So much has changed and I simply haven’t had the time (or energy) to write in far too long; I’m not even sure where to start. There have been incredible changes in H. We were really going through a rough time towards the end of last year. I was in a very bad place with both my physical and mental health. H didn’t understand and I was desperately hiding as much as I could from him – I never wanted him to know that I was suicidal. Thanks to the counselor I started seeing last year I realized that I had to be willing to lean on him and share my burdens; it isn’t fair to expect him to be there for me but never give him the opportunity. She also told me that I act like a victim in my marriage, always fearful of upsetting H, of him not being happy; completely submerging myself, my wants and needs, below what I believed his desires and needs to be.
Once I understood that I was the one creating this disconnect between us, I started letting him in as I never have before. I stopped worrying constantly about him, what he wanted, needed or felt, stopped making assumptions about these things, and started talking to him instead. I started asking him about how he was feeling if I needed to know, started asking why, started telling him what was going on with me, both emotionally and physically. I won’t say it’s been easy, but it certainly isn’t has hard as things were at the end of last year. I saw a different doctor, started a new medication and my health has been far more stable, even if far from ideal. H also was diagnosed with a hormonal issue which was causing wide-spread physical issues for him. Once he began treating that issue the changes were immediate. He was once again willing to let me into his personal space, was once again willing to show me physical affection. This had been missing in our marriage for about a year, maybe even longer. I did not understand why his sex drive disappeared, nor did I relate that consciously to his new desire for his own space. I was touch-starved while going through hell physically – not a good combination for my emotional health.
Now that we are both feeling better physically and I am making an effort to see myself as a partner in this marriage rather than acting and communicating like a victim things are far better between H and I. As it turns out, S was not meant to join our lives long term. After H expressed his feelings S became extremely unreliable and began acting in hurtful ways toward both of us. H was, as usual, was far more forgiving than I and stayed in touch with S longer. However, even he eventually tired of being stood up and let down and generally treated like crap by his “friend”. I feel a bit guilty that H lost a friendship which was important to him because I believed he was doing the right thing and thought his actions would result in a progression in their relationship rather than the breakdown of it; however, I remind myself that it was his choice, and I would have supported him either way. In spite of this unfortunate result, H has remained far more open to polyamory than he has been in the past. Just this past week in fact he met a coffee girl he has a huge crush on and immediately told not just me, but also some of his coworkers! This is an enormous change from the tight-lipped man he was when I first met him, who guarded his personal affairs even more jealously than I.
In addition to this, H also told me recently that he wants to give me what I want, what I need, and would like to learn how to meet my submissive needs if I will teach him. This is what I’ve wanted for years, ironically arriving after I’d let go of that hope. My friend who bailed on me nearly a year ago, O, has since separated from his wife. I have mixed feelings on this, but without a doubt, the situation was to my gain. He came over and got straight to work on my fantasies involving a belt!
While I once expressed concern over how safe it would be to submit to O, over time I came to trust him even more than I used to – my trust was not misplaced. I still don’t have a safe word, and he never asked me for one, but the moment I tapped-out he released me and gave me all the time I needed to recover. I will admit he went easy on me; I didn’t have a mark the next day. Although we were both a bit disappointed by this, better safe than sorry, especially for our first go. I’m not sure what the future may or may not hold for myself and this particular play partner, but I’m glad he showed up this time!
In other news, H and I were contacted by a couple on one of the swinging websites we’re on who wanted to meet us. After the awful experience with BWC, I was extremely nervous and hesitant about meeting new play partners and insisted we meet without any expectation of playing that day so that I could make sure I was comfortable and easily back out if necessary. BWC always felt a bit off to me, and I didn’t listen to that instinct. I do not want to make that mistake again because I’m feeling pressured. Anyway, it turns out this other couple is fairly inexperienced; in fact, she had never even played with a girl before, although she was interested in giving it a try. We met up and hit it off! I was honestly impressed by their communication; even as we were playing, they kept talking to one another, saying they wanted to do this to that person, “Is that okay?” or, “Can I do (this) to you?” They talked to each other and to H and I throughout, making sure everyone was comfortable and that they had everyone’s consent for different things. I had never had an experience anything like this – I was surprised at how comfortable it was. The first time or two I felt a bit awkward but as things progressed and I saw how much she was opening up and enjoying herself it started to really make sense; this approach allowed for much more freedom than she would have felt otherwise. She did a number of things that before we actually met were discussed as likely off-limits because she felt safe, comfortable and wanted to. It was a lot of fun! We are even talking about possibly going on vacation with them at some point. It’s interesting to have chemistry but no romantic interest; if we do continue to meet up, it will truly be friends-with-benefits rather than romantic relationships between the couples. For where I am right now, this is ideal!
Getting back to the title of this post, I have been evolving on a personal level completely aside from my marriage and friendships. I recently accepted a promotion at work and began a lengthy leadership course which fosters personal development. Although I’ve only attended the first three days of this leadership class as of now, it is extremely challenging for me. During the first three days I had to narrow down a long list of values to my five core values. Things like “monogamy” and “god” were easily put aside in the beginning, but once I got down to 16 I was truly at a loss to go any further. I finally ended up with Service (to be of service to others), Humility (to be modest and unassuming), Love (to be loved by those closest to me), Acceptance (to be accepted as I am) and Growth (to constantly learn and grow). In addition to this I also took the Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0; my top five strengths are:
Interestingly enough, the only way I was finally able to get from 16 down to five values was to rank them against one another (yes, I did in fact list them in order of highest importance to me). These results were very interesting to me as they made sense but, at the same time, a few years ago I do not believe I could have created such a clear and concise picture of who I am at my core. I always knew I have an analytical mind, but I never before related that to the extreme difficulty I have dealing with my non-linear emotions, which also frequently lack a clear cause-and-effect relationship to any one event. I’ve been thinking about these ten descriptions of who I am at length for the past few weeks, and I’ve found that some things are easier in light of this, and some are more difficult. It is easier for me to accept that I will always struggle to speak freely about my emotions because this is not where my strengths lie – thus, it’s okay that this is hard for me. There’s nothing wrong with me; I’m not broken. My strengths simply lie elsewhere. Having it laid out in black and white like this also helps me explain to H why I’m struggling with certain things – I can point the conversation back to my strengths and show him that I am trying, but this is not where my strengths lie. I have already done this multiple times and it has been a phenomenal tool.
