see. There is a girl you like and she likes you back. The two of you talk regularly, flirt with one another and then one day you realize that she doesn’t feel the same way. She either started dating someone else, didn’t make time for you like you wanted, or any other number of reasons that made you realize she wasn’t interested. This was incredibly frustrating to you and as you rummaged through your thoughts you start to wonder why she led you on for so long. Maybe you even messaged her to say as much and vent your frustrations. The whole situation stung of rebuke. 

If this has happened to you then I have some bad news, you’re probably exhibiting what is referred to as toxic behavior. It was toxic because there’s a good chance that only you were romantically interested. You made the assumption that she was smitten by romance, but you either didn’t ask specifically or, if you did, failed to heed her response. Then when she acted contrary to your wishes you made her deal with your emotions.

Chances are you’ll deny these assertions which is perfectly natural. It’s the default response when we are confronted with uncomfortable information. I want you to know that I’m here to help you, not berate you. Unless you want to repeat this cycle for the rest of your life and push friends and lovers away, then you should read on as I take you through a better way to guide your thoughts and actions. 

This kind of change is never easy because it requires brutal honesty about your thoughts and habits. Some of these things are probably even rooted in what you think a relationship is supposed to look like and how it behaves. You’re going to have to dig down deep and do some serious personal work. I promise your life will be easier and happier if you do. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve made mistakes in my life and I’ll share those so you can learn from them. This article is for me as much as it is you. The insights I have gained can help you and add depth to your relationships. Along the way, we’ll flush out behaviors and attitudes that are making your life and others miserable. Let’s jump right in with our first tip. 

Tip 1: Don’t assume someone likes you because you like them. 

Sounds simple doesn’t it but I bet you don’t come out as clean on this one as you think. Thanks to our upbringing, guys in America generally grow up to think that if they like someone then that person must also like them. Women don’t generally do this. 

One way in which this plays out is when you see a woman younger than you and say “man if I were 10 years younger. . .” An important joke I keep on the ready is “If you were ten years younger you’d what? Get rejected as a younger man as opposed to a forty year old?” It’s not a way to berate but to help me manage my thoughts and be aware of my assumptions.

There is this idea that the only thing standing in your way is something situational, otherwise you’d be all over women and them all over you. It doesn’t occur to a good number of men that the person you are ogling has their own agency and in fact, is probably not interested in you. 

I don’t say this to be mean but think about it; how many women do you see every day with whom you would seriously want to be in a relationship? Unless you’re terribly lonely, the answer is a significantly smaller percentage than 100%. Sure there are those that you find attractive but we’re talking about next level stuff here and not merely the hormonal driven whims of an aimless libido. 

Well, guess what? Statistically, most women don’t want to be with you either. That’s just how the numbers break. Think about dating for a moment. Every date isn’t going to be with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with (and if it is then please seek help or stop dating and focus on being happy while single). So the fact that you think you have a chance with more women than you do is a delusion. 

My opinion is that most guys, myself included, grow up with this delusion. We can blame whatever we wish, music, movies, pornography, adults that we learn our cues from, but it doesn’t really matter. The key is we have to stop assuming as much and start to see things differently. We are actively disregarding women’s desires and personal agency because we think our desire determines theirs. That’s not how reality works. 

Here’s a story of mine to illustrate why this is important. I had a friend I was very keen on dating and I thought she was interested in dating me. I would say things I thought were flirtatious and that were skirting the edge of outright saying I like you. I was afraid of asking straight out so I slinked around the issue. I see now that my friend could have easily, and did, respond to me without knowing my intentions. In my mind, because I was flirting (poorly) she had to be flirting back. After all, I got goosebumps when she spoke to me. So one day I kissed her on the neck after a hug. 

I know now that it was a total bullshit move. She didn’t respond as I thought she would so I asked her what she did when uncomfortable and she told me she froze up. I said “it seems like you’re frozen now, would it be fair to say that my advances make you uncomfortable?” Surprise! Of course I was making her uncomfortable. 

Then I did what I should have done all along.

Tip 2: Find out if someone likes you. 

So let’s say you’ve been “flirting” with someone for awhile now and you think they are returning your interest, but how do you find out if they like you? Ask them, silly. 

Sorry but there is no other way. Don’t assume it. Stop taking the smile as a gesture, don’t take someone touching you as a gesture of romance, or frequent conversations or anything other than them saying they want to date you. It’s true that those signs could mean they are interested in you romantically but it could also mean you are close friends. To know for sure you’ll have to ask. 

That’s what I did, albeit after the fact, with my friend. It turns out she wasn’t interested in me in that way and me not asking first was a mistake that made the relationship a little awkward for a bit after that. We came out of it after a few days but I could have ruined a friendship and nothing is worth that. 

The benefit of asking if someone likes you is that then you know the truth. You won’t have to worry if that long hug is about friendship or romance anymore. Now you know and that is extremely useful information. 

