Wow… writing that piece for TMI Tuesdays brought back a rush of memories, spanning a great many years and a kinda huge mashup of the good and the bad experienced when taking a step to the side and not being totally monogamous.
I remember the beginning of things, the great shock and confusion of the moment, including the terrible painful feelings as well as feeling inadequate and unworthy to learn that I, alone, wasn’t enough… even though, after the initial review, it wasn’t really me that caused this to come to the surface but it still didn’t feel good to be told that she wanted someone – anyone – who wasn’t me and then trying to make sense of the explanation and getting to understand just how complex and confusing such a declaration really meant.
Like most husbands, I believed in the sanctity of marriage; I understood what it meant to be bound by the vows I’d taken and all that they said and was otherwise implied… only to find out and eventually come to the conclusion that it’s almost impossible to be all someone is ever going to need; not only that but over any given period of time, people change but being monogamous is so… static and creates an environment where a lot of things aren’t really allowed to change.
I also realized that there are… consequences to loving someone and vowing, saying, or even implying that you’d do anything in your power to make and keep your partner happy being with you. In this, it was that “shit or get off the pot” moment and dealing with a damned if you do and damned if you don’t moment and even having to decide which of the two evils were the one that could be lived with along with the even harder and painful thought processes to end a relationship that was, up to that moment, engaging and good.
Was this going to be the biggest mistake ever? A right and proper thing to do and all for the sake of love? The hardest part about this is not knowing what’s going to happen if you don’t… and now being fully aware of what’s gonna happen if you do. You think that you know the person you love with all your heart and soul… until you find out that you kinda/sorta don’t really know them but, then again, what this is really about is not being all that aware of what changes are going on inside of them and coming to terms over why you weren’t aware of them before you became aware of them. It’s not so much of a thing of not paying your partner enough attention but more of a thing of not being all that privy to everything they may be thinking about and those things that, for reasons of their own – and because of the nature of those thoughts – yeah, um, you might not want to mention them out of fear of reprisal:
Even when you know someone fairly well, you never really know how they’re going to react to something; you can be somewhat certain of that but, eh, not really but if you really want and need to know one way or the other, you just gird your loins and say the things that you know have to be said. There is a certain appreciation of this level of honesty and despite the amount and depth of emotional pain and agony that can be experienced to find out that your partner needs something you can’t provide them or they need a lot more of what you’re already giving them and even they need something that’s different in a great many ways.
It’s even a bigger bitch to get kicked in the balls and finding out that what you so very much believed in was flawed and incredibly so; it’s a shock to the system when you look at all of this and realize that those vows and other such affirmations we make when we are in a relationship do not ever factor in the fact that people change and that odd situation where everything is going well… but not really. And you don’t really get to understand that, sometimes, a change in things – and this kind of change in particular – is one that is seen to be necessary even if for one’s own sense of self-preservation and invoking Rule Number One: Look after your own ass first. In these things, the vows and affirmations we make, I think, were designed to eliminate this very important rule and implies that you are expected, required and demanded to sacrifice all that you are for something you now know doesn’t really work the way they say it’s supposed to work and without exception.
If nothing else, getting smacked in the face with this can have you asking yourself just how much you really love, want, and need someone; it makes you face yourself – did you really, honestly, and truly mean all of the things you said about loving them… and if you reject the “ultimatum” of putting an end to being monogamous, it’s not so much about what it says about them but it does get you thinking about what your rejection says about you; if I learned nothing else from this, I not only learned that what we believe about how relationships are supposed to be isn’t the only thing that’s flawed and erroneous: It’s also your belief in such a flawed system, too.
What would you do for the sake of love? I know what I did and I gotta tell you that even as I made the very difficult decision to break the rules, I had a lot of misgivings and even fears over it but, then again, from where I was sitting, I didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter and the question I had to answer for myself was which thing was better – to know what she was doing and who she might be doing it with… or not know what was going on but also knowing that this was gonna happen with or with my “blessings?”
I had a lot of people tell me that I made the wrong decision; I should have left her and some… assholes said I should have given her a proper ass-kicking over this; I’m not that guy and leaving her – and that being the “logical” thing to do – well, my heart and my love for her wasn’t hearing any of that and more so when you’ve invested your whole life in someone, throwing it all away is a pretty dumb thing to do because it’s time in your life that you can never get back and while many people would suffer through having to start all over again with someone else, shit: When you get hit with this life-changing revelation, you become very aware that if it happened once, it could happen again and for a lot of the same reasons.
As a result, I totally lost faith in the tenets of monogamy. Oh, it has its good parts and for many, it works well since many are quite content to abide by the rules and no matter what’s going on with things. In a way, it’s a matter of honor, isn’t it? You vowed or promised to keep only unto yourself and let no one put asunder… but you also vowed or promised to be in this together through better or worse… and it doesn’t get any worse than knowing that even at your very best, you’re not all they will ever want and need and while such things can be suppressed, there might come a time, a tipping point, where their survival – and in their view of things – is in jeopardy and something has to be done… and by any means necessary.
