Indigo Gives Up Mediocrity

20 out of 10
Pairs really will with some delicious Earl Grey tea. It’s more refined, it’s energizing, and it’s definitely a treat.
During my last therapy appointment, I spent an extraordinary amount of time lamenting about my exes and the amount of labor I had put into our relationships. I talked about how much I gave and how much they took. I went over all the ways I exhausted myself for my partners. Confession Corner: This had a lot to do with my most recent ex.
This ex and I were together monogamously for about a year before moving in together. We found a house and made our space and everything was good for a few months. During this time, I tried very hard to establish a routine of airing problems we had. I wanted to get coffee every other week or so and talk about boundaries, cleaning, or problems. It was going to be a safe space. This way, I wouldn’t just be making lists of what I needed help with or needed changing, and he would feel safe to bring up his issues too. Well, this idea never got off the ground, and it took me a long time to figure out why. It was such a good idea, why wasn’t he excited about it?
Well, after living together for 9 months as his emotional support, financial support and all-around mother figure, I got tired of it. He made the bed once in the entire time we lived together. And the sheet was on inside out. He didn’t really plan meals. The meals he did plan went as far as meat with flavor and instant mashed potatoes. I did all the shared laundry like towels and sheets (though I made him wash his own clothes). I pushed him to find a better job, make goals, and generally grow as a person. Perhaps that was where I went wrong. He did not want to grow, and I should have accepted this and moved on. But I loved him, so fuck me, right?
Well, after 9 months of that travesty, I finally got fed up with it. Even though he offered emotional stability, and a shoulder to cry on, I still felt like I was a grown adult with a dependent. So I kicked his ass out of my house and we tried to make it work while he lived at his parents (because in that time, he had not saved money despite my paying both of our rents for several months BUT I DIGRESS). After his losing another job (number 6 in as many months), I got fed up, and broke it off completely. It was heart-breaking for me. I was hurt, and I was disappointed.
After two months of pain and hurt, we got back together. This probably would not have happened except that we had to be in touch because he owed me over $2000 and we were communicating about that regularly. But here we were again. Trying to make it work. We had been monogamous for so long, and I felt like I was just trapped in this stupidity. I had no sexual freedom to explore and all the talks we had about threesomes or others were fruitless. He was just never ready, and I got the feeling that he never would be. So I wanted to try polyamory. In a polyam dynamic, maybe I could feel less attached to him, and give myself some fucking freedom. He agreed to try it with me. But he also continued his trend of not wanting to communicate with me and we never established boundaries or determined what our brand of polyamory was. So when he suddenly had a new “partner” (not a date, but a partner), I got uncomfortable and scared. I tried really hard to communicate that I felt this way. I tried to explain that I was worried he couldn’t take care of himself, or me, and it felt awful that he pulled in someone else under those circumstances.
So he left me.
Yeah, let me write that again. He left me. For her. After months and dollars. After emotional nights and so much labor. After giving so much of myself to make this relationship work, he walked out. Because it was hard and suddenly I was asking too much.
Now, it’s been about 4 and a half months since then. I’m still hurting because this was my first long-term relationship. I’m hurting because it was really unfair. I’m still hurting because I didn’t set boundaries and maintain them. I’m still hurting because I was betrayed by myself and my partner. I have lost my faith in other humans, and now I need to rebuild it somehow.
What about the money, you ask? Well I’ll tell you. A few weeks ago, he sent the last payment (fucking FINALLY), and that’s why I need to write this. My last tenuous, stressful connection to this partner is gone. I get the chance to say “Payments complete. Bye.” This one moment in text form will be the last thing that he and I share.
The cleansing feeling of letting go after trying to hold on for so long and investing so much of myself is…complicated. On one hand, this was stable in its own morbid way. It was one person who was consistent (not something I have a lot). It was almost a comfortable groove, even if it became toxic in the end. It also had hope for so long. “Maybe it will get better. Maybe if we talk enough. Maybe if I go to therapy more. Maybe if I can make more money.” Well, maybe I just need to move the fuck on and stop dating people who need me to take care of them.
So I hopped back onto my OKCupid account. I started swiping on Tinder with more interest. And I met someone too! He was a great switch, good in bed, funny, a chef, emotionally dependent, told me loved me after one date, wanted me to meet his partner, consistently needed reassurance, and when I told him I needed space, he felt guilty and placed a lot of emotional baggage onto me. Now, I love people who ask for what they want. I love people who are open about needing reassurance and who cry when they need to. This guy did all of that. AND he had all these silent expectations that I would sweep up his emotions after he was done. He assumed I wanted to meet his partner and make agreements. He assumed I wanted to have this long term relationship. And I just…didn’t. With time, I probably would have, but the pressure completely drove me away.
So I went from one mediocre human needing a mother to another human needing a mother. Neither of them are inherently bad. But all these little things that make them mediocre add up and suddenly, I’m the parental unit they need to feel secure. I just thank the gods every day that somehow I was blessed with the strength of will to leave relationships I do not like, and that’s what happened (to some extent) in both cases. Things were bad, so I changed them.
I once heard a joke: Sex is like pizza. Even if it’s bad, it’s still pizza. I thought this was funny when I heard it because I imagined that sex would always be pretty good. After all, I’m good at sex. I applied this same way of thinking to relationships too. Even if a relationship is bad, hey, it’s still a relationship. As a result, I put up with mediocre people in my life. I put up with mediocre sex and effort.
Recently, I have started sleeping with more people semi-regularly. I have one bang buddy that is kind and intriguing. She’s made it clear from the beginning that her intentions are just to have good friendships with sex. I have another who has proven to be supportive and attentive to all my requests. I’ve moved on from things that aren’t fulfilling. I am single now, but I want to be in a relationship again. I like having someone consistent. But until a better human comes along, I’m going to wait.

