Self-love and what relationships should be about.

Hang in there, I am still in finals. I wanted to write something relating to this blog post on relationships that I saw a while back. I appreciated it a lot, largely because it came before my eyes right when I needed it. Back then I still thought my entire worth and sense of self was about someone else, when the way I looked at the mirror depended on someone else. I want to talk about how we are taught a very unhealthy version of romance and relationships.

First, read this: The Whole Point of Every Relationship (is probably not what you think it is), from the blog Elephant Journal.

It is a pretty nice piece with a few thoughts on what relationships should be like. It is by no means exhaustive or a rulebook, but I found it to be very neat.

I want to address a couple of these thoughts because although I tend to talk mostly about sexual politics and feminism here, a great deal of what feminism is (at least to me) is about accepting oneself in all of our worth, refusing to accept others’ definitions of what we ought to be, questioning what we are taught, and realising our own potential as human beings. It is true that relationships can help us in that direction, but only healthy ones. And it is up to us – this is important to remember and SO easy to forget – and not up to them to make relationships healthy for ourselves.

 

Holding each other accountable.

We forget we are not their journey, or their goal, or their gift. They have their own journey and goals and gifts to give to the world, and we are there to support each other in making the most of them. Understanding that their life does not revolve around us: we are part of it, and we are there to try our best to make it better and more enjoyable, in whatever their journey is about. Blaming is not what it is about, but understanding where both come from and where they want to go, and cheering them in that direction.

 

Let go.

Again, their life is not about you. When journeys go separate ways, it is important to let that happen. They should not change their journey because of you. Understand that loving is also about wanting them to reach their potential, in whatever way they need to. Do not change your journey either: a person who loves you will understand that you should not have to.

 

Remember that your job is not to make him happy (but to allow him/her the space to find their own happiness).

Cheesus, how I wish someone had told me this (not because it is rocket science, but I could have used a reminder) a couple of months ago. What this means is that you are not responsible for her, and she is not responsible for you. Supporting each other and being able to count on each other is one thing, but the relationship should be about two people who can walk on their own two feet, but decide to walk alongside each other, not two people limping and holding the other’s arms because if not they’ll fall.

We are taught that it is romantic to say or think “I depend on you” or “my heart is in your hands” or “you hold the keys to my happiness” (I have been studying a lot, so my grasp on what people actually say is a bit off right now, but you get my point I think). There is a difference between being able to depend on someone and actually depending on someone, between trusting someone with your heart and actually making it their responsibility, between being happier thanks to her and being happier because of her. It should not be romantic to engage in codependent relationship in which the world absolutely shatters when the other is not there. Relationships (any kind, not just romantic) should be about encouraging the best in the other, allowing the space for them to be their own happy person, being happy for the other’s journey being realized. Again, a cheer-leader, not a coach. The hand that is there in case you need it, not an arm into which you always lean.

With this, another lesson I have learned comes to mind as well. We must work on ourselves before going into a relationship, we must be whole on our own. The notion of “your other half” bothers me because to me it sounds like such an unhealthy thing. You are literally making up for your insecurities by leaning on someone else, by filling up that space with someone else. As I have talked about before, we are taught to search for that special person to complete our journey, and I feel like that logic is all wrong. Our journey should include many people, not just the couple (insert my video on coupledom here). Moreover, our journey should be first about ourselves and our own sense of self being where it belongs and then comes whoever else, and we should not be shamed for thinking we come first. We should come first, it is our own life. And we should take care of ourselves, because if we cannot do that, how can we help someone else take care of themselves too?

 

Be honest.

I was completely dishonest once. Not to someone else, but to myself. Even today, I keep catching myself starting to be dishonest, and I have to correct it. And this has to do with thinking that the 100% of who we are could never find a partner or a friend or a lover or a whatever, which is a very flawed way to think. If we are all being dishonest, of course we are never going to find it, because we are looking in the wrong places. The only way is to throw ourselves out there with all of who we are, and trusting that we are worth it, that our personal journey is worth it, because we fucking are.

 

Fight well.

Oh how everyone I know needs to remember this. We need to think of problems and obstacles and misunderstandings and bad feelings as something external to us, because they are. They are the space between us and our partners. I like to think of them as a fire that is standing between the two (or three, or however many partners there are), a fire that everyone involved is responsible for grabbing an extinguisher and fight it. The fire, not each other over who started it, who fueled it, who was the last person to do something to it. Once the problem, the fire, is gone, you can talk about it to make sure it does not light up again.

 

Embrace attraction to others.

Why do people not understand that it is a fact of life? We have eyes, we have body parts that tingle when we see something good looking, and we have hormones that run rampant when we find something attractive (hormones that actually make us happy, a micro-teeny-tiny orgasm kind of happy). This has everything to do with jealousy, which has everything to do with insecurity, within ourselves (but we’ll get to that in the following point). I find people attractive all the time – I live in Montreal, so literally all the time – which does not mean I jump on people all the time, and this is true whether I am with someone or not. Jeez, I find every dessert incredibly attractive and I do not eat them all, now, do I? Attraction is a natural thing to have for humans, which does not obey the social construct and laws of monogamy which are not natural (not saying they are necessarily wrong or any less real, but they are not natural). The more you embrace it and communicate clearly and honestly about it, the more trust you’ll have.

