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  • Writer's pictureAnderson

Love (Sex) & Literature #2

Semi-regular answers to your deepest and darkest questions, all synthesized from the mind of an actual couples therapist, Real Lover, Real Yearner, Yours Truly, AKA Barry Bradshaw, Gemini Guru, Gossip Guy. Your situationship might lie to you, but I won’t. Let’s get into it.

“gossip guy - i just started seeing someone (3 weeks in) after i'd sworn off men for a while. he has bpd and adhd, but he is very interesting and very sweet and definitely seems genuine. things are moving fairly quickly, but i'm trying to be the levelheaded one and i think he is adjusting to not taking things too fast. i like him. i feel very comfortable around him. i like learning about him. i want to keep seeing other people since i'm exploring my sexuality, but i want to let things be natural between me and him too...i can see this being a very mutually beneficial and healthy bond. i can sense he might eventually just want monogamy, but he expressed as long as he feels special and cared for, he doesn't really mind. how do i establish healthy boundaries at the beginning of a relationship, where everything feels sweet? how does one grow in love, and not just fall in it?”

Thanks for your question. I have some of my own questions that I’ll get into before I answer yours.

First: what do you mean by “I want to see other people still BUT I want to let things be natural between us”? What do you define as natural? It’s natural for people to develop feelings after growing close to someone we’re attracted to. Especially if you’re sleeping together. This goes against our contemporary understanding of non-committal relationships, sure, but it’s the natural way of things for most people, and this seems to contradict your desire to see others and explore your sexuality, as well as the expectations of this person. The way you asked your question shows you’re at least a little bit aware of this. This leads me to my next question…

What do you want from this connection? Are you interested in monogamy at all? How about with this man? You’ve said the connection has potential and seems fruitful. Is there romance? Healthy doesn’t always mean passionate. Do you feel cherished? how do you make him feel special and cared for? What does he mean by that? Gifts? Dates? Consistent communication? Showing up at his birthday party? Having a picture of him as your lockscreen?

How much do you know about him? I know you’ve only been seeing each other for a few weeks, but have you known him for long? What are his friends like? Family? Coworkers? How much do you know about BPD and how it affects people’s relationships? When I think of BPD, the two words that come to mind are “intense” and “fearful”. There’s the classic fear of abandonment as well as the insidious fear of incompetence. Reassurances and lots of them lie ahead in your future. ADHD doesn’t necessarily affect everyone’s relationships, but the more you know about this condition, the better. There’s lots of resources out there on this, and it wasn’t the main point of your question, so I won’t spend any more time on this.

This seems like another case of someone wanting a relationship in all but the title. We’re so terrified of this concept of commitment! I think it’s a bit of a shame. A lot of us are shackled by the ideas of relationships we absorbed from the rest of the world. But you get to decide what your relationships look like. If you want romance here and just physical pleasure elsewhere, you can say that, and someone out there will be down for that. If you get into a serious relationship and somewhere along the line it isn’t working out or it isn’t what you want anymore, you can leave. I can sense how someone might resist this – we say we love others, we say we’re going to be together forever, we want to get married, etc – but when you made such commitments, you surely didn’t know what was waiting for you in the future. A relationship is a contract you’re opting into every day. You’re not locked into it.

Your questions now. How do you establish healthy boundaries? Well, what are the boundaries you want to establish? Expectations around communication or intimacies with others? Behaviors you won’t tolerate? The first step in being clear with someone else is being clear with yourself. Do you feel like you can own what you want out of this?

Having potentially difficult conversations like this can be tough even in healthy relationships. It can be especially tough in early days. You don’t know how the other person will react, how their thought process goes, what sort of past they have with relation to the topics at hand, etc. It’s also a golden opportunity to set the relationship off on a good foundation. Say what you need and why you need it (optional) in clear, non-judgmental language. Write out your points in the Notes app, practice the conversation with a friend or loved one. It’s scary, but it’s necessary. Do it scared if you must.

As for your final question: how to grow in love and not just fall in it. I wish I had a great answer for this, but I think it looks a little different for everyone. I also think none of us really have control over this. Love is a chemical and a muscle. Sometimes chemical reactions yield unpredictable results and sometimes muscles fail, are unexpectedly pulled, get sore, need healing. There’s no way we can see the future coming or plan out how it will go. My advice: get a tight handle on what you can control and make peace with what you can’t. There’s no knowing how the other person will react or what they will think or even what they want deep inside (or when they want it). The best you can do is lead with your best self and make sure to listen as much as you talk. Trust the words you receive and keep watch on if the actions match. Most importantly, keep a pulse on your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, then something isn’t right. Bottom line.

Your heart already knows the answer. Be brave and listen to it. If this path doesn’t lead to where you want to go, it isn’t the right path for you anyway. Good luck!


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