Being "Good For You" and "Good To You" are Different Things

Not a review! Op ed pieces don’t have ratings from me!
So I am currently post-break-up with my longest-term partner, and I’m in a lot of pain and self-reflection. In the middle of one long conversation late at night, I had a revelation about my life and the folx who come through as partners.
My mother has often said “If you find someone who is good to you, don’t let them go because that’s rare.” I have a lot of issues with this. For one, I have had many many partners and people be really good to me. It’s hard NOT to be good to me, so why does my mother find it so rare? But the more important question is: What constitutes “good to you?”
I have experienced a few partners in my time, and they covered the spectrum. So I’m going to show you a new idea: Being “good to you” and being “good for you” are very different. And they are both important.
What is Good to You?
My first ex (let’s call him Ex A) was someone who did not make time in his schedule for me. Here are other examples of what our relationship was like:

  • I would hear from him once a week if I was lucky.
  • About a month before we broke, he got mad because I told two of his friends we were dating. (He was worried that he would be called “a breeder.” I can’t believe I didn’t break it off then, because I felt so awful about myself. He was ashamed to get me. ME.)
  • I always had to visit him and not the other way around. (We lived five states away, so this is no joke.)
  • He told me multiple times that he would pay me back, or pay for dinner and then never had the money for it.
  • Had little or no sympathy for my sadness and lonely feelings.

This ex was not good to me at all. Ex B who WAS good to me acted more like this:

  • Supportive when I cried, expressed sadness or otherwise doubted the status of my life
  • Supportive when I was mad, overwhelmed or otherwise doubted the okay-ness of my life.
  • Paid for things equally whenever possible, and paid for extra things when I needed it.
  • Helped with housework when I asked.
  • Listened and made an effort to change when I felt unappreciated.

Being good to you is something that is measured in small, everyday things that get overlooked when someone thinks about partnership. It’s a general feeling of wanting to help and care on a daily basis.
Sand Equation
So what is Good for You?
Let’s use examples again. I find they are the best way to illustrate these concepts.
So I had an ex (we’ll say Ex 1) that was good for me. He looked like this:

  • Pushed me to get my career on track.
  • Lived in an exciting place by his choice and on his dime.
  • Didn’t take my bullshit when I tried to throw it.
  • Happy to share opinions and suggestions with me, either about his life or mine.
  • Didn’t lay all his problems on me and ask me to fix them.

And I had an ex (Ex 2) who was not good for me. He looked like this:

  • Never pushed himself towards a goal.
  • Happy to stay in one place unless pushed by someone or something else.
  • Rarely had suggestions. About activities or life. Let me lead every conversation, big or small.
  • Not strongly opinionated, happy to go with the flow.
  • Got frustrated easily over small things and make large impulsive decisions to counter them.
  • Often didn’t prevent small issues from popping up through lack of foresight.

