March 2017
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negotiating expectations is respectful / ending relationships is an important skill of love
In relationships, I consider the only appropriate unnegotiated expectation to be this: that the other person will not actively, deliberately hurt you. Everything else -- yes, EVERYTHING -- needs to be negotiated. We can't just expect that other people will be kind to us -- because we may define kindness by different actions than what another person would. For instance, my default expectation was once that if someone loved me and we were having an argument, they would not leave the room. It seemed like the only possible way to handle that situation lovingly was to stay and help both people feel better as fast as possible. However, that was because I was expecting everyone to think and process the way I do. Once I learned that some people honestly cannot think constructively unless they have a break to just be alone, I realized that it could be just as loving to take a break from the argument (even though that felt initially bad to me, it was better overall). Another example is touch during angry discussion -- I loathe it, because I associate it with physical attacks, so I perceived it as a bad thing to do to other people, but for Kylei it is a soothing reassurance. In my attempt to be loving and respectful I was avoiding doing the very thing that would have helped Kylei most. This is why just expecting people to "be loving" DOES NOT WORK. We do not all have the same list under "loving behavior." Expecting someone to know how to react to your emotions or expecting them to provide the amount of time you want or show love in the way that you want -- those are completely inappropriate unless they have been negotiated and agreed on.

[we cannot pre-negotiate all our experiences, but...]We can't pre-negotiate all our expectations (because most of them are subconscious!), but we can recognize when we have an expectation that has not been agreed on and then negotiate it without resentment for past lack-of-meeting that expectation. That means saying to your person, "this is a thing I want in relationships. Are you comfortable with me relying on you to do this thing, and expecting it?" if they say yes, fantastic! then you discuss what that looks like and how you can both make sure it happens, and what to do if it doesn't. If they say "no," you need to examine within yourself and decide if that is something you can be okay without in that relationship. If it is, adjust your feelings, and perhaps look for that need to be met elsewhere. If it is not, you need to end the relationship*. Plain and fucking simple. It is NOT appropriate to stay in the relationship and hope that they will change their mind or start doing that thing you want or become okay with aspects of you that they currently judge -- that is disrespectful and pressuring at best, and it blocks off both people from potential healthy positive relationships. (relationships that have blocked off the option to break up because they are abusive are not what I'm discussing here -- ending them is a totally different process)

There seems to be this intense fear of ending relationships; not even a fear of how the other person will take it, but a fear of the ending itself. I can understand that there are real reasons for that fear, but it's understood and accepted in all the social groups I've seen that ending relationships is to be avoided at all costs -- literally, ALL costs. I don't think this fear is even questioned, and I think it really needs to be. When you put off ending the relationship, all those problems fester into a giant gangrenous sore so when you finally do end it, there is hatred and bitterness and harm everywhere. Ending a relationship does not mean that there is no longer love between you: it means that there is no longer more benefit than cost. If a relationship is not bringing good things, it has no reason to exist, and ending it opens up space for good things to come into BOTH people's lives. It is not a selfish act to end an unproductive relationship; it is being kind to oneself, being respectful of the other person's inability to meet your needs or vice versa, and being kind to other relationships which will not be postponed or diminished by a dying relationship, or experience difficulty due to toxicity created by the dying relationship. (every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end)

Think of an unmet-needs/desires relationship as an exhausted plot of land which does not produce fruit. Sometimes (often, in my life) ending a relationship lets the connection lie fallow, which rejuvenates it and allows for a wonderful, productive relationship in the future. My only regrets about the endings I made is that I did not make them sooner. So going forward, I am trying to develop a habit of regularly checking on them; looking at how much it's costing and how much it's benefiting me. If there's a deficit, then I need to discuss expectations and change either the way things are happening (if the other person wants that too) or change the nature of the relationship.

*"Ending a relationship" often has connotations of completely cutting someone out of your life. When I say end, I don't mean end the connection, I mean end the relationship: that particular method of relating. For example, ending one's romantic relationship with a person doesn't necessarily mean you have also ended your friendship, or your co-parenting, or your sex connection, etc.


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Comments
Really wise---so much here to think through carefully. Thank you!
"Ending a relationship does not mean that there is no longer love between you: it means that there is no longer more benefit than cost. "

Yes. Exactly.
anrui_ichido Luna - Read A Book
Thank you, I agree entirely with what you've said. It's wise advice that I think should be more out there in the vast vast world of 'dating columns'.

I think a lot of people rely on social expectations to speak for them. For example, most people would default to monogamy and expect sleeping or being physical with others a big no. It is unspoken. I really think it shouldn't be, because even in monogamy, cheating can vary to a huge degree from person to person. Key aspects of things really should be discussed at some point and often aren't.
I love this entry--it's really strong and clear and well thought out. I think a lot of pain could be avoided if more people realized that expectations needed to be articulated and negotiated, and I'm still doing a lot of work on bringing them from conscious to subconscious.

The one place I feel like I diverge is that I've often ended up re-defining the relationships rather than ending them.
belenen garrulous
By "ending" I don't mean "cutting them out of your life." Changing from, for instance, partners to FWB is an end of the previous relationship and the beginning of a new one :)
I agree with most of what you've said and really enjoyed it! I guess I'm struggling with what "end" means, especially in the world of polyamory. I love the shades of relationship available to me and while I can see a need to...downgrade? I rarely see a need to end entirely.
belenen garrulous
Well when I say end, I don't mean end the connection, I mean end the relationship. For example, ending one's romantic relationship with a person doesn't mean you have also ended your friendship, or your co-parenting, or your sex connection, etc.

I think I'll add something to this post specifying this.
As you often do, you've put something I've always kind of vaguely felt to be a truth into well-thought-out words.

It's a lot to think about, as another commenter said. I think for me personally, the issue is not in being too squeamish to end a relationship when harms outweigh benefits, but identifying that point.

It's hard to quantify the level of good versus bad feelings a relationship is giving you, as well as whether that is expected to continue. Are we having a rough spot that we will get through and be stronger or are we ultimately moving apart and should get on with it already? Is it more harmful to deal with the needs not being met in this relationship, or to deal with the isolation and lack of support/comraderie that will arise from ending it? I've spent a lot of time in relationships I've felt very committed to agonizing over these questions. I guess nothing is black and white or fixed in time and there is some basic emotion-processing part of me that needs to figure that out. As you pointed out, ending a relationship does not have to mean giving up on a person you feel a strong connection with.

I love the way your language almost always focuses more on positive factors than negative factors. I think it's a key factor in good decision making... "Am I getting what I need/how can i move towards what I need?" allows you to focus your energy on seeking out what will nurture and support you. Seeking out the positive is more specific and more likely to have positive results than seeking to avoid the negative. This attitude seems to come very naturally to you, although I don't know if that is actually the case or not.

I'm rambling. Anyway, thanks for the thought-provoking and worthwhile read.
Yes! Yes! Yes! I've "ended" the majority of my romantic relationships without there being any glaring/obvious reasons, such as he cheated, we were abusive to one another, i found someone else, he couldn't stop lying, etc. I end things when I see it no longer serves me, when I notice a shift, a natural parting of ways. I call it letting go in love. The general response I get is "Oh, that's practically worse than being cheated on. He just wasn't good enough for you. Ouch."

*cue head spin*

I'm sorry if I actually respect myself and the other before I let it get to that point of deceitfulness.

However, it really seems to be the way many relationships operate. The mentality is to wear the relationship down to the ground until it's utterly annihilated.

Thank you for you post. :)
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.