I Only Need What You Can Give – Recalibrating Expectations


I Only Need What You Can Give - Recalibrating ExpectationsI’ve been trying to work out a new approach to my secondary relationships because some of what I’ve been doing hasn’t been working for me. I’ve been spending too much of my time riddled with self-doubt and angst–and sometimes bouts of ugly-cry tears–based on the communication whims of my partners, who are sometimes very engaged, and at other times, very distant. I want to be feeling joy and fun and sexiness from those relationships rather than stressing because I didn’t get a text the day after we last slept together.

I feel like I’ve got a couple options as far as response to the communication disparity. I can demand changes of my partners, or I can figure out how to be okay with what I’m getting. I believe that it is my issue rather than theirs; these are casual, FWB relationships, so I don’t think laying down a list of demands is the way to go. I think I will be served better by the second approach, and that’s what I’m working on.

Being that I’ve been at this open relationship thing for less than a year, it’s difficult to shake the monogamous mind-set of seeing relationships as having to be a certain way or they have to end. Non-monogamous relationships don’t have to follow that model because none of my partners have to be everything to me. Accepting them for who they are and what they have to give me will free me from much of the angst I’ve been experiencing when communication doesn’t look the way it does in my ideal scenario.

And my acceptance is not meant to be an acceptance of being treated poorly. I have a history of being a doormat, but this isn’t coming from a belief that I don’t deserve better. None of my partners are treating me poorly, they simply aren’t as chatty as I am, and don’t tend to initiate conversations as often as I do. When I’m in a healthy headspace, I can see that for what it is–they’re busy, they don’t feel the need to connect as often as I do–but when my overly anxious or depressed brain is calling the shots, the message I hear is that I’m unimportant, merely a convenient set of holes they use when they’re horny and ignore when they’re not.

By decreasing my dependence on the external stimulus of text messages for affirmation of my value in their eyes, and by telling that inner, critical voice to go fuck itself, I’m hoping to take away some of the power my insecurities and internal slut-shame can hold over me. I will also be able to enjoy all the many good things I get out of those relationships.

Part of my shift in mindset came from when I was messaging with a long-distance partner with whom I wanted to video chat/masturbate together, but it turns out it’s not really his thing. He was careful to make it clear that it wasn’t just me he didn’t want to video chat with, and I had a very clear moment when I realized that even if it was only me he didn’t want to do that with, it would still be okay. I only want him to do things with me that he can freely and joyously do.

Of course, I would love to be special in my partners’ eyes. Who wouldn’t? But we live in reality, not a romantic comedy or fairy tale, and truthfully, it would likely get exhausting if someone paid me too much attention, and I’d probably get a little creeped out if someone went on about how special I am. Somehow we’re wired to have these paradoxical desires about attention.

Thinking about love was the other part of what spurred me to thinking about a change in mindset. I’m not currently in love with any partners other than my husband, but I’ve worried that I might fall in love with one of them, and they might not love me back. I tend to develop feelings quickly and intensely, so this has felt like a real risk (worrying about things that haven’t happened and may never happen is my superpower). But I’ve come to realize that although it would be nice to have someone reciprocate those feelings, I don’t need that. My love wouldn’t have to be a selfish love that depended on being returned. I could simply love someone because I did, and I could enjoy loving them, and that could be enough.

All that said, I also need to figure out when I need to step back if something isn’t serving me well, when investing in a relationship that causes me more pain than joy isn’t in my best interest. I’ve come to realize how one-sided one of my relationships is and I think I need to put on the brakes. I’ve had warning signs since the beginning that he wasn’t as into it as I am, but I blithely ignored the negatives thanks to the sense-altering buzz of New Relationship Energy (NRE). I don’t feel like I need to give up the relationship entirely, just recalibrate my expectations of what I want out of it, as well as how much energy I’m willing to put into it.

It’s hard, though, because when things have been good, it’s been really good, and I let myself get swept up in the fantasy. I’ve got some awkward and painful days ahead of me as I get to the other side and grieve the relationship I thought we had/were building. Once I’m through the hurt, I will come to embrace the one we’ve got.

This is a pattern I’m doomed to repeat if I don’t get myself sorted. I’ve already been through it once, and fuck, did that ever suck. I was heartbroken and miserable, and also felt incredibly guilty that my husband had to watch me going through that over another guy. I’m hoping that this time won’t be as bad because I know what I’m in for. It sucks though, but I don’t have to stop liking him. I don’t even need to stop crushing on him or flirting with him or enjoying our sexytimes together. As with my other relationships, I simply need to do away with any expectations I had of it being anything other than what it is.

Grieve the fantasy, embrace the reality. My new mantra.


About Author

Kat is a sex-positive, geeky, Canadian, pansexual, deviant, slutty, feminist pervert who came to ethical non-monogamy 21-years into her relationship with her husband. After a quick toe-dip to test the waters (and hours of obsessive reading and podcast consumption), they dove in and she almost can't imagine they ever lived any other way. Labels never give a totally clear picture, but she considers herself non-monogamous and polyamorous, though she occasionally swings. She's also a podcaster and audiobook narrator. onthewetcoast.com @WetcoastKat on Twitter.


  1. So grateful to have come across this post! New to the swinging lifestyle and I think I overall commit myself and feel the same need of messaging back. Or I feel neglected if they take took long. It was great to read that someone else feels this too! Thank you!

  2. I believe it is important to realize the sheer physical nature of the FWB relationship and not expect too much more. But if you are looking for more Iam interested in you.

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