How To Have An Amazing Relationship (aka Conflict Resolution When You Just Can’t Stop Arguing!)

It’s been a challenging month at LemonAid HQ…constant arguments, bickering, both of us mired deeply in our respective positions and unwilling to step out of them for more than the briefest of times. You could say our experiment in living together has started with a bang…but not of the best kind!!

After a particularly stressful week that included multiple “Should we just end it?” conversations and only very brief respites in between recurring arguments about the same things over and over, on Sunday morning we happened across this article on how to make your relationship amazing.

Fortuitous timing since only the night before we’d attempted to have a conversation about establishing some ‘rules’ to try and improve how we handle the ongoing conflict in a more loving and adult way between us. The rules we’d come up with looked like this:

The Rules:

  1. Maintain an open physical posture. No arm crossing or sitting in the precipice of the bed/sofa as far away as possible from each other.
  2. Hold hands or maintain other physical touch, throughout difficult discussions.
  3. Agree what we’re trying to achieve, and keep coming back to this.
  4. No name calling.
  5. No meanness.
  6. No eye rolling.
  7. No absolutes e.g. “You always…”, “You never…”
  8. No interrupting – use the talking stick to let each other speak uninterrupted.
  9. Try the following technique:
    Person 1: “I feel…” – for 1 minute.
    Person 2: “I heard you say…” “What was the most important thing you want me to hear? And why? What can we do about it?”
  10. Agree themes still to discuss even if there’s no immediate resolution.

Naturally we did so well following our own rules while making them that we ended up in yet another argument!

So back to the article…in a nutshell, here’s the summary based on a TON of research:

  • Positive emotion beats problem-solving: Good feelings come first otherwise you’re solving problems with… someone you don’t like very much.
    [We’d both got into a very negative cycle of thinking the worst of each other, focusing on the negatives and generally wondering why we were together].
  • Avoid The Four Horsemen: Less criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. And no contempt.
    [Becky does criticism, we both do defensiveness, Lea does stonewalling, we both can descend into contempt].
  • Perpetual problems don’t get solved: You can walk fine on a trick knee if you understand its quirks and don’t let it frustrate you.
    [There are recurring issues we argue about; the children’s dynamics is a key one which may never be fully resolved].
  • Soft startup to conflict discussions: Ladies, complain but don’t criticize. Conversations that begin negative almost always end negative. [Becky’s the mistress at criticising!]
  • Time-outs beat stonewalling: Guys, don’t tune out if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ask for a 20 minute break. [Lea’s the master at stonewalling!]
  • Don’t resist — repair: Laughing, being nice or acknowledging what was said doesn’t mean you immediately lose the argument. And it might stop you from losing your partner. [Becky’s far better at this than Lea].

Reading the article in bed together on Sunday morning helped reset us; we managed to get back on the same page, or at least in the same book and are agreeing new rules which look something like this…

 The New Rules

  1. If we can, in the middle of an argument, list 3 things we love about each other, using our ‘love time-out’ signal to initiate and remind us of this.
  2. Use time outs instead of silence (Lea especially!), to take a breather and gather our thoughts.
  3. No name calling (Becky), eye rolling  (Lea), sarcasm (Becky), and mocking (both).
  4. Agree which issues we’re going to park, that aren’t fully off the table but that aren’t going to be resolved just yet. And once we’ve agreed, let’s not keep bringing them up.
  5. Start difficult conversations positively and gently…we’re not yet sure exactly what this looks like but we’re working on it!
  6. Keep trying to reconnect throughout an argument…both of us (especially Lea).
  7. Maintain high expectations of each other!
  8. Agree what we’re trying to achieve and keep coming back to it.
  9. Remember the good times!

Wanting The Same Thing…

Fundamentally, we both agree that we want the same thing: That we want to create an amazing relationship for ourselves, and that we want to create and head up a loving blended family with our little wolf pack of 4.

And that means we agree…

On working towards the same hopes, dreams and goals of home educating all 4 children together, of multiple extended travel fun both with and without the children. 

That we want to live together as a family, and that at the moment this means a fairly minimalist lifestyle when it comes to stuff (including – especially – the children’s stuff), it means figuring out how to juggle working from home, while home educating 4 children on part-time hours, it means figuring out how to prioritise ourselves alongside work, family and running the household. 

It means figuring out how to handle navigating through our own emotional journeys, with the help of our therapists, and without playing out our stuff with each other (too much!). 

It means expecting the best of ourselves and each other and not the worst, and staying willing to explore the hard stuff.

It means that if we want this, we commit to this, no matter what. All in!

That’s a scary proposition for both of us…but as we keep reminding each other:

What if what we most want is on the other side of what feels like the most dangerous precipice or behind the thickest wall? Do we dare jump ?

Bent Becky

Guilt is only a burden when you bend down and pick it up… apparently. Unfortunately, I keep bending.

Our last post saw Lea talking about whether it’s right that the children should always come first and how, as a couple parenting our four children, we don’t think it is – for them or for us.

One of the reasons I find it hard to let go of the idea that we SHOULD be putting them first is because I feel guilty if I don’t.

I feel guilty for considering my own needs, guilty for not making everything about them – whether that’s money, food, holidays, days out etc. Hell, I even feel guilty when I encourage their father to step up and have them more!

Take an incident this week for example…

My children’s father had agreed to have them on Friday and take one to a party she’d been invited to. He was meant to arrive at ten to be there on time. This was my day to work. That morning he announced he couldn’t come at that time, cue me (why not him??) scrambling around trying to arrange transport to the party and work out why he thought it was ok to drop this on me an hour before he was due to arrive.

Also cue me feeling guilty because neither child wanted to go to him for the weekend and were quite happy he wasn’t coming.

In moments like this I want to scoop them up and not make them go. But is that really the best thing for any of us?

After a lot of cross words from me, he finally came and collected them much later than agreed. When I packed their bags I snuck their school uniforms in the bag with the idea of telling him he should take them to school on Monday (they were due back with me Sunday afternoon) given I’d lost work time that day.

This didn’t feel ideal at all given I’d not told the children this, but I’m at the point where I feel forced to take drastic measures to get him to step up and take his parenting responsibilities seriously. Not only does it impact my working time and ability to make money but it also demonstrates to the children that they are not his priority.

After a quite spectacular row and him venting on me what I suspect is his anger at himself, he agreed to take them to school (something he never does). This feels important in so many ways…

First, because his children need to experience him having an active role in ALL aspects of their lives. Not just being a fun daddy (or not) for 1.5 days a week.

Currently I organise everything for them:

  • School stuff –  homework, spellings, reading, trips, dinner money
  • Activities – forest school, violin lessons, dancing, play dates, sleepovers, parties
  • Emotional well-being – sportscasting, processing, talking, listening
  • Physical wellbeing – making elderberry syrup, ensuring they don’t eat too much shit, talking to them about looking after their bodies…the list goes on.

Second, because my kids want to home educate at some point and there’s no way I can do that on my own. The more engaged he becomes in ALL aspects of their education now, the more chance we have of making that a reality for them instead of a promise that’ll never happen.

Third, because I want them to have a relationship with their father and experience him as just as capable of meeting their needs – albeit in different ways – as me…or do I?

This is the tricky bit. Whilst part of me, of course, wants this for them – hell my relationship with my own father was a once a fortnight job that didn’t feel enough – another part of me wants to keep them away from him and his influence!!

I want to be their number one. Not ideal! I suspect from hearing other women talk that this is common.

Letting go of our children is really difficult, who are WE, after all, if we’re not their everything? When motherhood demands so much sacrifice from us how do we be ‘us’ when we are only ever defined through our children?

No wonder we have feelings of guilt for giving them to other adults to look after – even when it’s their other parent, for fuck’s sake. It feels like a massive taboo…

Society tells us that mothers shouldn’t want to do that; that mothers should be the primary caregiver. Mothering as a verb comes with an implicit all-encompassing assumption that your children are your entire world.

We are ALL sold down the river by these narratives…

Fathers because they assume there is no place for them other than as a bit part actor to the mothers leading role. This then often stops them learning or having the confidence to step up and parent their kids and develop a strong relationship with their children accross all areas of their lives.

For the kids, well they often don’t get to see the model of both parents stepping up and parenting them competently (and incompetently at times!) which then repeats the narratives of whose job child rearing is when they become adults themselves. It also denies them strong loving and more complete bonds with their fathers which will sustain them throughout life.

Mothers because it is unrealistic to expect or want one person to be another person’s everything. That’s symbiosis and doesn’t end well for either party. Mothers need time and space for themselves aside from their kids.

The guilt we often feel though is pervasive and is based on the strength of the narratives that outline what motherhood is meant to look like in our society.

When we can’t or no longer want to live by these narratives, guilt is the common consequence. How dare we step outside of those narratives and define motherhood differently?

Sadly most of the time it is other women who are our worst enemies.

We’ve certainly had the biggest anti-feminist responses from other mothers. Is this because so many of us feel the pull of this all-encompassing guilt and we’d do anything to avoid feeling it ourselves including judging others when they step outside of the ‘good mother’ role?

So what happened in my weekend situation?

Well, after I’d been told that I was like a witch stirring a cauldron trying to come up with new ways to make his life difficult (Like really??!! Like I don’t have enough on already??!! Like asking the father of my children who cost me half a working day to compensate that by having his own children and taking them to school constitutes some kind of black magic??!!), he sorted himself out. Made their pack lunches, had them overnight and took them to school the next morning!

On talking to him afterwards I could see the pride that he’d done it, the delight that they’d enjoyed it so much and his confidence on a high. He also enjoyed telling me they wanted him to pick them up and go home with him that night! (That’s a whole other world of pain and panic in letting go of them for another post!!).

For now, I’m getting over the exhaustion of standing up to him, the anxiety about insisting he be more to them and enjoying their obvious enjoyment that ‘Daddy did it’ and Daddy gave enough of a shit to do some hard stuff.

I am also, as always, extremely grateful to Lea, who shows me where I need to face my own hard stuff around letting go, and supports me through it all, despite the tears and flouncings that often accompany it. She’s a wise one that girl…not least because she aint bending to pick up any goddam guilt. Now that is something to aspire to!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Should The Children Always Come First?

