On the heels of writing about this yesterday, I found myself in a bit of a pensive and reflective mood, alternating between smiling and frowning while thinking along the lines of that if I knew then what I know now…
I found myself thinking that if the wealth of information about alternative relationships available today had existed when I began this journey, a lot of the things I know I fucked up may not have gotten fucked up but in a lot of ways, learning it via on the job training is one hell of a learning experience because when you don’t know how to do a thing – and there’s no “instruction manual,” well, hang onto your hat and ass because you’re going for one hell of a ride.
I made mistakes… but traveling this path wasn’t one of them and without question, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I recall the many sleepless nights I experienced in the early going, the many headaches I gave myself trying to work it all out in my head and, I guess, stupidly or futilely, trying to envision a future that hasn’t happened or, realistically, may not happen. I keenly remember the emotional pain upon hearing some stuff that no one wants to hear and trying to wrap my head around the confusing thing of, “It’s not you all that much – it’s me…” and trying to make sense of it and all with the traditional mindset about love, sex, and relationships firmly in my mind…
And finding out that that mindset was severely flawed, that everything I believed in wasn’t as much a lie as it failed to represent life’s true reality, that this stuff really doesn’t work as flawlessly as its said to be and that, as an idea or theory, it works on paper rather nicely… and the reality can be a very hard and glacially cold slap in the face and more so when you learn that the person you thought you knew was a lot more than what you thought you knew.
That probably doesn’t read correctly but, hopefully, you get the gist of it.
But I learned two things: How to do it and how not to do it and the only way to learn these things is to make mistakes and, again, I know for my part I made a lot of them and mistakes that, today, would never happen but, sure, nothing is really fool- or idiot-proof and if you’re human, you’re gonna make mistakes of some kind – it’s just what you do after you make them that matters.
I see the sense of it all just as I see the flaws in our beliefs and one of the big ones is that if you think that you can be all that someone else will ever want and need, you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid and more so when you consider that the wants and needs of the person your with are not static; they might start out one way but over time, they change and in a lot of situations, there are some changes that aren’t allowed, a lot of wants and needs that violate the spirit and letter of the rules that bind us and to the point where not only are you not allowed to want or need anything else, you can’t even say anything about these changes in what you want and need and, mostly, to [hopefully] be a better person and, in turn, be a better partner.
It’s one hell of a kick in the crotch and both revelations are, to be honest. Then, should you manage to recover from the utter shock of these revelations, now what? What the fuck are you supposed to do when reality rears back and crotch-kicks you like trying to make a 60-yard field goal? Usually, it means the end of the relationship but as I’ve often said, what if that’s not the smartest thing to do? Even when breaking up isn’t an option, it’s not as if you can ignore what has been revealed and even if you try to do just that, um, that stuff ain’t going away and can make the need for great change even more pointed and maybe even urgent… because nothing fucks shit up like knowing your partner – or even yourself – needs something and those needs are rejected out of hand, not because of any inability to provide for them but because you’re not supposed to do anything about them.
There’s nothing that can be done and that’s just the way it is and has to be, right?
No, not really… and that’s a big-time wakeup call and one that, today, a lot of couples are answering because it benefits them to answer it. More and more people are, as I said yesterday, finding a way to have their cake and eat it, too, and without fucking up the relationship they started with. I have heard one person tell another, “If you truly love me – if we truly love each other as much as we say we do – we have to find a way to make this work.”
And I’ve heard people say, “I love you with all my heart and soul; there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you… but I’m not gonna do that.” This sentiment alone exposes a hypocrisy, doesn’t it? Nah, not too many people are gonna go out and rob a bank or kill someone just to prove how much love you have for someone; “there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you” does some with some common sense exceptions. But in a lot of these situations, that which is wanted and needed can be done – it’s just simply not even close to being an easy thing to do because, again and again, you have to unlearn some shit… and a lot of it so you can learn some new shit… and there’s a god-awful amount of new shit to be learned.
Not in what to do going forward but about your partner and yourself and I can tell you, that’s not at all pretty and I am understating this because I can’t begin to put into words just how horrifically ugly this can be.
It’s the reason why when someone would approach me and ask how they could do what I was doing, I’d try to talk them out of it and explain to them that even if they had an idea of how difficult it is to even bring up in a conversation, it is much, much worse than that.
How would you react and feel to know and hear it from your partner that you’re everything they want in a person… and not so much? It’s being enough and not enough all wrapped up in a very not-so-pretty package… and being emphatically told that you’re still very much loved and needed that that life just wouldn’t be the same without you…
People would ask me, “How in the name of all that’s holy could you decide to go along with this shit?” It’s not easy to explain and the easiest way I could explain it was like this: I had some choices to make and based upon what I was told, namely, with or without my “permission,” it was gonna happen anyway. Do I forbid it (and as expected), put my foot down hard and, Jesus, violently so? Do I cut my losses and dissolve the marriage? And, importantly, do I really love her as much as I know and say that I do?
Shit. Then this: Which thing would be the absolute worse: To know what she was doing and who she was doing it with and the why of it all (even if it didn’t make sense to me at first)… or not knowing?
A lot of people were, um, nice enough to tell me what they wouldn’t have done along with what I should have done, up to and including kicking her ass for such blatant disrespect… but what kind of man would I be if I did some heinous shit like that? I’d tell them that, sure, it’s easy for you to say shit like that because you weren’t the one “on the spot” and having to make such a decision.