I’d like to play a game. Of these two situations, is Ex A (bad to me) Ex 1 or 2? Ex B (good to me)?
Well, it’s designed to trick you. Ex A and Ex 1 are the same person. This ex was awful to me on a personal level. He lied often and didn’t respect me as a human. Here is how it felt to me: His confusion about his sexual orientation (mostly gay) was thrown off by my gender identity (at the time). This confusion in him (plus our being poorly matched on a lot of other things) made him not good to me. However, his employment and living situation was really under his control, if a bit tight on money. That inspired me to do the same. I pursued my career more vehemently and got my feet under me, financially speaking. I owe him a lot of good in the broad strokes of my life. And I owe him a lot of bad, because his actions spurred a great deal of my second-guessing and self-esteem issues.
On the other side of that, Ex B and Ex 2 are the same person. He took care of me when I presented a problem. Sometimes he could anticipate when I was sad, and did nice things for me. He was really open about communication. He texted me Good morning and Good night every day. In short, he thought about me a lot. And when it came to his life, he thought about me too. His decisions were always to impress me. He came to me for lists of ways to improve. In a lot of ways, I felt like a therapist, and a mother figure. It was great for a long time, and then I was tired of making decisions for two people, and I needed to end it. He was great to me, but he wasn’t good for me.
Being good for someone is hard. It really involves more focus on yourself so that they don’t have to focus on you. It’s less of entwining your lives together and more spending time together. Fixing problems from one side is done by that side. Problems that come up on both are tackled evenly. When you hold yourself to a standard, you’re holding them to a standard and vice versa. When all of this happens, you are good for someone.
Being good to someone is as easy as being smitten. Think about them often. Notice the things that change each day. Did their patterns shift? That might mean something is wrong. Did they say the same thing, but in a different way than usual? That’s another indication. Make sure you pull your weight on daily interactions. Do they text you more than you text them? Either step it up, or break it up, because being evenly matched is important.
Divorce paper
“Not Good for You” is NOT the Same as “Bad for You”
This is really important to me. I want to differentiate between experiences that don’t help you and experiences that actively harm you. What is the difference and how can it change your decision to stay or leave? Ex B was in no way a bad influence on me. He didn’t impair my life in great big ways or discourage me from my career and efforts. He tried to do everything for me, and it was just exhausting to make all the standards. But he was NOT bad for me.
So what is Bad for You, if it isn’t the same as Not Good for You?

  • Discouraging your self-improvement.
  • Contradicting your self-knowledge.
  • Abusive in ANY way.
  • Holding you back/impairing your progress in life (on accident or on purpose).
  • Competition mindset.

So there’s a few things I want to address here. I am not a victim of abuse in a relationship. I have experienced parental abuse, but no other kinds. I would speak on it more, but I don’t know it, even from an academic stance, so I won’t address it further.
There is a difference between wanting to be good for your partner and wanting to be good enough. If you struggle to be good for your partner, it implies that you are improving yourself and finding ways that you can make life better. Being good enough for a partner implies that your accomplishments up to this point aren’t good enough. They are. You are good enough. That should be assumed. If there is a question, it’s time to work on yourself. Your partner will have a hard time helping you accept yourself.
I also want to talk about Competition in relationships. When I saw what a partner had (like their own place), I realized that I wanted it too. However, I didn’t want THEIR place. I didn’t want a place that was BETTER than theirs. And I did not think to myself “I will earn my place MORE than they earned theirs.” I said “This is nice. I want a place that’s good for me.” If you go in trying to one-up your partner, you will create a bad atmosphere, and often, it’s tied to a need to be good enough. Again, work on yourself. It will do wonders for your mindset.
The Successful Relationship
When I look at successful couples, I notice that they challenge each other. I’ve watched two people push each other through school when things got hard. I have seen a very successful couple fight about a comment that was not appropriate, and the one who made the comment accepted the education they received. Respect is held on both sides of the relationship. There are standards held for themselves and their partners. Their own standards are always more important (and usually higher). There is an equal desire to spend time together. I have watched successful couples look at each other and strive to be good enough for one another, without judgement or self-depreciation.
It’s possible to achieve successful relationships regardless of any mental health factors. It requires communication and a desire to connect. But if you want to achieve and maintain a relationship, be open to some suggestions. If you aren’t helping yourself, or actively rejecting the help of others, your partner won’t be able to help you, and it gets exhausting. So listen to how they feel. You may not realize what you are doing. That’s okay. Help can start anywhere, including in ignorance.