One Sided

Ten years ago I joined a club.

You don’t have to say anything about it. It is something I have (mostly) come to terms with. I only bring it up to give a little context.

I have a father out there in Meat World somewhere. I differentiate for a reason, and no, I Don’t Want to Talk About It. We have met twice ever. Once I stayed with him, my former step-mother and two half brothers for a few weeks. Over the twenty years since then we have had few enough phone conversations, emails, and letters that I can count them on my fingers. I don’t need all of them. At least one hand’s worth are those initiated by me. Every now and again he would pop up in my life and make some n00bish attempt at contact with me. It never lasted.

Somewhere along the line I decided that I am worth more than a one-sided relationship. I don’t have the spoons or the emotional strength to give to something that is that unstable. I recently wrote him, laying out the terms I required of him if he wished to have any more contact with me or my family, and that if they were acceptable that he would write to me right away.

I wrote that letter a year and a half ago before we moved from Hawai’i.

I probably don’t have to say that I didn’t receive a reply.

It pained me for a while, until I realized why I made that decision.

I bring him up to make a point.

Because I need to focus my spoons on relationships that give as much as they take. I need to make sure that the relationships that I am working at putting my valuable spoons into are giving back to me. I deserve to be valued as much as I value. I deserve to know that the person whom I am spending my precious spoons on gives a fuck that those spoons have value and that a gesture like a phone call, email, mailed letter or card are not just something that I do offhandedly. Those gestures take time and physical resources on my part.

And I deserve to be a part of a relationship where the other party recognizes that, and can be arsed to give a little of that back.

Sure, I am not always the best at correspondence, but email, Facebook, and a few other electronic mediums have given me back a bit of that. I have managed to make contact with people that I love and care about, I have managed to forge new friendships, rekindle old ones, and build bonds that I need. And those people, who care anything about me have shown me that they can do the same. Those who don’t use these mediums call or write, and I feel appreciated or loved. I feel as if my spoons matter. I have even managed to connect with a sister that I didn’t know until recently, and it has meant something that I can’t describe. That is saying something for someone who works as a freelance writer, and who talks as a nervous habit.

I have made the conscious decision to conserve my spoons by moving past relationships that are one sided, and trying to recognize when I need to leave ones that I have grown out of, even if the other parties don’t recognize it, or won’t say so to me. By choosing not to spend my life resource on something that isn’t symbiotic, so to speak. I need to know that I am appreciated, and that my time and energy is acknowledged. I need the people who claim to care about me to acknowledge that my resources are limited, and that my energy is precious to me and my family. That a phone call, letter, card, email, or other means of my reaching out isn’t just a fun thing, but a tap on my limitations.

To some it might sound selfish.

But maybe, just maybe, it is time that I include a little selfishness just for me so that I can save those resources for the people that can be arsed to say “I acknowledge and appreciate you”.

We all deserve that.


About Ouyang Dan

is an extremely proggy-liberal, formerly single mommy, Native American, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist and aspiring freelance writer currently living in South Korea on Uncle Sam's dime. She has a super human tolerance for caffeine and chocolate and believes she should use those powers for good. She said should. She is not a concise person, and sometimes comes on a little aggressively in comments. Sometimes her right arm still twitches when military brass walks past her, but she would rather be reading YA Lit or pwning n00bs. She can be found being cliche about music, overthinking pop culture, and grumbling about whatever else suits her fancy at her personal website, random babble.... She also writes about military issues for's Women's Rights blog. If you have something interesting to say email her at ouyangdan [at] disabledfeminists [dot] com. Lawyers in Italy looking to hold lottery winnings in her bank account may wait longer for reply.

10 thoughts on “One Sided

  1. Seconded. So very much completely.

    I’m not one to have a problem with selfishness, considering my philosophical underpinnings. But beyond that, everyone can agree that people have needs. If those needs aren’t met then the relationship isn’t beneficial. Why do we get into relationships? Why do we connect to people? For the benefits of connection, mutual support and love. If it’s one sided, it isn’t worth keeping in place. Relationships are symbiosis, a one sided relationship is parasitic. Getting rid of a parasite is something I wouldn’t regard as being selfish, but being wise.

