The Three Rs: Reeling, Writhing and Revealing

Life is a series of experiences from which we learn, and relationships are doubly so.

In my short little life, I have learned a few things; don’t date someone with baggage, don’t date your coworker, and don’t sniff when you’re chewing carrots, or else you get little bits of carrot in your sinuses and it feels really weird until you swallow a few times and they disappear.

Anyhow, foodstuffs aren’t my topic of choice today, so just tuck that one away as a helpful bit of information and I’ll carry on.

There are a number of things that we learn about ourselves and others in the course of a relationship. Some of us learn we don’t like to be hit, degraded to, forced or coerced into having sex, or that we don’t like to be cuddled when there’s a full moon about. Sometimes we learn that we like to be held when we’ve had a bad day at work, or that just telling about what a jerk our coworker has been can make us feel better, or that having someone rub your feet when you’ve had a rough day is fantastic.

I know, a lot of this sounds really obvious, doesn’t it? But those are things that you don’t always fully appreciate until you’ve been in a relationship with someone that does them; or when you’re in a relationship with someone that doesn’t – after you’ve gotten used to having it happen. Going from a girlfriend that tells you how good looking and sexy you are when you’re feeling rough and down on yourself to a girlfriend that doesn’t pick up on your woe-filled comments and give you the ego boost that you crave can be difficult. It’s time to learn that not everyone is the same and sometimes if you need a boost like that, you’ll have to explain it to him or her… some other time, when you’re feeling a bit less vulnerable.

But sometimes it’s the little things that you don’t realize you’ve learned or absorbed until long after the fact; someone else’s appreciation for the genius that is Charlie Chaplin; the wonder that is making love to the strains of U2; or the hilarity that can be had from the pages of a Terry Pratchett novel.

If it weren’t for my ex-boyfriends, I wouldn’t know of or appreciate U2; Cake (my favourite band); Rufus Wainwright; comics; dressing up for sex; MUDding (okay, it was an ex-boyfriend that helped me break the habit through his continuing presence); Gabriel Garcia Marquez; betta fish; coming from sex alone; Luigi’s Mansion (less of an ex-boyfriend thing); shaving; and any other number of things that aren’t coming to mind at the moment.

It’s amazing how much we learn about and appreciate from one another, sometimes consciously, and sometimes not. After I broke up with one boyfriend, I couldn’t bear to hear anything from the U2 canon for quite some time; that, anime and comic books all reminded me of him (and no, I wasn’t twelve when we broke up, either). Another boyfriend got me into the music of Sublime; I still think of it as stoner music, but I still enjoy it.

It’s things like that that make me say that I’ve learned from all of my relationships. I find that the good ones leave me with something tangible – like an appreciation for Thai food or the fun of being tied up – and the bad ones just leave me with another entry on my “what I don’t want in a relationship” list.

I wonder sometimes how much others learn from me. I dated one guy who claimed that he adopted a more liberal attitude towards sex because of me, but based on the way he completely didn’t change while we dated, I have my doubts (he was much more interested in impressing his attitudes and behaviours on me than on being open-minded enough to learn anything from me). I can’t think of much influence I’ve had on anyone, so perhaps I’m more of a sponge than the guys I’ve dated.

Maybe a really good relationship is one where the learning goes both ways; where both members of the couple learn about new things from the other.

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