Here’s how that info works in real life. A couple years later, I had another friend (honestly I don’t just date my friends) whom I liked and thought she perhaps liked me. So having learned from my last experience and before I made any move I simply asked her if she had any interest in a relationship beyond friendship. As it turns out she didn’t, I was projecting my interest and desire onto someone else (again).

While it wasn’t exactly the news I wanted to hear, in a lot of ways it was still good news. It meant that her affection towards me was a product of her meaningful interest and friendship. The closeness we shared I no longer had to fret over. It was about a wonderful friendship. More than that, it let us open up to one another and express our mutual love without worrying about it being misconstrued as romantic. To this day we still tell each other I love you and that is a wonderful thing to share with a friend. 

Keep this next point in mind, asking doesn’t have to be stressful. Did you notice how I asked her? I didn’t straight up ask her out because that would have put her on the spot even more. I simply inquired about her interest in such a thing. If she replied that she was interested then I could have asked her out.

My conversation starter actually went something like this, “you and I are really close and that’s something I cherish. I was curious if any of that closeness came from an interest to be something other than friends. If it doesn’t, that is perfectly okay because while I could be interested in dating what is far more important to me is our friendship. I never want to do anything to mess that up.”

Here’s why I think this works. You establish that you feel close to her and that closeness is important to you. It lets her know that she doesn’t have to pull away or distance herself from being close to you. You are establishing that no one is to blame for that closeness because there is nothing wrong with it. Last, it lays the groundwork for any possible interest outside of friendship as being a mutual decision. Basically, it lets her know you are responsible for your emotions so she doesn’t have to be and that you value and respect her feelings on the matter (i.e. you’re not going to be a dick about it). It’s a low stress option for both people. 

If you think there is another way around this, there isn’t. This is it, you have to ask. Perhaps you’ll find it stressful and maybe you won’t. I find that this alleviates most of the trepidation I have about asking. It’s far less stressful than directly asking someone out (for both people) and it honors the connection you have established so far. 

If the other person says yes then I hope everything works out for the two of you. From here on though, I’m going to discuss what to do if the answer is no. 

Tip 3: Believe the answer and proceed accordingly. 

This step is about boundaries clear and simple. If someone tells you they are not interested, or gives you any type of instruction and you keep acting (i.e. pushing) in a contrary way then you don’t really deserve to be their friend. 

This is toxic behavior and it stems from your inability to be responsible for your emotions. Our emotions are always going to want to run roughshod over logic, we evolved that way so we could procreate, eat, and survive despite the odds. It’s our job now to slow that process down and introduce responsibility into our actions; something for which our ancestors Homo habilis probably had less of a need. Congratulations, you’re evolved. 

When it came to my friend I never let myself doubt what she told me. I would keep returning to our conversation in my mind to guide my thoughts and actions. You should do the same. 

If the person you’re interested in has said there is nothing romantic in the cards then believe them. It doesn’t matter that you want romance. The situation has been resolved. Put it out of your mind and focus on the friendship. 

Don’t tell them that you will always want to date them because that creates tension in the friendship and you really don’t know how you will feel down the road. Just let them know that if anything changes to tell you and it can be discussed further at that time. This will let them know they can be open and honest with you. In the meantime, assume that nothing has changed. After all, you’ve done your part, you have your answer, now focus on being an amazing friend and keep your romantic thoughts unmoored so you can float freely to the next person who sparks your interest. 

That is what the conversation is about after all. You want to ascertain who shares your romantic interest so you can date them if applicable and find someone else if not. 

Tip 4: Other connections are valuable, sometimes more so. 

Realize that friendships are vitally important in your life and don’t think of a friendship versus a relationship. It’s true you may not be dating the person you asked and that can feel like a loss at first but don’t minimize what you still have with this person. 

Try to never use the words, “just friends” because a friendship should never be “just” anything. If someone asks if you are dating say “no, we are friends.” Your friendship can last much longer than your relationship would have because she wants to be your friend. Value this connection because it will make your life richer not poorer.

This should hopefully minimize any anger you feel but if it doesn’t here’s the next useful tip. 

Tip 5: Don’t blame the other person. 

Let’s be honest, life doesn’t always go the way we want it, but you need to own your shit and keep your cool. 

This is the point where guys usually blame the other person for leading them on, which is generally just the result of a guy not adhering to any of the actions above. 

It’s not the other person’s fault that they don’t want to date so don’t keep returning to them with conversations about how upset you are. Remember, everyone is an individual and while you harbored romantic feelings, they did not. It’s not always pleasant but it is unavoidable; we all have our own desires. 

Trust me, I’ve been there. There was a girl in high school I liked and dated very briefly. After this experience I wanted to date again and I asked her several times more. Each time she said no, but I just knew we were meant to be together, though in retrospect I have no idea why. I used all the signs of friendship as indicators of her romantic interest in me. Even her discussing interest in other guys didn’t detour me. I was smitten and delusional. As such, I ignored very clear signs right before my eyes. 