I believe that making our children the centre of our universe is not the kind of parenting approach that benefits them most to prepare them for the world they’ll be living in as adults. Why not? I can think of at least 3 main reasons…

1. Because in the ‘real’ adult world, everything does not and will not revolve around them…

[This is an excellent talk about how recent parenting strategies have failed millenials going into the workplace of today].

Bringing up our children to believe that they are the centre of the universe and everyone should treat them thus, only sets them up for a rude awakening when they grow up to realise that very few other people consider them to be the centre of the universe around which everything else revolves.

2. Because it benefits our children when we are the healthiest, happiest, whole versions of ourselves…

To do this, we need to ensure we meet our own needs in ALL areas of our lives – health, career, emotional wellness, physical health, significant other relationships and more. At times, this means we will need to prioritise ourselves so that we have enough energy, love and resources to meet our children’s needs, from a place of full-ness rather than empty-ness.

“You can’t give what you don’t have.”

3. Because as mothers of girls, and as feminists who believe in the equality of genders, it’s imperative that we model the kind of life we want our girls to know it is ok to lead for themselves as women.

Which means showing and modelling for them that it’s not just ok but absolutely necessary to meet their own needs and sometimes put those needs first.

Please do not mistakenly assume that at any time we neglect or ignore the needs of our children…

Our primary goal is to ensure that they too are the healthiest, happiest children (people) they can be – and I believe a key part of that is having parents who model what healthy and happy looks like. 

So being in a relationship together, expressing our love physically and verbally to each other, and wanting to spend alone time together as we do has become a priority for us.

Though this is not at the expense of the children who are usually with their fathers or sometimes grandparents; we typically schedule the entire week (year) around their needs, fitting in our work together, our alone time together as well as admin, grocery shopping and household stuff in the time that they aren’t with us.

We have received some flak for this – accused of being selfish, irresponsible and ‘just fucking about’. Frustratingly this has often been from other women and mothers (though that last was is from an ex).

I get it..

I know that for many women their role as a mother defines them; and in the absence of continuing or pursuing their career, the role of motherhood becomes a key part of their identity.

Who are you if you’re not a mother?

It requires trust that our children are actually ok and can survive without us being the sole centre of their universe.

It requires trust that other adults can be and are responsible and trusted enough to meet the needs of our children – yes, even their fathers who may not have not had a huge role in their lives to date (alongside some serious ‘training’ and support, where necessary).

Because the positives of this approach are many…

The children’s relationships with their fathers are better for seeing them frequently – for us letting them go and entrusting their fathers to be their equal parent.

And for girls and boys, I think it’s hugely important to see and have a male role model effectively be the parent to their children and to see their mothers also creating a life for themselves beyond children and being a mother.

And while we absolutely don’t have it all worked out, at times we can console ourselves with evidence that we’re not (hopefully) fucking them up too badly!

Our eldest 2 girls are best friends. The youngest 2 have a fun, cheeky and boisterous relationship and consider themselves best friends too.

As a 4, they think of themselves as a little wolf pack and it’s obvious to see the bonds between them when they’re out in the world and faced with threats. They pull together brilliantly as a pack, get confidence and ground from each other and their approaches provide endless opportunities to learn from and see how they each deal with similar situations.

But this is NEVER easy…

Balancing the needs of all the children and adults in the dynamic is an ongoing work in progress and has resulted in many a HUGE bust-up (between us and our exes).

We have to address ongoing feelings of guilt (Becky) and feelings of jealousy (adults and children)…but more on that in the next post!

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Night At The Circus

We wrote these letters after a Christmas night out with fellow LemonAiders, that also turned into a celebration of us being newly engaged. There was a fair bit of Becky’s stuff around and Lea felt she’d had a night at Becky’s personal Circus…

Dear Becky,

I found last night really, really hard. For a large part of the evening, I felt totally disconnected from you – like it wouldn’t have really mattered whether I was there or not – and wanted to head back to the hotel (or more ideally my bedroom at home aka my womb!) on my own.

It started at dinner – there was a point at which you were regaling a story and I asked you a question about what had happened. You seemingly didn’t hear me and didn’t answer, so I asked you again. No response, again. At this point, I tugged your sleeve/tapped you on the arm to get your attention but still couldn’t get it so I gave up.

Obviously, there’s an adoption trigger for me there – about not being heard/having no impact – but I was mostly pissed off. I could see/feel you behind your defences – the loud, brash, crude Becky – and as we’d previously talked about this, I so desperately wanted you to show more of the ‘real’ you that I am lucky to see behind the defences.

It continued throughout the evening as things got louder and louder, and cruder and cruder around our table. While I have no problem with swearing or crude language – as you well know! – and I’m rarely the one who cares about what anyone else thinks, to have to put my hand on your arm and suggest that ‘we’ might need to tone it down a little was, I felt, going to be a tricky thing to do and could well cause some kind of argument between us, if not in that moment but most definitely after the event.

But I did it anyway, because my needs – as the more classic introvert of the two of us! – felt like they were being totally overwhelmed and overlooked at the expense of others.

It feels like we’ve been working so hard to ‘be’ more ourselves with each other…how can we do this around others too? xxx

Dear Lea,

Whilst I’m tempted to reply thus…

Dear Lea, I’m sorry you feel this way. It’s clearly all your stuff. Maybe you should see your therapist more often? I am comedy gold and I must give of myself to my adoring crowd. Get used to it love! This is what being with an alpha narcissist is all about 😉 Xxx

However, the reality is very different…

Oooooh that’s hard to read. I can’t deny it as we’ve talked about this pattern of mine before. I had no idea that you had tried to get my attention AT ALL! That feels pretty shitty. I think by then I was far too carried away in the crudity and banter to even notice. I think I get something pretty powerful from these group encounters where the rude, witty repartee feels like it’s everything and the real me slips further from view.

Some of this is connected to my belief that just being me is not enough. As a child of parents with strong narcissistic traits, I felt that who I was depended on who they needed me to be. It was never about who I ACTUALLY was. The ‘real’ me got lost. Inevitably, growing into an adult, those patterns learnt in childhood – to be what others need at the expense of myself – continued, but the need to be seen, to be noticed, had to come out somewhere. Being the clown, using my humour as a defence to continue covering up the real me but to get some kind of attention – albeit not the kind I really wanted – became highly addictive. So addictive that whilst using this drug I seemingly have little awareness of what’s going on outside of my own personal circus!

I’m hopeful that the swing into my own narcissism is not a permanent one and that gradually, as I start to meet my own needs in healthier ways, I won’t crave this shallow, all-encompassing, spurious, unfulfilling type of attention anymore. As we know, this still happens between the two of us, when I slip into my defences – fearful of intimacy in all its forms.

However, we also have many more moments now where, as you say, you get to see the real me, behind all those many defensive layers. Not only do you see me, you tell me it is a privilege to see me and that you’d like to see me more!! Scary, (yet deeply exhilarating) times!!!!

I think another part of the extremeness of my behaviour that night was because it was only a few days since you had proposed to me, which sent me off in a massive spin! More intimacy, having to hold the fact that you had publicly declared your love for me, the fear that I didn’t deserve it or that you just hadn’t seen all the awful bits of me yet etc all got massively triggered and it probably felt much safer to retreat into Bozo’s clown shoes than hold that level of intimacy within a group of people eager to congratulate us!

So, I’m very sorry that the real me felt the need to hide so much on our night out. I think I know that the real source of much of my angst is a lack of self-love and that feels intimately entwined with the narcissism . Work in progress as they say. Please know that I desperately want to be the real me, as much of the time as I can xxx

This Letter’s Soundtrack…

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Step By Step (Parenting)

We went for a walk in the woods yesterday. All six of us. Nothing very unusual there given we are forest school types…But it struck me as we were taking moody wintery shots of the kids climbing trees and Lea was helping them climb higher, that I am a step-parent.

Now this might seem obvious to you, and I know I’m often a bit late to the party – I still say ‘Oh my god I’m a lesbian’ to myself fairly frequently – but this recognition was a little overwhelming!

Some of this no doubt comes from the fact that I’m in therapy, currently working on my own emotional and childhood ‘stuff’ so I don’t feel I can parent my own children let alone be any kind of useful influence on anyone else’s!

What I’m learning, slowly, with my own children is that the patterns most familiar to me from how I was parented really can be changed.

Being part of a blended family is interesting since you get another parent’s up close and personal insights into your own parenting beliefs, skills and decisions. Scary, but bloody useful!

When a break up happens its hard not to feel like you need to protect your offspring, especially as they didn’t ask for any of what happened.

For both of us, that sense was exacerbated by the fact that our own parents had dramatically separated – when I was six and when Lea was 4 – so we both knew all the feelings we’d had to bottle up then that are still trying to come out now!!

In the early days, this was my energy whenever we were together with the children – that we were two separate families of three. This feels inevitable when you’re dealing with the fallout from the initial separation and are unsure where the new relationship is going (although I think Lea and I always knew!).

However, there comes a point where we (Lea) realised we really needed to be thinking about us as a unit (family) of six, not just the three amigos x 2.

I resisted this, for many reasons…

Some of them connected to my stuff – I feel I have experienced a symbiotic relationship with my mother where it felt that she needed me to need her, and I consequently feel that I can’t do things for myself. I think I have unconsciously been doing the same thing to my children.

I have a belief that somehow they’re not ok, they won’t be ok and that I need to protect them from the big bad world. This has all been very unconscious and very insidious so probably not noticeable, except to the person in a relationship with me noticing the different ways we parent,  and the different beliefs we both carry around with us.

In the two and a half years we’ve been together we’ve had many, many rows around the children…

  • Whose (family’s) needs are prioritised and come first? Mine because my children are at school and our schedule is less flexible?
  • How do we meet each children’s needs, and their needs as a unit? Especially given the narratives each child has (more on those below!)
  • How do we meet our own individual needs, and our needs as a couple? How much child-free time are we ‘allowed’?

