intimacy manifesto

i used to come with a bunch of warnings on the tin. i'm co-dependent. i'm anxious avoidant. i'm traumatized. i found power in the names for these patterns. i've found tremendous power in supporting people in naming their patterns with them. but as i get closer to people and find myself feeling less afraid, it feels like there's some documentation to do. it is me, after all.

things i like to have clearly defined

  1. Safety vs Comfort
  2. Love vs Romance
  3. Responsibility vs Interdependence
  4. Loyalty vs Autonomy
  5. Respect vs Dignity
  6. Boundaries vs Rules
  7. Virtues vs Values
  8. Stress vs Stressor
  9. Humanity vs Intellect
  10. Family vs Kin
  11. Accountable vs Guilty
  12. Solidarity vs Trauma Bonding
  13. Support vs Idolization
  14. Guess Culture vs Ask Culture
  15. Feelings vs Story of Feels
  16. Felt-sense vs Self-talk

(^^ uh-oh sounds like a series of posts in list form ^^)


These are all things that I've heard from the people that I love. This is something that comes up consistently enough across enough relationships that it's not about anyone in particular. This is something all the people I've gotten closest to in the last decade eventually touch on with me, and I think it's partially because we have a lot of trauma in our culture around care relationships. So, if this is something you've felt with someone or someone has said to you, I hope my thoughts can support a dialogue about it. Turn towards the hurt. It's information. Please make meaning for the information together as a practice of honoring each other in your full humanity and complexity.

You do so much for people, I don't want to be a burden. How do I avoid making your life harder?

I seem busier than I actually am 80% of the time. This is partially because of my ADHD. It may seem like I have a thousand projects that must be of relative priority and on a reasonable timeline because of the number of things that seem relevant on any given day. Trust me, I spend a good bit of my time laying around reading or meditating because without this I collapse into shaking, anxious weeping Zen who can't sleep. One of the gifts of a body that feels intensely is that it won't let me neglect the basics of rest, boundaries and restful activity. What you may be seeing as active and depleting activity, may actually be my way of resting. Processing emotions with friends is restful for me the majority of the time. Giving advice is restful and nourishing. Dancing, spinning fire, helping with tech problems, research, and spending time embodied with people I like all feel meditative and fulfilling.
Please trust me to establish and communicate my boundaries as you approach them. Support me in being accountable to myself by reminding me to check in with myself about my capacity, but don't push when I say I've checked in and decided I do have the capacity. I feel this profoundly as a denial of my capacity. As someone with capacity that is actually severely diminished by my health, I cherish being present and capable for my loved ones when I can. I feel distress when trauma keeps me and my loved once at arms length. I want us both to learn how to help each other, and I can commit that if a process of mutual aid has failed us, we can adjust the process without having to pull away from helping each other completely.
So, you're absolutely not a burden, my love. We're in this existence together, and we move through inhale, exhale, helper, helped. It's the rhythm of living. My hope is you can feel safe through the cycles. I'm building and healing towards that myself, and thank you for sharing this hurt with me. Keep asking until it feels answered. That's what I want relationship with me to feel like...a space where the questions you have can be asked and we can figure the answers out together. Thank you for being puzzled with me. <3

I feel like I contribute nothing in our relationship. You're better off without me.

caring for yourself is a contribution to our relationship. it's a contribution to the world. your needs for care being met are not a debt you owe to me or the world or anyone. please don't try to give me things I didn't ask for, particularly if you don't feel like you have them to give. your pain is not how you earn my love. you have my love. we can move in and out of the motions of presence and absence in each other's lives if we need it, but I'd like to think you'll trust me to make choices about what I need and want myself. If you mean you feel like you'd be better off without me, you don't have to justify it by blaming yourself. Blame and innocence don't really serve me as much as making sure if harm is happening that we stop it from continuing. I don't feel harmed. And I want you if you want me. And it's okay to not want me right now. I won't punish you for needing space for any amount of time. Let's talk about ways you can and want to express care for me, so it doesn't feel so imbalanced to you. What things are you valuing highly that I do for you that feel heavy to accept? How can we shift that?

You should write a book.

Please just follow me around and write down the things I say and write the book for me. I don't think of myself as a writer, and your saying I should write a book makes me feel like you have a better idea what it should be about than I do. (And thank you, you appreciating and valuing my thoughts and feelings heals a part of me that was very afraid of rejection for so very very long and still is. thank you for giving me this memory as a resource when I'm feeling insecure)

I feel like you don't love me anymore.

My heart shrinks knowing your body is reading how we're together in this way. Thank you for sharing this truth with me. I wanna learn how to love you in ways you can feel better. Do you have any clarity about things you'd like to try shifting in our relationship that can strengthen our connection?

I feel like you're moving way too fast. I don't want you to be disappointed.

What expectations do you feel like I have? Aside from a general expectation we'll have continued contact or that we'll communicate if contact needs to cease for a longer than incidental amount of time, I'm open to renegotiating any of the things we've already committed to each other. Can we get specific about what specific things are making you feel dragged along in my enthusiasm? Do we align in the significance of those rituals? (example: You made me a key to your house! Do you think that means I want you to move in? Cuz it just means I trust you with a key to my house and expect you will text me before you use it. I'm most likely to ask you to come let me in when I inevitably lock myself out.) When I'm imbuing a gift with meaning with you, you'll know by the soliloquy that accompanies it's delivery to you, and I'm much prefer that we co-create the meaning of symbolic tokens. I don't use the pre-made romantic significance of most things, and I will try to be mindful of the way things may be loaded.