I made the decision I made, not because there were no other choices but because those other choices were unpalatable… and I did, in fact, love her as much as I knew and said I did. Even as I said the words, I could see how all of this could go badly and because of what I already knew about both of us but, shit, it can’t go badly if you don’t try to do it and I even said, “I have a bad feeling that I’m going to regret this…”
And, in a lot of ways, I did… but in many more ways, to not have done it would have been an even bigger regret; even today, I shudder to think what life would have been like if any of the “options” had been invoked and that scares me even more than starting the journey did.
The worst of it, believe it or not, was really what everyone who figured it out had to say… and none of it was good and even when you expect a lot of negative feedback, wow, we both heard some pretty fucked up shit coming from other folks and me more than her because it just stood to reason that this was all my idea… and it wasn’t but, okay, not gonna believe me and I expected that.
Were we crazy? Insane? Doing the dumbest thing two people could ever think or conceive of doing? Hell, even we thought that but you try explaining to someone who mind is very much embedded in the way things are supposed to be how that doesn’t always work and that “for better or worse” has much more far-reaching implications than the words may seem to imply… but “worse” doesn’t have to be as bad as it implies… or that some, ah, judiciously applied sundering can be just the thing that’s needed to maintain a relationship that neither person wants to get thrown away and without doing everything humanly possible to keep it together.
Or, really, what are you willing to do for the sake of love itself? For many of the people we knew, eh, not a whole lot and most certainly not what we did. It was wonderful, scary, and with a lot of pot holes along the way to fall into and/or be tripped up by and mistakes were made, forgiven, rectified and corrected and the journey continued. Shaken, humbled beyond belief and, again, scared shitless to sit back and think (or ask each other), “What the fuck have we gotten ourselves into?” The “what” was obvious; the “why” only obvious to us and while a lot of people could see the logic in such an approach, the emotional resistance and angst was, all too often, too much for some sensibilities and, to be honest, I don’t know how many times we sat down and talked about just giving this aspect up.
And we had a few busloads of reasons for abandoning the journey… and we didn’t. Sometimes it was because we’d come to far and put too much into it to just walk away, not that anything would have been “lost” had we agreed to do this but, on the other hand, what’s to say that we’d decide to end this… and find out that ending it turned out to be the mistake or that Mr. Murphy would come along and provide one or both of us with a reason to once more walk the path?
It’s not what you know that can fuck you up the most – it’s what you don’t know and even as experienced as we’d become in this, there was a lot we didn’t know – a lot we just couldn’t see or attempt to predict. So we stayed the course… because for better or worse, it was working. Not perfectly or ideally but it worked just the same.
I looked back at all of this and then I looked at what some folks are, dare I say, bravely doing today and I know what it’s like to have this staring you in the face; I know how fucking scary it is just as I know how unbelievably exciting it all can be. I know now what I didn’t know then and, yeah, I still think it was pretty fucking insane and no matter the reasons for the insanity.
I will tell anyone who asks about this a lot of things I learned about it, both the good and the butt-ugly parts of it and more so since I/we didn’t have the advantage of having some very wise couple tell us how to do it and how not to do it and I do wonder if such mentorship had been available, would we have done it?
I don’t know. I know that any couple who even dares to go here has to find their own way – what’s gonna work for them and in the way it needs to work but just like any relationship, there are still a lot of do’s and don’t’s involved and while it calls for the breaking of a lot of rules, there are other rules that must be put in place in the old rules’ stead.
What’s the biggest mistake? It’s the rules themselves and for two reasons: Too many of them and then making them unchangeable and non-negotiable because even in this, whatever your alternative relationship of choice happens to be, it’s not static and remains subject to change at any time and for any reason and if you don’t change or adjust accordingly, your experience isn’t going to be as good as it could be.
Some folks, like DDJennifer, actually have a contract that defines and binds them to their alternative relationship and, shit, I wish I/we had been smart enough back then to actually write that shit down so that when change was needed, we could literally go back and see what we wrote down so things could be changed according to its need or even in those moments when we’d wonder if something was really within the rules or, shit, something that never came up before it did.
Is this for everyone? Again, not only no but hell, no. I wouldn’t even insult anyone by saying it’s easier said than done… because it isn’t and I’ll tell you why: It has nothing to do with intelligence, logic, or even common sense; the resistance is purely emotional and tied to that which we believe and have been told about what it means to be in a relationship.
And, if by chance, you’re reading this and you think this is bullshit, ask yourself why it sounds like some whacked-out, freaky-assed bullshit and what’s telling you that is and if you’re saying, “Yeah, but…”
Strangely, it was hard for me to write this because even if I didn’t mention every little mistake or fuck-up done on my part, I am all too aware of each and every one of them, just like I know that I’m not the only one who screwed the pooch along the way – we both did.
I just don’t have any real regrets about having taken that journey. No matter how it turned out, we did what we had to do and did it to the best of our ability. For better or worse. No matter how insane everyone else thought we were for it and, yeah, no matter how crazy we thought we were as well.
The biggest question is: If I could do it tomorrow, knowing all that I know about this, would I? And, perhaps insanely, yeah, I would because it is one hell of a journey and when it comes to being in love, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to do – that and I know it can be done… because I’ve done it. For better or worse.
Even for better and worse.