So when I finally felt the reality I was drowning in I talked about it stupidly by saying, “I’ve had enough, I’m not playing games anymore,” and “she just wants to string as many guys along as she can.” If I was being honest, what I should have been saying was “she made it clear she isn’t interested in me and I need to accept that and focus on the friendship” but I was young and dumb and that didn’t happen. I was mad at her when everything was actually my fault. I didn’t believe her answers and I didn’t want to be responsible for my emotions. 

So your first task is to quit blaming the other person and see where you went wrong. You may be young or you may not be, but you don’t have to be dumb. I assure you that if you were pursuing someone and it isn’t working out that you have responsibility to bear. Finding out what that is can be vitally important. 

This isn’t a time for a pity party, none of this, “girls just don’t like me” or “she friend-zoned me” bullshit. You put yourself in the romantic zone not her, the conversation just set you straight and that’s a good thing. Also, if she didn’t like you on a friend level then you wouldn’t be spending time together. So stop the woe-is-me trash talking and realize that the reason you want to disparage her is because you aren’t taking responsibility for your actions and unrealistic expectations. 

Also, don’t go thinking that if you try harder you can make her fall in love with you. This isn’t a fairytale movie where the supposed hero crosses every personal boundary of his love interest and then she falls in love with him anyway. That dude is not a hero. He is emotionally unhinged. You’re not going to be like him. 

You are going to be the person who looks for signs where you may have gone wrong. You’re going to look for times where you let your thoughts go off the rails so you can be more responsible next time. You are going to be a better version of you. 

Tip 6: Don’t make your emotions their problem. 

Nope, seriously dude, don’t do it. 

Everything I’ve talked about so far should help you to see the role you play but if you just can’t see your way clear of your emotions and you are still upset then there’s one last vital piece of advice. Keep your bullshit to yourself. 

Don’t make your problem someone else’s. It’s a dick move for you to stalk, berate, swear at, threaten, or employ your friends in any way because you can’t handle your shit. I know you’re thinking that if she can’t make you happy then you’re going to make her miserable. You think you have to get even. It’s a typical control freak move because you can’t handle the outcome. 

The thing is, you’re not getting even because you are likely the one who was leading yourself on. What is really happening is that you were keeping your feelings for this person hidden because you were too afraid to ask and now that you have your answer you’re making her responsible for your emotions a second time. 

Chances are that as a guy you have never felt as if you are in danger from someone who wanted to date you. It’s a horrible thing to make someone fear for their safety and it’s something that we are generally lucky to avoid. Don’t be someone else’s horror story. Not only will they be glad they aren’t dating you, but it will wreck any chance at friendship. 

You need to be careful about what you tell yourself during these times because an uncentered mind clings to anything that fits a narrative and those lies become a reality. That’s why conspiracy theories have such a grip. They make people feel like they have an understanding of things when the truth challenges their personal beliefs. You’ll believe nearly anything about someone else if it means you don’t have to face who you are or what you believe. 

So be forgiving as much as you can and talk about your former romantic interest kindly and without blame. This will help you realize their autonomy and their importance. It will also help you connect with other people down the line because everyone listens to the words someone uses to talk about an ex or a former interest. If you speak kindly of them people will think kindly of you. 

None of these things are necessarily easy and they will take some serious effort on your part but trust me when I say it is worth the effort. You will be better for it. 

Tip 7: What if you did blow up, what now?

This is a hard one and I think it depends on a number of factors. If there is still an open dialogue happening then that makes it easier. Take responsibility for your actions and apologize. By responsibility I mean you don’t blame them. You just own what you did, say there was no excuse for it and that you are sorry. If you bring up mitigating circumstances then you are still blaming anyone but you. So own it. Maybe the friendship can heal in time and maybe it can’t. 

If there isn’t a dialogue then it falls into one of two camps. If the two of you just stopped talking then it seems reasonable to reach out and try to apologize. Only reach out once. If they don’t want to hear it, or ignore you, then you burnt your bridge. It sucks but move on and let them live their life. Don’t keep trying to apologize over and over. You have no right to their time or mental space and you will just be harassing them. If you insist on having your apology heard then you are just as unstable now as when you did the damage. It shows you haven’t learned a thing. You have to control your emotions here as well. 

The second non-dialogue situation is if the person has made efforts to prevent you from contacting them such as if they have blocked you in email, messaging, social media, gaming accounts, and so on and so forth. Sometimes this will come as a direct request and someone will ask or tell you never to contact them again.

When these things happen then you’re done. Leave them alone. Any contact, even to apologize, is harassment. Period. Congratulations, you were so toxic that they don’t want anything to do with you. You are someone’s monster. If you’re not okay with this (and you shouldn’t be) then you need to take the time to do some serious emotional work and perhaps even seek professional help in the form of a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. 

