Perhaps my greatest anxiety, the granddaddy of them all, is my fear of relationship imbalance (a term that I just invented). Relationship imbalance is when I care more for another person than they care for me, or vice versa. Over the past six months, I had the privilege of training under a comedy guru. He has become a role model for me and I feel myself constantly seeking his affection. My feelz are probably best expressed by Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” (My life is the clown version of 10 Things I Hate About You). Unfortunately, he’s a middle-aged man who has no reason for wanting to foster a relationship with me. I’m just one of his many students, and frankly not even one of the best. Still, this one-sided relationship leaves me feeling needy and lacking self-esteem. It puts me inside my head during all of our conversations, so understandably they become stilted and awkward. 

(To be clear, I don’t want to develop a relationship beyond our teacher-student dynamic. I just feel myself caring more for him than he does for me, which is uncomfortable, yet understandable. If you’re reading this…Hi, John.)

When relationship imbalance remains constant and unacknowledged, it can feel like I’m sitting on a teeter-totter with someone much fatter than me. We’re not moving, and we’re pretending as though I’m not suspended mid-air while their fat ass is on the ground. I’m constantly at risk of them jumping off the teeter-totter and leaving me alone, embarrassed, and with a sore ass. I know it would be awkward and unnecessary to compare how much we care for each other, but I can’t stand this discomfort! 

Regardless of which side of the teeter-totter I’m on, I feel anxious AF. When I care more for the other person than they do for me, I feel needy and desperate for their attention. When they care for me more than I do for them, I feel guilty for leaving them to feel unloved and not cared for enough. Yes, I know there will always be imbalance. In fact, it is trusting that we will both remain on the teeter-totter despite its constant motion that makes relationships feel alive and meaningful. The problem is when I let this fear of imbalance push me away from getting on the teeter-totter with potential friends and lovers (I am loving this teeter-totter analogy). If I see the possibility of unreciprocated feelings, I am tempted to pull away before one of us gets hurt.

This anxiety makes me especially hesitant to have casual sex. Physical intimacy can feel like I’m promising that I care a certain amount for the other person (or see the potential to develop a profound emotional relationship). I know that most people say that they have casual sex simply because it feels good, but part of me believes that on some level these people are desiring an emotional connection and are just unaware. I know that I’m probably projecting my own feelings onto innocent bystanders, but I can’t seem to shake it.

Ideally, I would feel confident enough with myself that I wouldn’t constantly question the status of my relationships. It’s an exhausting waste of time. Moving forward, I will attempt to catch myself when I have these relationship doubts. If someone doesn’t care as much for me as I do for them, fuck ‘em! I’ll save my feelings for someone who appreciates them. And if someone develops an unrequited fondness for me and threatens to become a stage-five clinger, I will acknowledge my lack of reciprocity and tell them to take their fantasies of who I am and what we can be elsewhere. Regarding casual sex, I’m still trying to figure it out. Perhaps there is a gray area for how much we care for each other and we can grow comfortable with our incongruent feelings. TBD. Will update upon further experience (which could take up to five years to occur).

KarenLee’s Two Cents on this Blog Post:

Cameron Poter