Ask Mimi Anything: on boundaries and perfection
May 19th, 2023
Love is the ongoing practice of learning how to meet each other.
In this installment of Ask Mimi Anything, I will be answering questions surrounding the themes of boundaries and perfection, especially as they pertain to romantic partnerships.
These questions move me because I can see how so many of us are trying so hard to be perfect for each other and show up with our utmost ability. I think love is the ongoing practice of learning how to meet each other, and I am also so curious about the ways we lose ourselves in that process, too. How do we remain firm in our boundaries and desires, while also showing up for the people we love? These questions and answers explore that.
I’m terrified of not being a good enough partner. My mother casts a huge shadow over how I see myself; even if I know my partner loves me, I have a hard time feeling secure and strong in the relationship. How can I change this part of myself?
I want to first say that it is poignant that you identified your mother as a part of this constellation. I think a part of you knows that the voices in your head are not always yours, but a distant whisper coming from a lineage of perpetual feelings of not being enough.
You sound devoted to breaking these patterns, and I think you know that it starts from within. There are many complex both/ands in this situation: you are inherently connected to your mother, AND you are not her, nor are you entirely who she thinks you are. You must externalize the ways that your mother has clouded your judgment, while also understanding the intense spiritual connection you have with her. That is boundary setting.
Have you vocalized these fears to your partner? As the fearful voices swirl around in your head, have you asked them whether these fears are true? Has your partner told you the ways in which you do show up for them? And do you know that as you ask this question, you are simultaneously showing up for them and yourself?
Perhaps sit with yourself and write a list of things that you love about yourself, things that you know you provide to the relationship. Then write a list of the expectations you have of yourself and compare those notes. When it is all written on paper, you might see the standards you hold yourself to. Are they realistic, or shadowed by the desire to be perfect? These fears do not vanish, but they do dissolve when you discern whether the voice in your head is your own or somebody else’s. Hear your voice and listen to your partner’s too. Love is not about perfection, but practice.
I was seeing a woman casually for a couple months, and ended up dating someone else. I ended that relationship after realizing I had made the wrong choice. I wanted to go back to her.
In that time, however, she met someone else who didn’t want something serious, and they broke up with her as a result. I’m in love with her, and she’s still in love with him. We took a break for two months, but now we’re seeing each other again. She still cries over him while asking me to stay the night, to cuddle, only to push me away. I don’t know how to navigate this.
I appreciate the honesty about the details of these various relationships and their entanglements. It sounds a little messy, but to be honest, I think the mess is a fertile space for learning. There are so many feelings and choices involved, and your reconnection is trying to tell you something.
But I must answer your question with a question: While she is mourning the loss of her previous lover, she is connecting with you. How does that make you feel? Is it hurting you?
You seem to want to show up for her, despite the ways in which her actions may be hurting you. You hold complex histories with each other, and have shared intimacy before, so I understand that revisiting the relationship can feel both comforting and exciting at the same time. However, things have clearly changed. I advise you to move with those changes, to listen to them instead of grasping for the past. Things have changed for both of you, and maybe both of you need to rebuild a foundation of trust with each other.
Perhaps she holds feelings for both of you, because I think that is possible. As somebody who is constantly learning about ethical non-monogamy, I understand that the choice does not always have to be so black nor white. Communication is so important, and bottling things up from her would only be a disservice to her. You need to reach within and see what you are comfortable with, because sacrificing your own desires and feelings just to remain romantically involved is not a solid basis from which to rebuild that lost trust.
While you are holding space for so many of these changes, I think it is important to let her know how you are feeling and set your boundaries accordingly. Despite the deep beauty of your reconnection, it is important that you do not sacrifice your own needs just to meet somebody else’s, or go back to a place that may not exist anymore. I have no doubt that there is a strong connection that you have with each other. As you practice your own boundary setting, it will also become clear to you what you hope for in this relationship, and whether now is the right time for it.