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The Hard Parts of Breaking the Rules

06 Jan

Damn, and here I thought I had emptied my head about this but Wildwestangel, in her comments to the last scribble, reminded me of some of the initial… discomfort that one has to bear up with when getting into this discussion and one of them is finding out that you really aren’t the answer to everything your partner needs or, bluntly, you’re just not enough when it comes to some things.

People break the rules for a lot of reasons but, as I’ve said, one of them is all about sex, loving, and being loved and to find out that these things aren’t as static or consistent as you think they are is a huge kick in places where you’d rather not be kicked. See, it’s not always a matter of someone not being up to the task (to be nice about it) but, again, when we hook up with someone and start a relationship, we just don’t ever think about how someone’s needs might change or somewhere down the road, they will have new needs or that a hidden need has resurfaced and is begging for attention.

When I learned of my [then] wife’s infidelity, I was hurt by it and when I found out why, I was crushed and pulverized into paste… until I somehow managed to get past that terrible emotional moment and my intellect kicked in and having it say to me, “Um, you know, she has a point there because, last time we looked, uh, you’re not female.” But the emotional pain didn’t stop there because as we talked about it, shit, there were a couple of guys she slept with and the reason, at first, didn’t make sense to me when she told me that she slept with those guys because they weren’t me.

Now, that might sound like an insult to end all insults and, emotionally, it sure as hell felt like one but, once again, the intellect kicked in and rewound the key thing that she had said about this, namely, it wasn’t that I was unequal to the task – she just needed something different. It told me that being consistent in these things – and as much as anyone can be – is both a good and “bad” thing.

Emotionally, it still hurt because just like everyone who gets married, it is assumed and implied that the person you marry has to be – and should be – all you’ll ever need for the rest of whatever… until you find out that it just doesn’t work like that and you feel kinda devastated and even, well, stupid, because you believed what you were told about being married more than a sense of hubris or ego – you think you’re all that for your partner and learn that, nope, not so much all that.

A deeper conversation took place that exposed all of the things we thought we knew about each other and, my god, that was even worse than finding out that I wasn’t all that she needed and I cannot begin to tell you how hard it was to hear this for the both of us and how it irrevocably changes the way you look at the person you thought you knew.

A lot of tears were shed getting all of this out in the open. But, strangely, once the initial shock wore off, not so much in the way of being angry. Well, wait a minute – there was anger but not over what had happened or why it happened but because we both failed to communicate at a very open and honest level so to that end, we both fucked up big time. Then came some very hard questions we both had to answer for ourselves and to each other.

Did we still love each other? Did we want to stay together? Clearly, there are some very major problems that need to be addressed; do we address them and try to resolve them or just say, “Fuck it – I can’t deal with this shit!” and literally throw it all away?

I spent a lot of sleepless nights pondering these things and one of the things that plagued my thoughts was did I love her and need her enough to hold up my end of the vows we took and do whatever was necessary to keep her, make her happy, and prove to her that when I said that I would do anything for her, I meant what I said? Was I man enough? Strong enough? So when we got to the part in our discussions where the question of, “What do we do now?” came up, I had to ask myself was I committed enough to truthfully and honestly answer her question with a question:

“What do you want to do?”

You ask this question and with the sure knowledge that, frankly, opening Pandora’s Box would be child’s play in comparison to what you might be opening yourself up to. She told me what she wanted to do, what she needed to do and, importantly, that no matter what I said in opposition, she was gonna do it anyway.

Whoa. You wanna talk about what it means to be between a rock and a hard place? You have no idea – you really don’t. Now the ball was back in my court and I had a major and life changing decision to make. Do I throw it all away? Do I try to “man up,” put my foot down, and go all “Me Tarzan, you Jane” on her and, my god, beat her into submission and compliance? Could I really live with knowing that whenever she was out of my sight, she could be getting her needs taken care of outside the remit of marriage and, fuck me, even if she was sitting right next to me, knowing that she has this on her mind and planning on how she could pick her moments to get the things she needed that I couldn’t give her?

Or do I bite the bullet and get my head around the fact that it would be better to know what – and who – she was doing than it would be not knowing? And I responded to her statement of fact in the only way that made sense if, indeed, I did love and need her as much as I said I did.

So I said, “Okay. How can we make this happen?” More talking and we eventually hashed out how we were gonna take all of the rules of being married and obliterate them then remold them in a way that would, hopefully, make our time together better. As we talked about the new rules, it became clear that there were some… occupational hazards (again, to be nice) that became apparent and hazards that would test the strength of our love for each other, namely, what if someone met someone else and fell in love with them? Would that cause the marriage to dissolve… and should it? She could no longer have children but, um, that didn’t mean that I couldn’t and if shit happened, how to deal with this?