These days these themes can still be the biggest source of arguments between us but I think we’re far more on the same page now…

  • Yes, we DO deserve child-free time without feeling guilty we’re not, for once, prioritising the children.
  • WE, that is the two adults, are the vital unit to prioritise…to work together as a team, to present ourselves to the children as a team; when we are strong, they’re strong and we’re ALL strong together.
  • Encouraging healthy separation, individuation and building up their own trust and confidence in them each as individuals is our priority as one of their main parenting units.

From speaking to people we know, it seems to be a common strategy when parents split up: Try and protect the children from everything: seeing stuff, feeling stuff, hearing stuff. Gather them in. Hold them even closer. 

When we, as parents, are left reeling from what has happened and are trying to make sense of it ourselves, how the hell are we supposed to help our children make sense of it?!

Well I won’t deny that I’m a big believer in therapy. Ok, more than that, I think it should be compulsory for everyone, that emotional management has far more use and relevance to us than many of the things we learn at school.

We’ve both worked hard – in therapy individually, and by processing things together – to understand the dynamics, patterns and narratives for ourselves and for each of the children…

  • One child has the narrative that she needs to be different/special in order to be loved; she takes up much of the airtime and energy away from the others and can be extremely violent, rageful and aggressive towards everyone when a boundary is put in place and held.
  • One child has always felt that her brother is the priority and loved more than she is (her exact narrative, as she so directly articulated is “I wasn’t good enough so you had to have another baby” 😱).
  • One child feels acutely inferior and ‘not good enough’ in every way; and another feels that his sister is better at everything than he is. (More on how we worked out their, and our narratives in later posts!)

It has been hard for me to hear that my children’s narratives may stem, at least in part, from me recreating the symbiotic dynamic I feel I had with my mother. It has taken many conversations, much processing, both with Lea and in therapy for me get a handle on it all and sometimes I still want to tell Lea it’s nothing to do with me, that it’s all her stuff! But as I’ve been starting to let go and do things differently I can literally FEEL those truths. 

Trust seems to be my life lesson, gah! And learning to trust my children, let alone myself, to believe that all of us are ok. That we’re not damaged, useless individuals, has been hard. Especially when I still feel damaged and useless myself.

It sounds terrible that somehow that’s how I’ve viewed my kids but deep down I think that’s what’s been going on. Because I don’t feel ok about myself, as some kind of extension of me, somehow they’re not ok either. Remembering that they’re not one of my limbs but their own people helps me separate that out and not engage in that symbiotic dynamic.

 Working on this – for myself and for my own children – is a MUST if I’m also going to have to step up and be a step parent to Lea’s kids too!

The When Life Gives You Lemons Podcast # 2: Becky’s Awakening in Lea’s Words

1. So why did Becky’s Awakening take so long??

 

 

2. And why did she hide so much, even in the beginning?

 

 

3. So when did Becky’s Awakening really begin and what happened?

 

 

4. What was Becky’s life like before her Awakening?

 

 

5. Clearing out Becky’s life, bit by bit and the thing that tipped the scales…

 

 

6. And the other parts of Becky’s Awakening?

 

 

7. Let’s talk about intimacy, shall we (and why sex and love just don’t go together)?!

 

 

8. And finally, what it’s like to be fully seen by someone (even when you thought you could bamboozle them for years!)…

 

 

I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really Really Want…

Dear Lea,

This feels really hard, telling you honestly all the things I really want! Telling you in my last letter all the things that I knew I didn’t want, having already created them for myself felt a damn sight easier than this! I want you to know that regardless of the feelings of shame and embarrassment at sharing this with you (and others!!) I’m not going to hold back, so here goes…

One of my biggest wants I already have – to be in a loving, sexual, intimate relationship with a woman who is willing to process her own shit! Now don’t get me wrong it’s fucking hard work as we both know, but it feels so worth all the onion peeling, fear, pain, triggering, flouncing and arguments and the past two years show us just how far we have come and how much we have unravelled with each other and our therapists’ help.

I’d like to take this a step or two further though!! I’ve never been or wanted to be married and yet with you I really long to one day be your wife. We’ve talked jokingly about who would propose to who and you said you would want to propose to me because you’ve had that experience and I haven’t and, as much as I protest, I know that I would really like that. BUT, and it’s a big one, I only want to be married if we carry on keeping our relationship as healthy as we can, jointly working on our stuff, learning, growing and evolving together. I don’t want to be a dead weight.

My most painful want centres around a career. More than anything I want something that gives me the feeling of pride, pleasure, joy, worth, achievement, self respect. I have never had that and the closest I have ever come was being at University. Never seeing myself as particularly bright more reasonably average, my degree and, to a lesser extent, my Masters, were a real thrill as I was so invested in learning and felt that I could write, and well. My First meant so much to me and yet I’ve never been able to repeat the feeling it gave me – of being immersed in something, invested in it and having people take notice of me.

Years ago I read something that said often the thing we were ‘born to do’ is one of the first things we wanted to do as a child. Leaving aside my desire to be the first woman in space, the first thing I wanted to do was to be a writer. 

You have encouraged me to get onto Patreon and begin writing the book that has been in me for some years now…and yet…I still find it hard. Possibly because of the lack of deadline but deeper than that because fundamentally at my core are two beliefs that run contrary to me succeeding at things. 1. That I have very poor self esteem and don’t believe I am capable. I think this comes massively from my relationship with my mother – she has very little confidence and I think played out an “I’m not OK, you’re not OK dynamic” with me, as well as creating a symbiosis between us where I came to believe that I couldn’t function without her. This still plays out today as evidenced by the impact a simple text message from her can have. 

Early, on the morning I was going away for a couple of days with the children, she messaged me to check I had got someone to feed my cats. A simple and kind message one might assume and yet it feels so symbolic of the entire dynamic between us. I can’t be trusted to deal with things without her and she needs to have involvement in my life – to be needed – even though I am 44. This symbiosis I’m sure is the basis of my big/small stuff, where I constantly feel I can’t do things and it is further compounded by my inner child’s ingrained belief that if I am big I won’t be loved. I think I’ve had to play small for both my parents to ensure I got the love I needed as a child. ‘Be the good girl but don’t be too good that you detract from us and don’t need us’.

This is all still around for me right now and I spend my days swinging from trying to keep going and working on my projects small step by small step to feeling utterly inadequate and useless when the fear of not being loved, if I continue getting big, kicks in. I also recognise that I don’t want a career to have to give me something that’s missing in me – a sense that I’m OK just for being me. I can see that’s what happened for my mum and she continued to not feel good enough, which when she retired became hugely noticeable again. So while I want a career I love I want it to be from a space of OKness to begin with.

So on the career front my biggest dream is to write a series of adventure stories about the kind of utopia that I would like to live in. I’d like it to be thought-provoking but not in a twatty way and ultimately I would love it to sell. Big dream? For it to be on the Big Screen. There I’ve said it. But first steps are to write it!

Alongside my own personal career stuff, I’ve been overwhelmed and fascinated by how much I love working on LemonAid, our joint project, together. It feels like it reflects our relationship and the fact that I don’t feel like I’ve ever been in an adult healthy relationship before and I’m still learning to trust and believe that all these wonderful things between us really are real and possible! Working together in the way that we do continues to be life affirming, fun, challenging, and deliciously enjoyable. Long may it continue!!

I would love for LemonAid to grow and for us to continue doing more with it as we continue evolving. I’d like more people to subscribe to the blog and, importantly, find value in it. I have a vision that I’d like it to be like a secret club where an army of middle aged, fierce, strong, capable, beautiful, sexy, wild women, all wearing our LemonAid T shirts and drinking coffee (or vodka) out of our LemonAid mugs! 

This leads me nicely on to money and abundance. This is a bit of a sticking point for me. I want more money yet I somehow believe money is dirty and shameful! Two beliefs working against each other. As I research for my book, money is often one of the most challenging aspects to consider from a utopian perspective. I fundamentally believe that capitalism stinks and that it needs to go and yet I am creating my book within a capitalist system where I need to make money to survive! Tricky. It feels wrong and brazen to say I want lots of money but I do. I’m tired of having so little that I’m constantly in a state of anxiety about how I’ll manage. I remember when a close friend bought me ‘Get Rich Lucky Bitch’ and just the title sent me into a major frenzy!! There is still much work to be done here…

One of the reasons I want more wonga is because improving my health can be a costly business. I currently experience fibromyalgia and to manage it I need to eat well, and generally look after myself in many alternative (non prescriptive drugs) ways. I try to eat as much organic food as I can afford, but would like to see a functional medicine professional, have some regular massage or physical treatment and to be able to afford regular supplements. I’d also really like to be able to go on holiday somewhere hot more often as I need the sun on my bones and do more physical exercise somewhere warm.

On the relationship front I want to continue getting clearer about me, having a stronger sense of my own boundaries and knowing when it’s the right time to let people and things go and not settling for relationships that leave me feeling drained or out of alignment. This has been a steep learning curve over the past two years and I confess to finding it a period of grieving for friendships that weren’t giving me what I wanted and relationships with family where I consistently removed my boundaries and allowed myself to get triggered repeatedly.

The in-between stage is the hardest though I guess and some of the new relationships being formed feel on a different and healthier basis. I also want to get better at standing up for myself. My default is to mop up other people’s feelings, especially when they are negative, which I can usually sense. I allow myself to be manouevred into the ‘small’ position to protect other people feeling their own ‘small’ feelings. That doesn’t mean I want to go round pointing out and attacking their stuff unkindly, but I want to be able to challenge them fairly when I feel they are making assumptions or judgements about me and my life to make them feel better about theirs.

Long term I would LOVE to be able to have my parents in my life without falling back into old patterns. I don’t feel strong enough for this yet but that’s the goal! I also think I’m starting to feel that it’s OK for me to choose to want people in my life who are willing to be vulnerable and who want to grow. My parents and several friendships have left me feeling that this is some flaw in me to want more authentic connections, and I don’t buy that anymore. If they don’t that’s their choice (possibly based on their own fears) but I do, and the rewards are many!

