I was going through my various writing folders, when I stumbled across an old paragraph I wrote about what I was looking for in a relationship. So much has changed since I wrote it. When I did, I still thought I was straight. I assumed it would be a man I would spend my life with. I assumed I would be monogamous. I assumed I would have a normal life; I didn’t yet know the extent to which disability would play a role in my life, or the hardships I would face as a result of systemic ableism. I still thoughts that my wedding would look like two people standing together in a church because they believed it would be witnessed by a god.
I first wrote that post over ten years ago, then modified it somewhat before meeting Alyssa, after I had been dumped by my partner of two years.
That relationship had taught me about the need for common interests. I realized then how important to me it was to be able to have different conversations with my partner: about books, movies, social issues, politics. To be able to share stories and discuss different aspects of them and different things that stood out to us. To be able to share knowledge about interests we might not share but find interesting because of our partner’s interest and to have the same courtesy returned.
Seeing that post at this time, while I’m still processing the dissolution of my marriage and the myriads of revelations after the fact, I considered writing a new post. I ran this idea past my therapist and she strongly encouraged me to do so as a step towards determining what it is I want and how it differs from what I had/thought I had.
When I think about a potential future relationship, the first thing that comes to mind is that I want to be seen. I want to be noticed and feel like I exist. I’ve spent so much of the last few years feeling invisible, as if I was a shadow or a ghost. There were times when my virtual-self felt more real to me than my physical self. It’s been a pattern throughout my entire life: someone makes me believe they care about me, use me for everything they can get out of me, and then leave me – often with the additional insult of spreading untrue stories about me. It happened in high school, in university, at work, in romantic relationships, in friendships – time and time again, until the pattern just felt like the norm. In the in between times, I was invisible.
At school, I remember times when I would wander through the playground, seemingly invisible. As though I was a ghost of a child, who disappeared when everyone forgot she existed. I was so incredibly lonely that when someone did show me attention, they could ask almost anything of me.
I want to be with someone who won’t make me feel like a spectre in my own home. Someone who makes me feel noticed. Who thinks of me more often than just when I’m in the room, and makes me feel like it. Someone who sees more than just how I can be useful to them, but sees me. All of me. Someone who brags about me to others just because they’re proud of me. Someone who sees when I’m struggling and does what they can to help me. Someone who notices if I’m hurt, or upset, or sad, and tries to make me feel better. I want to believe that I matter to them; that my presence or absence impacts them.
When I wasn’t invisible, I was other. On the one hand, I was the type of person who seemed to get along with people everywhere I went. It was a sort of running joke that I would walk into a store and would walk out 20 minutes later with someone’s life story. On the other, however, while in some cases it seemed like few people outright hated me, it was always clear that I was on the outside looking in. There was some disconnect between me and my peers, instead I often found myself getting along better with those either younger than me, or older. At parties, I often found myself talking to parents for brief stretches of time, usually when I needed some time away from the room full of my own classmates.
I want to be with someone who doesn’t make me feel like that. I want to feel like I belong, like I’m accepted. I want to feel like I have a place to call home, which we work on together to make it a place we can both be comfortable and proud of.
I want someone who meets every ounce of myself that I give with some of themselves, so that in the end we are neither of us diminished. Who doesn’t just expect me to fix everything but tries to come up with solutions themselves, but most importantly, discusses possible ideas with me and doesn’t just shoot them down. Someone who helps me implement various solutions because they understand that a little extra effort now, can mean less effort in the long run. I’m an inventor, and I’m always thinking up ideas – for ways to improve our home, for ways to make things easier, for stories, for art ideas, for all sorts of things. Sometimes, I really just want to discuss those ideas, even if they never happen. I get excited by ideas and getting to talk them through with someone as though they could happen is not just fun for me, it helps me develop a better idea of what I want and need and also give me goals to work towards. For all that I spend a lot of time dealing with reality, I am at heart a dreamer. I want someone who is going to be the wind beneath my wings that helps me soar, rather than the weight that drags me down.
