For a long time, people have joked that I’m a succubus. After all, when I have sex, when I get off, the world stops for me. I connect to the universe in a way that fills me with power. Power that rolls up my arms and into my soul. It’s the power that crackles between two people before their lips touch. It’s the desperate need and want of the first thrust. It’s the power that leaves me feeling energized and my partners feeling exhausted. That’s why we say that I’m a succubus. I use that power to charge my charisma, and that’s what draws in the poor souls who give me back that energy.
Three months ago I lost that power.
“I feel uncomfortable when you touch me.” The words hit me like a punch to the gut. I am a touch based person. I love touching and being touched by (and only by) the people I care about. I would be severely uncomfortable if someone touched me without my consent, and so I worry terribly about making sure I’m not fucking up consent practices. Hearing that made me realize that he had felt unsafe. So unsafe that he didn’t tell me for a while. That gutted me. It gutted me to think that for days, weeks, months he had been feeling uncomfortable when I touched him, and I was feeling safe in his arms.
For weeks after our breakup, I spent much of my free time thinking about him. Thinking about all of our previous encounters. Every touch, every hug, every kiss, ever time we had sex. All of it. I spent that time thinking how horrible a person I must be. How awful it was that a person I cared about did not feel safe enough in my company to revoke their consent. Only a few days before our breakup we had sex, and the idea that he was uncomfortable while he fucked me made me physically ill. What sort of monster was I to have created such an unsafe space? I could only imagine the sorts of conversations he had as he processed through his feelings.
In all of my time alive, no one has ever told me something that has broken me the way “I feel uncomfortable when you touch me” has. It destroyed the source of my power, my sense of self. It demolished my self esteem and my sensuality. It made me hesitate when I flirted. I used to love with reckless abandon. Wildly pouring my love and affection into other people. Freely giving them my love, without requesting any of their own. There was always a chance that I could get hurt, but the experience of loving another person is so damn thrilling and beautiful that it never mattered. People have made me feel like loving that way is a bad thing. As though love is something to be hoarded instead of given away. I never stop giving my love, even to the people who are no longer a part of my life. I have always been a better person for giving my love. Now, I love hesitantly and I’m worse off for it.
That hesitance is off-putting to new partners. It makes me seem unsure, uncomfortable, or unwilling. I’m no longer the first person to reach out, the first person to make a move, the first person to go for a kiss. I am scared that any move I make is going to create a space where someone is unable to tell me they are uncomfortable.
I reached out to my ex to try to mend the space. I wanted us to stay friends because I genuinely liked the person he was. Because part of giving my love freely is the fact that it never really goes away. We kept the friendship up for some time, but he was fading away on me. I opened up communication with him to try and figure out what was going on. He apologized for his fading and we agreed to work on the friendship. Even still, I could feel him fading. It made me anxious. I felt like I was doing something wrong. Eventually I called him out on that fact and told him that I was going to keep my distance. We agreed to keep things civil, but still, being around him made me anxious. Every single step of this breakup I felt like I had done something wrong. I had made him uncomfortable, I had created a space where he didn’t feel safe, I had the wrong kind of personality to be friends with him. I was putting him in a position where he didn’t even want to be in the same room with me. I was wrong. I was in the wrong.
It took me a while to come around to the fact that maybe it wasn’t me. I had put all my cards on the table. I was nothing but honest and upfront about everything. I had given him space and tried so hard to maintain a friendship. He was the one who lied to me. He was the one who failed to tell me the truth in order to keep himself from feeling guilty for hurting me. Funny thing is that it would’ve hurt me, would’ve harmed me much less had he just been honest with me. Had he just told me that he didn’t think we were compatible as friends, I wouldn’t have spent WEEKS wondering what I’d done to upset him. Wouldn’t have spent my time trying to parse through all of our interactions to understand why he was being so hurtful in the way he behaved around me.
I found out later that he was treating me poorly in the hopes that I would hate him. That it would be easier for him to absolve himself of the responsibility to end our friendship if I hated him. That it would be easier for me to move on if I hated him. Rather than tell me he didn’t want to be around me, he made me feel horrible about myself. Made me sit, anxiously trying to understand why being around him made me feel like I was carrying a stone in my stomach.
It was around that point that I realized that I wasn’t the one who was in the wrong.
At the end of the day, you can make a safe space. You can be a place of openness and safety and comfort. You can open the lines of communication. You can be upfront, honest, put your cards out on the table, and still, someone might not tell you what they’re feeling. You’re responsible for making that space. You’re responsible for communicating your wants, needs, and expectations. You are not responsible for making someone tell you what is on their mind.
Sometimes, your responsibility just means accepting that someone else is shirking their own.