I definitely want to continue having fun and living a fuller life. Some of the things that we’ve done together have made me feel deserving of life, of time to myself, of spending money on myself, of doing fun things not always with my children. This feels sooo important for my mental health, for the health of our relationship and consequently for my children! Our Lemon List details many of the things we still want to do together, and it’s often growing daily!! Some of the highlights so far?? Elizabeth Gilbert In London, Taylor Swift at Wembley, Kate Rusby’s Xmas Concert together and Bath Spa are definitely highlights but so are my first time kayaking in the sea, our first child-free holiday and my regular bouquets. One I’m really looking forward to is us doing a Tantra course together!

Fun obviously features with my children too. As I work through some of the harder aspects of my stuff and notice the impacts it has had on my relationship with them, I remain fully committed to getting as healthy as I can for me and them. There are lots of things I’d love to do with them, especially as part of our blended family. I’d love us to travel together at some point, to do more fun cool stuff. But right now the focus is firmly on helping give them emotional ground so that wherever we go and whatever we do, that is a given.

Giving Back is on my goal list but I still feel there is much selfish work to be done on me first. I won’t feel guilty for that. It feels necessary and important so that when I give, it comes with the right intentions, rather than to save others as a form of personal projection. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things I want to be doing in the meantime mind, and we’ll be trying to incorporate these into the whole ethos of LemonAid. Part of this giving back I want to centre around my desire for community, of bringing people together. While I currently help you (a bit!) with the Newark Circle I really want to reinstate the women’s meal meet ups that I organised and met you at several years ago. But you know all this because we’ve been discussing it for weeks and it’s now starting up!

All for now my lovely. So glad I manifested you from my, albeit underwraps, unconscious want list into glorious technicolour!! X

Hello you,

Ok, so what do I want now, having made this leap of ours and being 2 years in? Good question!

 I currently feel very resistant to doing a vision board – not sure why – I have tried a couple of times and feel uninspired, unmotivated and even resentful (being restricted to a particular format?!). I feel like my sense of what I want is hazy, vague and not definable, nor depict-able by twatty pictures I might find in a magazine or on the internet. I don’t want it to be represented by formulaic, stock photos of ‘things’ that already exist…I want it to be unique, created by me, and not by anyone else (my core value of freedom coming to the fore there, eh?!).

And this entire exercise of asking for what I want is from a very different place of two years ago, where more of my life is where I want it to be… 

I’m in the kind of relationship I want, with a woman that I very much want, in every way. I have the kind of day-to-day routine that I want – spending time with you, my children and on my work, both my stuff and our joint stuff together.  We’ve worked through the intimacy stuff and we’ve both said we want to take this even deeper by doing a tantra course together. Some of the fundamental of what makes me happy are now in place, where they were missing before. So which areas still need some work?

Health – I really want to keep processing my emotional stuff so that it takes less of a toll on my body. As you experience by my regular 5am awakenings, the insomnia for the past 2 years doesn’t feel great and I’m still prone to my body visibly ‘acting out’ my emotional stuff with random skin rashes, out-of-the-ordinary illnesses and numerous accidents. I am too sporadic on the fitness front, as well as the healthy eating front. I would really like to be physically super fit, super healthy and back down to my ‘fighting’ weight which is probably a stone lighter than I am 

Finances & Abundance – after taking my foot off the pedal business-wise for a while as our personal stuff has been so much in focus, I want to boost the coffers. I want to be in a stronger financial position for the long term, able to easily pay off my mortgage, keep this house to rent out as a source of income and buy at least another one (ideally I want to buy the row of houses I’m in). I want us to live together, FULL time. I want a compact but spacious house and easy-to-maintain garden. I want us to be able to take trips whenever we want, work when we go, and sometimes (maybe!) take the kids with us…with a nanny in tow 😉

Career/Business – I’d like the location independent circles to grow far larger, organically – to create a large, committed and active community of progressive, forward-thinking women who aren’t constrained by borders or any kind – mentally, emotionally, physically, geographically. I’d like the circles to become a force for good – a little like Together Rising – which opens up career and travel possibilities to women everywhere that they never knew existed. I’d like LemonAid to be a similar force for good, with a more personal focus…to encourage other women to wake the fuck up! It feels like more of a precursor to what we’re doing at Location Independent – “wake the fuck up” with LemonAid, now look at the possibilities being location independent can bring you.

Children – I’d really like to take my kids to NYC to stay with their uncle, and to the Philippines and other parts of Asia for them to learn more about and immerse themselves in Asian culture. Giving them a sense of their history/family feels like a really important piece of the puzzle that was missing for me and I want to give it to them. I’d like to create more of a ‘worldschooling’ experience for them, as they grow older, and broaden their horizons and experiences far more than currently. (Just gotta get over my own reluctance to travel and desire to stay close to home currently, while I work through my stuff!). 

Relationships/Family – I want to meet my birth mother and my birth family. I want to be welcomed, accepted, acknowledged and feel the sense of belonging I hear about from folk who reunite with their birth parents (and yet I know I need to remain unattached to the outcome ?). I’d like to form deeper relationships with more like-minded, local people – friends  – whether ‘local’ is Newark or elsewhere. And I want to continue to be more ‘me’ with you, to be able to fully open up and let you see the whole of me, more easily being able to share the dark corners without shutting you out and retreating to my island. 

Fun – I want to go to Devon regularly and on spontaneous trips to London and city breaks with you. I’d like to travel as a family of 6, when some of the dynamics have calmed down a little!! And I definitely want to go to another Taylor Swift concert. I want to be in the audience for Strictly Come Dancing. I want to have my own glass-blowing studio, or at least very easy access to one. I want to have my own/have easy access to a workshop – to become skilled at both woodworking and car maintenance!! I really want to convert and design my own camper van – to be able to take us off on road trips with a comfortable, custom and luxurious space to stay. Van porn is definitely in my Instagram feed at the moment!!

Personal Growth – I want to get better at anticipating my own shit and being able to walk down a different street…

THERE’S A HOLE IN MY SIDEWALK – by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1: I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2 : I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend that I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in this same place. But, it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3 : I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in … it’s a habit … but, my eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter 4 : I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

Chapter 5 : I walk down another street.

I want to get better at getting out of the hole if I fall in. I want to change some of my defence patterns – to not need to retreat to my island so readily, or to abandon, or to lash out. I want to take that Energetics course together. And I want to keep playing more of my guitar – possibly write my own songs, though that doesn’t feel like something I can do which is probably why I don’t want it (yet)! 

So not a small list of wants, right?!

And even as I write this, I’m already scanning my head for things I probably do want but am still afraid to say because, on some level, I don’t think I can have/do/be them…or I don’t like the thought of what it might take to have/do/be them!

xxx

The When Life Gives You Lemons Podcast # 1: Lea’s Awakening in Becky’s Words

1. What prompted Lea’s Awakening…

 

 


 

2. What Lea’s Awakening looked like in reality…

 

 


 

3. Becky misses out an entire key part of Lea’s Awakening!

 

 


 

4. Why we each talk so much about our respective emotional ‘stuff’…

 

 


 

5. Just as Lea thinks Becky’s finished on her awakening, she hasn’t…

 

 


 

6. So which of us is really the ‘masculine’ one, then?!

 

I’ll Be Your Mirror

Hey you,

Yes, I know – inappropriate much?! And yet it feels like it’s been a common occurrence since we came out and have been together…an avalanche of inappropriate questions and comments which reveal more about the person saying them than the answers they’d get from us!  Questions like…

“I’ve always wondered how you have sex”  ? “Why didn’t you fancy me?” ?  “So what’s the sex like with a woman?” ?

We have one friend in particular who – whenever we meet her – literally devours us with her eyes. Whenever we’re around her, there’s an intensity to the interaction and dynamic that feels uncomfortable. We both feel a sense of intense curiosity from her – that she wants to watch us, find out more about us, almost be a part of us, or that she’s imagining what it’d be like to be with us – with each of us individually, all together, and maybe even which one of us she could be with. Yes, sexually ?

I know I’ve written briefly about our sex lives previously – and I know it’s something you were curious about too! – but it often feels overly voyeuristic, like we’re some kind of fascinating spectacle for others to ogle and speculate about.

I think this touches on identity too – to define oneself as gay automatically brings sex into the equation since you’re essentially talking about the defining, identifying factor being about who you want to have sex with, if that makes sense? So it instantly puts sex at the forefront of peoples’ minds and very clearly on the table, so to speak!

I’m sure this is a common occurrence for gay folk since, fundamentally, we provide a mirror to others. And while I don’t believe everyone is gay (!!), I’m pretty sure there’s a little bit of gay curiosity in everyone. Having skimmed through the book, Sex & The Psyche, it is fascinating to see how many people’s fantasies involve people of the same sex, even typically ‘heterosexual’ folk.

I do believe that sexuality is indeed on a spectrum and that we can each move up and down that spectrum, at different points in our lives (maybe even on an hour by hour basis!). The reactions we’ve had feel like proof of this pudding!

But it’s the mirror thing that’s particularly interesting… I’ve mentioned before that our own midlife awakening has worked as a mirror to many others in our acquaintance – possibly forcing them to look at their own lives, where they are and what it is that they want, even if they’d rather not look in the mirror and crack it instead, in many cases!!

But it feels like a particular button is being pressed – ahem!! – when it comes to intimacy and sex; a nudge to look at what they have, what they really want and perhaps consider whether their fantasies are just fantasies or perhaps they’re dreams waiting to be realised…

I should probably go, before I head off on a rant about how important I think sex is, how I don’t think we – as a society – normalise it, talk about it, or see it as a natural interaction between humans. I know Becky’s got more specifics to share on this – will see what she has to say and report back…

Dear you,

I know you were shocked by my revelation that we’ve been asked some very dubious questions since coming out so, as you’ve asked, I’ll fill you in!

Yes it really is true that when I outed myself to one of my female friends (straight and recently married), she responded that she was a bit disappointed I didn’t fancy her!!! This has been just one of many odd comments in a sea of odd and inappropriate behaviour that Lea and I have been on the receiving end of since getting together.