Come to find out that creating the new rules wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be and it required more soul searching than all the other stuff did but eventually we got the new rules created and with the understanding that they would and could be subject to change at any time, up to and including calling all of this off.

You’d think that when you’ve managed to get through this and you’re pretty beat up but still intact and functioning, well, that’s the hard part, right? Well, no, not really. Not even close. See, it’s one thing to know that your partner is out there getting jiggy with other people… and something very and terribly different to see them getting jiggy… and having big time fun getting jiggy with someone who isn’t you.

You get it into your head that you can handle it then find out – and in no uncertain terms – that handling being there and watching your partner getting laid is about the hardest thing you ever had to do and you’re either gonna survive such a moment (and depending if you’ve agreed to literally do this together) or you aren’t… but one thing is certain: You’re gonna really find out if you’re as grown up as you think you are and if the love you share with each other is as strong and powerful as you thought.

Wanna know what’s even worse than that? Talking to each other about it after the fact and I mean getting all into the details of it from what was being thought and felt. Holy shit.

Holy shit. If nothing else, you learn that being able to always communicate at this level becomes even more important and one of the rules we set was to always talk to each other about what went on, whether we were out on our own or doing it together with others. And, yes, it hurts like a motherfucker to hear and see it and it will test everyone’s resolve – are we really doing the right thing for us? Should we stop this and figure out some other way? And, just as important, are things between us getting better or worse?

Do we have to make any adjustments? One of the things we figured out was that the more rules you put in place, well, it doesn’t make things easier because you’re trying to put limits on something that actually works better with fewer limits, like how some folks who open up and get into swinging don’t have a problem with them having sex with other people… as long as things like kissing doesn’t happen because, for reasons I still don’t pretend to understand, kissing is seen as being more intimate than having sex with someone else is or saying that certain sexual things, like oral sex, is off the table and reserved for only the two of you to be doing.

There’s a definite need to preserve and protect the core relationship but when you put in rules to this effect, most people put them in and with the assumption that they can never be changed for any reason which puts them pretty much right back in the situation that caused all of this to happen in the first place: The denial of providing what’s needed and, as such, having those needs go unattended and, gasp, deemed to be of no great import.

So the fewer restrictions you put in place – and you must put some in place – can be the best area to operate in. You cannot set your obligations to each other go by the wayside; even though you’ve decided to take the rules as we know them and kick them into the next county does not ever mean that the things you have to do for and with each other gets ignored or otherwise supplanted so Rule Number One should always be, “Take care of home first.”

It’s so easy to forget this rule as you and your partner open the doors and step into what is new and exciting territory for the both of you. So while any other rules you may have put in place can be subject to change, this one should never be changed.

Ever.

Should you get past this point, well, things should be easier, right? No… not really, because just like any other relationship, this is not going to take care of itself – it’s not gonna run on autopilot, as it were, so it makes being able to talk about it even more important; you have to be aware of any difficulties that may be encountered and, together, resolve them. The biggest mistake people make when attempting this is that once they get the ball rolling, they stop talking to each other about it and stop sharing their thoughts with each other which makes Rule Number Two important: Full disclosure of all things and no exceptions and that includes any “future plans” one might have in mind.

This rule isn’t always easy to keep up with because, well, ya tend to get caught up in whatever you might be doing and it just slips your mind so it also makes sense to put in a “better late than not at all” sub-clause and more so when, before disclosing anything, it might take some time to gather one’s thoughts about whatever happened or what direction one’s other thoughts about this might be headed in.

But don’t be too late about it because it’ll appear that you have something to hide and when you’re not supposed to be hiding anything any longer from each other.

Another important thing to take into consideration: Do you need to be able to veto a partner’s decision? I’d say that most people feel that installing some veto power makes sense and, to a certain extent, it does and in the sense that if you’re partner is thinking about doing something (or someone) you don’t necessarily agree with, you should be able to say something about it – and, really, you’d better say something… but that doesn’t mean that your partner has to agree with your disagreement and this, too, is a major test that many fail to pass.

If you cannot trust your partner’s judgement of a situation, you’re gonna have problems that will, ultimately, cause you to fail. You go into this and, hopefully, with the understanding that you can only protect them so much if you’re out there operating independently; you really don’t want anything bad to happen to your partner but, again, if you have no faith in their ability to think things through before enacting them, that’s not a good thing and the message that gets sent is that you don’t trust them to make the right decision for themselves or for the relationship as a whole.