I imagine my partner coming home, and finding me in the kitchen working on dinner. I imagine them greeting me and wrapping their arms around me, hugging me from behind. I imagine the feeling of warmth, love, and safety that envelops me along with their arms. I imagine myself leaning back into them for a moment. I imagine someone who will freely give affection without prompting. Who will stroke my back, hair, legs, because they like touching me even in non-sexual ways and they know I enjoy it. Who will jokingly nibble at me, and gently tease me playfully.
I imagine them kissing my neck, and the thrill of knowing that they’re turned on by me. Knowing without a doubt that they find me attractive. I want someone who will care about my pleasure and who finds me arousing. Who can appreciate the intense and intimate physical bond that sex can be, but also doesn’t take themselves or sex too seriously and isn’t put out when things go wrong, or even if things get a little silly. Who will create moments of sexual tension between us, with a touch, a look, a smile, or respond to my attempts to create those moments.
I want to be with someone who won’t be afraid to be a little silly, or spontaneous. Someone who will go on an adventure with me, but be just as happy spending the day together curled up and marathoning a tv show or watching silly movies. They don’t take themselves too seriously, so they’re not afraid to do something that others might laugh about just because it’s fun and harmless. Someone who will cheer me up by making terrible puns, who will share funny videos with me and send me tumblr memes.
I want someone who appreciates music the same way I do, and if they play an instrument, even better. They will encourage me to sing because they love to hear the sound of my voice and because they love how happy it makes me. Someone who understands the power that music can have and is transported by it. Someone who appreciated the written word in the same way and enjoys discussing different books and articles with me. Whose greatest pleasure is to share books with me, both by recommending some to me and reading those that I recommend.
Sometimes I think that it would help if the person was an artist. They don’t have to paint, or be professional, but just… have an artistic mind, a way about thinking about things. A drive towards creating, towards impacting the world in some way. An ability to face reality while being able to fantasize as well. Someone who understands the importance of touchstones, of stories, of feeling, of presentation – not in the sense of looking better than you are, but in the sense that it matters how you frame something, how you present it, how you use your voice, your body, your intonation, to convey meaning beyond just what you are saying and doing, but revealing what you are thinking as well. It’s not necessarily about being able to read people, but at least learning to read those you care about.
I want someone who will trust me and help me trust them. Who will discuss their anxieties and concerns with me and let me share mine with them, without creating these set roles of one partner always being the naysayer and the other being the denied partner. Someone who wants to talk about their feelings in relation to issues such as having kids, or living arrangement, goals, dreams, feelings, with me because they know that these same issues involve me and my life. They take my wants and needs into account the same way I do there’s. Who, if they feel a certain need is not being met, will tell me rather than resenting me silently. Who will actually let me be a part of their life. Who will build a life with me, build a home with me, build a family with me, whatever any of those things may come to mean in our specific case.
I want to be with someone who won’t make me feel like I’m a burden. Who, if they see me blaming myself for the fact that they have to do certain things for me, or I’m not able to contribute as much during certain times, or the fact that being on disability means having to struggle, will help me understand that it is not my fault, and that I am not a burden. Who will understand that even when my disability is something that harms me, that hating my disability is hating me. They understand the difference between hating a situation and hating me. Between resenting a situation and resenting me, and they work on making sure that I never question that I never really wonder which is which in their case.
I want to be with someone who understands how helping to make our place more accessible will mean I can do more. Who understands that I might not ever get better and doesn’t blame me for it. I want to be with someone who helps me to feel better even if I can’t feel good. Who visits me in the hospital, and thinks of ways to make it more pleasant for me: playing games with me, watching movies, maybe arranging to be able to do some art or visits from a friend or my puppy. Someone who wants to be with me, even if it means being in a hospital room.
I want someone who will love me, truly love the real me and not some idea of me they have in their head, or what I can do for them. Who looks at me and sees someone they’re lucky to be with and not someone they settled for because they haven’t found someone better yet. Someone who will respect me and not use me and then discard me.
I want someone, who when they make a mistake that hurts me, works to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Who works to fix what it was that caused me hurt because they don’t want to hurt me.
Does such a person even exist? Will I ever be able to have that?