* The fourth blog post from my partner about us and relationships: previous post here
No, it wasn’t me. Right then though, I didn’t really get the chance to find that out. My reaction to Mina’s attempts to explain her feelings was emotional. I didn’t have the words or enough self-understanding to fully articulate the issue at that point, and my sudden neediness scared her. When you throw in the fact she was still working out her own attitude to sex, you concoct a dysfunctional recipe for disaster. At one point I remember saying that I felt like, with her, I was just beginning to work out how to enjoy sex, and her response was that she was just working out how much she hated it.
It was too much. In a coffee shop between the end of school and my therapy appointment, she told me she couldn’t do it anymore. She couldn’t take on my emotions and hers. She needed to focus on herself.
We were back to square one. She didn’t want a relationship, but she still wanted my support. Except now we had had a relationship of sorts, even if we weren’t calling it that, I wasn’t sure square one was still a place. I felt the overwhelming need to retreat to protect myself.
This is where having a therapist appointment immediately after turned out to be fortuitous timing. I expected my therapist to support my need for self-protection, but he didn’t. Instead, he advised me to be there for her and just see what happened.
So, against my better judgement, this is what I did. She had invited me to hang out as friends in the foreigner area of Seoul, Itaewon, a couple of days later. Taking my therapist’s advice, I went. We went jewellery shopping and for Mexican. We had a nice time. We hung out a couple more times over the next couple of days, talked a lot, did fun things. I quickly realised just how much of initiating a relationship, being in a relationship, staying in a relationship, is about allowing yourself to be both physically and emotionally vulnerable.
Mina was the first person whom I confessed my feelings for openly, knowing that it was probably going to end in rejection. Twice. Mina was the first person whom I tried really hard to communicate my feelings to, even when they were difficult or embarrassing. Mina was not the first person with whom I had allowed an ambiguous friendship to continue, but that hadn’t ended in my favour, and only made allowing it harder.
But what I learnt was that part of allowing love in is about giving it that chance. Not just clinging on vainly hoping things will fix themselves, but by staying with it and clearly communicating your feelings, even if the process is traumatic, difficult or exposing, you ultimately gain mastery over your own vulnerability. Obviously, there is a limit on this. I couldn’t have spent forever, ‘just seeing what happens’. It would have got too hard eventually. Luckily, as it turned out, all Mina really needed was some time.