Lucy Richards
17.11.21
Conversation

Lessons from lovers Part II: revering lessons from intimate partners

In my growing frustration at this imposed domestication, I eventually decided to test them. The toothpaste was running out, and I – in a radical act of rebellion – was not going to be the one to replace it. Yet I was absolutely not going to deprive myself of oral hygiene, so I bought a new tube and kept it hidden in my cosmetics bag under the sink. Then twice a day, I would casually shut the bathroom door of the tiny one bedroom apartment, quietly rummage through the old soap, sunscreen and plumbing grime to retrieve my cosmetics bag, find the hidden toothpaste, apply it to my toothbrush, and brush my teeth in absolute (silent) glee.


I can’t remember how long it was until the toothpaste was replenished (obviously not by me), however it was certainly long enough for me to seriously question my partners’ domestic capabilities, and their ability to listen to my requests (for toothpaste, among other things).

How did I end up becoming this faux-mother-figure not being listened to? Or perhaps more simply, what does it mean when I start hiding toothpaste from my partner?

Many years later, I’m sitting here also questioning: HOW did I end up there? Unsurprisingly, this relationship ended soon after, yet I’ve never really explored this dynamic of ours. How did I end up becoming this faux-mother-figure not being listened to? Or perhaps more simply, what does it mean when I start hiding toothpaste from my partner?


To swallow my own medicine, what was the lesson I learned from this lover? To be clear, this process isn’t about blaming. It would be too easy to label my ex degrading names, or to blame the patriarchy and systemic sexism (which to be fair, play their part). This process of revering the lessons from my intimate partners, is about taking time to reflect and take responsibility for my decisions and actions. So let’s take a big minty fresh breath, and dive in.


I’ll start by observing that this dynamic doesn’t exist with my current lover (my life partner). So something has changed in me. But what? Where did I change from and to? I’m a pretty well-versed, self-reflective person and my brain hurts trying to decode this. The answer feels so evasive, so hidden. Just like my secret toothpaste stash, it’s zipped up and placed amongst the other junk of my psyche, hidden from the part of myself which is too stubborn to change. Ouch. The first clue reveals itself. Perhaps me and this ex-lover have something in common? Do I also have a not-listening streak?


I’m a pretty well-versed, self-reflective person and my brain hurts trying to decode this. The answer feels so evasive, so hidden. Just like my secret toothpaste stash.

If my ex wasn’t listening to me in my requests for toothpaste support, I must ask myself, was I listening to them? I can’t say I was. Do I really understand why they had such resistance to such domestic duties? Not really, I never really asked or sought to understand. I kind of just demanded and expected.


My ex would often say “Don’t tell me what to do.” Anyone who knows may laugh, knowing full well my parents often remind me my first full sentence was “I do itself” – AKA: ‘I’ll do it myself, you don’t have to do it for me, don’t tell me what to do.’ Sound familiar?


Ok ok, so now we’ve learned that my infuriation at my ex’s refusal to participate in toothpaste buying obligations was a direct reflection of my own refusal to listen to and receive requests. Perhaps we were a better match than I thought? JOKES, when you’re both refusing to listen to each other, or soften to request, then, well, you have really big arguments, and you break up.


So what has changed now? 


One thing I value so much about my current partner is our commitment to learn from each other. When we have big disagreements or emotional mismatches, one of our relationship philosophies is to eventually come to a place where we can listen to each other. No ‘buts’ no retorts back and no defensiveness. We intentionally create a space where one person can speak and share all of their perspectives and feelings – rational and irrational – without judgement or interruption. What I find this deep listening creates is a feeling of being heard, which is also a feeling of deep relief. The fighting or resisting energy kind of runs out of steam once it’s truly heard. It’s taken me and my partner to get into a rhythm with this process (because umm, I have HEAPS of defensive points against him that are WAY better than his), but we’ve now done this enough times that in the midst of emotional rage, we can somehow remember to find our way into a listening space for each other. The best part is, that when my ego drops and the emotion subsides, I can genuinely see my partner’s perspective. This brings me admiration for him, a respect for his feelings and gratitude for how he sees the world.

The best part is, that when my ego drops and the emotion subsides, I can genuinely see my partner’s perspective. This brings me admiration for him, a respect for his feelings and gratitude for how he sees the world.

If my ex wasn’t listening to me in my requests for toothpaste support, I must ask myself, was I listening to them? I can’t say I was. Do I really understand why they had such resistance to such domestic duties? Not really, I never really asked or sought to understand. I kind of just demanded and expected.


My ex would often say “Don’t tell me what to do.” Anyone who knows may laugh, knowing full well my parents often remind me my first full sentence was “I do itself” – AKA: ‘I’ll do it myself, you don’t have to do it for me, don’t tell me what to do.’ Sound familiar?


Ok ok, so now we’ve learned that my infuriation at my ex’s refusal to participate in toothpaste buying obligations was a direct reflection of my own refusal to listen to and receive requests. Perhaps we were a better match than I thought? JOKES, when you’re both refusing to listen to each other, or soften to request, then, well, you have really big arguments, and you break up.


So what has changed now? 


One thing I value so much about my current partner is our commitment to learn from each other. When we have big disagreements or emotional mismatches, one of our relationship philosophies is to eventually come to a place where we can listen to each other. No ‘buts’ no retorts back and no defensiveness. We intentionally create a space where one person can speak and share all of their perspectives and feelings – rational and irrational – without judgement or interruption. What I find this deep listening creates is a feeling of being heard, which is also a feeling of deep relief. The fighting or resisting energy kind of runs out of steam once it’s truly heard. It’s taken me and my partner to get into a rhythm with this process (because umm, I have HEAPS of defensive points against him that are WAY better than his), but we’ve now done this enough times that in the midst of emotional rage, we can somehow remember to find our way into a listening space for each other. The best part is, that when my ego drops and the emotion subsides, I can genuinely see my partner’s perspective. This brings me admiration for him, a respect for his feelings and gratitude for how he sees the world.

Thanks for going on this wild journey with me – I honestly had no idea what was going to come from this exploration, you got me raw and in real-time, written in one and a half sittings with a new appreciation for my ex, my partner, and the depth that toothpaste can hold.

As I continue this series, I will aim to keep taking my own medicine and dive into the lessons that my lovers have taught me. What were the dynamics that surfaced? How did we learn to fight better? What layers of ourselves revealed themselves as we took off our masks and our clothes? 


And I’d love to interview some drip(feed) readers too. Fancy a cup of tea and a deep, sensual reminisce with me? Reach out, and we can create a safe space to reflect and explore and write up something (anonymously if you like) for this series.


You can follow Lucy here and read her poetry here or here.