Validation Is an Inside Job: Advice from So Sad Today
There are not enough FB messages, DMs, flirtations, sexts, makeouts, fucks, or I love yous to fill the hole inside of us.
Illustrations by Joel Benjamin
Dear So Sad Today,
When my boyfriend is tired, sad, or grumpy, he won’t want to have sex with me. Even though I know it’s probably not because of me, I get worried that he thinks our sex is boring or I feel ugly. It’s like the way I feel about myself is totally related to how much he wants to have sex with me. When he doesn’t want to, I start feeling rejected and like I need validation. So I will flirt with exes on FB message or DM Twitter people I think are cute. It hasn’t led to anything… yet… but I wish I didn’t have to do this. Also, sometimes I feel like I go to him for sex specifically when I know he isn’t in the mood, just to see if I can. Why do I do this? Help!
Dear Seeking Something,
I understand why you would go to him for sex specifically when he isn’t in the mood—and it has nothing to do with sex. It’s about proving your “worth” to yourself. It’s like, OK, if I can get him to want me when he really isn’t feeling it, then I must really be: sexy, special, loved, or any myriad qualities you associate with sexual validation.
The truth is, this is all about you learning to take his feelings at face value and not reading into them in ways that make it about you. Some people process difficult emotions by fucking. They seek to escape themselves through union with another person. Others don’t want to be in their bodies at all when they feel shitty, and sex—for them—requires too much presence. In that moment, they don’t want to be present for anything! Namely themselves. It’s not about you.
Sadly, for those of us who seek validation outside of ourselves (most of us to one degree or another), there is never going to be enough external validation. Even if your boyfriend suddenly approached you in a bad mood and was like, “Baby, you can fix this,” your quest for validation would just shapeshift and find another thing that is “missing.” There are not enough FB messages, DMs, flirtations, sexts, makeouts, fucks, or I love yous to fill the hole inside of us. That’s the good news and the bad news: It has to come from within.
So how do we get self-esteem? One way is by doing esteemable acts. Since you do seem to be observant of the moods of others and have a sensitivity toward that, you might be able to channel your desire to please or “fix” a person by doing some volunteer work (not sexual!) that helps others.
So Sad Today
Dear So Sad Today,
I had sex with the toxic dude again. It had been year and a half, and I thought I was over him. I thought I could just have sex with him and be able to handle it. But now it’s the same as before: me texting him, then waiting for a text back, and him ignoring me. So I’ve stopped texting him and blocked him on all my devices like you say to do. But now what do I do with all of this shame and sadness? It’s been five days, and I am still feeling like shit. I seriously can’t believe I’m back here again.
What the Fuck
Dear What the Fuck,
Let me tell you a little story. It’s about me and a boy named Dylan: an art school-type kid who I had a major crush on in high school. I was an artist too (a writer) and definitely an inner weirdo, but I looked less “alt” and more just like a Jew from the suburbs who dabbled in Urban Outfitters and was struggling to figure out her hair. Dylan would make fun of me for being basic (before that was even a word) and thought he was way too cool to ever be involved with me.
Then, in my 20s, Dylan found me on Facebook and asked if I wanted to hang out. At this point I had figured out my hair and dressed much “edgier” than I had before (or at least, I wore these weird fishnet gloves). I decided that I was going to make Dylan want me. That was going to be the purpose of our meet up: Dylan would want me, and I would reject him. I had it all under control.
Well, the evening started off fine and he seemed maybe into me. But by the end of the night, I was so wasted that I forgot about my plan and invited him to come home with me. And there, in my bed, I somehow found myself basically begging him to let me suck his dick. To let me suck his dick! And to make matters worse—he rejected me!
I tell you this story for two reasons. First of all, I want to point out the common denominator in both of our situations. Both you and I thought, at the get-go, “No big deal, I got this, ain’t no thing.” Every time I’ve ended up humiliated, in emotional pain, it has started with “no big deal.” Beware of no big deal. No big deal is the slipperiest of slopes.
I also tell you this story just to say, OK, sometimes we fuck up! Sometimes we need to reach our hand into our shitty old bag of tricks just to make sure they are still shitty. Then, we get shit on our hand and have to clean ourselves up again. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to touch the shit to know it is shitty. But we forget! We forget shit is shitty, because we are human, and sometimes shit looks like it is no longer shitty from afar. It’s OK. Just keep him blocked.
So Sad Today