Maybe it goes as expected – no harm, no foul. But what becomes even more important is that if it doesn’t go well, be ready, willing, and able to pick up the pieces as well as talk about what went wrong and, if applicable, what can be done to make sure – or as sure as anyone can be – what whatever got fucked up doesn’t happen again (or any time soon).

Even when the two of you make a joint decision, you could both – and unknowingly – wind up making a mistake – it happens and mostly because even though the two of you know where each other is coming from, you can’t possibly know where the other people are coming from, what their intentions are, and other such things. So if there’s some doubt, sit down and talk it out; put your concerns on the table and together decide whether the concerns are valid and warrants inaction or, really, trust your partner to make the most right decision as possible.

Because it’s not just about your partner – it’s about the whole relationship that can be affected and, again, things are going to go wonky and it’s not that they can go wonky – it’s about what the two of you do when they do go wonky. And, what makes this even harder to do is almost literally being of two minds about things.

There’s what you think, what they think, and what you both think is best for us. It’s “what are you gonna do about it?” as well as “what are we gonna do about it?” and those two things aren’t always mutually inclusive and tends to put into place what’s really a conflict: What’s better for “me” against what’s better for “us” in a given thing.

Are you getting the impression that being non-monogamous is harder than being monogamous? Some people screw the pooch and think this is easy; some are… wiser and understand that it isn’t all that easy.

The truth is that it’s harder than you can imagine because, usually, people get near-sighted – they’re only paying attention to what’s going on “right now” and not paying much attention to what might occur down the road. But while no one can see into the future, it always pays to pay attention to the fact that things might change for some reason or another and if you keep this firmly in mind, when something does change, you don’t wind up being blindsided by the fact that something you didn’t think of has cropped up.

You kinda say, “Whoa – didn’t see that coming!” or maybe kick yourselves in the ass because you didn’t “plan” for something but be assured that it’s practically impossible to plan for something you don’t know is going to show up.

Then there’s the shared vision and I cannot stress how important this is. You see, it’s not about what one person wants, needs, wants to do about any of this – it’s always about what we want and hope to accomplish by daring to take the rules and flush them down the toilet. You want to be the best for each other that you can be and you both have to decide on what form this is going to take, you know, like having a main goal, for lack of better words for it. You have to say, “This is what needs to be done; this is why it needs to be done in order to be able to do right by each other and in the best way possible.”

And if you think this is easy, I beg to differ with you because a lot of what it takes to develop a shared vision are things that hasn’t happened yet… or might not even happen. Ultimately, the shared vision should be about that which will not only make each other happy but do its best to insure that the core relationship remains intact, strong and vital. What makes this not so easy is the question, “Where are we going with this and where is this going to take us?”

If someone had told me way back when the decision was made to trash the rules that we’d go from being open to engaging with other people together to the two of us sharing (and living with) a girlfriend, I would have told them that they were crazy and mostly because during the initial talks and planning, those other things never came up and, embarrassingly, neither of us were able to really see where all of this would lead us – and there was no way to know it.

Which is also why couples who are thinking about doing some rule-trashing of their own should remain open to the possibilities that might show up and at any time. Yes – you say, “This is what we’re gonna do, this is how we’re gonna go about doing it – but we need to keep ourselves open to other things that might show up.”

Or, locking it down and encasing it in tons of concrete might not be the wisest way to approach this because, don’t forget, the reason why you’re thinking about breaking the rules is because of something that cropped up that you didn’t know about and weren’t prepared to deal with.

Once you start down this path, it’s is an ongoing work in progress. You have to keep your fingers on the pulse of the relationship as well as your “partner in crime” so that everyone is always aware of what’s going on and to insure that you’re both still sharing the same vision for the present and future of your relationship.

There’s just nothing easy about doing this and I’ve shared the hard parts I had to deal with in the early going and, believe me, it was a lot more painful to endure than words could ever explain. It made me question and rethink everything I thought I knew and believed in as well as making me – forcing me – to look at my wife in a way I could have never imagined.

And maybe now y’all can understand why I’d tell a couple who wants to do this that they really need to very seriously consider not doing it because things will most certain get worse before they begin to get better. But if they choose to go for it, at least ya got an idea of what you could be facing and depending on why this has to be done in the first place.

Again, thanks to Wildwestangel for reminding me of this very important aspect of kicking monogamy to the curb.

 

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