    For all my wise words, I still have a hard time dropping relationships, even when they are one sided. I have trouble accepting that a relationship is toxic. Most of this is because of how hard it is to trust for me, once I get there I don’t want to lose it. I’ve stayed in abusive relationships, stayed around friends who use me or don’t bother with me that much. It’s a lesson I need to learn for myself I guess.

    There have been friends I’ve walked away from cuz of the one sidedness of the relationship though. So I do sometimes take my own self care advice. I’m getting better about it.

    I dunno if I’m a part of that club, I’m just exiled. My dad has cut off all contact and has instructed me that I am not ever welcome in the family house, all for being trans. My mom’s still in touch over email, but it is a lot like I’m fatherless now.
    .-= genderbitch´s last blog ..Prescriptive Feminism is Patriarchy Lite =-.

  2. I think it’s a good idea.

    I think I would join a similar club re: my father. (And I have no problem telling people, because some of it is so weird … well it’s best in person to watch somebody’s reaction.)

    I use my dad when I need to. I had to get on the base, he can get on the base. (Mom can with my or my sister’s ID, but Dad can drive straight on.) I expect presents from him this weekend, but I am not going to see him. I don’t feel guilty about not giving him anything or even not talking to him. I am a horrible daughter.

    But. I don’t have the energy, the spoons to deal with him. (Especially since he attacks me and my illness, and has for 7-8 years. He had to see my doctor and have it explained to him. And that was an easy one – easy to prove and whatnot.)

    I don’t know what he thinks about me, and I don’t care. He is a liar and he has hurt my mom, my sister, and I repeatedly.

    Anyways (I told you I’d talk about it – ooh, a new audience!) toxic relationships are toxic relationships, no matter if you’re TAB, NT, NAT, or a PWD. But sometimes when you’re “sick” or disabled, you’re expected to be grateful for any relationship and you’re seen as the “bad crip” for pushing people away. Or you’re not taken seriously if you’re NAT.

    My therapist talks to me about making friends/dating, and people should be able to determine how many friends they want, what types they want, and what they want to do. Sometimes you don’t want to be with people.

    I had an almost one-sided friendship with my roommate this semester. She never told me she didn’t want to talk to me, didn’t want me to talk, etc. And she showed me her toys (anime statue things) and talked about them. But any attempts were one-sided. I didn’t want to be BFFs, but I just wanted her to do some of the same things I did for her. (Like… turn the light off if she’s sleeping. Keep the sound down when she’s sleeping.) We had to live in the same shoebox for 15 weeks. I hope she moves out after the break.

    My roommate stressed me out, or more like what I expected from her stressed me out. Either tell me we won’t talk, or talk to me.

    But I’ve been lucky and my real friendships have not been one-sided. That’s how you know they’re real.

    Sorry for the novel.

    Basically, you have to draw a line. Even with relatives. Sometimes you have to be selfish and say, “You aren’t worth my time” and ignore their pain.

  3. I have trouble accepting that a relationship is toxic. Most of this is because of how hard it is to trust for me, once I get there I don’t want to lose it.

    This. Very much this.

    Sometimes it is hard to do because we have so much invested in it that it is hard to separate parts of our life from it. I think, also, that I have a tendency to be afraid that I am over-reacting…which is probably because people don’t seem to have a problem telling me that I am, even if I am not, which is their gross misunderstanding of my needs. I am still working on understanding that this is their problem, and not mine.

  4. My last sentence was very easy to type, but not so hard to enact.

    The dad issue is easy, since we don’t live in the same house. And I don’t know if he has my number.

    But my roommate? And we were roommates in the literal sense of the word – we shared a room.

    I complained about her to everyone except her. It was so hard just to ask her to lock the effing door. Which I did the first day. She didn’t. I asked again a month later, she still didn’t. I went to the RA, vah vah, the door started getting locked! (I don’t care if you want your stuff stolen, but I don’t. And then there’s my meds. Locks are there for a reason!)

