Learning that a 50/50 relationship default doesn’t work for me.
“Sometimes life is a real kick in the pants.” That’s how I felt when I came to terms with my relationship wants and needs.
In the past few years, I’ve learned that knowing what one’s relationship wants and needs are is the single most important factor in being the architect of one’s own relationship happiness, and it’s something I set to work on figuring out well before the ink on my divorce was dry.
A few months after moving on from my husband, post-split/pre-divorce, I met a wise old sage who encouraged me to do the work of distinguishing what I wanted in a relationship from what I needed; something which hadn’t really occurred to me before. From there, I was advised to recognize that we live on an abundant planet full of billions of people, many of whom are willing and able meet those needs. I had to be transparent and honest with myself about what worked for me and what didn’t, and be able to move on when what I needed wasn’t there.
I wasn’t up for getting into another shitty, doomed, transactional relationship. That didn’t work out too well for me the first time. So, I dated…a lot…and worked on sorting out what would work for me and what wouldn’t. And having the confidence to walk away when it didn’t work.
Fucking genius, that old sage was.
What I learned was this:
- Wants are “nice-to-haves”. For example, I’m 6'1. It would be nice to be with a man whom I can look up to while we slow dance. It would be nice to be with a man who dances at all. (Yes, I think Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing is sexy AF, and no, it’s not open for discussion.)
- Needs are “deal-breakers”. For example, I need a man with a high sex drive and to whom I am physically attracted. Also, I need a man who is capable of stimulating me intellectually. The brain is our biggest sex organ, you know. Winky-wink. (Also, not open for discussion.)
That being said…here’s the non-jokey, serious part:
- I’m working on seeing the world the way it is and not the way I wish I were or the way I’ve been taught it is.
- I’m learning to choose “successful” over “right” (righteous?).
- I’m realizing that my ego isn’t worth failing at a pair bond that brings me joy and fosters growth and helps me get the things I want out of life.
- I have needs that I was never willing to explore or accept, that are essential to a lasting, fulfilling relationship, that I was only able to recognize when I came to terms with the above-mentioned lessons.
Through exploring these parts of myself, I’ve learned this hard truth…
A 50/50 relationship doesn’t work for me.
It doesn’t work for me because:
- ) I am not sexually attracted to men who aren’t leaders. I need a leader.
Taking it a step further…
2.) I don’t just need any old leader. I need my partner to be a stronger leader than I am, or we might as well be roommates, not lovers. My attraction, even to a very physically attractive man, will fizzle in short order otherwise.
This realization was a kick in the pants for me because this truth about myself appeared to run contrary to everything I was taught in my undergrad Women’s Studies Concentration…everything I was “supposed” to want as far as being “equals” and how subscribing to traditional masculine/feminine gender roles would cause inherent dysfunction. I considered long and hard that my attraction to “leaderly” men was a product of the internalized misogyny of the patriarchy.
How could this be what works for me? It’s not ‘supposed’ to work? I’m ‘supposed’ to be oppressed by this.
I’m going to disappoint the shit out of you here because I’m going to save my detailed explanation of my resolution of this conundrum for another article, but what it boils down to for me in this moment (and my views are ever-evolving) is that I am not oppressed in this respect because I know I have choices. No one is forcing me into any prescribed role. It is feminist AF to choose what works for me and my body, and I’m not going to be shamed into feeling bad about it.
I could walk from my current relationship tomorrow and find plenty of men who are willing and happy to give me 50/50.
I don’t want it.
I am Yin. I need Yang. That’s just how I work. For whatever reason, be it evolutionary biology or the patriarchy or one of the other 84,374 factors that contribute to human behavior.
I’m not judging what is right or wrong for anyone else. I am only talking about me. And it was not easy to come to terms with.
Anything less than a strong leader, for me, will be nothing but a time filler…a sex toy. He will be a warm body to curl around me on a cold night while I continue to look for the man whom I can trust to hold both my attention and the relationship reins.
I want a relationship.
I want a mentor.
I want a teacher.
I want a lover.
I want a partner, not an adversary.
I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Well if he is the ‘leader’, how is that a ‘partnership’? Partners have to be equal!”
I respectfully disagree.
49/51 is still a partnership. It’s one without power struggles. It’s one without adversaries. It’s one without push and pull and fighting because, when there is a dispute, the 1% makes the call. And we both agree to that. It doesn’t mean that my input isn’t important or that he always gets his way. What is means is that we have predefined roles. They are different and they are both important. He has the responsibility to decide. I have the responsibility to submit. By choice. Always by choice. I trust him to have the wisdom to make decisions and he trusts me to trust him in doing so.
Is it terriby hard to understand why I want a man who, after I spend a long day making decisions for everyone else in my life, is willing to take the reins and give me a break from my decision fatigue? I don’t want to spend energy choosing what to wear to dinner. I don’t want to decide where or what to do on a date. His willingness to carry those loads (and more) for me make him incredibly sexually attractive and that attraction is essential for a satisfying partnership. (Yes, those are small examples, but this line of reasoning has been successful in getting people to relate to why this works for us.)
I want a man who is comfortable with the responsibility of the 1% and is committed making decisions in a moral way. That last part is crucial and the relationship will crumble if he proves himself to be unworthy of my trust.
So what I have learned is that, in my romantic partners, I need strong, moral leadership. I think that a lot of people (women and men) would benefit from examining this part of themselves. I think that our egos, which exist to protect us from the world, often get in the way of accessing what will actually work for us.
It wasn’t the easiest pill to swallow, because the world has taught me that committing to an “unequal” partnership will cost me my dignity and my agency. The truth is that I feel more authentic than ever and I know I can walk away at any time. For once in my life, I don’t want to.
50/50, for me, is nothing but a power struggle…one that I am not interested in wasting my time or creative energy on. Almost everyone I encounter in the world will want to power struggle with me. I won’t accept it from my lover and I don’t want a lover who will accept it from me. Since I’m not sexually attracted to a man who submits to my leadership, I am happy to accept that I need a leader. Bottom line:
49/51 works best for me. And realizing that was a (liberating) kick in the pants.