The theme of entitlement and attachment to outcome has come up at least 4-6 times over the last two weeks, so ok universe, let’s address that.
When I was a people-pleaser, it was more difficult for me to notice when people wanted me to do something I didn’t want to do, because I wasn’t able to set boundaries for myself. In close relationship, I simply did those things. And with people whom I wasn’t in relationship with and with whom I didn’t desire more intimacy, I simply ran.
Now that I am more fully in my autonomy and discernment, quite clear on what I want to do and don’t want to do, it’s becoming more and more obvious when someone is attached to something different. And it chafes me in a way I didn’t allow myself to feel before.
The other night I was hanging out with a new acquaintance and it was getting late. “I should get home, I’m getting tired,” I said. He replied, “Are you sure you want to drive all the way back to LA? Why don’t you spend the night?” “No thank you,” I said, “it’s kind of you to offer but I prefer my own bed.”
A few minutes later, he asked again. “No thanks, I don’t like to stay over without having made plans and prepared, it messes up my system.”
A few minutes later, he asked again. “Okay, something you will learn about me is that I don’t enjoy having to repeat myself. This is the third time I’m telling you no.”
I think back to more egregious errors, especially sexual in nature. How many times have I told a man that I was a yes to engaging in sexual activity but a no to penetration, only to have him respond with things like, “Just get on top of me for just a minute,” “But why?”, “Come on, it’ll feel good,” or perhaps the most telling, a humbled and resigned, “I’m starting to take you at your word now.” It’s truly astounding the amount of men who will choose to interpret the offer of a blowjob as a rejection of intercourse. It’s amazing to me how they can be in the middle of receiving one of their favorite things and yet choose to remain in the scarcity of what they’re not getting. They’re in the middle of intimacy and they’re rejecting themselves.
Some of this is especially tender for me because I know that throughout my 20s, I wasn’t always able to hear a soft no when it was happening. I was immersed in the world of pickup, and our mission was to turn nos into yeses. That can be fine if you can assimilate the feedback of the no and then retry your approach in a way that meets a genuine yes, but sometimes you might try that and fail, multiple times, and all the while you’re focusing on finding the yes, you’re failing to realize how much of a no is present.
I have certainly been guilty of this, and it’s only in truly discerning my own yes from my no that I realize how grating it is to experience from the other side.
Having been guilty of this in the past, and having a better understanding of it now, I’d like to unpack what’s lying underneath:
• Attachment: It’s great to have goals, intentions, and desires, but the moment we expect another person to participate in them in the way we want them to regardless of the feelings they’re communicating, we are prioritizing our desires over that person’s autonomy.
• Scarcity: If we don’t see where another person being a no is a sign that there is space for a better option to appear (i.e., a person who carries all the qualities we want but is also a yes), it’s because we’re limited in our imagining possibility.
• Anxiety: We’re so worried about filling a void within ourselves that we fail to see the reality of their no before us. We are so desperate to use another person for our self-soothing that we end up acting rather embarrassingly dense in our pursuit.
• Desensitization/Hypervigilance: One of the cruel realities of trauma imprints is that our inability to feel our own bodies/emotions means we also can’t feel the bodies/emotions of others. Hypervigilance fuels the need/attachment, while desensitization reduces the ability to read others in where they’re at, i.e., to hear a no when it’s presented (rather than hear it as an objection to overcome).
Failing to hear a no is also what kept me in a lot of toxic relationships with people who didn’t really want to be there. I knew how to be tempting, and oftentimes people stayed with me (or left and returned, again and again and again) for the perks or the clout or the sex or the ways I spoiled them, but underneath the surface, there was a no to greater commitment that I wasn’t allowing myself to hear.
Being now in a place where I am very much attuned to my yes and my no, and therefore far better at being attuned to the yeses and nos of others, I can now pose the following questions:
Why do you want anyone to do something they don’t want to do?
Why do you want sex with someone that you had to wear them down to accept?
Why aren’t you allowing yourself the possibility of connecting with someone who is a yes?
If I want to do something with you, you will know it the first time you ask.
If you are trying to get me to do something I don’t want to do, and I’m close enough to you that I’m still fearful of displeasing you and I give a soft no instead of a hard one (somewhere in between fawn response and flight response), know that my excuses aren’t obstacles to be overcome – they’re me letting you down in a way that won’t hurt your feelings. If you have to keep asking, clinging, clawing, or grasping, it’s a no, and I invite you to feel into the energy of what you’re doing. It’s not fun, it quashes your soul and contracts you inside, and you deserve better than that.
Let go of me. I already know where I’m a yes, and if you think you know me better than I do, then you’re refusing to see me, and if you can’t see me, we’re not meant to be around each other.