Remember, the strongest people ask for help because they know it will involve saying they are wrong and that they will have to make changes in their thoughts and actions. Weak people refuse help because it is easier to destroy relationships than take responsibility. Be strong and build a better, more compassionate you. 

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking a friend if they want to date, but there can be plenty to go wrong if you don’t ask and if you can’t handle yourself after asking. Be honest, be kind, be compassionate and be a friend. May your life be good and your connections to others run deep. 

Lessons Learned From Pulling My Head Out Of My Ass: State Of The Relationship Address

I’ve been spending my time since my last State of Relationship Address recovering from a horrible relationship and reaping the benefits of a new one with an intelligent, compassionate, beautiful human. However, there is a problem. Somewhere along the line, I lost my way; I forgot two of the tenants that I live my life by and I am paying the price from a lack of trust and security that now exists on both sides of the relationship.

I’ve always valued communication in a relationship. It’s sometimes hard, sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful, but it’s always worth the effort. In the past, I moved on from a relationship because communication wasn’t there so I know it’s important to me. Another relationship I left because I was punished for communication. It’s that last one that matters more.

It smells like shit in here

In that last relationship, there was no reward for sharing my feelings. Sharing meant that it would trigger the other person and because of their insecurity, they would try to manipulate and control me. So I stopped. That didn’t work either but since the relationship was abusive it didn’t really matter, nothing was going to work. Little did I know, this survival habit had remained in place waiting for someone to come along who didn’t deserve to have it used on them.

Tenant 1: Communication is key, no matter what

I have been dating the beautiful person I mentioned in the opening paragraph. She is the brightest light I have ever had in my life and one of the strongest people I have ever met. She has been by my side even when I wouldn’t allow myself to be by hers. I kept her at arm’s length because I was afraid of talking about things that bothered me in our relationship. These things I would later learn were small and insignificant. However, when you don’t talk about your fears, you start to believe them.

That led me to end the relationship in a panic but I couldn’t stay away. I ended it a second time but kept getting drawn back. I realize now that I was returning for a good reason; I truly adore her. Instinctively, I knew I should be with her but my fear kept pulling me away.

Essentially, hiding my fear was a way of trying to protect her from what I thought would be hurtful information (and maybe it was), but the real damage is that I hurt her in an entirely different way which cost us more.

Tenant 2: Let the best version of me get rejected

Historically, I don’t hold back with people whom I am romantically interested in. If I get rejected, I want the best version of me possible to get rejected. The best version of me, not coincidentally, is also the truest version. I don’t want to meet someone and try to fit their mold just to get spurned anyway. I would always wonder how things could have gone differently if I would have just been me. I have never regretted being rejected as myself.

As I mentioned, I was a flight risk. Because I didn’t know when I was going to get overwhelmed and feel like checking out, I kept her at arm’s length to protect her (which is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever written).

Now, I love affection. I don’t mean sex, though wonderful, it’s not really what builds intimacy. I’m talking about walking hand in hand with a partner, pulling them close for a loving squeeze, coming behind her and sliding my hands around her waist while putting my lips on her neck as we prepare dinner, locking eyes with hers and staring deeply, and not so innocently brushing her butt with my hand as I glide past. These, and thoughtful compassionate words, are little touches that let someone know you are thinking about them, that they excite you, and that you love them.

Because I didn’t want her to get too close I kept myself from doing these things, the very things that would help her feel like I wanted to be around her. From her perspective, I was pulling away. My actions were ridiculous and predictably it had the effect that you would imagine. This made her feel as if another breakup was imminent.

Man it’s bright out here

The security rubberband finally snapped. We separated again, this time it might be for good. Now that we have nothing to lose, or perhaps because we have everything to lose, we are finally talking like we should have been from the start. It turns out she was holding things back as well because she was afraid it would push me away. I’m not sure that it would have but back then I don’t know if I was in a place to respond appropriately. We bared our souls to each other and I suspect we have more to go.

I learned a couple of things from this experience. The first is rather obvious, I need to live up to the standards that I set for myself. I let my fear and past trauma pull me from the correct path.

I should have been myself. I put the best version of me forward in the beginning and we won each other’s hearts. Then I became scared and let myself diminish. This allowed our relationship to wither. Now the person that she has come to know isn’t really me. I stopped being that loving, appreciative, fearlessly open person she fell in love with, and if we are split for good I have to live with the fact that I could have been more but was afraid. If I had remained true to who I was, we might be giggling in each other’s arms right now.

The second thing is something that I didn’t expect. Being honest with each other and talking through things has taken me from wanting to leave to wanting to begin again. More than that, I love the conversations we are having now. It’s not all easy to hear, for either of us, but I feel so much closer to her now. Talking about my fears removed their power over me.

I want to do the things with her so badly now that I never took the time for previously. I want to give her everything, show her she is loved, cherish and protect her heart the proper way, help fulfill her dreams as if they were my own, and provide the stability and belonging she so desperately wants. The difference this time is that I can do it. Our openness has actually given me that new relationship energy back because, let’s be honest, this is truly new.