Personally, I love it when the person I am with tells me about someone they see that is attractive. It means they are comfortable saying that, it means they know I trust them. The same way, when I say I find someone attractive, it means I am comfortable doing so, it means I feel like they trust me. We can communicate about it freely because it means nothing more than “hey, my serotonin levels just had a bit of a boost with that passing stranger over there”. Serotonin is good, and we should feel good about what makes our partner feel good, whether it is for a split second or for a day or for three years. Bitching about jealousy issues increases stress, attraction decreases stress. So really, what is healthier?

 

Do your work.

This has a lot to do with the previous one sometimes. If you are jealous, it is first and foremost about you, not him. If you are stressed out, it is first and foremost about you, not her. What I mean by this is that what YOU are feeling, YOU should work on. Communicating about jealousy is good, blaming because of jealousy is not good.

We are often taught, informally, that jealousy means they love you. To me, jealousy means they do not trust me, which itself means they don’t love me enough to trust me and to not try to control me. We are also taught that we are responsible of making sure the other is not feeling hurt, or jealous, or unheard, or whatever. It isn’t. Can we help them in not feeling that way? Sure. But through communication, not through not doing certain things or not acting certain ways. This has a lot to do with being honest about who we are and what we want and recognizing when our journey does not fit another’s. It isn’t true that love is about becoming one, but about becoming two stronger separate ones. Not about belonging to one another (I hate all those songs that allude to partners as property like “I’m Your Man”, “Sweet Child O’Mine”, “Are you gonna be my girl?”, “Be Mine”, “The boy is mine”), but about wanting to be with each other, and in case of monogamous relationships, wanting to be with each other – as opposed to only being with each other because you’re “taken” (insert imagery of a butt imprinted on a seat, signifying that it is taken).

There are healthy ways to communicate feelings of jealousy. “Hey, I felt a bit weird with the way you talked to that person. I just wanted to let you know so you can help me figure the root of this feeling of insecurity.” Not “Hey, I feel jealous about the way you talk to this person so YOU figure out how to make me feel better about it”.

 

Remember that you’re a mirror too.

I find it is so much better and more effective to actively seek to compliment the other and let them know what you see in them. I find asking “do you think I am smart/good looking/sexy/good in bed” so problematic and inherently unhealthy. It is much nicer to go up and say “I think you are gorgeous/super smart/sexy as heck/such a turn-on” first. They obviously find you smart and interesting and attractive, hence the being with you, silly. But reassuring that as opposed to asking for it makes everything more enjoyable.

 

Enjoy the ride, man!

Yes, yes, ABSOLUTELY YES. Just like a road trip, when the ride is no longer enjoyable, one must be willing to admit it and stop. Maybe it is just a pause to talk about  why we feel dizzy and wrong, maybe it is a stop to get some fresh air, walk around a bit and perhaps come back if it feels right, perhaps the destination is just not the same anymore for the both of you, and you should get into separate cars. Either way, it is better to stop when we feel queasy than to get into a car crash later on.

 

 

Anyway, like the writer of the original post, I am no expert, not even close. But I am constantly learning, and that blog entry definitely helped. So I thought I’d share.

 

Our self-worth, body image, sense of self and identity, should not depend on someone else. If someone else (anyone: friend, partner, family member, mentor) has a positive impact on our journey, on our happiness, then great, keep them in your life. If they stop making you grow and start making you shrink, if they stop making you shine and start making your light dim, know you have every right to want something better for yourself.

 

Something cheesy, but indubitably true :)

Something cheesy, but indubitably true 🙂

 

I would say ‘mea culpa’ but I hated catechism.

Dear readers: I have been talking about marriage equality from a very privileged and ignorant POV so far. I apologize for that.

The internet is a powerful, addictive thing that makes us think we are not harming anyone, but sometimes we are. That being said, I explicitly recognize that I am just this tiny person on the big mess that is the Internet. I am voicing opinions as informed as I can make them and your comments, criticisms and support are awesome and always welcome.

I have been getting plenty of comments both regarding my blog post on marriage and regarding my Facebook profile and regarding my Internet sharing habits and regarding feminism in general. My head is exploding at the moment with many things I want to say but feel too weird about saying because I feel like the more I read, the more I need to read and the more I think I know the more I might need to re-evaluate what I have said and written and thought. Also, because I don’t like sharing an opinion until I’ve read as much as possible on a matter. Clearly, I hadn’t done that, but here goes.

I will tell you, first, why I did not change my profile picture to the HRC “equal” sign.

This sign.

This sign.

When I first thought “no, I don’t want to” it was because people were calling marriage equality the biggest human and civil rights issue of our time. And I shouted out loud: “Really?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?”

