Monday, August 1, 2016

Relationships: Being Alike is not the Same as Being Compatible

So, I am a cishet woman on a dating site where I’ve been active on-and-off for almost two years. It’s been a very positive experience and I’ve met many interesting people.

One of the things that fascinated me about the site users early on, was the diversity of things they were looking for, and how many people identified my situation as one that would fit well for them, based on what they wanted in their own lives. Despite the variety of backgrounds and situations, I seemed to be legitimately well-suited to many people and situations. Just a few examples included a man that was 10 years younger who was looking for a partner to help him complete his sexual bucket list while he was between girlfriends; a man who was ashamed of his fetish and looking for someone to help him practice it privately; a man who was in an open marriage who was looking for a partner to take on regular weekend business trips; a man who was recently divonrced, not emotionally ready to start seriously dating again, but very lonely and looking for romantic companionship. There were more, but these were a few of the people who contacted me, with whom I saw a real potential for connection and mutual benefit. What I loved about these connections and offers was that it showed me things about myself that I wasn’t necessarily unaware of, but perhaps unaware they were specific to me. Every time I was told that this-or-that was not a common trait, from these men I engaged, I began to see that I was, like them, an individual with specific attributes of my own. I learned about myself when I listened to their expressions and perceptions about me. Things I had taken for granted as unimportant or mundane, took on new life as unique and special aspects of my personality. And I enjoyed discovering each of these enlightenments.

As an aside, and perhaps a separate post for another day, I also received contact from only a few religious people who felt it was their place to use a dating site to offer unsolicited advice and judgments in misguided and boundary-impaired attempts to save me from my human sexuality. The most memorable was a much older man who identified as Catholic, who suggested I should learn to love myself. I felt this was ironic, as he was suggesting I should reject a core part of myself, my human sexuality, as a means to better accept myself. So, he suggests I should reject myself to accept myself, because his religion has infused him with a warped sense of human nature and human sexuality and distorted in his mind the human sexual experience. Weirdly, he is the person who can’t accept himself or others as human beings, but presumes to lecture me on self-love and self-acceptance.

At any rate, getting back on track, I ended up dating a few people from the site, and after some time ended up just seeing HotRod. I was fine with this situation, either way—being solely with one partner with which I was satisfied, or being with multiple partners I enjoyed. For me, as long as I feel my emotional and physical needs are being met, along with those of my partner or partners, I’m comfortable. After I began a twice weekly schedule with HotRod, I decided that, for my life situation, this was sufficient, and I shut down my dating profile. When our situation changed and we had to cut back to one night a week, I reopened the profile to find a person to fill the one-night-per-week slot that had now opened. However, this time, I had a different experience, and the responses were not as interesting or exciting to me. In fact, many of the people who contacted me did so without any real specific message or indication they understood what I was looking for, and with no real detail about how they thought I’d fit into their life situations.

Because of this, I decided to begin focusing on some time and resource intensive projects I’d been putting off, rather than invest in a new relationship. After initiating one of the biggest projects, I soon realized that two partners in addition to this work would be ambitious. And as I’m a very low-energy person, I felt it would not be fair to engage someone knowing that I couldn’t guarantee much time or attention. So, I decided to pull the profile.

Literally, on the day I logged in to shut it back down, I saw a message from someone whose profile I’d noticed and checked previously. Someone I’d been interested in contacted me with interest of their own. Curious as to why I hadn’t reached out to them, I took a look at their profile and their question answers. But I found nothing objectionable. This could indicate my own fickle nature, or it could be that the gentleman had reviewed my profile and deleted any perceived deal-breakers from his own. While I personally would find this unpalatable, people do it. It’s a reality. I’d rather connect with people who are compatible, than people who pretend to be someone else in order to seem compatible. But that’s just me and others may feel differently and not mind.

So, I returned the contact and we met. We went out three times before I realized we were “too compatible” for things to work out. In fact, our match rate was 95%. While this sounds fantastic, the problem is that there are some metrics that only work when partners are different, and fail when they are the same. For example, too highly submissive people, while they may be highly aligned in attitudes and views, would not work well as dating partners, as they work better with dominant partners who can provide the dynamic they that better complements them.

Please don’t misunderstand when I call myself "submissive" or HotRod "dominant". We are not D/s in any serious sense of the phrase, and I don’t want to misrepresent myself as something I’m not. I support D/s and any consensual sexual activities between competent people that promote freedom and happiness. But out of respect for the D/s community, I do not wish to mislead anyone with my language into believing I am part of a demographic that has specific concerns and interests that don’t actually apply to me. And I cannot speak as one of them. I only mean that generally HotRod leads, and I follow. This works, because I am a very indecisive and low-motivation personality that requires direction. I enjoy sex. I enjoy experimentation. I sometimes find things that I bring to the table and ask “would you like to try this?” But in general, 90% of the time, HotRod is the one driving. I am more lazy and don’t view his behavior as controlling. It’s more that he enjoys putting in the energy and effort I’m not equipped or inclined to. Without his contribution of imagination and motivation, our sex life wouldn’t be much. He has clearly expressed he never wants to push me into anything I am not comfortable doing, and I have told him that if there is anything I’m not OK doing, I will let him know. And beyond that, we just proceed and enjoy our experiences together, and it works very well for us. We have never yet, even been in a situation where a safe word would be necessary.