What happens now

However, while we still have a relationship as friends, we are not a couple anymore. I am slowly coming to terms with the possibility that we may never be a couple again. I still have hope but I realize that sometimes the damage is too much and the risk for her may be too great; which leaves me with a painful conclusion. It’s possible I ruined the best thing I ever had. I may have woken up too late.

I’m trying to look on the bright side of either outcome. If I get a third chance, we are learning how to talk to each other better than either of us ever have with anyone. That coupled with eliminating my fear will let me show her what she means to me. Hopefully, I can be the person she fell in love with and support her like she deserves.

If we can’t continue, then my path there is clear as well. I will work to recover like I have before and take my lessons and move forward. Thankful for what I had and secure in the knowledge that someone wonderful can love me. Hopefully, eventually, someone else will come along again.

Either way, I want to be the person I’ve worked so hard to be.

A Moving Day Brings Finality

It was a cool August morning as improbable as that sounds and when I awoke it had already been raining for hours. The pit-pat of drops falling through the leaves outside my balcony was like a refreshing of the mind. The grey skies and rain stood in stark relief against the normal summer heat.

Today was a day I had always been expecting, but not because of the weather; it was moving day. I was taking the last of my things out of an apartment that had been my home for three years.

This apartment that I was now leaving, I had moved into with my second wife. We moved from across the country for no other reason than because we could. It was a choice I always wanted to make but couldn’t on my own; together though we made it happen. That’s what our life together felt like for me, possibilities. It was an exciting time and that place for me was the launch pad for our new life together and a new me.

Our marriage was ill advised if for no other reason than the speed and frivolity with which we approached it. The marriage was itself a financial decision that made sense at the time and that we figured was just ticking off a box that would be achieved down the line anyway.

For me, our relationship was perfect. Not really perfect mind you, we had our ups and downs like most other relationships, but I truly wanted to be nowhere else. I had never experienced such emotional devotion to someone else as I did her and it was a beautiful thing. Our relationship was improbable but it was ours and I loved it.

I don’t know if all goods things must come to an end but I know that one day it did. With that moment my fairy tale was over. It had been a wonderful ride and an experience that has shaped my life in many positive ways.

I had been living here without her for two years. Still, looking out the windows for the last time this was truly the end. There was something about leaving the place that we were supposed to be happy in that gave the relationship a finality I didn’t know was missing.

As my roommate was moving stuff out I wanted to voice all of this to him but I couldn’t even form the sentence on my lips without wanting to cry. So I just left it there in my head.

As I walked around the apartment I said my final goodbyes to those memories. My life would never be the same as when I lived here. Somehow, there’s a beauty to that as well.

P.S. This article is not on this blog chronologically. It had been collecting dust for at least two years. I wrote the article on the day of my move standing in my apartment and for some reason I never published it. Now I have.

This One Goes Out To All The Queers

I fucking love you. I hope you’ve realized it already but if you haven’t let me tell you how special you are. In our society there is a lot made of the normal mode of being, which is to say heterosexual. As a queer person you firmly encompass a group that sociologists and philosophers like to term other. In a cookie cutter world (I’m not anti-hetero, I have straight friends) what a wonderful thing to be.

Chances are as queer folk you’ve felt at some point as if you are on the outside looking in. This can feel isolating at times, but it gives you a perspective that few hetero folks will ever have. This different way of seeing and interacting with society is why I love you. It’s for this reason that I wouldn’t want to be anything but queer. I love the insight and the way it sets me apart from most folks.

Let’s be honest. You will always encounter those who don’t get it. Worse yet you’ll always be able to find someone who actually says something shitty. Trust me, I’ve been called a faggot but there’s something very important to remember about these interactions. These people are afraid of what you are.

There’s probably a variety of reasons for this. People straight up (pun partially intended) fear what they don’t comprehend. There are also people who can’t handle their thoughts. Perhaps they are struggling with the fact that they really are queer or maybe its something way smaller like seeing some other person of the same  gender and finding something about them attractive. These are normal things for people to feel but some just can’t handle it. These people are failing to accept something about themselves and not only will they try and mask their thoughts with derision and hatred towards others, they will simultaneously dislike you because you have accepted what they won’t. You being the best version of you is a threat to them.

This isn’t your problem, though they sometimes do their damnedest to make it yours. Hold your head high and be fucking proud my beautiful gendered and agender family. You are part of a diverse and colorful tapestry of the world.

If you believe biology shapes us then we are a wonderful variant meant to define the nuances of life. If you believe nurture holds sway then we are simultaneously a part of and yet a defiant and proud offshoot of our parent culture. Either way if society thinks life is simplistic and deterministic then allow us to show them otherwise.

