Relationships Roles: Setting the Balls Rolling

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Relationships Roles: Setting the Balls RollingI believe that people come to non-monogamy, or are non-monogamous, for a variety of reasons. Some don’t believe in limiting their romantic love to one person; others perhaps revel in its progressiveness, finding yet another way to stand as an example of change; there are also people who simply are not good at monogamy, who find themselves cheating (and good for them for facing that honestly, and addressing it). Others, like me, may also identify a need to spread their desires around a little; after all, available, middle-aged, intelligent, Daddy dominant, bedtime-story-reading, sadistic men who want to commit themselves to overly-busy, twenty-three year old students are not all that easy to come by. It makes sense to divide and conquer. If you have been reading my column for a while, you will know that this is not the only reason I am non-monogamous; but it is a contributing factor. For example, I feel less pressure to find my ideal partner now that I already have good conversation, an excess of laughter, and someone with whom I can share my darkest fantasies. It seems a good way to go.

However, having different partners who fulfil different roles, is not always as simple as I might like it to be. In amongst the tangible things I can put on paper – such as someone “dominant” or someone “twenty to thirty years older than me” – there are other, little things. Those details that seem intangible, and are a little hard to articulate; thought I will do my best for the sake of this article. For example, initiation has always been a rather large and perhaps, at times, inflammatory topic for me. I worked out very early in life that if I didn’t ask for the things I wanted, I might not get them. If I didn’t pursue and request, people tended not to guess what I was after. However, being an initiator doesn’t stop me from wishing someone else would initiate from time to time, and in my less wonderful moments this can spawn some resentment on my part. Or even self-doubt. “Why does he never call me? Why do I always have to call him? Maybe he wishes I didn’t…” and so on and so forth. It can get pretty lonely, pretty fast. Especially when there’s more than one person pointedly NOT contacting you first.

Which brings me back to this idea of having different partners who fulfil different roles. Of course, sometimes, I just like someone for who he is. In which case I cannot fault him for not fulfilling a role; if that was never on the table, it was never on the table. But that’s actually quite beside the point.

The point I am trying to make is that even if my partners do fit nicely into their various roles – here’s D, he’s my Daddy and the filthiest person I know; and here’s Michael, he leaves the most beautiful bruises and misery stick marks on my body; and here’s Molly, who makes me laugh more than anyone else in the world… etc, etc, – I am still just me. I mean, hopefully I’m not being outrageously opposite to myself within any of my relationships, although I do think we all naturally assume particular and different aspects of ourselves depending on who we are with – and that’s perfectly okay. Which is actually my point! It’s all very well for me to sit here wishing I had a partner who initiated a little more often, but there’s a good chance that the reason people don’t initiate with me is that I don’t often give them the chance to. After all – I’m a learned initiator: I may well be effectively taking from my partners the need to assume a part of themselves that might take initiative. It’s more than likely that I always feel like the initiator because I always initiate, making it unnecessary and then unlikely for anyone else to set the ball rolling.

I can’t be annoyed with people for acting in reaction to me, and there’s no doubt that sitting around waiting for someone else to make the first move and then feeling upset and angry when they don’t is just passive-aggressive and only serves to undermine my own happiness.

Well I’m glad we’ve got that cleared up.

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Harper Eliot is a writer and podcaster whose work mainly centers around eroticism and social observation. You can find an archive of work, and links to all her other projects, on her website Harper Eliot. Harper lives in London, but rarely sees her own house, spending most of her time on public transport, listening to podcasts and tweeting too much. Her vices include cigarettes, lubricant, Earl Grey tea, opera, nail polish, and pinwheels.

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