The next level of showing up authentically in my romantic relationships is setting boundaries around kissing. For the first time in my life, I’ve been saying “no” to kisses when I don’t want them. Just because I’m attracted to someone doesn’t mean I want them to kiss me on the lips every time we greet each other. It doesn’t feel organic to me. It feels cold and mechanical.
The lips are flooded with nerve endings. They’re a sweet, soft, sensitive part of the body. Those quick peck-on-the-lips greetings feel hard and rushed to me. It doesn’t bring me pleasure. So then, how could it be that something that doesn’t bring me physical pleasure had been something I had been doing mechanically for years?
I asked myself, how did I get here? And then I looked back at history. Monogamous marriage was invented as a tool of the Patriarchy. Weddings served as ceremonies to transfer property (women) to men. Monogamy as a relationship structure only allows for one person to have romantic privileges, so any sign of PDA (public display of affection) signals property ownership. A man publicly greeting a woman with a kiss was how he marked his territory. Like slapping a “private property - no trespassing” sticker on her forehead.
Leave it to the hetero-capitalist patriarchy to castrate pleasure in the name of private property 🙄 Such old news, bleh!
It’s always a mix of pain and pleasure when I notice the various ways my animal body has internalized the hetero capitalist patriarchy. It’s like pulling out a thorn. I’m relieved to identify the problem (which gives me the opportunity to take action), but at the same time…it fuckin' stings. I did not consent to this. It leaves me feeling icky inside 🤮
For so many years I feared saying “no” would end my most treasured relationships, so I suppressed my feelings to play it safe. I had learned in my family system that saying “no” would lead to violence. My role was the service dog - hold all the family’s pain and be available at all times to soothe emotional tension. That’s why I smile when I don’t feel like it sometimes. My muscles have been trained to please. My safety depended on it.
Since I had to prove my love to my family by surrendering all boundaries, the story in my head was that I couldn’t say “no” to a romantic partner because they would feel rejected. And I didn’t want to be alone, so I would betray myself in order to maintain the relationship. All or nothing vibes. This narrative was reinforced by evidence from my biological family who tried to guilt trip me with “why are you abandoning us?” when I finally started setting boundaries as an adult. This pattern has played out in my romantic relationships too.
When I finally started setting boundaries with a romantic partner I was trauma bonded with, they blew up at me and told me they felt rejected. My boundaries broke that relationship. It was painful, but I don’t regret it. You’ll see why in a minute. Just a couple weeks ago it happened again, where I set a boundary with a very dear person in my life and they said they felt rejected and abandoned.
With good reason, I have associated setting boundaries with putting the relationship at risk. So when I need to set a boundary my nervous system floods with adrenaline, preparing to be attacked. So, yea, it can feel scary for me to set boundaries. But that’s what makes me courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the action you take in the face of fear. I’ve come to surrender to the fact that I will be misunderstood, that I can’t control how people respond to my needs. All I can do is communicate my needs.
Every time I overrode my feelings and needs in order to please others, I was betraying myself. A form of self-violation. Being willing to honor my needs no matter how people react is how I rebuild trust with myself. And I’m goddamn proud of myself for being so committed to loving myself that I choose to step into courage. As my body gets activated, I don’t abandon myself anymore. I lean into my inner world, taking deep breaths to regulate my nervous system. I have a whole toolbox to pull from to help me regulate my nervous system now. This is my resilience.
When I was living out of a trauma response (neglecting myself in order to keep people around), I was living in a place of scarcity. I was unwilling to let people go, to let people be upset with me. Now I live in abundance. I trust that by honoring myself first, the people who can’t honor me will free up space for those who love and respect me unconditionally. It doesn’t always happen overnight. But I can tell you - my life is so much richer today compared to just a few years ago. I’ve said goodbye to countless relationships. None of that was easy. But, today, I feel so nourished, so loved and so celebrated by the people in my life. Don’t let yourself get discouraged when things get rough. The path can feel lonely when you're creating space for something better. But, remember, you’re playing a long game. There will be moments that don’t feel great, but try to zoom out in those moments and remember what you’re playing for. Change happens with time, my loves. I know it’s possible and I believe in you.
You’re not alone! There is a whole community of folks transitioning into non-monogamy as they develop secure attachment. Join the Love & Liberation Network for clear next steps on how to develop secure attachment and community support to hold you along the way. We hurt in relationships and we heal in relationships 💜