Even among our wonderful queer family we have many nuances. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, agendered, transgendered, transsexual, asexual and even more. All I ask of you is to fucking love who you are because you are gods damn beautiful. Bloom, like only you can do and fuck the rest of the world. At the end of our lives we aren’t going to care that we played by the rules and fit in. And we certainly aren’t going to care what some muggle said to us as we crossed the street. Rather, we are going to care that we were out on that street in the first place, that we lived our lives by our rules, cared for those around us, and that we went after what’s important in making us whole.

So please, more than anything else, love who you are because who you are is amazing.

Postscript: Case in point: The finishing touches to this piece were done between sets at a She/Her/Hers concert in a garage filled with queer folk dancing their asses off. Such a beautiful thing to experience.

The Greatest Article I Have Ever Written: State Of The Relationship Address

queer_house

I’ve met someone recently who I have come to love. If there’s ever a reason to push yourself to get out of the house then this is one of those stories. After matching on a dating app we were scheduled to meet and I just didn’t know if I was up to it. It was nothing against her, I was just in a mood. As it turns out she was thinking something similar, but went anyway.

I’m glad we met. The person I found sitting across from me was sweet, thoughtful and intelligent. She listens with intent and speaks with wisdom and I found myself being drawn in quickly. As I’ve come to know her over these last couple of months all of those things I first thought have remained true. Those traits have been complimented by her openness, emotional awareness, creativity, humor, empathy, and compassion. Having her love and support (and giving mine in return) has been wonderfully restorative to me.

You see, there was a time when I wasn’t in a good relationship. This past had come to create trepidation for my present. I was used to the worst behavior in a relationship. The questions paraded through my mind. What will I do the first time a potentially difficult topic needs to be discussed? Will the first time spending the night with a new partner dredge up too many flashbacks for me? Basically, what damage still lurks from the past that might impinge upon the present?

With my new partner, these trepidations have been overcome so easily that our relationship flows seamlessly. I can’t describe the joy and freedom I feel when one of these milestones passes without any negative behavior. In fact, with her I feel welcomed, comforted, loved and safe.

That last word is so vitally fucking important that it deserves to be said again. I feel safe. To know that someone else will never knowingly and purposely hurt me gives me a very warm and full feeling. My heart is literally being protected and nurtured by my partner. It’s such a simple thing to say but a monumental thing to actually have. The feeling is truly indescribable. After abuse, being able to completely relax around someone is so revolutionary an act that it feels like a world has been created just for me.

Without my partner I know I would heal on my own, in fact much of that work has already been done. I’m not with her for the healing solely, my love for her runs much deeper than utility, but what she helps me do in that regard is remarkable and is part and parcel of what love entails. She has created such a safe space that it has allowed me to check a number of my reactions before I let them become a problem.

I’ve been lucky throughout my life to be able to recognize the times that I am living well. I can definitively say that this is one of the happiest and most beautiful times of my life. I find myself involved romantically with one of the most amazing people I have ever met.

This relationship in a lot of ways is the healthiest one I’ve ever been in. Our communication and willingness to be open, vulnerable and compassionate form the backbone of it. The love that this way of being has created for us is an amazing thing to have coursing through my body. It’s empowering, inspiring and secure; and it all started one day when two people stepped outside to meet over coffee.

The Wedding Vows

www.jeremyalcornphotography.com

Recently, I officiated my friend’s wedding ceremony for a renewal of vows. I was honored to be given this privilege. Here is what I said which I owe heavily to bell hooks in her wonderful book All About Love:

“Good evening. I’d like to start by welcoming you to this ceremony and congratulating Jeff and Eric on this special occasion.

There’s a line towards the end of a wedding. You’ve all heard it many times before: it reads, “by the power invested in me.” If only things were that matter of fact. I wish that my words here today could grant you life long assuredness, a knowledge that the two of you will prosper together and enjoy happiness till the end of your days. While I believe that you can have this, it’s not something I can provide nor is there a religious or legal edict that can make your relationship a prosperous marriage.

When you were dating, you needed to know that you were on your way to being in love. In a marriage though you will seek something much more akin to true love.

We are often shown, and so we imagine, a fairy tale version of love. Real love though is grittier than that. At times it can be a struggle, disagreements are after all allowed and sometimes necessary. If relationships are work, then love will be your career. Love challenges us in ways that can make us want to withdraw rather than pull someone close and open up. It makes us vulnerable by showing us our shortcomings and it will reveal to us our deepest insecurities. To be sure, truly loving another person is one of the most courageous things you will ever do.

This is why the two of you standing here today makes this event all the more special. By being married you have already confirmed your decision to love and tackle your fears. You have learned that while loving each other cannot end the difficulties you will face, it can give you the ability to deal with those obstacles and emerge stronger for it.

And so it is today that you continue your commitment to one another evinced by this gathering of kindred – this confirmation of spirit, this renewal of vows.

I want to say a few things about love before we get to those vows. Earlier I spoke of true love and that sometimes seems to be a perplexing idea, but it is because we often misunderstand the nature of love. True love does exist, but it is not something you stumble onto or happen upon. We often confuse the incidence of meeting someone with finding love. We may find our partners by accident but love takes much more.

