‘Would you let me dress you, before we go out?
Not cos you’re helpless, but cos those are the things, those are the things, that being in love’s about’
Prince, If I were your girlfriend.
I remember when my husband hacked my computer and found my messages to M. He told a mutual friend that M told me what to wear as evidence that this was a regressive relationship. In fact, I had regularly asked my husband what I should wear and he always responded that I should be comfortable. I don’t blame him for this response but it was so far from what I was asking we might have been speaking different languages.
The fact is that my questions to M, ‘hair up or down?’ ‘stockings or hold ups?’ ‘skirt and boots or jeans and boots?’ were actually me asking for control, for His insight and His pleasure. Knowing that I gave Him pleasure gave me pleasure. A virtuous circle that built and spilled into other parts of our life together. This isn’t a game we play often these days but it is one that is the foundation of our connection. It was also particularly important when so much of what I had relied on had changed beyond anything I could have imagined and I was having to negotiate a completely new world on my own.
That my ex couldn’t gather this was evidence of our incompatibility but also of our lack of communication is indicative of where we had got to in the relationship and I take full responsibility for my part in this. I had been brought up to please men and to acquiesce to their demands. I sought to get my own way by emotional manipulation and by ‘flying under the radar’; hence my ability to start a relationship with another man without the consent of my husband. I am still not certain I will even feel completely safe asking for what I want and I know I need extraordinary levels of solidity and calm acceptance from my partner. Not because I am bratty but because I am mostly scared and unsure of my own lovableness.
Luckily in my M I have found someone who can offer me those things and who pays attention not only to what I say but also what I am not saying. He is in touch with what I do in a way that doesn’t make me feel under the scrutiny of a microscopic focus nor like a butterfly pinned to a board so that only he can see the beauty of my wings
I suppose the thing to learn for all of us is to pay attention to what your partner asks. To check in with the spirit of the question and not just the letter of it. To respond and then check whether or not that is a helpful or an appropriate response for them. To try hard even after so many years of being together, to listen and not judge.
M helped me dress, not ‘cos I’m helpless, but ‘cos those are the things that being in love’s about.