Now I don’t want you to think that I don’t take any responsibility for my part in this comment being emitted in the first place…

I’ve become aware that being in relationships with men while being gay has meant that I have sought some level of closeness and intimacy from my female friends. I have been told I am quite skilled at shining a light on people and making them feel special, and this has certainly been true in this friendship. So the indignation in her voice that she hadn’t been first on my list becomes more understandable in that context.

However, this in itself raises other deeper questions about other people’s desires and fantasies, don’t you think?!

We’ve talked before about how it seems that most women fantasise at some point, if not frequently (!), about what it would be like to be with another woman sexually. My coming out to people who I already have a degree of intimacy with, who already feel a ‘special connection’ with me, must have thrown up all sorts of mirrors and confused thoughts for them.

Another very close female friend responded similarly by being very jealous of Lea. Passive aggressive, throw-away comments – on Facebook and to Lea herself – revealed how difficult she found it to lose her best friend to another woman. Again, the intimacy we had shared as friends – her a single parent, me unhappy in my relationship, and thus spending lots of time together in a kind of sexless, pseudo intimate relationship – made it a difficult loss for her. What’s sad is that instead of trying to renegotiate our friendship with different boundaries and for her to gain another friend in Lea, we have effectively lost our friendship, at least for now.

I think for many women there is a two-fold curiosity with lesbian fantasy…

Obviously there is the sex side and the ‘otherness’ of it. This often seems to play out in apparently straight women becoming voyeurs. We have a number of friends who, since we have come out, almost devour us with their eyes, trying to consume every juicy detail of our togetherness, wanting to be around us but finding it painful too as it raises so many of their own frustrations, longings, desires and curiosities.

Sometimes this seems to go a step further, where they seem to want to engage with their voyeurism. At the recent Pride event we went to, there were two straight women with their husbands and – late in the evening and somewhat inebriated – they got up onto the stage and danced provocatively with each other. This felt grossly uncomfortable to those watching. Far from being titillating for the gay women in the crowd, as seemed to be their intention, there was an awkward embarrassment that their pissed writhing was how lesbians are usually portrayed in porn – staged purely for the male gaze. (Or what men think women want, based on whether it arouses them).

What feels frustrating about this, is that women trying to titillate other women have no clue about what other women actually find sexy!!!! When images of women engaging in sex with one another only ever involve prepubescent, hairless pussies, long finger nails (like really??!!), giant dildos and a preoccupation with penetration, no wonder straight women have no clue how to ‘play at being gay’.

The second part of lesbian fantasy involves intimacy…

I can still remember one of the things that put me off outing myself or having a relationship with a woman was the fear of intimacy. I’ve always had deeper, richer and stronger relationships and connections with women but always from the relative safety of friendship. For me, and I suspect many other women, while I was repulsed by the idea of loving intimacy in a relationship it was really what I craved the most. Fear always got in the way. So it was easier to keep my lesbianism as purely sexual fantasy and keep having relationships with men (where I wouldn’t be challenged to go to any kind of intimate depth), than to dare to seek out intimacy with a woman because I knew I’d find it and then have to deal with my fears!

I think many women feel this pull too, for those strong connections and sense of real understanding that they often only get from other women. I also think a lot of women do what I did and get small amounts of it from their female friendships where it is safe and non-threatening (although it never fully fills the void so to speak) – until said friend outs herself in which case your void is left exposed!!

So Lea and I become a mirror for all those parts that some of the people around us are massively intrigued by but don’t want to look at too closely.

We are, in effect, a playground that they want to come into, mess around in for a bit and see what’s there but then run off home when it starts to get too dark (close).

Fortunately, as you know, Lea is fucking boundaried and doesn’t let anyone get on her roundabout. That’s all for now, I’ve got several people I’ve promised to push on the swings…?

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

Have a question or comment? Fire away and let's chat!

Kill ‘Em With Kindness

Dear You,

Sorry for the delay in writing back. The article that Lea posted on feminism sparked some unexpected controversy with two of our friends so we’ve been a bit ‘self absorbed’ working out what was really going on beneath the surface and whose shit was whose!!

In a nutshell they took issue with the references in Lea’s article regarding the fairness of our ex’s having their own children EVERY weekend. I found this really difficult to hear.

As you know I have struggled with massive guilt about letting go of my kids to the degree that I have. Encouraging them to have regular and consistent time with their dad who obviously does things differently from me, felt really hard. Letting go also meant facing who I am without them, which after 8 years I didn’t actually know. Scary times.

I was really going to try and not defend myself to you – thereby exhibiting my ever present guilt – but I just can’t quite do it so I’ll get that out of the way now! One of the accusations levelled at us was questioning when the fathers manage to ‘self actualise’, to find love and create their own blended families, especially if they have their children every weekend. I was really quite stunned that someone who knew so little about my personal childcare arrangements could be quite so rude.

My reply was thus: “I think my ex’s self actualisation comes Monday to Friday daytime plus the five and sometimes six nights a week he doesn’t have the children. He is currently on his second relationship since our split and my children are part of his new blended family in which he is, at least for now, the house husband. He seems to be managing pretty well wouldn’t you say?!”

I found it really difficult that a woman who regularly posts feminist memes and clearly identifies herself thus could rush to rescue the males in this dynamic quite so readily.

Given how hard I (and I suspect scores of other women) find it to poke my head up above the parapet and try and own the fact that I want a life for myself too, that I want to self actualise, that I think it’s healthy for my kids to see me doing that and to have their father parent them just as (in)competently as me, I feel devastated that I should be so readily shot down by a friend, a feminist, a mother. As my therapist declared ‘women are often the biggest threat to feminism’.

So I’m in a shamed place. Shamed for daring to consider my own needs ahead of (although I don’t think that’s true!) my ex’s, shamed for having…drum roll…child free time (cue much tutting and head shaking or repeated comments about how lucky I am).

Believe me, it’s not luck that has created this child-free time; it is intentional, repetitive and practised behaviour and action. It hasn’t been easy on many fronts to help my ex parent his children from a foundation of almost zero parenting experience and carve out this child-free time for myself – from the weekly emails to him discussing where the kids are emotionally and how to handle it, to the odd feeling in my house with just me in it, to the guilt when I am enjoying myself without them and daring to self actualise!

But hey, shame loses its power when we share it with another – so Lea and my Lemonaid adventure feel really important to me. However, they tried to shame us for doing that too…

Suggesting if it were them that they’d “get a court order to shut us up” felt like the kind of comment a well-known US president might make – NOT a female friend – and it had an impact. I doubted whether I was ‘allowed’ to have a voice, to talk about my experiences and the full gamut of emotions this midlife awakening is having. That’s why this letter is late – it is, quite literally, shamefully late.

You know I’m a people pleaser; that I find it hard to be boundaried and not consider everyone else’s needs before mine so even after all of this, it was difficult for me to unfriend the people concerned, or respond further to their messages. However, it is done and for my own sake (see there I go again, putting my own needs first! Jesus – so bloody selfish! Interestingly these days I see selfish in different terms – as a form of necessary self care).

Kill em with kindness’ feels like an interesting phrase that makes me consider what kindness really is. They certainly wouldn’t describe our behaviour as kind, but why? Is challenging people’s behaviour when they post angry and passive aggressive remarks on a public and personal thread unkind? Is being willing to talk about publicly or privately what might really be going on with a view to resolving it and remaining friends unkind? I don’t think so (and believe me I constantly analyse my behaviour and find it wanting!!).

I find it difficult that directness is construed as confrontational, when really it’s about simplified, honest, communication, which to me feels like the best form of kindness. After Lea and I had both been direct and honest in our replies we were interrupted with a comment from the second woman in defence of the first of “I don’t like to see anyone getting upset or hurt”! We hadn’t been unkind, malicious or personally attacking in any way – we had responded to what had been veiled personal attacks on us (which was later clarified and confirmed in a personal message to a third party).

Her comment – that she didn’t like to see others getting upset – on the face of it implies kindness, but frankly that kind of kindness I can live without. This inability to differentiate between directness and passive aggression and to hold disagreement or challenge led her to send the most unutterably offensive remarks to a third party (behind our backs), whilst simultaneously messaging me ‘kind’ utterances about how it would be nice if we could just move past this and be friends! I was, quite frankly, at a loss for words by that point.

The scariest thing about all of this is that all the above feels like a smokescreen for what was really going on…

I think for a long time I was admitted to a victim club with these friends. This was a club that although I didn’t want to partake in, I sometimes did. My own health condition meant that in between trying to take responsibility, I’d have moments of feeling really sorry for myself and thus joining the ranks of the ‘Poor Old Me’s’.

Victim clubs thrive on others staying in static places with them so no one has to look at what they’re doing or not doing that enables such behaviour to persist. In finally choosing to step out of this club and begin a relationship with Lea (never described as a victim) Woodward I think they were confused and possibly a little threatened.

Often women seem to be triggered by Lea and what she represents and I think that is certainly true here. In Lea asking a direct and pretty pertinent question, all hell seemed to break loose and an anger that possibly already existed was tapped into…

Dear you,

Remember I told you I’d written a post about all the feminist stuff we’ve talked about over the past few months? Well it caused all sorts of enlightening events this past weekend! Both Becky, my ex and I were dragged into a vortex of other peoples’ stuff in the most frustrating of ways…

What became abundantly clear though, was quite how strong a reaction I appear to provoke in some people (women) because of my beliefs, values, behaviour and how feminist I am (yes, you read that right).

As you know, one of the reasons I wrote the post is the shock I continue to feel that so many women around me are still playing out the very conventional, traditional roles of primary homemaker and parent, despite banging the feminist drum.

I won’t repeat the contents of that post (you can read it here if you like), but suffice to say, I’m coming round to the conclusion that, when it comes to feminism in ACTION (and not just paying lip service to it), women are often the most guilty of holding back the movement towards greater or even full equality, for themselves (and others, if this experience is anything to go by).