There is human trafficking in practically every single country in the world,

Modern-day slavery in the hands of capitalism is a thing for millions and millions of human beings on the planet (in our backyards, too),

Palestinians are killed, tortured, raped, harassed in their own homes every day,

and I don’t even need to travel far:

Trans* people are forced to be sterilized if they want to be legally recognized,

Women have been murdered systematically and with impunity in Juárez for over 20 years,

Aboriginal peoples everywhere are still being systematically ignored and impoverished and culturally erased,

Women constitute approximately 70% of poor people in the world,

Rape culture IS A F*CKING THING, everywhere in the planet,

(this list goes on f o r e v e r)

and you’re telling me that marriage equality is the biggest human and civil rights issue of our generation?! In all seriousness? I’m not even going to start a conversation with you about this, your barricade of privileged whiteness is way too high even for me.

Now, of course, the fact that it is not the biggest civil rights issue does not mean it is not an issue or an important issue to address. I guess it is just that that common phrase around the days of the Supreme Court ruling were enought o gross me out of the profile-picture business.

Another issue that I have with the marriage equality craze is that it still holds marriage as this ultimate, most legitimate institution that grants legal, social, political and health benefits to those who comply over those whose lifestyle and choice and possibility is not marriage. Now, I still think that the two struggles – the one for same-sex marriage and the one to de-throne marriage as a conservative and oppressive institution – are not mutually exclusive and that society is not equally ready for both. And that peeling the “heterosexist” layer – albeit partially – off the rotten apple that is the institution of marriage is a step towards a healthy apple, somewhere far far away down the line. But the way the marriage equality debate is framed is that marriage is this precious precious thing that we should allow fellow LGB (I am joining in taking out the T and the Q, and I will explain this later) people to have too.

And I repeat, I think LGBTQ* (all people, really) should be able to get married. But it should not be a precious, precious thing. It should not be the only way to access privileged civil rights – hospital visitation rights, survivor benefits and pensions, death-bed decision-making, health insurance transference, etc. It should not be the only way to protect your family or loved ones. It should not be the gold-standard for social legitimacy as far as relationships go. Allowing everyone to get married in order for them to have equal legal rights is reinforcing (even more so) that if you want those rights you should get married. That you’re less worthy if you’re not, and your family is less family if you’re not, that you’re harming your children and your country if you’re not. Don’t know exactly what I am talking about? Single parents, polyamorous partners who have children, partners who choose not to marry, etc. A family, to me, is measured in love and support, not in papers signed or not signed.

There’s much more, though. This is where my ignorance had kicked in.

What I wanted to share with you, because I know some of my readers, and some of these readers I know have the HRC logo on their profiles – not that Facebook is real-life, or has much consequence, but it kind of does – is some of what I did not know and feel sorry I did not know. I will not re-write what the blog post says, though, so here it is.

Why I almost defriended everyone who had an HRC logo as their profile photo this week

Now, I don’t agree with everything the blog post says, but I do agree that supporting their campaign – even if your intention with the profile picture is to support of marriage equality, not their campaign specifically – is supporting them and their donors and their discriminatory pick-and-choosing of groups of people to support and their transphobia and their white privilege-d way of dealing with the money they have and spend. I also agree that supporting marriage-equality without making this about every other group whose needs are not being addressed and whose status as second-class citizens is even more blatantly obvious and offensive too, is putting a band-aid over a very bad bruise that are human rights worldwide, and not addressing structural problems at all. It is, by virtue of ignorance possibly, reinforcing the status quo.

Now, I am not saying you should absolutely not support marriage equality. First of all, this is a free world, and you can stand up for anything and everything that you believe in. You can agree with me on one, or two, or all the claims that I make, or none at all.

I could suggest, if you want to make your support of marriage equality known, for example, that you change your profile picture to something that represents marriage equality (a picture of a wedding between members of the same sex, a sign that says I am all for marriage equality, I don’t know: be creative) but is not the HRC sign. I could also suggest that you talk broadly about LGBTQ* rights as human rights, with a sidenote on marriage, instead of marriage front-and-center. I could suggest to drop the profile picture madness altogether and do actual things in your community to promote equal rights.

I could and absolutely suggest that you do better than me and do as much research as you can before even barely supporting any cause. As much as Facebook is just an informal thing on the Internet where duck faces are a thing, it does slowly but steadily shape public opinion and where conversations are headed; it does tell corporations and politicians what we are into and what we are not into. You may think my blog post is now almost irrelevant, but it is not. Us social-media addicts get caught up in trends and campaign-ish efforts of every shape and size. Let us PLEASE reflect upon them better. [Want to hear a quick coming-out story? I was one of the stupid-ass people sharing Kony 2012 shit like I was going to save the world with it. I clearly did not save the world or change it in any way whatsoever, and I may or may not owe people money for sharing that dumb campaign with them].

So yeah, sharing is caring (always always). But sharing-with-care is what should happen. Let’s make it a thing, yes?

You say you want a revolution, well you know…

The real revolution is in each and everyone of us. If we learn to love – and you cannot love what you cannot understand – our own bodies, we already won the biggest battle. Against patriarchy and sexism controlling our sexuality and deciding for us what our bodies should mean, against capitalism feeding and feeding off our insecurities. Against every ISM, there is love.

Imagen237

Radical, offensive, confident, knowledgeable, empowered, beautiful, outrageous love.