PQ 8.1 — Am I worried that if someone “better” comes along, my partner will realize I’m not good enough and want to replace me?
Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
I wish to hell I’d never said the damned thing. I meant having a goal…I sure as hell didn’t mean for people to crush human values and morality.
-also Vince Lombardi
Piaget: Who has won?
6-year-old child: We’ve both won.
Piaget: But who has won most?
(from The Moral Judgment of a Child)
I’ve been dreading this question. It’s the monster under the bed.
“Better.” The person who is “better.”
I struggled for years with a strongly held sense that you could rank people, objectively, ordinally. Now, I wasn’t at all clear how I would rank others. I wasn’t a great judge. What I seemed to think was cool or best rarely lined up with what most people found exciting. And I found myself able to like a wide variety of people, for different reasons. So I had a hard time saying “This person is #1, this one #2, etc.” But I was certain that an order existed out there in the wide world. And I knew one other thing for sure: I was dead last.
I viewed myself as a burden. Intense but deeply flawed.
Or, as my mother liked to call me, “a small doses person.”
I was happy that anyone managed to tolerate me.
To others, it was an absurd notion. I had scads of friends. Traveled and performed in bands. I was surrounded by people who cared about me and connected with me. And yet, I felt unworthy. Like I was on a razor’s edge. One small misstep away from being alone forever.
As I wrote in PQ 4.7:
I dated whoever approached me. No matter how underwhelmed I was by them. I based my level of interest 100% on their level of interest. And once in a relationship, I would work desperately to foster reciprocal emotions. Basically make myself fall in love. If I was “out of their league,” that was an added bonus. After all, I reasoned, it would make them less likely to leave me. I tried to stack the deck against my lovers’ exits by lavishing attention upon them, sexual favors, gifts, kind words (I write a mean love poem).
But time and time again, I’d end up so unhappy, ensconced in relationships that were unfulfilling and toxic.
And even now that I’ve stopped doing it, I struggle with one terrible aftereffect: Because I know a person can force themselves to settle in that way (since I did it), I can’t escape the nagging feeling that partners are doing it to me. I deserve this punishment; it was a shitty thing for me to do.
Different Answers at Different Times
So I come into the current question with a long history of being a person who would easily, without hesitation, answer “yes.”
But the question isn’t asking about the past. It’s asking about the present.
So it requires a different answer: And that answer is “not as much as I used to.”
I’m really close to “no.” Closer to “no” than I’ve ever been. That’s the future answer.
I’ve stopped viewing myself as dead last. And am deeply suspicious of any system that ranks people’s worthiness.
And more importantly, I think, I’ve made peace with the reality that if I did get replaced for some reason that it’d suck, sure, but that I’d find a way to bounce back and keep moving forward. I don’t live and die by one person’s assessment of me, no matter how much I love them.
This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions & answers, please see this indexed list.