Feelings are a funny thing.
Sometimes we have them and aren’t really sure why, or can’t put it into words. It can take some introspection to thoughtfully realize a root cause and then some work to find the right words to express those feels in a way that doesn’t assign blame to another.
Let’s all say it together: “Feelings aren’t right or wrong, good or bad. Feelings just are. The part that really matters is how we each choose to respond to those feelings, since that’s the only part we can truly control.”
It’s true, though, as much as it may sound like a platitude. I think of it more like my mantra. When I have unexpected or confusing feelings, I remind myself that they are an automatic response to a set of stimuli rather than something I can control. In my case, often the response is initially rooted in my abandonment issues. Any time they have an opportunity to rear their heads, they generally take it, and quite gleefully, I’d suspect, if they could.
*You aren’t good enough,* they whisper. *You’ll never be good enough.* *He’s going to leave you, the only question is when, not if.*
They have a litany of my flaws, which they collect on a scroll and delight in reading to me at random moments. They try to push me to run as a first response to any sign that someone is displeased with me, or that conflict is imminent. They will take hiding as a second choice when I push back against running, which has meant Santa has once or twice found me curled up in a corner or tucked in a nook in the closet.
But how do I handle unknown things? Particularly when I’ve spent a day and a half both actively trying to ascertain the root of said feelings and also quietly avoiding thinking by loudly singing along with the Dave Matthews Band station on iHeartRadio while cutting deliciously supple bullhide at my work station.
I find emotion a hindrance when attempting to find the root of feelings. Being emotional has never given me a boost when it comes to attempting rational thought. The first thing I have to do is set them aside, as clinically as possible. Yes, I can still feel them if I allow myself to dwell, but that isn’t a helpful exercise. Rather, I need to be able to form them into a lump and examine them from the outside in order to work my way to their core.
Let’s take a simple but real scenario and break it down. It’s one that happened recently and required a lot of dissection for me to understand it. My partner was unable to make plans with his other partner because of a statewide shutdown, so she made arrangements to spend time with him at our shared residence. I was happy to see her when she arrived, lingered downstairs for a popsicle, then wandered to my workroom to avoid intruding on their time together. Except I realized I had left my phone charging in the room they were in, and me barging in to get it might very well ruin an intimate moment at that point. So I dug out my laptop, messaged my partner there (since he’d be unlikely to be looking at his phone during any fun stuff), and asked that when he had a moment, could he toss my phone out.
Whew! Awkwardness averted. About half an hour later, he popped out with my phone, gave me a kiss, and returned to the room. I had been totally fine the entire time.
Then he shut the door behind him. My stomach twisted into a knot and I felt sick. Why on earth was I upset? It wasn’t at all rational. I wasn’t jealous of their time together. I knew I needed to poke at it, but in the moment was exactly the worst time to attempt to do so. Knowing I was emotional, but unsure why, I held my tongue. I continued to work and listen to music, deciding there would be time.
After a time, the door opened and I was invited to come hang with them for a while, so I gave them space on the couch and pulled up a spot on the bed that wasn’t between them. We had a lovely rest of the afternoon, just chatting and enjoying one another’s company. I waited to share my feelings with my partner until after the visit, not wanting to create a dark cloud over their limited time together.
I explained that I’d had some feelings. I also stated that the feeling didn’t seem, on the surface, to be jealousy, but that I’d need some time to poke at it before I was really sure what the root was. I planned to reach out to her once I had worked through it, so I wasn’t coming at her from a place of emotion, but just keeping lines of communication open so there would be no falsehood between us, either as friends or as metamours.
Over the next two days I poked at that strange emotion I’d experienced. Was I wrong? Could it be jealousy? I examined it carefully before again discarding that conclusion. Jealous is a fear of loss, and that wasn’t an accurate assessment of my feeling in that moment. I spent some time journaling for myself in an attempt to understand. It was something about that door. That was the moment.
I explored that some more. Why would a door closing bother me so? Well, past experience has taught me about slamming doors. I thought back upon my relationship with my partner. Had there been a door slammed between us before? I couldn’t recall even one. In fact, pursing that thought process, I couldn’t recall any door other than one for a bathroom which had been closed between us for anything other than work or necessity. Even when we’ve had other partners, often the relationships intertwined in ways that would mean even when a door was closed, it could still be opened at any time. This was the first moment I could recall when I was not welcomed into a room with him, and in fact, actively shut out.
New things can be difficult. However, understanding myself and my response was important, rather than becoming emotional and creating pain for him or his other partner. I took the time to explore my feelings without needing to resolve them immediately. For this particular example, the only real resolution was for me to understand myself. I wasn’t seeking a change in his behavior, I just needed him to be aware that I had discovered something about myself. Once I’d figured it out, we discussed it again, and I told him how I felt. He gave me some affection, and the incident was over.
I addressed it with her afterwards, explaining that I’d had the feeling, and wanted her to know, but that it didn’t require any action on her part. Submissives can sometimes be fixers, though, and she offered some compromise solutions that I knew would actually make her uncomfortable. It was sweet, but I declined and reiterated that no action was necessary, but that I believe hiding things like these moments from partners, and even peripheral partners, such as my meta, is practicing dishonesty. Those things can eat away at us, and become larger and more out of control the more we push them aside.
Feelings aren’t good or bad. They just are. Spend some time with yourself when you’ve experienced a strong emotion and do the work to understand why you respond the way you do. It is important we have healthy responses to the way we handle possible conflict in our kink relationships.