No One Wants to Be a Life Raft: Stability Can Be Pretty Damn Attractive

an orange life saver hanging on the side of a ship railing
Image by nathanmac87 / CC BY

One of the most important things they tell you when you’re getting lifeguard training?

Don’t get near a drowning person. Throw the life saver to them. The reason: Getting too close puts your own safety at risk.

As Esther Inglis-Arkell writes:

Drowning victims, especially adults, can be dangerous. Someone who is panicking will instinctively clutch at anything and use it push themselves up. This means pushing their rescuer down, which is easy to do if the rescuer is tired, or if they’ve pinned their rescuer’s arms. If you witness someone drowning, most emergency responders agree that what you need to do is look around for something buoyant before you even get in the water, get in a boat, or try to throw the drowning person something from shore. Swimming to someone who’s drowning and trying to take hold of them is dangerous even for professionals. There’s a reason why lifeguards carry those orange plastic buoys, and it’s not their need to accessorize. Throwing a drowning person something to keep them afloat, so they don’t hang on you, is essential.

It’s the same way with relationships.

If a person is drowning, flailing — in their panic? They may very well pull you under.

It’s a tough thing. Some of the most passionate people, loving, exciting people — who would otherwise be wonderful to date? Can absolutely pull you to some terrible depths if you meet them at a turbulent time. When they aren’t stable and are barely keeping their head above water.

No One Wants to Be a Life Raft

I learned this lesson the hard way. Part of my personal ideal love story? It used to be that I would save someone from their loneliness. In my romantic fantasies, I wasn’t the princess. I was the knight in shining armor. Riding up on the white horse.

I knew what it felt like to be alone. And what I wanted more than anything? Was to rescue someone from that feeling of emptiness.

But the trouble was? I kept picking partners who were in crisis. And crisis made a shitty aphrodisiac.

I pursued partners who needed me, desperately needed me, often a combination of logistical, financial, and physical. And instead of feeling highly desired and indispensable, the opposite was true. I was a life raft. They were drowning. I could have been anyone. No matter how much my partners reassured me, I couldn’t shake that feeling. That they clung to me because I was there and they needed something. Not because of me, who I was, what I had to offer.

And even more than that? The burden of providing that level of support was intense. They almost sank me. No one wants to be a life raft.

No More White Knight, Vanquishing Loneliness Together

I’ve since rewritten my old love story. No more white knight.

These days, I want partners who are allies. Fully functional, stable fantastic allies.

Rather than saving someone, I’m looking to team up and take on obstacles together.

And the nice thing about polyamory? It’s much easier to form groups, even a pick-up raid, when you basically have a love guild. Maybe this metamour throws a mean fireball. And this one is a meat shield.

And this is not to say that I can’t help someone in desperate need. But from a healthy distance, where I won’t get pulled under.

 

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