A friend asked on facebook what care looks like as a verb. I answered with lots of words and decided to write this essay about accountability to share with you.
what care looks like
Care looks like all of these.
- wanting to show up
- follow thru
- loose grip
- treating a valuable relationship as valuable
- doing a medium or large amount of making sure a hurt is resolved, not doing bare minimum or checking out
Care in relationship looks like both of us interested in the fact that hurt has happened, not just the hurt person. Both of us are willing to have a conversation to make sure we each understand what happened and maybe why. We make a plan, collaborating on a solution so harm won’t happen like this again. We commit to the plan, sometimes with an apology or ritual to find ease together. And then later, we check in to make sure it hasn’t happened again.
To me that’s responsibility in relationship. If we are going to be real and close, we both deserve that. If it’s a casual popcorn friendship, maybe not so much. But if someone is getting huge benefit from me and my love, I deserve to have some basics, like this style of accountability.
I try to differentiate between casual and valuable because I’ve given energy to relationships that I thought were valuable, but I found out the other person thought it was casual.
I don’t want casual, usually. Either it’s important, or I don’t want it. I differentiate because I don’t wanna do a fuckton of work when it’s just over, or I never mattered to that person anyway. What is casual, to you? Historically I am bad at casual.
can’t turn off love
Oh wait–I’m not bad at it. I just don’t know how not to care and give. Other people are good at closing their hearts. But love is my default–not sure how to turn that off.
Historically white men take a ton from me. I think it’s a valuable, important relationship, I give a lot, I get hurt somehow, and the man doesn’t care and won’t want to talk about it or come to a resolution. So then I feel confused for a while.
“They seemed like they cared. They said they cared. I must be confused! I guess it’s because I have autism. Probably I misunderstood,” I think to myself. With increased vigor, I try harder, give more, ask for less. But it keeps happening.
My friends listen to me talk about it and grow to hate the man I love. Ming listens to me cry and comforts me.
After a while, I comprehend the situation and withdraw my support and energy. The man responds by calling me crazy or a bitch for withdrawing, or harassing then stalking me. Or he pretends nothing ever happened, and lies about me to others.
The man wants to keep getting what he got, with no giving on his part. I’m a crazy bitch when I say no and take my life back.
The man I loved before told me that expectations are wrong to have in relationships. He said he tries to walk into every situation without expectations. And that was how he sometimes expected me to treat him.
Expectations are part of what relationship is made of. I explained to him how babies cry and need to be fed–there’s nothing wrong with a baby expecting that. Needs are valid.
I expect my friends to be respectful, clear, and do the things they tell me they will. A little inter-dependence is what friendship is for. I’m not a goldfish with a 20 second memory. It’s ok that I’m a human, and promises matter to me.
I have a calendar for a reason. Showing up when I say I will, to do what I said I would do, is how relationship works.
Consenting adults can do relationship however we want. As long as we’re all honest, I’m ok with whatever relationship style. The problem is when people pretend they are doing love when they aren’t, and I suffer.
“Stop saying you love everyone, when you don’t love anyone” is a sentence I think of often lately.
Pretending to love is deceptive, and it’s almost always been white cis men treating me this way. I’m showing up consistently, and they’re showing up when it’s convenient. I’m curious all the time, and they’re distant half the time for whatever avoidant reason. I want to help all I can, and they can’t even conceive of that mentality, as they are giving scraps to everyone, the bare minimum to keep everyone strung along.
They take as much as they can, while intentionally training others not to need them. They treat relationships like capitalism, trying to invest as little as possible for the most return. The truth is they don’t actually enjoy giving love–they only enjoy receiving.
If people want to engage in that–knock yourself out. But I need honesty. So when I figure out the deception that’s going on, I can’t do that.
Honesty is necessary for consent. White men’s relationship-deception feels like violence: the violence of the everyday. It’s normal cis hetero relating, damaging much of the time because the exchanges are not consensual.
The man I loved treated me that way. Our conflict wasn’t a misunderstanding. He didn’t need me to be more clear, explain it to him better, or be patient. He treated me that way because he treated every woman that way. It worked for him, and he liked it.