If this has resulted in anything, it’s been the enlightening awareness of quite how other people (women, mostly) experience me. And not in a positive way…

When one acquaintance worries about my ex’s “self actualisation” because he’s having the children every weekend and another jokes to my ex about getting a court order to “shut them up” and suggests he “tell her (me) to blog about something else” it’s clear – to me at least – that there’s a huge amount of – anger? Resentment? I’m not really sure what – but something that feeds an already biased narrative about me. A narrative that puts me very much in the position of oppressor, or perpetrator (in the Drama Triangle) or more simply “bitch from hell” ?  Why?

…Because I ‘force’ my ex husband to have joint responsibility for his children. Never mind the fact he actually wants to and doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t actually share that responsibility, equally.

…Because I control my ex husband and don’t consider his needs in my alleged ‘demands’ for him to have the children every weekend, thereby stunting his opportunity for ‘self actualisation’.

Never mind the hours and hours I’ve spent processing his emotional stuff with him – since we divorced – encouraging him to look at his ongoing patterns so he’s aware of them, their impact and can then choose to change them, with a therapist (and not me) for a neutral and safe space for him to do this. Never mind the fact I’m the one who often urges him to have better boundaries – fully aware that this’ll likely bite me on the bum when he starts to use those boundaries with me too.

…Because I have strong boundaries, fight for my space and time and don’t do guilt when I’m not the be all and end all to my children.

Never mind the fact I’ve had to let go massively to let my ex’s parents play a far bigger role in their lives than they ever have before, or likely ever would if we’d stayed together. The reasons for this are many, but primarily, I wanted my ex to be able to stand up to his parents when needed on behalf of the children before I wanted them to spend more time under their influence – as well as the children being old enough to communicate and state their needs too. Now he does, both his parents and my children benefit greatly from their relationship.

And never mind the fact that I now actively encourage him to let go of any guilt he feels at letting his parents sometimes take care of their grandchildren while he has time to himself; something he has acknowledged he finds difficult.

…Because I have made some unconventional life choices, support myself financially and exhibit what are typically thought of as the more masculine qualities.

Never mind that doing this often results in me being labelled as cold, aloof and distinctly unnurturing, despite attachment parenting both my children (from intuition and innate sense without reading any books on, or even knowing till a later date that it was even called, ‘attachment parenting’) and having a very strong nurturing and maternal side that those who truly know and see me often experience.

As a loud and proud feminist – and one who LIVES this value in almost every way I can – I am utterly incredulous that this should leave me open to such spiteful and malicious attacks from other women.

How is that helping the feminist cause?

That some women feel such a strong need to (still) rescue men in the face of feminism, and that my life choices provoke this reaction – from women and fellow mothers – utterly dumbfounds me!

If a woman who equally shares EVERYTHING with her male ex – financial responsibilities, parenting responsibilities, personal development responsibilities and more – is perceived as a threat, vilified for not apparently caring about her ex’s self actualisation enough, urged NOT to share so much about her life (even though the act of doing this is an exercise for my own self actualisation) and is essentially torn down for fully living her feminist values, what hope is there?

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Intimacy

Dear you,

I’ve mentioned our ‘issue’ with intimacy a few times, haven’t I? Well, it’s not been me!!! Surprisingly, I’m the one who’s craved intimacy and for a while, I thought I was getting it. Until it became quite clear it wasn’t quite what I thought it was!

What’s interesting is that given I’m the adopted one, you might expect me to be the one who runs a mile from any form of intimacy – The Primal Wound (my adoption ‘bible’!) certainly suggests that children who didn’t have the experience of forming an intimate bond (with their birth mother) at an early stage of their lives can struggle with intimacy, which then impacts their ability to create loving, intimate relationships with other people. When your first experience of a relationship is rejection, abandonment and separation it seems quite obvious that one might keep people at arm’s length!

So what did our intimacy issue actually look like in real life?

There have been numerous nights where I’d feel like I’d been waiting all day to have some kind of close connection with each other, where I’d been looking forward to going to bed (not just for the sex), but when we eventually got there I’d be met with a wall of defences to get round (some of which had been in place all day and I’d not realised until it was almost too late to do anything about). And often – in my frustration and inability to not be triggered by it all – I’d end up flouncing off into the other bed, while Becky snored her head off oblivious to to it all, having successfully used her devices to avoid any form of intimacy at all!!!

Her devices to avoid real intimacy were many…endless scrolling on her phone, watching TV till it got so late we were both too knackered for anything else but sleep, Becky talking about sex all day then not going anywhere near it as the evening approached and falling asleep as soon as we got into bed, eating (then eating some more), talking about her children while we were in bed…and did I mention endless scrolling on her phone?

To begin with, once we thought we’d conquered it, it became clear that it was really only half the battle. Whilst we were very good at Becky receiving and me giving intimacy – especially in the bedroom – there were still difficulties the other way round i.e. Becky giving and me receiving intimacy.

This showed up in the way she didn’t ever really touch me lovingly (while I touch her all the time in a loving, wanting to be connected way – my hand’s always on her knee etc.), Becky playing the dominant/alpha role which isn’t her natural way (more on that in a separate letter!), embarrassment at giving/lack of foreplay and more.

And it wasn’t just intimacy she ran from, it included romance too…

Any hint of a romantic song, movie or gesture would elicit vomiting sounds and I’ve had to play the romance card very gently and strategically over the course of the past 18 months or so. Sorting out the monthly bunch of flowers from Bloom & Wild as a Christmas present was a risk…a bunch of flowers a month a risk, really? ?

I can joke about this now because we’re in a totally different space – a space which involves real intimacy and depth of connection without the devices to avoid it. It took many, many months of confrontation, of me being – as Becky describes it – like a dog with a bone(r) – ha ha ha – and forcing her to face it, acknowledge it, talk about it and yes, ultimately ‘do’ intimacy before it felt like we were anywhere near conquering it.

But now we have, it’s like being with a different person…someone who can give and receive the levels of intimacy I’ve always wanted, someone who can let me in and let me see them, fully.

Now if only I could tell my own block to piss off so I could do the same…

Yes, the irony is that having literally forced Becky to the depths of her intimacy, it turns out that while I thought I could do it, I can’t ? Well I can, but to a level.

We’ve taken to fondly calling the level to which I let people (Becky) in, my ‘block’. My visual of this thing was of a huge (think house-sized), shiny, hard, black crystal which nobody could get into, get round, get through, or get over.

As my therapist said, it’s played a vital role in seemingly keeping me safe – or keeping my child safe, at least – but I no longer need it because it now prevents me from letting the people in who I want to FULLY see the vulnerable, WHOLE me (which is actually safe for me to do and not the threat I perceived).

The block – my defence mechanism – is about ensuring that I never let someone in too deep, given that I operate under the assumption (uncovered during one very painful therapy session) that ultimately everyone leaves (abandons) me.

Becky showing her vulnerability and letting me in fully, first, is – we hope! – some level of reassurance that this is less likely to happen and that in having this, I will start to feel the trust and levels of intimacy I need to let go of my block altogether. That’s the plan at least, and given that she’s the intimacy queen these days, I suspect SHE’LL now be the dog with the bone(r) until she has ALL of me too!

Dear You,

So a while ago I promised to fill you in on the intimate details of our intimacy journey! Other things got in the way but I’ve decided to return to it as it’s been such a pivotal part of the development of our relationship.

I’ve always felt that sex and intimacy don’t go together for me. The idea of having sex with a stranger I’m never going to see again has always felt far easier and much less vomit-inducing than sex from within a loving intimate relationship! Weird I hear you cry, well it’s not really weird, it just comes from my ‘stuff’.

As you know, I have slept with a lot of men but really all for a few minutes of tenderness (if that). So why not have a loving relationship? Well, although intimacy was what I most craved, I had no idea what to do with it when I got it and felt overwhelmed, suffocated and fearful when faced with being loved as part of a sexual relationship. I couldn’t hold those feelings, probably because my father couldn’t hold those feelings for me when I was a child.

My dad was adopted and my experience of him has been that he couldn’t give me or receive from me the intimacy I know I craved (doesn’t every child?!), in the form of emotional closeness – talking about and sharing feelings, demonstrative love and an interest in and ability to hold the full gamut of my emotions.

When my child’s expectation of closeness, connection and expressed love wasn’t met, she panicked and tried to elicit that from him by expressing it herself, all to no avail, so by the time I was a teenager and first exploring sex and relationships, I was desperate for it but clueless about how to get it. A very bad combination. This led to my seeking that intimacy and closeness through sex, but in all the wrong places, with all the wrong kinds of people – well, men, thereby replaying my whole father dynamic, over and over and over again!

Fast forward to my relationship with Lea…right gender, totally loved up, fancy the pants off her, intimacy a breeze, right? Er no. Quite the reverse in fact.

All those old demons were still there. An utter fear of revealing myself – of being intimate – for fear of being rejected, of it not being held or reciprocated. These fears meant I constructed lots of defences to prevent her ‘getting in’ and seeing the real me, even though that’s what I wanted most, deep down. I could feel the panic at bedtime, rising up in me, the fear of being close, being seen, being vulnerable and exposed. It felt like I would do anything to avoid it. And I did! You name it, I tried it!

I think for me it was part of some master unconscious plan – a test that she had to pass – to prove she was worthy of me being vulnerable, that she cared enough to find me underneath all my defences, that she got me, could match me, that she’d still want me and hold me. I needed to know that whoever I let in gave a shit enough about ME to really see me and that they respected and loved THEMSELVES enough to demand that from a relationship. She certainly delivered!

So, how and why has this changed me and our relationship? In so many, many ways. Literally stripping away these age-old defences has enabled parts of myself that have been so buried, so dormant, so inaccessible for so long to be reached, to be tenderly (although at times necessarily brutally!) brought into the light so that they can fall away and I can start to play with how a more whole and integrated me might look.

Like any form of therapy, one of the goals must surely be to shine a light into those dusty, murky corners of ourselves that no-one else knows exists and we do our best to keep hidden, even from ourselves. Well this, for me, was a very cobwebbed, neglected corner of my psyche. I didn’t want to cast even half an eye over it, let alone shine a goddamn Belisha beacon on its contents! What was in that stagnant space felt too overwhelmingly big to ever be able to be tackled, dealt with or healed from, so best leave it alone right?!

