Dear Kiki: How do I get back my relationship’s initial spark?

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Questions about love and sex in the city of Iowa City can be sent to (queries can also be sent anonymously using this form). Questions may be edited for clarity and length, and may appear either in print or online.

Dear Kiki

Dear Kiki,

When I met my partner a few months ago, xe said xe was looking for a non-hierarchical, non-patriarchal, non-co-dependent relationship. Xe also said xe was queer. I wanted to be with this person so I agreed with everything xe said. Fast forward to today; we are in a full-on co-dependent relationship. Xe questions my moves (where were you? where are you going? who were you with?) and essentially wants me to move in with xem. We spend every night together as one singular entity. Xe wants what we have now even though it’s traditional and heteronormative. I feel like xe was projecting xyr ideal self or a version of xemself that is different than the real life version. What happened? How do I get it back? Why is the idea of a perfect relationship so seductive?

— Sincerely, Wet Blanket or Snuggly Blanket

Hi Blanket,

You say you are seduced by “the idea of a perfect relationship” with your lover. Who isn’t? You both wanted a serious relationship and were trying to impress and please each other — agreeing on everything, vibing each other in this delightful, sex-soaked, crushed out pink cloud. You’ve given into that urge to merge. Except it isn’t ideal, is it? So you wrote to old Kiki here.

Blanket, look. If we saw the totality of each person we fell in love with from day one, we’d all run far and fast. Committed relationships require a period of blissful idealization, with everyone on best behavior. Your partner said everything they thought you wanted to hear and you heard only what you wanted to hear. It works both ways.

The thing is that for some people in our pleasure-centered, patriarchal, consumer society, the work of relating to another person is where the fun ends. We think of love and relationships as attainable, fixed goals rather than evolving, messy processes. We may be trying to resist the norms, but most of us have been conditioned to want our relationships to progress with the pace and complexity of a Disney movie. But let Kiki remind you that “love” is both noun and verb.

Your partner is expressing some possessive and controlling behavior, and dragging you into a co-dependent rut. That may be all they know how to do. Going along with it while feeding your resentment and looking for the door may be all you know how to do. Your partner was likely being genuine in the beginning; they may also be wondering what the hell happened. They may also want something more exciting, progressive and enchanted than snooping your incoming texts while you fold each other’s laundry. Your work, then, is to start to do the exhilarating tightrope walk that is un-learning the relationship you don’t want, while you define, build and support the relationship that you do want.

I’d like to point out that this letter is largely about what your partner has been doing, or not doing, and what your partner wants. What the heck do you want, Blanket? All you have control over is your own part in this thing, your own words, your own tolerance or intolerance. It takes two people to be co-dependent. It takes two to agree, disagree, maneuver, argue, negotiate, get freaky and find the new roads that might work better than the worn-out pathways of missionary style, white picket fences and “Netflix and chill.”

If you truly want a loving queer partnership, it starts with the humility to admit that you’re lost, pull the damn car over and talk about it. Going off the map is never safe, predictable or controllable. Your partner’s overbearing behavior and poor boundaries don’t work in this new land; neither does your blame game, or old-school harboring of resentment. So, Blanket, welcome to the edge of the map, where you can have the relationship you want. Your Heteronormative Disney Princess GPS doesn’t work here anymore.

— xoxo, Kiki

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 201.

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