If you’ve followed this blog since the beginning, then you’ll know that I used to have quite a thing for knights in shining armor. I often found myself falling for people – especially men – who could swoop in and take care of all my little problems. Exhibit A can still be found here, even though I’ve fought the urge to delete this post and thereby remove all evidence of past codependent tendencies.
Therapy, introspection, and a fantastic book on overcoming abandonment issues helped me uncover the roots of my attraction to men who could fix my life — deal with car stuff, lift heavy objects, make phone calls I didn’t want to make and generally do things I was too lazy, insecure or spoiled-brattish to do myself.
The truth is that while my ego enjoyed being waited on hand-and-foot, in reality these relationships were never anything even approaching healthy. At best, these Fix-It men actually made me feel disempowered and infantilized. At worst, we’d end up with a codependent hot-mess that reduced love to an exchange of transactions (“What have you done for me lately??”)
Looking back, it’s easy to understand why I wanted someone to be my knight in shining armor. First of all there’s that whole patriarchy thing. Then, there’s the fact that I’m an only child and was spoiled – yes, spoiled – by my single mom. At the same time, not growing up with my father meant that having men show up, be present and do things for me as an adult felt really good — even if the relationships themselves were shitty. And then there’s my profession, which requires me to be very alpha-female: assertive, independent – even aggressive at times. In my personal life, I wanted to just be able to relax and have someone else take care of All The Stuff.
And so, when a man would show up at a moment’s notice to solve my latest crisis, or drive two hours to drop me off at my home in the middle of the night when I missed the last train after our over-long date, or dutifully bring me coffee every morning, I felt loved — even if he didn’t love me the way I need and wanted to be loved. We might not have commitment, or mutual respect or a spirit-filled connection, or anything even remotely resembling what I actually want in a relationship but.. look! He’s such a
jerk gentleman. He showed up when I needed him that one time! Isn’t that sweet? Yeah, he doesn’t call like I’d want him to.. and sure, I guess it’s not ideal that he occasionally lies and doesn’t want to be monogamous.. but he’s so nice to me!
“..goddesses don’t need knights in shining armor, because we’ ve let go of the illusion that we’re damsels in distress..”
It took more than one transactional-not-quite-love relationship for me to realize the pattern of my own emotional wounds and mistakes. Ironically, the most important part of my becoming Self-sufficient was intentionally deciding to trust God, above all else — even and especially when I had no idea what I was doing. Stepping out on faith and affirming that the Universe would guide and provide for me was the the cornerstone of my new found confidence in my own capacity to fully embrace adulthood and handle life on my own.
These days, I’m learning, for the first time, what it means to lean on someone else in an interdependent (rather than co-dependent) relationship. This is a model of relating that is entirely new to me — progressively allowing myself to be vulnerable as we deepen our intimacy over time.. replacing my Knight in Shining Armor fantasies with the reality of building love and life with an equal. We are both attentive to the importance of remaining grounded in our own power while also sharing support, resources and energy. It feels balanced and beautiful and healthy, but at times, it’s scary too.
* * *
“I find myself feeling like I need you. And that’s really frightening, because I know what it’s like to be needy, and I never want to feel that way again.”
“I need you, too.”
“Yes . . . And there’s a difference between needing someone and being needy. I don’t experience you as being needy. But we all need other people.”
* * *
My girlfriend’s wisdom is one of the most attractive things about her. We’re both very clear that no one “needs” a particular person to survive or be happy — we’ve both risen from the ashes of enough failed relationships to know that this is not true. But at the same time, we’ve matured and grown into accepting that we do have emotional needs and desires — needs that we fulfill with self-love, yes — but also by connecting with others. And underneath the appearance of the particular person we find ourselves relating with, we know that it is always the One universal power providing for us, showing up for us in Its endlessly varied forms.
Even so, being real about my very human emotional needs can feel very uncomfortable. It is not always easy allowing her to see my unvarnished insecurities and fears. As much work as I’ve done on accepting my frailties, sometimes I’ll notice my spiritualized-ego whispering: “You’re supposed to be more evolved than this. Don’t let her know how upset/stressed/afraid you are.” My own awareness of this resistance to vulnerability has opened up conversations about how to build trust and intimacy. I’ve had to explain to her how I want to be supported when I’m in the grips of my own egoic projections or fears. She knows that in these moments, I want her to affirm that it’s okay for me to feel whatever I feel, to remind me of the truths I already know, and to help wake me up from my own momentary delusions. A fairly frequent exchange goes something like this:
Me:”Baby, if I’m the Big Bang, why am I so fucking worried about [insert worldly concern here]?”
Her: “You are the Big Bang. And you know deep down, you’re not actually worried.”
Me: “Yeah, it’s true. I’m not really worried.”
And then we move on to deciding whether we’ll be drinking the Malbec or the Shiraz.
That’s the beautiful thing about having a relationship grounded in spiritual equality. We both have the emotional capacity to hold space for our fears and weaknesses. The revelations and vulnerabilities that pushed past lovers away draw us closer and strengthen our bond. We’re not deluded into thinking that we need each other to “fix” our problems. But we’re also committed to being honest about what we do need — space to vent, a shoulder to lean on, help finding solutions, non-judgmental support and spiritual reminders of what we know in our hearts to be true. We show up for each other, knowing that we’re already whole, but ready, willing and able to lift each other up whenever and wherever we can.
What I’ve learned, quite simply, is that goddesses don’t need knights in shining armor, because we’ve let go of the illusion that we’re damsels in distress. But what we do need is the courage to admit our desire for authentic connection, the fortitude to settle for nothing less than the higher love we deserve, and, sometimes .. a really good cocktail and a foot massage.