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Identity Negotation

Identity Negotation

When I was growing up, my mom always used to say, “You’re not weird. You just want to be that way.”

It’s interesting – and something that I think about often. Why is it so easy to dismiss what another person wants to be? What makes some people so sure that they know another person better than that person knows themselves?

I remember one afternoon that my mother and I went out grocery shopping together (I was good at the logistics involved in scoring good deals on food, so she’d pick me up, and we’d go out together). We were fueling up her car at a gas station when she spotted a girl with pink hair and proceeded to make fun of her, like she always did with people she found unacceptable for some reason or another (when she spotted people with strange hair colors, piercings, ill-fitting clothes, weight problems, outfits she deemed “slutty,” etc), and even though I usually tolerated this behavior, cringing silently, somehow in that moment, I found my voice and said, “Mom, you really shouldn’t make fun of weird people in front of me. I’m weird. It hurts my feelings.”

She paused, thought a moment. “I don’t think you’re as weird as you think you are,” she said finally.

Little did she know that I’d opened my marriage, recently participated in orgies, that before long I’d be negotiating my first power exchange relationship with a paraphiliac who lived 900 miles away.

She was so sure she knew everything about me.


Identity negotiation refers to the processes through which people reach agreements regarding “who is who” in their relationships. Once these agreements are reached, people are expected to remain faithful to the identities they have agreed to assume. The process of identity negotiation thus establishes what people can expect of one another. Identity negotiation thus provides the interpersonal “glue” that holds relationships together.”

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