Because we often think that we find love we have come to view it as a noun. Love for us becomes a thing to be given and more often, something to be received. While this view can be a good start it does not take us close enough to where we need to be. Regarded this way we miss the fundamental meaning of this deep emotion. For if love is only a thing, then we must ask ourselves where is this thing we exchange created? Where does love come from?

Obviously love has to come from us and that is why love is actually a verb. It is an intentional act, for we do not have to love, rather we choose to.

Love gives us agency. It is a way of living and ordering our lives to maximize the way we commune with those around us. In this way then, love is also much more than just a feeling. Love as a verb demands that we be responsible and accountable. It means we take ownership for our actions and expect our partner to do the same. When we falter it is our obligation to accept our mistakes and make amends. Love demands this so that we continually succeed or fail better for our partners.

In your quest to deepen your bonds remember that love should be honest. Love cannot exist in a world of deception. Speaking your truths to a partner and in turn hearing theirs will strengthen your bonds and help create respect. Your words should be measured and honest to solidify the trust you have in each other. Speaking and listening in this regard is not always easy but it is essential.

In your honesty be sure to see that your love is also kind. The goal of intimacy should be to foster healing and understanding.

For your marriage to be loving it needs to have an ethic of care. When the component of care is lost a relationship becomes distant at best, or hurtful and abusive at worst – in essence dysfunctional. Love cannot grow where there is an absence of care. When you treat love as a verb you are prioritizing your partner’s personal and spiritual growth along with your own.

In addition to these, you should be steadfastly committed to one another. Commitment is often thought of as being physically true to your partner, and while the agreement you reach in this regard is important, it is too shallow a view. You will find that committing to your partner through love becomes something which is better rounded and more complete than just being physically devoted ever could be.

I want to leave you with this caveat so you know that you are in good standing: love does not demand perfection. There may be times when you don’t feel worthy for the task of love. This is normal, it is often the product of dwelling on your self-doubt too much. Done this way you will undervalue your worth. Always remember though that your partner has chosen you. They aren’t inhibited by your self-doubt. If they could feel what you think about yourself they wouldn’t recognize it as you. Your partner is by your side because they see your truth rather than your fiction. This too is what love does.

Ultimately though as I stated at the outset, what you need, and indeed what you have found to make love blossom can only be touched upon by words in a ceremony. The power of love as a verb can only be realized by both of you.

And so it is now that I ask you both to share a confirmation of that strength within by way of vows.

______ Do you promise to love _____ , to act in a way that confers care, trust, understanding, respect, and commitment to him – guarding his heart and his priorities as if they were your own for as long as you shall live?

Then having heard your affirmations, by the power that resides in each of you and by the trust you have placed in each other. I humbly and happily reaffirm you, husbands. You may each kiss the groom.”

 

An Alternative View of Labels

Like one of the authors of the articles below I have always wondered if labels concerning human sexuality do us more harm than good. I think there are arguments for both sides and I find the interplay of ideas particularly interesting.

Here are two stories of people who though they were stalwart adherents to a particular way of being until someone special helped them discover an unexpected truth about love.

I Came Out as A Lesbian – Then Fell In Love With A Man

How My Sexuality Changed When My Husband Became My Wife

As you can see by the titles, the first story follows a traditional view of relationships while the latter has a more non-traditional story arch. I hope you enjoy them and whoever you love now or come to love in your life, I wish you the greatest happiness.

Fighting In A Relationship Again? – Do this next time instead

So here’s a little discovery I made recently that may help you deal with some relationship problems. When something happens in your relationship and you place blame on the other person for doing something wrong take a step back and try to consider the situation without any blame at all for your partner.

This will force you to view the situation differently. You will still want to come up with an explanation for what occurred but you won’t be able to resort to blame. Because of this it should help change your focus in two ways.

The first is that it will cause you to try and understand why your partner did whatever it is you’re upset about. This is super valuable because you may find that there is a sufficiently valid reason for what happened and that your frustration is misplaced entirely. This way when you see them next the conversation can shift from one of blame to one of reflection, understanding and ultimately support.

The second thing likely to happen is that you will start to question whether you have any blame to shoulder. That’s right, this is a rigged game and while you can’t blame your partner it is perfectly acceptable to look for fault in yourself. This is not a double standard. Remember this is an exercise that is designed to change how you look at particular situations. People don’t generally seek to blame themselves, but you likely have a role to play in this however well-meaning your intentions were.

If you think you found something you have done wrong then own it. The great thing about taking responsibilities for your actions is that when you talk about this with your partner, which you should totally do, they will see that you are capable of self-reflection. This means that they won’t always have to be the one to point these types of things out to you. You are capable of doing so yourself.

Once you start to see things in a new light it’s the perfect time to ask your partner for even more information. Have them help you understand more about what they were feeling and what they feel caused the problem. Together the two of you (or more for you poly folks) can help minimize the impact of similar situations when they occur or even prevent them all together.

