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Mixed with remembered pleasure was intense pressure.
While rolling around in my sheets this morning, I found myself swirling in multiple sensations.
I was reliving the last time my lover was here. Only a couple of days ago. We had spent the steamy summer afternoon between the same sheets, enjoying each other’s bodies—limbs entwined, making love, and talking.
My body responds to this man like no other I have been with.
He’s warm and attentive, and the post-sex snuggles are as good as the act itself, seamless communication between voices and bodies with long breaths, throaty moans, and just the right amount of silence.
I deeply appreciate our connection. I deeply appreciate my freedom.
My chest suddenly felt heavy, the pressure nearly unbearable, then I burst into tears. The thought arose from some crevice of my psyche: commitment = cages and agendas.
Well, no wonder I told my lover the other day, as he was leaving, that I didn’t want commitment.
Who wants to be the object of someone’s agenda or locked in a cage?
I intimately know this struggle; I yearn for freedom and belonging.
For as long as I can remember, I have put commitment ahead of the actual relationship, the other person, and, most importantly, myself. I have never been in a relationship in which I did not lose me.
As a recovering codependent, I am wired to put others’ needs ahead of my own. As a recovering empath, I can often interpret those needs before the other person even knows what they are. In the past, this has led to me being both an addict and an enabler. That dynamic was present in my past long-term relationships.
When my last relationship ended several years ago, I made a declaration:
“I shall be a wild woman—eat and drink what I want, wear what I want, dance on tables, take lovers, be single. I’ll do whatever the fuck pleases me ’til the end of my days!”
I’m at odds with myself. It’s not that I don’t want commitment. It’s that I have commitment trauma.
When I said these words, “About the whole commitment thing…yeah, I don’t want it,” to my now-lover as he was sitting in his truck about to pull away from my house, I watched his body reverberate in shock with the word commitment. It’s not a mental thing for those of us with commitment trauma—it’s fucking visceral.
What I witnessed in his body at that moment was a trauma response. I empathize deeply.
Me too, baby. Me too.
It’s said men who don’t want commitment “only want one thing.” Maybe. Maybe not.
I’ve never pushed the commitment issue with my current lover. I like what we have. It lets me breathe and focus on myself, something that I have always tended to lose momentum with in the past. It’s hard for me not to hyper-focus on the other person. This goes back to my childhood when I needed to be extra vigilant about what was happening. I didn’t trust the adults around me. Later in life, I tended to choose partners who weren’t trustworthy.
My early relationships mimicked my childhood ones. They were full of infidelity and volatility.
We tend to wonder with partners if they are playing mind games around commitment—trying to get what they want without having to show up fully for themselves or for us. As someone who has commitment trauma, I will tell you—fervently, with my whole fucking soul—it ain’t that simple.
Neurologically, I am wired for stress. I tend to project fragility onto the men I engage with, and then I tiptoe around my own needs and walk on eggshells when it comes to their feelings. Past situations, going all the way back to my early caregivers, warranted this type of handling.
As I graduated, relationally, from outright violence in my partners, I was drawn, instead, to the passive-aggressive types. It seemed safer at first, as the violence was cold instead of hot and in my face. However, it was much like boiling a frog—turning up the heat incrementally until that little creature, her being me, was stagnant, immobile, and numb. In retrospect, I prefer the outright fights, but I am weary of those as well.
So, where does this leave me? In limbo. And I like it. Previously I had used commitment to curtail my anxiety. Only it didn’t work.
Floating on the edge of commitment allows me to see how deep my anxiety runs. It took up so much space in my psyche it is a wonder I ever got anything done. Recently I started calling the anxiety what it is: a PTSD response.
It was frustrating that, when things seemed to be going well, I would get slammed by waves of insecurity and certainty that something was wrong. I would immediately begin catastrophizing, usually over things that could not be changed. I would imagine my past partner (or current lover, I’ve been dabbling with the same one for more than a minute) was mad at me—like I had taken some grievous misstep that was going to sever our connection.
Hypervigilance—as well as avoidance—around intimacy is an indication of abandonment trauma.
I experienced abandonment as a child and, subsequently, many times throughout my adult life. It wasn’t like I was dropped off at an orphanage or anything. I was left with relatives who were more financially solvent than my parents were at the time. I was young—a toddler. I didn’t know what was happening. In the environment where I was left, I was cared for, but there was also distress. It was deeply confusing. I learned to perform. I learned to be a pretty little doll. That was how I got my needs met.
I look at these tendencies now, what I call performative femininity. It’s a massive social construct. Women are taught how to dress up and be nice—that this will get our needs met. I’m learning to separate performance from my innate qualities. I am a wildly sensual, intensely feminine woman who enjoys dressing up, a bit of voyeurism, likes to play, and does not want to be fucking caged.
It’s not necessarily that the men in my life put me in a cage—it’s that I crawled in myself and agreed to stay.
There is no way that a man who has not claimed himself will ever be able to claim me. And I am not sure that I even want that. I want to belong—in someone’s arms, yes, but more than that—to myself.
I am discovering what I need commitment to look and feel like. Belonging—in my body, tending my business, my friendships, and my life—is a soothing balm to my commitment trauma.
I am healing.