    And my mom told me to stoop to her level, to play music without headphones. I did that once when she was playing music, she asked me to stop, and I said I would if she did. She did. (The singing hadn’t even started on the video I’d opened!)

    I had a stressful semester. I’m not good at confronting people. That makes me a “doormat” in my mom’s eyes.

    I didn’t even ask her if she was moving out the last time I saw her. She said she was moving out the day we moved in. And when I asked her to lock the door, she said she would, but it didn’t matter because she was moving out. It’s not that hard to move in the middle of the semester, I did this spring to get away from an even worse roommate.

  5. I think, also, that I have a tendency to be afraid that I am over-reacting…which is probably because people don’t seem to have a problem telling me that I am, even if I am not, which is their gross misunderstanding of my needs.

    I’ve got the same problem really. People are constantly telling me that I’m being oversensitive, overreacting or that I need to toughen up. Sometimes I internalize that and it makes it even harder to escape toxic relationships. >.<
    .-= genderbitch´s last blog ..Prescriptive Feminism is Patriarchy Lite =-.

  6. Kaitlyn, I’m terrible at confronting people, too. For whatever reason, I’m much better at standing up for others than I am at standing up for myself. I tend to just accept unfair or unfriendly treatment if it’s directed at me (even if I’m silently fuming as soon as I leave the offending person’s vicinity). This has led to me having some pretty horrible relationships with people. Mostly within the context of middle-school-style bullying and “friends” with tempers that tend to lash out at me for no reason, but still. It sucks.

    Also, when one’s entire social life is based around a group that initially seems nice but ultimately reveals itself as toxic, it’s difficult to pull away. The upheaval is so great that sometimes it almost seems easier to just take the cruelty and be a “doormat.”

    Fortunately, I’m getting better at telling people off when they treat me like I don’t have feelings/my feelings don’t matter. And when I can conjure up the spoons, sometimes I’ve found that people with a *mild* tendency to be snappy/unpleasant/whatever are actually capable of becoming decent, like my friend who snapped at me, until I told her to be nice to me please because I happened to be having a panic attack and couldn’t deal with even joking unfriendliness right then.

    Sadly, it seems like in a lot of relationships, there’s nothing to salvage, or what’s worth saving isn’t really worth the effort of saving it. And for those of us with limited spoons, it’s especially difficult to make that effort. Better to stick with relationships that reciprocate the kindness and support.

  7. Not disabled here, but even with essentially unlimited spoons, I also found myself needing to walk away from a one-sided relationship with a parent. My mother and I have a relationship that is mutually respectful and supportive, but I learned as a teenager that I could pour love, admiration, hurt, pain, anger, and all of my emotional energy into my relationship with my father, and just end up exhausted in every way with nothing to show for it. I am grateful every second of my life that I have my mother, but I cannot have the same kind of parental relationship with my father without risking serious mental and emotional harm to myself.

    I supported my best friend through a similar process, when she needed to separate herself from both of her parents to be able to work through a prolonged depressive event (she’s since found her relationship with her mother improved). I know there’s an idea out there that family relationships are incredibly important and that they should never be walked away from no matter what, but I disagree that biology and birth (or marriage) are what make a family. My relationship with my sister is also incredibly painful at times, but it is not one-sided, and that makes all the difference. I will fight to the death for that relationship. But my dad? He’s a human being and give him that basic respect, but I’m not saving him a special seat in my life.

    I absolutely support anyone who finds themselves in this situation. It sucks, but it does happen.

  8. yes. thank you for this. so goddamn timely.
    me being trans = exile from family. and im trying hard to move on, but after 13 years am still clinging on to something/ anything. i gotta let go. i’ll see where im at in a year lol. friends and loves who get it totally help.

    thanks for writing this.

  9. I am so incredibly glad that I am not alone in this. It helps to know that this need is also not one sided.

    Thanks to everyone for sharing, and hugs to those who want them.

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