Substitution

Even those of us who claim to be cultural outlaws are often guilty of mimicry. Polyamorous people often have single “primary” partners. People who declare themselves child-free often own dogs or cats to provide the unconditional love otherwise offered by children or teenagers. People declare that they don’t watch TV, but then spend hours a night on Youtube.

My mental model around this phenomenon is that most of us have emotional and social needs. When we cannot fill those slots in conventional ways we make up substitutes.

I often brag about being celibate. But except for the sex part I am not as celibate as I claim. Throughout my post-pubescent life I have attempted friendships with certain people that have been rawther suspicious. In the company of these people I feel my bonding hormones kick into gear. I engineer situations so that I will run into them. I want to spend time with them whenever I can. Although some of these people reciprocate a baseline friendliness, none of them reciprocate the kinds of feelings I harbour for them, and none of them have demonstrated any romantic or sexual interest in me whatsoever. That is just as well, as I have no realistic future plans with them. (Unrealistic fantasies are another story.)

Not having been in a serious relationship for a while, I cannot say for certain, but it seems that I go through the basic relationship stages with them: first attraction and limerence, then scrutiny and irritation (sometimes to the point of repulsion), then finally acceptance of their foibles and flaws.

Sometimes these people are not my type, but I use them as substitutes anyways. Often they are women, which calls into question just how dedicated I am to the homosexual agenda. Although in principle some of these people are “available” (in the sense that they are not in otherwise committed relationships) none are available to me. Usually I am profligate, and maintain several such relationships at the same time.

I do not know how I feel about my relationships to these people. Perhaps these substitute relationships inhibit me from pursuing real ones, which seems like a net benefit. But I do not want to abuse other people for my own selfish needs, and I do not want to reveal myself as the creepy pervert I am, if only because I do not want them to feel used. Thus I usually do not disclose these feelings, and once in a while my substitutes are polite enough that they don’t bring the matter up. Some have raised the issue, which leads to awkward conversations.

I do try to let these substitutes know that I am grateful for their presence in my life.

I do not know what I would do if any of these people reciprocated my feelings and offered me sex. It would be like the dog who enjoys chasing cars and finally catches one.

I worry that I am incapable of genuine platonic friendships. I often feel that every relationship I participate in has some kind of ulterior motive. I feel that I am living dishonestly, and I do not like that.

On the other hand, I have occasionally been falsely accused of maintaining suspicious relationships with people, in the sense that (as far as I can tell) I did not have sexual feelings towards these companions. I am fairly certain such perceptions have cost me at least one friendship. Sometimes these relationships are with people who (on paper) are my type. Am I in denial about these?

Things get even more complicated when the people with whom I associate are in committed exclusive relationships themselves. In those cases I worry about coming across as homewrecker.

I do not feel that I explicitly seek out these substitutes, but again I am probably just deluding myself. I sometimes wonder whether I could get by without substitutes for intimate relationships. It would be nice to live a chaste life, but it looks as if that is not in the cards for me.

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