Wrong! While I felt I could just ignore it and no-one would ever know, it would literally be seeping out of me in all kinds of unconscious ways! My children could feel my inability to hold any form of intimate space without me filling it with a joke, for heaven’s sake! My constant desire to be surrounded by lots of other people – on the auspices of being sociable – was often about avoiding intimate time with friends, relatives or partners.

Furthermore, given that I’m a very feeling person and can usually sense or get the measure of people’s stuff quite quickly, I was aware that other feeling people would be seeing my dusty corners very clearly too!! (Whilst not wanting other people to be able to see your shit before you, or even worse, they see it and you’re totally oblivious, clearly isn’t the right motivation for attending to one’s fusty recesses, it sure does give one a kick up the arse!)

Latterly, I’ve known I wanted to address it but was never really sure how to. I’ve played games in therapy for years, feeling disappointed that my therapists couldn’t call me out on this stuff. However, given that I’m in therapy still and take far more responsibility for resolving my stuff than I ever have, it still didn’t happen there.

It took being in a relationship with someone equally committed to looking at their shit, who could literally show me the consequences of my actions and have the courage to stand up to me, as well as the self love to not settle for a relationship so devoid of intimacy, that finally enabled me to change. Because it came from a deeply loving space where it felt safe to finally be seen in those ways, I could eventually let those old defences go. And do you know what? It wasn’t anywhere near as painful or difficult as I’d led myself to believe!

So now, guess what? I’m the moony, heart-eyed girl who can’t take my eyes off my girlfriend, who loves touching her, who looks forward to bedtimes and mornings and afternoons (Heathens!) and all the times in between. Who loves time on our own, who suggests the mushiest movies to watch together and who feels so excited by the new-found feelings of love, tenderness, romance and intimacy that she’s feeling, who embraces her more natural feminine energy, and delights in it!

Defences dropped, intimacy embraced….just the endless phone scrolling to work on now!!

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Let’s Talk About Sex

Dear you,

Oh dear Lord. I still feel a bit coy about sharing this with you. Obviously, the question burning on everyone’s lips, including yours it would seem, when you announce you’ve run off to become a lesbian is ‘What’s the sex like?’!

Well, put simply, the answer is amazing! Now don’t get me wrong, the first times were nerve-racking. I may have fantasised about sex with a woman for some considerable time, but fantasies ain’t realities!

We’d both had near misses in the past where we could have discovered that oranges are not the only fruit, but despite the sexual tension of these encounters we’d never jumped, so to speak!

As neither of us had ever slept with or even kissed a woman before I felt like a naive virgin, and underneath all of that, for both of us, I think, was the fear of “What if giving is vile????!!!!! What if I don’t like the taste/smell????!!!! What if i have no clue what to actually do????!!!!”. Valid points, I’m sure you’ll agree. I think it helped that both of us were clearly nervous about the same thing and that we could laugh about it, well, a bit at least.

The first time we went down on each other was in a car. Bad, bad move. It was dark, uncomfortable and access was tricky! However, it got that first awkwardness out of the way and I think we were both bloody relieved that, far from being a chore as it had been with men, giving was a total delight and felt massively arousing!

When we graduated to a bedroom, things only got better. Gradually we played, explored, shared our fantasies (a whole other post!), experimented, and generally got comfortable being naked together. We watched The L Word together (if you haven’t seen it, do. I defy you not to fancy Shane!), found lesbian movies to watch, checked out the lesbian Kama Sutra (I so need to go to the gym!), bought toys, almost sent the toy receipt to school with the recycling for the ‘making box’ :0, read lesbian fiction (seriously if some of those tales are erotic I think people need more therapy!). It’s felt like some kind of coming of age.

However, all of those things, whilst titillating, are not what makes the sex amazing. Neither is it the fact that I feel like I’m finally with someone of the right gender. I think what makes sex amazing is that I’m with the right person. Someone who sees me, gets me, matches me, challenges me, accepts me. All of those things, combined with the fact that she’s a girl, have made this the most sexually fulfilling relationship of my life. For the first time ever I’ve been able to do Sex and Love. And that’s a big deal for an intimacy avoider like me. More on that next time!

Hey there,

Sooooo….the juicy stuff, pun intended!!! After 39 years of ‘straight’ sex, knowing I’ve always been gay, you might be wondering how it was for me!!??!

Well, I think one of the reasons I’ve never acted upon my feelings & desires is the utter terror that I’d have no idea what to do when faced with ‘down there’. How the fuck does one know what to do? I’ve always kind of assumed (or probably blindly hoped!) that if I ever found myself in that situation then lust and passion would take over and I’d kind of know instinctively what to do. And then there was the worry that I might not actually like doing it…

Fortunately, it did and I did 🙂

Our first (mutual – don’t ask!!) time was in a car!!! Hardly the romantic setting of the year and it was all kinds of awkward. Becky was upside down, I was on my knees (literally) and we were far too pre-occupied with hiding our faces whenever a pair of headlights came driving past. But it allayed my fears in one fell swoop.

As for the mechanics – because I know you’re desperate to ask…

  • Going down on a woman is 1,000,000x more pleasurable than giving a man a blow job. And my instincts did kick in, though I went off the premise that if I did what I knew I liked being done to me, then I’d probably be ok.
  • Fingering/stroking a woman is 1,000,000x more arousing than giving a man a hand job.
  • Scissoring is not a thing. At least not for us, and that’s not for want of trying, we just can’t seem to figure it out!!

Sex with a woman is softer, gentler – and I would say more intimate though that’s a whole other story to get into at a later date! It’s far less goal-oriented than with a man and what I’m really surprised at is how much I utterly enjoy giving and not just receiving. That NEVER happened with a man. EVER. But giving to a woman is all kinds of arousing, no matter which way it happens.

And orgasms…with men, it’s always felt like a sort of weakness. You know…they’re lead by their penises, will do anything to get off and it’s often felt like it doesn’t really matter who they’re with (in!!!), as long as they reach the end game. It’s like I don’t respect them when they’re so intent on an orgasm, because it feels like it doesn’t actually matter whether I’m there or not, and it’s a kind of weakness that they’re so intent on achieving it at all costs. Watching a man orgasm? No thanks.

It’s so completely different with a woman…watching a woman orgasm…a MASSIVE MASSIVE turn on. And the level of intimacy – even with the intimacy stuff we’ve had to work through to get here – is so much more intense.

So would I recommend sex with a woman – even if you’re not necessarily gay (though you know how I feel about that!!) – OHHHH YESSSS! (Said in my best Meg Ryan voice, over and over and over again :P)

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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True Colours

Dear you,

You’re not the first to ask me the “Have you always been gay?” question. Often accompanied by the “Why wait so long to come out?”, “Why have children with a man?”, “Surely you’re bi and not gay?” and even the really cheeky “Why have you shagged so many men and no women if you’re gay then?” questions!!

Well to cut a long story short, yes, I think I am gay. I have sexually fantasised about sleeping with a woman for a long time, despite having never done it. And now that I have, I can’t ever imagine wanting to go back to having sex with a man!

But that’s only part of the story…I have slept with a lot of men. In all honesty I can’t tell you how many, because I can’t actually remember. Over 50 but less than 100. I’ve tried several times to write a list and always get stuck. I don’t say this to impress you – the older I get the more sad I feel about this and the reasons I ended up giving my body away so freely to any man who showed the slightest interest.

As you know my dad was adopted and I have always experienced him as unable to give me what I needed emotionally. As a teenager with burgeoning hormones this led me to look for the attention and emotional connection I so desperately craved from him in totally inappropriate places. I was reasonably attractive and so sex became a way of me getting that to some degree, although obviously it never really filled the void and so I craved more.

I think I was playing out a dynamic with men that was really about my dad and it took me a long time and a lot of therapy and unfulfilling sex to start unravelling that!

Alongside all of this I had always had quite intense female friendships, finding women far more able, generally, to have emotional connections, to want to talk on those deeper levels and, for the most part, to ‘get stuff’ in a way that most men I knew just didn’t. I didn’t fancy any of these female friends except one, when I was in my thirties. Fortunately nothing happened. I think I knew that despite finding her physically attractive and there being a spark between us, we were poles apart in other respects, the biggest perhaps being that she was an Evangelical Christian who thought same sex lovin’ was the work of the devil, literally!!!!!

And then along came Lea…smart, funny, beautiful, emotionally aware, able to really see me and give me that emotional connection I so wanted. It was the first time I’d really considered a relationship with a woman and it meant facing the “Am i really a lesbian?” question…

I could answer that quite categorically after our first sexual encounter – “Yes definitely” – followed by the frustrating “Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?” question!!

Hope that answers yours!

Hey you,

Good question! My instinctive answer is: Yes, I probably have always been gay. But I know most people assume I’m bi especially having been with men and been married to a man.

I think on some level I’ve always been attracted to girls/women. In my teens I had many a (secret) crush on women – Gabriela Sabatini, anyone?!?! But all my initial relationships were with boys/men and I was initially attracted to them – at least physically – in some way although it often felt like more of a power game: Can I ‘get’ them? – And once I had them, I wasn’t usually bothered anymore.

So why didn’t I act on my feelings back then? I think that was probably fear or utter lack of courage to buck the ‘norm’.

And yet it feels odd writing that since – as I’m sure you know! – even back then I’ve always chosen the ‘other’ path…German cos everyone else learned French, not getting caught up in cliques etc etc. You know me, choosing the opposite sometimes just because. But this felt different. It felt like it would set me down a different path entirely and I’m not sure I was ready to be ‘that’ person back then.

I think my biggest fear at the time was “What would my family think?”. Before my mum died I remember having a conversation with her about men being gay in relation to something else. After sensing her discomfort, I jokingly said “You’re homophobic, aren’t you?!” and she didn’t deny it. Knowing her as I thought I did, I think it massively surprised me that she’d have such a bias although I’m quite sure there were other things going on underneath it all. And I do believe that she’d have been nothing but supportive of both my and Daniel’s coming out, despite any difficulties she had around people being gay.

