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    Drew Payne
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Case Studies in Modern Life - 3. Love & Need

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His mobile phone, still on silent, vibrated twice in his hand; it was an incoming text. John slipped it under the table and opened the text from Nathan.

“Didn’t get the job :(,” it read.

John felt a moment of deflation. Nathan had been so right for that job, but this now meant that he was back to casual agency jobs, with all the stress and uncertainty that meant. He’d been so hoping Nathan would get this job, it would boost his confidence, but it wasn’t to be. He sighed to himself.

He looked up and saw Kelly Boyd staring at him, across the meeting room table. She’d seen him checking his phone.

“Him?” she mouthed at John. When he nodded his reply, she rolled her eyes in exasperation. She didn’t approve of Nathan and was repeatedly telling him to leave Nathan, with all her good intentions. John just shrugged his shoulders. He then returned his attention to Myrtle Penny’s presentation, though the woman’s voice could send anyone to sleep. This would all be over soon and he could call Nathan back.

Kelly wasn’t alone in her opinion; so many of his friends had poured scorn on his relationship, many of them telling him to leave Nathan, but John ignored them. Their arguments ran the same: Nathan was damaged goods and unrealistically needy, therefore this wasn’t a healthy relationship. John would just shake his head whenever he heard this, and change the subject. It wasn’t just they didn’t know Nathan the way he did; they just didn’t know.

Nathan was needy, often in almost constant need of reassurance and affection, but that was just part of Nathan’s personality. As a child, Nathan had been abused and neglected in turn by his parents, depending on whatever they believed in that week, his mother always angrily telling him he deserved it for whatever infraction she saw. Outside of his home, people held his socially respectable parents in such high regard that he’d felt unable to seek help, and part of his childish mind felt he deserved the endless punishments. This had left a deep and jagged scar in Nathan’s personality, even after he left home at seventeen.

When they first met, Nathan had only recently been discharged from hospital, following a breakdown and depression, but John hadn’t known any of this. All he knew was that Nathan didn’t drink alcohol. John thought it was just a healthy lifestyle choice, not that alcohol interacted with the antidepressants Nathan was taking.

He had found out the truth when Nathan didn’t turn up for a date, three months into their relationship, and didn’t return any of his phone calls. At first John thought he’d been dumped, but the more he thought about it the more uncomfortable he felt. Nathan was always early for their dates, and when he stayed the night to John’s flat he’d been very reluctant to leave the next day. Three days after Nathan’s non-appearance, John went around to the flat-share where Nathan lived. To his horror, he found Nathan in bed and almost unresponsive with depression. John had managed to get Nathan to hospital, and from there he was admitted onto a psychiatric ward.

John knew he couldn’t dump Nathan while he was in hospital, so instead he became Nathan’s only visitor. Over the two weeks that Nathan was there, John found out about his past and the real reason he didn’t drink, but he also got to know him. Even with all Nathan’s insecurities and troubles, John had felt wave upon wave of love from him. He was always glad to see John and always wanted to know what he had been doing. Though they didn’t have sex once during Nathan’s time in hospital, John found himself drawn so close to Nathan.

When Nathan was discharged from there, John had insisted that he move into his home. He wanted Nathan close to him, but he also wanted to be able to look after Nathan.

That was two years ago and Nathan was still living with him. It wasn’t always easy, Nathan’s mood could drop into a deep depression with almost no notice, but even when Nathan was well he was so insecure. He had no confidence in himself and always expected the worst. He’d cook John a meal and worry that the food wasn’t good enough, even after John had eaten all of it. He seemed unable to hold down any job for long; he’d be sacked or become almost paralysed with self-doubt and not be able to go into work. Even though John reassured him that they could easily live on what he earned, Nathan insisted that he earn money too, though job hunting always knocked him down.

Many people just looked at Nathan and wrote him off as “needy,” warning John off him, but John ignored them. In the last two years he’d never been happier. Nathan didn’t just love him, but Nathan needed John in his life. John had never felt so secure in a relationship before. There was no question of Nathan leaving him for someone else, or growing tired of him, or saying they weren’t “emotionally compatible.” Nathan needed him in his life and John loved that. All Nathan’s demands on him were just signs that Nathan needed him.

He loved Nathan and all Nathan’s needs; he loved being needed, though no one seemed to understand that. They were always talking about being equals in relationships. John had tried that before, but he had always ended up the one being left as they “grew apart” or his boyfriend moved on to someone new. John was far happier with Nathan, because he knew Nathan would never leave him.

As they finally left the meeting room, John had rushed out into the corridor and pulled his phone out. Nathan answered on the second ring.

“Hi, babe,” John said into his phone.

“They said I didn’t have the right experience. Why did they interview me if I didn’t have the right experience? It was an excuse; they didn’t like me,” Nathan babbled.

“Don’t worry, they’re arseholes,” John told him.

Kelly walked past him and rolled her eyes when she saw he was on his phone, but John just ignored her.

A big thank you to Brian Holiday (brian_holliday@charter.net) for his excellent editing and proofreading of this story

Copyright © 2018 Drew Payne; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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I can understand John's point of view, but part of me still wants to ask, "Where does helping end and enabling begin?" Love is often the cause of helping and enabling. Sometimes you have to follow your gut in spite of what others think or say. Thank you.

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Thanks for both your feedback.

 

I wrote this story to answer the question, does every relationship need to be of equals? The need to be needed is very strong, is it always wrong in relationships?

 

I know there is a whole world going on with these two men, maybe I should return to them one day and explore more of their story.

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This is an interesting story of the complex dynamic of need and love. There are many ways to look at this, but it's important to note you've told us both of John's needs and Nathan's. I wonder if John's friends see which of his needs Nathan fulfills.

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