So I called this a little discovery, but I think it can actually have a huge impact on the health of your relationship. If you have any experience with this or additional thoughts about this I would love to hear them.

This is Your Brain on Drugs

In his TED Talk entitled, “Relationships Are Hard, But Why?” Stan Tatkin takes an approach you may not have considered previously. Relationship difficulties are largely because of how our brains function. That and because we’re wrong pretty much all of the time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xKXLPuju8U

So learn how to help cope with that crazy shit you think by starting with his speech. It’s helped me immensely.

A Tale of Three Loves: Personal time and relationships

When I was dating the woman who would become my first wife. Initially, I wanted to spend every moment with her that was possible. However, early on (like the first week of us dating) she established Friday nights as the night we would spend with friends. That was a big deal because at the time it established one of the three nights we had available to us for her own interests. After spending the first few nights at home alone hoping she would somehow change her mind, I got my ass out of the house and started making plans with my friends. I realized that Friday night was for my interests as well. That independence was one of the best gifts she could have given me. It allowed me to avoid being one of those people who shed all of their friends as soon as they had a significant other and it caused me to define myself outside of another person.

This led me to develop cycling as a hobby. I established new friends statewide, started racing with some success, co-founded and ran my own race team and helped build and maintain the first mountain bike trail system in a neighboring county. I was one of the people who actually contributed to the growth of the sport. These were good times.

Flash forward a bit (18 years) and I was going through a divorce from my first wife and had started dating my second wife. I was in the best shape of my life and had just completed my first race of the year. It was my best finish ever which was an excellent way to start the year. It was also my last race for almost three years which not coincidentally was nearly the length of my second relationship.

You see my new love expected more of my time than I was used to. While I didn’t mind the idea of spending more time with her I didn’t like that it had to be at the expense of my other interests and even who I was. She leveraged her idea by saying, “This is what couples do. You didn’t spend time together in your last relationship because you two had problems.”

It sounded legit and as it pertains to the tail end of my first marriage it was correct. However, for the first 13 years or so having our own time and space worked remarkably well. Time apart wasn’t what ended my first marriage, but I didn’t really connect those dots at the time. I desperately wanted to please this new person. There was also a practical aspect to the situation. I was using every dime to pay off my debts from my first marriage and racing is an expensive proposition. The money I saved could be put to good use paying bills.

So, I stopped racing, only did trail building a couple of times, gave the remaining interest in my race team to my friends and pretty much just checked out. By this time I was living in a new city which further isolated me from my main source of pleasure and friendship.

Then I moved again, this time 1000 miles away. I played hermit my first year and didn’t make a single friend. When I tried to carve out time for cycling or photography I was made to feel guilty about using some of my time off to do this if she also had the day free. I became completely beholden to her schedule and could only feel good about going out if she was also out. I don’t think either of us were really conscious of this dynamic as it was occurring. She was just speaking to her needs and I was trying to meet those. In reality, I’m sure both of us were acting on our insecurities.

However, I eventually realized that this wasn’t working for me. I started to change the dynamic by saying I wanted more personal time to explore my interests. It took a number of conversations, but eventually we agreed and I did go out. I started working on my photography and throwing a leg over the top tube of my bike again and it was wonderful. It was just like old times and I was having a blast. I felt like I had a small part of the real me back again.

About six months later my second marriage was over. I don’t really think that my newly established independence was the cause of it. If anything, my willingness to give up my time and her desire to garner the majority of my attention was likely the symptom of a deeper flaw. We were just trying to bandage it with being together, both being afraid of what would happen when we weren’t.

Now that I have some distance from that scenario though I can see the mistakes I made. I used to be self-made and independent. I was ashamed of that needy insecure person I was at 17. All it took to reverse my fortune was a new relationship. It renewed my insecurities about a partner’s fidelity which most likely hinges on my perception of self-worth. Even though I didn’t want to relinquish my personal space I let my fears dictate my actions. I gave up the balance that made me who I was. The conversation, and subsequent compromise, should have happened much earlier in the relationship. Maybe I couldn’t afford to race, but just going out to ride or do trail work takes little money.

There’s a practical aspect to this as well. When you give the itinerary of your life over to another person and that relationship ends then you are essentially left with nothing; a place where your life should have been, but isn’t. You are more than just your partner and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s wonderfully healthy.

I read stories about parents who balance work and home life so that they can each go out and go for a run, bike ride or to hang with their friends and I appreciate that. It’s something I need to learn more about and definitely something I have trouble with in a new relationship. When everything is fresh in a relationship and comfort and trust have yet to be established my insecurities can kick in when I’m apart from someone. It’s one of my weaknesses to overcome.

I know that I’m happier with time set aside for myself. I just need to make myself strike that balance until I’m finally comfortable with it. That’s going to take time and tackling a few of my demons (again). To that end, someone bring me a tall glass of beer and a cute priest.