(Interesting that both Daniel and I are gay, having both been adopted from different families in very different circumstances – am sure Freud would have a field day with that!).

Then once I’d started a serious relationship it just seemed really difficult to get out of that and off the ‘conventional’ track, although I think in the back of my mind I always thought “there’s always time”.

And then I got married – though had always said I never wanted to (pretty sure that was a defence mechanism to try and give myself that get out clause – clearly didn’t work!) – and then obviously got pregnant unexpectedly.

I do remember feeling at each point a tinge of panic that it was now going to be even harder to jump off that track and on to the one I think I knew I really ‘should ’ have been on.

And as I think I mentioned at the time not that long after we’d moved to the depths of the Nottinghamshire countryside, it was that sense of “Is this the life I’ve created? Is this what I really want?” that really made me pay attention to what was going on and how I really needed to jump tracks sooner rather than later.

Do I regret not doing anything about it earlier? Not really, maybe a tiny bit but then I don’t think Becky and I would be together. It’s all happened as it has for a reason and at least I’m on the right track now!

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Why?

Dear You,

So why does someone straight suddenly decide age 42, to leave the father of their two kids, and begin a romantic relationship with a close same sex friend? One of the biggest reasons was that I really didn’t want to get to the end of my life and not have drunk from the furry cup!

Ok so I’m being facetious. But seriously, I consciously had the thought “would I be ok with being on my deathbed never having been with a woman?” The answer was a definite ‘no’! Given that it was something I’d fantasised about for a long time, at least sexually, and given that I have spent my life searching for someone who really got me, and men didn’t seem to fit the bill, it seemed pretty clear cut.

However, I think I would have drifted on indefinitely had I not met Lea and realised quite how much I had been surviving on breadcrumbs in many ways and how detrimental that was for all of us involved. Myself, as I felt I wasn’t honouring who I really was and what I really wanted; my ex, who really wasn’t getting what he wanted and needed from me, especially on the love, sex and romance front; and my kids who were experiencing parents who were together purely for their sake and because it felt too difficult to contemplate anything else.

For me, I think I had become so embroiled in the ‘my kids are my life’ narrative that I couldn’t see beyond it to what my needs were and why they were important – especially raising girls! The realisation that my being selfish and acting with integrity about what MY needs were was not only a good thing for me and my mental health but, at least longer term, a great example for my children of not becoming a martyr to something that really isn’t working – even for the sake of your own kids!

Not only that, but I want my girls to grow up with a great model of what a loving relationship looks like. And with the best will in the world, that wasn’t their Dad and I anymore, if it ever was. Being with Lea has shown me what real love, romance, affection and yes, wonderful intimate sex, is really all about. I haven’t experienced that before. Ever. And anyone who knows my sexual history might be surprised by that!! (Put it this way, I was making jolly sure I wasn’t straight for a really long time!)

I know you’ve thought about making a slightly different life leap for sometime and I guess what you’re asking me is ‘whether leaping is worth it or a massive mistake?! Well I know the saying goes ‘look before you leap’ but frankly sometimes your only available mode of transport is a leap of faith…and in my experience you can build your wings on the way down!

Hey you,

Good questions! Why now? Why do it at all? Why, why, why?

Well, a few things had been whirring round my head but I think the big catalyst came one day when I suddenly realised that the life I was living – 2.4 children in a country cottage with a Volvo in the driveway wasn’t exactly the one I’d seen myself living. It brought about a very definite “What the fuck am I doing?” moment which lead to the following thoughts, in no particular order…

Finally admitting to myself that I was probably gay or at least bi, and thinking to myself that there was no way I wanted to get to the end of my life and regret not ever having done something about that, would it be better to wait till the kids are older to leave? To defer my happiness for theirs? Which would be more detrimental to them – destroy their family now or later??!

If I waited, then they might then think I’ve/we’ve/they’ve been living a lie for all these years (watching the film, Elena Undone in which the teenage boy feels this way when he discovers his mother is having an affair with a woman had quite an influence on that)…and that’s not fair on me, their father or the kids to have known all this time that I wanted to make a change but not to do it. That feels like a coward’s approach.

And did I really want to wait until I’m almost 50 to be trying to find and start a new relationship when I’m well past my prime? I know how ageist that sounds but did I really want to be trying to pull a hot woman when I’m half a century old!!!

I’ve always wanted the kids to have the model of a relationship where 2 adults love each other, are attracted to each other and are in a ‘healthy’ relationship in as many ways as possible; and I think deep down I suspected that I could only do this if I were with a woman.

On many levels, their father and I ‘worked’ but having made the leap I realise that on many levels we didn’t work, and certainly not as well as things can work in a relationship. Not addressing this would have meant continuing a relationship that wasn’t best for either of us, or the kids.

I remember spending a day with some friends and feeling really uncomfortable that they were really lovey dovey after at least a decade of marriage still – snogging in front of us, wanting to touch each other constantly – it highlighted the fact that we weren’t like that, that I wasn’t sure I could be or wanted to be like that with their father but that I did want that with someone.

And ultimately, it came down to the fact that I didn’t want any regrets; I didn’t want to live a life that wasn’t what I knew I truly wanted deep down and pretend that it was ok. Once I’d fully acknowledged this to myself – that it’s not how I wanted to live for my kids and it’s not how I wanted to live for me – I knew it was time to do it sooner rather than later…and so I leapt!

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Get Together

Dear you,

OK OK!!! So I drop a bombshell like that and then don’t give you enough juicy details!! Well, I think I began to feel we could be good friends when she out-pooed me at Forest School!! As the queen of poo gags and double entendres I am always impressed if someone can tell a good poo story and she raised the bar…considerably! The story in question involved her then 10 month old son eating his own poo!!

We started hanging out more socially, and talking on Messenger, about all sorts of stuff. I was quite depressed at the time, remember when I first had anaemia and how I hadn’t realised for ages and just thought it was the fibro and I was just beyond exhaustion? Well this was during that time so I shared much of how I was feeling with her.

Fernfest, the mini festival at her house showed me quite how much I enjoyed her company although I still couldn’t have said I fancied her! However, I can remember talking to two girlfriends about arranging a girls’ weekend away in London to include Lea and I laughingly said how great it would be to have a lesbian encounter whilst we were there. Still refused to mentally make the connection that I meant with Lea!!!

It was Elbowgate at the cinema where our elbows brushed against each other and it felt like a lightening bolt through my body, that finally kicked everything off. However, after it had happened, she seemed to move away from me and I had a slight panic that it was because my wool coat was smelly from being in the rain!! We messaged that night and she told me she thought I was that friendly with everyone, to which I retorted I never got electricity surges from my elbow touching other people!!! She said my coat wasn’t smelly and that actually, just as I had been, she’d tried to find subtle ways for us to touch again. I didn’t see her for four days after that as I was away, but we messaged throughout that time trying to work out what the hell was going on between us.

None of this was expected or ideal. We were both still in relationships. That didn’t feel good. However, for me it made me realise quite what a half life I’d been living and how I was being cowardly for not ending the relationship with my children’s father.

That weekend we met up again and shared our first kiss. She’d prefaced it by saying that she’d been told she wasn’t a great kisser! I didn’t go into it with high hopes, frankly. Was I nervous?! Hell yeah! I’ve never kissed a girl before, but to quote Ms Perry, I liked it, and fortunately she wasn’t a shit kisser at all. Quite the opposite. It felt strangely normal, natural, because I really liked her, not just on a physical level but much more deeply than that. However, there was a voice in my head that kept saying loudly ‘Oh my god I’m a lesbian’!

And it turns out that voice in my head is quite correct, I am!! And I finally feel like me!

Hey you,

So you want details???! Hmmmm. Ok… Well, I think things started quite some time ago before either of us were really conscious of it being anything more than ‘just friends’. My first real memory of meeting Becky was at a meal for local women that she’d organised with another acquaintance of ours. One of our mutual friends invited me to come along and we had a great time on a table on our own – may have been something to do with the fact that we were the only table to have brought wine with us!!! I remember asking my friend if she’d introduce me to Becky and we had a brief chat as we left the restaurant.

We then met sporadically at forest school sessions though I’d often send Jonathan along – very much a fair-weather forester me! I think one thing that put me off was the clique-y nature of the friends she’d go to forest school with – I used to describe it to Jonathan as a witches coven from which I felt very excluded.

As I write this, I think this is the main reason I didn’t often go – that sense of not being included/not belonging and feeling really uncomfortable which obviously, as I know now, taps into my adoption stuff. But one forest school day was particularly memorable – we all went exploring in the dyke (ho ho ho!), Becky and I had more chance to chat (I think the rest of the witches coven may not have been there that day), and I think it kicked off our messenger conversations.

The messenger chats went on for quite some time, sometimes becoming quite intense. At the time, though I sensed it might be something more, I just assumed she had these kinds of conversations and this kind of relationship with all her friends! I also think this is why so many people were surprised when we came out…while we were both busy getting to know a bit more about each other and were in sporadic but fairly intimate contact with each other via messenger, no-one else really knew we were friends. In fact, a couple of mutual friends said they didn’t even realise we knew each other when we told them about ‘us’.

So fast forward to FernFest and I knew on that last day when she was literally the last to leave that something was up! We had a level of intimacy, a level of comfort, a level of connection that felt different. A week later at her daughter’s birthday party, I felt it there too.

And then there was ‘elbowgate’ at the cinema about a week later… We’d had a messenger conversation the night before where I’d disclosed a near-miss I’d had with a previous friend (am pretty sure that planted the seed and so the cougar was born!!!!), and there was a palpable tension when we met the next day. I remember feeling nervous wondering how it’d feel to see each other, seeing her in a different light though I didn’t exactly know what that light was. But she looked HOT! Black top tight black trousers, high ponytail (it turns out I’m a sucker for her high ponytails!!), it felt like instant physical attraction, but this time far more explicitly than ever before.

And when our elbows inadvertently touched… More juicy details later 😉

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