Madigan Chandler
6 min readFeb 28, 2022

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Thank you for kissing me

I was surprised at the softness of your lips, I can feel it now.

My mind was all colors and swirls, now calmer, I can remember exactly how it felt. I don’t remember where our hands and arms were. My whole self was in my face, in your lips, in the moment.

My feet were walking away before it was properly finished. I know that. You said later it was a graceful exit, you didn’t know I was running.

Driving away, I almost turned back twice. Doing that again seemed like the warm breeze gently blowing over bare skin on an already sunny day. Twice nice.

And yet, it really was. Amazing what one can remember about oneself in just one kiss. The laughable need to run in order to regain control of this newness, this bigness. Control, what a joker you are anyhow. And self knowing, creating the ability for that laughter. Healing over time.

There was once this shoulder that I leaned into and discovered similar about myself in that moment without running away. You ended up in my bed with almost no forethought on my part and that yielded some ease I needed to understand. And there was also, this hand on my knee this one time, I felt it then too, but stayed, more curious than disquieted. Instead of running, I watched like a movie and was myself. Could it be that avoiding the need to overcome control is part of successful staying? I mean finding the right partner is huge, but being my full self in relationship is essential. Looking back on that kiss, that shoulder, that hand on my knee my fondness lingers in the moments I liked who I was when together.

And ultimately the understanding that I needed a lot more of that. Not the relationship, the liking who I am. Ultimately those memories are sweet, but most certainly in the past for a reason. Easy to focus on the flaws of the other guy but truly, as the only person I am in control of, it comes down to me. As a woman, there are about a million articles out there on choosing the ‘right’ one, or better one, or not repeating mistakes, or how to have better boundaries. At some point, I knew with certainty that I needed time spent in knowing who the fuck I actually am before I was ready to sort the pile into ‘possible’ and ‘no’.

Intentional celibacy is an incredibly freeing experience. Do recommend, with a high score and much gained. Being single is being without partnership, but looking, open, maybe a hookup here or there. But intending to be solo is, well, hard to sum up as a simple relationship status as it’s certainly a peregrination of sorts with signposts along the way. I’m wondering if there is a definitive end, in that the lessons learned seem essential as ongoing endeavors while in future relationship.

Let’s define: It’s waking up knowing that you alone influence your contentedness, a synonym for which is peace of mind. in loving relationship with yourself. Something that eluded me at times in past relationships. I completed two years of intentional work and the shifts internally are enormous. Devoted time and lack of interference helped me clean up some mental highways that I habitually zoomed down to no good end it seemed, no matter who the partner was. No mistake, my romantic loves have each done their part in creating our dynamic and how I chose partners needed work as well, but that’s all part of the same contrivance. I remember some colloquial advice given to all of us young ladies over the years after a breakup to not ‘rush in’ to a new thing, to ‘give it some time’, to ‘focus on you’, but what that advice lacked was intentionality. That removing our engaged reactions to others, or for some, that inquiry into any good looking possibility, was key to this endeavor. To sound cliche, prioritizing love of self over possible love for and from others is one possible definition. I have found this tenant holds as true within all relationships, non romantic and familial as well. A clearer definition is embedded in the idea that learning about what we prefer, what our faults are, where we are high maintenance and low, and how we feel love and give love are much more essential than the simple, but not easy task, of loving ourselves. Intentional celibacy is time spent being curious about our needs, wants, quirks, and then fulfilling them ourselves to see the efficacy of our speculations.

Intentional celibacy looks like this: sometimes vague personal grooming, sometimes highly intentional self care, attention to internal dialogue in a whole new way, a responsibility on behalf of all who I interact with and will be in future partnership to know what I actually prefer and express myself honestly, learning to touch oneself lovingly, how to give yourself a hug, and ultimately ‘what I would do if it really was up to me and I wasn’t trying to please someone else or in some vague but determined vortex of family and personal shoulding’. Figuring out where the fears are, when I ‘need’ another person due to fear, what loneliness really looks like because it’s rarely actually being alone, and owning what my needs are and the associated courage and risked rejection of acknowledging them.

The trickiness comes in when the field shifts and expands. From primary partnership to all friendships, all reciprocal relationships, family, schedules, pets, colleagues. You get the picture. It’s with everyone. So, perhaps a new term of intentional self answerability. Looking up synonyms for ‘Responsibility’ yields several humorous and insightful results: liability, obligation, albatross, constraint. So, if we agree that those are not the desired result of this internal journey, there is indeed work to do. I chose answerability as I am aware that for myself and so so many others, we simply don’t tell the truth. To ourselves or those we are in relationship with. The classic example is eating foods one doesn’t like in an effort to not speak up or make someone else accommodate our preferences. And then there is sex. And money. And the house. When we look, we know that this list continues.

So, ultimately what is gained from this time spent? Is it looking in a mirror at your naked body and finding total acceptance? Is it sitting at coffee alone and laughing at one’s own jokes? Is it a perfect mastery of masturbation? No, rather it is taking oneself into relationships with others and partnerships of all kinds with so much more actual knowledge of what you want, need, desire, and are capable of. When we think of those we admire, these are almost the qualities that come to mind. Summed up as confidence and loving kindness. It’s a shift from demanding to asking, from routine to resetting, from isolation to independence, from need to enjoyment, and ultimately from furtive moments of hard won happy… to content with joy times.

At the core of my intentional sabbatical from sexual and romantic relationship with others is that all of the rules of relationship with others apply to that with oneself and vice versa: positive dialogue, frequent appreciation and praise, focus on what is working, respect (respect, respect), clarity, priorities/intentionality, building intentional habits for maintenance, visualization, taking time away, and truthfulness.

A side effect of my journey that I had not understood was a risk, is that being in intentional relationship with oneself is so fulfilling that seeking partnership becomes a much lower priority. I’ll wrastle that one in another session.

I wish you love and a warm firm rub with your palm to your sternum. A self hug worth the ease in which it’s available.

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Madigan Chandler

Psychotherapist, mother, walker, swimmer, lover, and aspiring good friend