I'm currently wanting to extend my madly shagging period for as long as is possible, in order to spend as much time unlearning ingrained relationship behaviours that I can. I've spoken to several friends about these issues, and (I don't know whether to be glad about this or not) it's not just me. No matter how queer we all are, how feminist, how into alternative relationship models - the Hallmark sentiments still resonate with many, many queer women.
Still over-looking obvious issues with a partner or prospective partner's character. Still valuing a partner or prospective partner's interests, goals and needs over our own. Still putting the 'relationship' in a central place in our lives, and putting more energy into it than our careers, hobbies or passions. Still changing or downplaying our uniqueness or things that are ordinarily of huge importance to us in order to not freak out a partner or prospective partner. Still feeling completely wrecked when relationships end.
How many women (regardless of their sexuality) put the same amount of passion and energy into their jobs as they do their relationships? If more of us did - we could well be running the world by now - rather than just shouldering the world (Atlas was a Titan in Greek mythology, who as a punishment held the world on his shoulders - I never really bought the idea that a male was really in that position - it's usually a woman holding up more than her fair share of the world). Queer women may have particular issues that cause us to over-devote to relationships. Mental health issues are rife within the queer community (an affect of stigma), and our partners may be particularly needy as a result. Some of us have genderqueer , transgender or intersex partners, who may need special support. Often isolation and stigma that we are experiencing may mean relationships and the intimacy experienced in them may be especially important to us.
And let's face it - regardless of who you are - how many healthy relationship models are you presented with? Popular culture is full of knight-on-a-white-horse riding in to save you from the mundane images. "I'm nothing without you"; "I'd die if you left me".
I'm really interested at the moment in the idea that you can focus on changing behaviour and the attitude shift will follow. So one of the things I'm finding helpful right now is paying attention to other areas of my life - my work, projects, friendships and spirituality. This means that I'm not allowing any room for romance to rear it's head, and if anyone appears who has enough amazing qualities to tempt me in that area, hopefully, I'll only have so much time to squeeze them in. Spending time living alone and pursuing my interests and goals has made me a happier, more fulfilled person with better self-esteem. I'm less needy because I know how to meet my own needs. I'm laughing more, I'm more playful and more relaxed than I ever was in those unsatisfying, unbalanced and controlling relationships. I'm so proud of myself for tackling depression head-on and making amazing in-roads - all because I could devote all my time, energy and motivation to my own wellness.
I guess what I'm saying is that a happy, busy person is less likely to put her whole self in to a relationship - particularly a unsatisfactory one. Someone who demonstrates tremendous self-care and self-valuing is less likely to lose her sense of self by being too much of a care-taker in an unequal relationship. And instead of rescuing our partners - how exciting would it be if we could rescue ourselves?