I’m not high maintenance and I don’t require constant attention. I don’t even want constant attention. I’m busy, I like my space, and I value quality attention over quantity. In that regard, I’m well-suited for a distance relationship.
But sometimes I do need a little extra attention, something more than the usual.
It wouldn’t be an issue if J lived closer or saw each other more often. If he lived nearby, I’d tell him to meet me for a drink or come over. If he were here, I’d make him drop whatever he was doing to give me a hug. (Ok, let’s be honest, I’d probably just lie naked on the bed and point to my pussy — That’s our super-secret code for “D wants attention!”)
I’ve never had a problem demanding attention in relationships where I’ve had consistent physical access to my partner, and I have no problem demanding J’s attention when he’s here (not that I need to).
But being in a distance relationship complicates things.
I don’t like asking J for attention when he’s not in my reach. I don’t like feeling needy and certainly don’t like admitting it. Even if I was comfortable with it, I’m not sure what I’m asking for — “attention” is pretty vague. I know I don’t want flowers, long phone conversations, or a barrage of vapid text messages, but I can’t quite articulate what I do want. If I don’t know what I want, I shouldn’t expect J to figure it out (Trial and error isn’t a good option because it’s unfair, and because it involves a lot of error. I don’t like error.) Besides all of that, I absolutely don’t want my occasional need for extra attention to become a burdensome assignment for J. I prefer his attention (whether it be the “standard” or extra) be natural — something he does because he feels it and not just because I’ve asked.
When I’ve needed extra attention during our relationship, I haven’t handled it well. At first, I didn’t say anything at all. I guess I was hoping J would read my mind, and I was hurt and unjustly annoyed when he didn’t. Once or twice, I got over my discomfort long enough to tell him I needed attention, but without being able to articulate what I wanted, J couldn’t deliver anything that helped (not for lack of trying).
I understand the the mature thing to do would be to get over my pride, figure out what I want, and be direct in asking for it. But I can’t do that or I won’t do that — either way, it’s not going to happen (at least not overnight). I know myself well enough to know in a moment of neediness, I’m not going to be able to do any of those things and I’ll end up hurt, disappointed, and unfairly upset with J over something that isn’t his fault.
Since I can’t change overnight, I don’t want to be hurt, and I don’t want be unfair to J, I need something else — something proactive that I can do now to facilitate getting what I need later.
To that end, I’ve been thinking about possible “workarounds”– strategies to get some extra attention when I need it in ways that meet my criteria. Oh yes, there’s a list of criteria. I need workarounds that:
- don’t make me feel needy (I hate feeling/being needy).
- are somewhat meaningful (closer to authentic than contrived and more special than “I love you”).
- are concrete and specific (so he knows my expectations).
- don’t take up a ton of his time (I don’t want it to be a chore — he should enjoy giving me attention).
My plan is to come up with a list of “requests” to have at the ready for the next time I find myself attention starved. I’ll pull an idea from the list, tell J to do whatever it is, then sit back and wait to bask in glow of moderately increased articulations of love and affection. :)
So far, I’ve only come up with one idea, but I think it’s a good one. It’s to ask J to send me the name of a song that makes me think of him and explain why.
It fulfills all my requirements: it doesn’t make me feel needy (silly and girlish, perhaps, but not needy), it could be meaningful and heartfelt, it’s concrete and specific, and it wouldn’t take a lot of J’s time or effort.
Besides all of that, it’s fun (for me, at least) and something I’m curious about anyway. I don’t think I’m odd in this, but music can drown me in thoughts of someone or some event, or a different time in my life. One of my most treasured possessions is a collection of mix tapes and mix CDs that my best friend and I made, one every few months, all through high school and most of college. All of the songs on them make me feel something, and it’s surprising and awesome how strong those feelings and associations are, even years later.
I have a couple of tracks on an iTunes playlist that make me think of J (it’s my “J-List” playlist!). I’ve never shared it with him because 1) on a few occasions, I remember getting mix tapes and CDs from boyfriends and thinking “OMG, you actually like this?” or “Seriously? That song reminds you of me?” and 2) he’s a bit of a music snob and I’m afraid he’d have the same reaction as I did with a few of the mix tapes I received. :)
While I’m sure there isn’t a “D List Playlist” on his machine — but there’s got to be at least one or two tracks that make him think of me. I didn’t want to catch him off guard with a request for a song sometime in the future, so I warned him about it the other day. Of course, I didn’t explain the reasoning behind it — I didn’t divulge that it was part of my super-secret “I need attention” plan for future implementation. Explaining that would mean admitting I’m needy sometimes and also seems oddly contrived — both of which my super-secret attention plan is supposed to help me avoid.
Anyway, last week, I told him to be prepared for me to ask him for a song title. Of course I didn’t explain the reasoning behind it — I didn’t divulge that it was the only extant prong in my multipronged “I need attention” plan to be implemented when needed. Explaining that would mean admitting I’m needy sometimes, and that defeats the purpose of the plan.
Excerpt from a chat with the boy…
|At some point, I’m going to ask you for the name of a song that makes you think of me. If and when I ask you, you’d better have a response.
|Consider this more-than-fair warning.|
|Look at me, setting you up for success. You have it way too easy, boy.
|will there be followup questions regarding specifics as to why, or is the name of the song enough?|
|I dunno. I guess it depends on whether or not it makes sense to me. If it’s something like “Shiny Happy People,” I’m probably going to have some questions.|
| not because I don’t breathe sunshine and sweat rainbows… but cause you probably hate R.E.M.
I understand if it seems like I’m making a bigger deal out of this than I should, but it’s a way for me to navigate one of the difficulties of a distance relationship. Plus, it’s me taking steps and being proactive about getting what I want (or need) AND getting it the way I want it.
Besides… I’m going somewhere with this story…