However, not everything is made easier by this portrait I’ve painted of myself. For example, I’ve finally moved beyond caring what others think and how they will judge me; I simply want to live my life, be who I am, and be accepted for me by those in my life. I’ve been aware of this change of attitude in myself ever since my cloverleaf saga; what I failed to realize is that I am essentially expecting others to accept me as I am while being unwilling to accept myself as I am, as represented by my core value of growth. For as long as I can remember I’ve identified ways in which I am unhappy with myself and sought to change and mold myself into being more the person I want to be. I had changed myself extensively prior to meeting H, and I have changed even more since. Part of why I married H is because I wanted to team up with someone whose strengths lie in areas in which I am weak, such as kindness, compassion, understanding, willingness to forgive, emotional intelligence, acceptance of others, and on and on and on. H is truly someone I respect and admire, and I am proud to say he has helped me become a better person; he has helped show me the path to becoming more the type of person I wanted to be. I am proud of this and grateful to H for his patience as I have developed beyond what I once was. However, the very desire for growth and change, to be more, better, is created by a lack of acceptance of myself as I am.
This is not the first time this particular issue has arisen for me, although it’s never before been quite so clear. In my study of zen, I became familiar with the necessity of letting go of desire in every form in order to be happy, content. Mankind’s suffering is generated through our desires for that which we do not have. Ever since I learned of this concept I have struggled with it; it is a very base part of my identity that I strive for more, better. This conflict lead me to a discussion with MCF. I explained to him that, in a work setting, my top five strengths seem to balance one another quite well. He immediately asked, “And what about personally?” I explained that these two of my top five values seem to conflict with one another, and he agreed. I went on to explain that although I strive for perfection (achievement), this is not where I get fulfillment from. This also plays in to humility being important to me; I hate to be widely recognized for accomplishments. I much prefer to be recognized one-on-one by someone whom I respect rather than to be lauded in front of others. Being an achiever guarantees a certain degree of restlessness, as I will always be setting my sights on a new goal. Even when I reach a goal I’ve set, I rarely stop to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment because I’ve already turned my sights to the next thing.
After explaining this, MCF asked me what do I get fulfillment from? Although this answer is stupidly easy, looking him in the eye and saying the words was nearly impossible. After collecting myself for what felt like eternity, I finally looked up, made eye contact, and said “Being of service.” I explained what I mean by this briefly (excluding any references to BDSM, I can assure you!) with examples relating to my career and my marriage. MCF didn’t react particularly strongly one way or another. I can’t help but wonder, was he aware of all that I wasn’t saying about my desire to serve? I admitted what an integral, basic component of who I am this is and I know he can relate on some level, as we are both employed as public servants. At this point I’d taken up quite a bit of his time and I had one other matter for which I was seeking his advice.
Due to my recent promotion I’ve been seeking a way to adequately express my gratefulness for the support, encouragement and opportunities provided by my previous manager. It was suggested to me that I ask this previous manager to mentor me going forward, as he would likely jump at the chance, he would understand how grateful I am by my having asked this of him, and it would leave the door open for me to seek his advice in the future. I tried to do this, truly, but I just couldn’t. The fact is MCF is my mentor and I would never have sought the type of advice from this former manager as I rely on MCF to provide me. I couldn’t bring myself to ask something which was not sincere; I never planned to seek him out as a mentor. MCF agreed that if I didn’t feel I truly wanted this from my former manager, I shouldn’t ask it of him. I thanked him and left for the day.
What I ended up deciding later that afternoon was that I could ask my former manager if he would be willing to be an advisor for me, which would be a much closer description of what I’m actually seeking and hopefully still serve the same purpose of expressing my respect for him and the value I place on our working relationship without the insincere piece of asking him to mentor me. I was so excited by this idea I emailed MCF before he was off for the day. What’s funny is, as a public servant, all emails are potentially subject to public records requests. For this reason I am always careful about what I say and how I say it when using my work email. What I ended up sending to him only about an hour after our conversation concluded was an email with the subject “New Plan”:
I really appreciate your insight. After giving it more thought, I believe I can accomplish the goal identified by asking for what I would actually take advantage of rather than requesting what I know would be a less ideal fit than the present state of affairs. Just thought I’d pass along the resolution I plan to proceed with in regards to this matter.
Thank you for your time & support!
That’s right…I actually had the balls to use the phrase “present state of affairs” to describe our mentor/mentee relationship…I was proud of myself and mortified all at once! He didn’t respond, which to be honest was my expectation, but at least I was able to let him know his advice helped me resolve my conundrum. Credit where credit is due, after all.
So, one of the next challenges in my leadership class is creating a personal mission statement. We were provided this resource as a starting point, but I do not anticipate this will be easy, even given my newfound knowledge of my strengths and core values. One way or another though, this leadership class truly is helping me understand myself as I both hoped and feared it would. That’s all for now, folks! More to come…