So, when I met this most recent personprobably the last person I’ll be meeting from the online site before I turn off the profile again—one of the things I asked at the initial meeting was “what role would I be expected to fill in your life? What are you looking for in a partner?” This does not mean I will conform to any role. It means, “Can you explain what you expect from a new partner, so that I can determine whether or not I can provide what you need, and whether or not I’ll get enough out of it to enjoy myself as well?” His response was very reasonable and also open-ended. He wanted to cultivate intimate relationships with others in the hopes of finding people to either be friends or lovers. He wasn’t focused so much on the form such connections would take, as simply exploring options. I explained to him that I required dominant partners, and that I consider myself to be quite submissive in sexual relationships. But even after that, the conversation didn’t really go in a sexual direction.

Now, while some may think that a first meeting seems soon to enter a conversation on sexuality, it really isn’t for me to say when another person should or should not broach this. But for me, the type of partner I’m interested in will broach this early on and not be shy about it—or take my mention of it as an invitation to engage on the subject. When I connected with the gentleman who had a bucket list agenda, for example, he raised me in chat very quickly after we had exchanged favorable messages, to check with me about what I would or would not be comfortable doing. He was extremely straight-forward and direct about what he wanted, but also respectful about letting me know clearly that he did not expect me to engage in anything I didn’t wish to. He was simply asking what I would be interested in trying with him, and setting the boundaries and the agenda from there. I was appreciative of his respect and clear communication. But for me, once I've established mutual attraction and that we’re both interested in sex, the next logical step is to discuss what we both expect and desire from the experience.

I am not suggesting as a general rule that anyone take this route. I’m not saying it’s the best route or the only route. I’m simply saying that, for me, it’s helpful and what I need. It lets me know I can trust that this is a partner who can direct the interaction in fun and interesting ways, without disregarding my own agency and satisfaction. And that’s exactly what he was like in person and in bed.

I didn’t bring up sexual topics with this latest person, however, beyond what I'd mentioned in our first meeting. That was purposeful of me. At the end of our third meeting, I noted we seemed to dialog more on social ideology, and connect there, than on a romantic or sexual level. He very civilly pointed out that he had offered several topics (although, I should note they touched on mundane areas of life, such as hobbies and family), but that social ideology was the one I seemed to respond to most robustly. He was right. And I told him as much. But again, it demonstrated that this was our dynamic. Of the topics he raised, this was the one that most interested me. Had he raised the topic of sex, I’d have been interested in that as well, and he would have gotten similar positive reaction. We could have had a conversation on sexuality that helped me to better understand what he expects from a partner, and what I could expect from him in that regard.

But he didn’t broach the topic of sex. Could I have? Of course. No one was stopping me. But that would defeat my purpose: I’m specifically seeking a partner who is sexually assertive (which is different than sexually aggressive, which is something I don't like). I work best with men who are not shy broaching this with me directly. I will not work well with men who are not inclined to take charge in this area and direct it. I wasn’t blaming him for a lack of sexual conversation or direction. I was merely observing that he and I were both submissive in regard to broaching sexuality, both waiting for the other to “make that move.” I can’t speak to how that works for him, but for me, that won’t work. It’s a bit like two children wanting to play a game of cops and robbers, while neither wishes to take on the role of robber.

He said he really didn’t want to control his intimate relationships and wouldn’t know how. This was one of the epiphany moments for me, where I realized that I need and want those parameters that he was telling me he wasn’t able to create—that he didn’t even know “how” to go about creating them. It made me realize that the partners I’d been interested in weren’t really “creating” parameters, so much as coming into the situation with goals and expectations and agent desires of their own. I realized I use their expectations as a starting point to ask myself, “Would this be fun and satisfying for me? Would I enjoy participating in this?” And we proceed from there. I explained that none of these men was “controlling.” They were, in fact, respectful. Otherwise, I'd have rejected them immediately. But had I not fit into their situations, they’d have been very cordial in letting me know and moving on to someone who works better for them. I would never be with anyone who tried to apply coercion (physical or emotional) to make me do anything I didn’t wish to do. But I still require structure from a partner. I require direction. I require their imagination and vision. And if my date had been critical of me for this, he’d have been critical of himself as well, because he was expressing the same thing: That he had no expectations or vision of what he needed or wanted, and that the person he engages needs to bring that to the table and provide that for the relationship.


We weren’t compatible, ironically, because we were too much alike.

-MK

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