And I was made to understand that this doesn’t apply to just those who are married; we deal with being in a relationship but not being married under the same tenets and guidelines and the only real difference is lawyers don’t get involved when things go south or otherwise break down. As we discussed how this very drastic change in our lives was going to take shape, I spent a lot of time kicking my own ass over believing something that, again after really and seriously looking at it, was about as flawed as anything can be; who in their right mind vows and/or promises to never want anything or, in the case, anyone else; who in their right mind actually sets themselves up to either fail or to find themselves stuck in place and without any other way to get unstuck outside of taking that relationship and throwing it all away.
But then seeing and beginning to understand that, hah – you can have your cake and eat it, too; you don’t have to throw it all away and that this? This not being monogamous thing? That’s well within the realms of something that’s humanly possible to do and more so when you really do love someone as much as you think and you’ve said that you do… and now it’s time to shit or get off the pot and to prove that those things you said about loving them weren’t empty and meaningless and that, you are willing to stick with them for better or worse. Holy shit, right?
So we went there and I’m not gonna lie and say that everything went swimmingly well… because it didn’t; even in this, I came to understand that not only do we really don’t know how to be in a relationship to begin with, this not being monogamous thing is an even bigger unknown. We know the theory of being in a relationship and we develop our own idea about how this is supposed to go – but based on something that, again, has more holes in it than a screen and, at the worst, prevents people from being who they really need to be as well as suppressing a lot of shit that is more damaging that breaking the rules seems to be.
Even after the long years after making that fateful decision, I still sometimes ask myself if by agreeing to not being monogamous, did I really make a mistake… and I found that no, I really didn’t even though things were rocky in the beginning and as in any relationship, shit doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to… but you improvise, overcome, and adapt and even more so when you really don’t want to lose what you already have; you just gotta take the good with the bad and keep making the best of things and to the best of your ability to do so.
The things that took place were exciting and all that but when I look back at it all, the biggest thing I took away from this departure from the norm is what I learned about myself. It was pretty fucked up to find out that I wasn’t as grown-up, worldly, or even as smart as I thought myself to be. I thought, once upon a time, that I could handle anything… right up to the moment I found out that I couldn’t handle this. The one thing I found that I could pat myself on the back about was being willing to step into very unknown territory and deal with it and, oddly, it became a matter of personal honor; I could have thrown in the towel but since I didn’t, time again to shit or get off the pot… and for better or worse.
Because of what being in love can really mean and that this? This not being monogamous thing? Yeah… love says you can do that if you’re not afraid to because, sure enough, love conquers all. The challenge of a lifetime and one wrought with more pitfalls, sink holes, and other hazards; it’s everyone’s worst nightmare and greatest fears come true and made real… now it’s a question of whether you’re really grown up enough to face the fears and nightmares… and for the sake of love itself.
Those of you who’ve been following and reading, you might remember the things I’ve said about this situation and they always bear repeating: You have to unlearn everything you thought you knew about love, sex, and relationships in order to learn a very different way to do these things. You have to be willing and able to break a whole lot of rules and see the reason for breaking them because the love you have for each other pretty much demands that those rules be tossed out and newer ones be put into place.
I am really and seriously not joking when I say it was the most insane thing I ever agreed to and have been a part of… and the thrill of a lifetime all at the same time. We grew together in this; we learned together; we reveled in it together and we suffered through the missteps and failures together; we not only learned much about ourselves as individuals, we learned about ourselves as a couple and even then, there was much joy and pain in the learning. One of the big things I learned was just because you can do a thing, you don’t always have to do it… but if you can, well, why not? It wasn’t so much what we were doing that held a lot of importance to me but the fact that we were sharing it all with each other was the thing that made such an insane decision for either of us, oddly and strangely, probably the best thing we could have ever done.
There are always regrets and nothing is forever… but you learn to be and live in the moments and I’m not sure if even now if I can really explain this state of mind. I know all that went wrong, the mistakes both of us made along the way; I realize that we were learning how to do this as we went along – since there was no Internet at the time, there wasn’t the current wealth of information that could be referred to and it wasn’t like we knew of anyone who was also doing this very crazy thing before the fact. Things could have gone better… but they could have been much, much worse.
And the craziest thing? I’d do it again. There really is no such thing as loving and being loved too much and that feeling alone is amazing beyond mere words and, yeah, the sex? It’s amazing how good it can be once you free your mind from the way it’s supposed to be. Even in this, it’s fascinating to see how we grew in this, from going about it individually to doing it together, to having and sharing lovers and that poly way. If nothing else, you won’t ever look at monogamy the same way ever again and, really, the lesson to be learned is that no matter what kind of relationship you’re in, you do have a duty – a responsibility – to make the relationship as good as it can be; you have that same duty and responsibility for your partner’s wants and needs and if there’s one that they have, it’s not impossible to provide it and, believe it or not, it can make you feel rather wonderful knowing that you are able to provide for those needs.
And because love says that you should even though the rules say that you can’t and shouldn’t. For most people and when you ask them what they’re willing to do for the sake of love, the answer is, “Not a whole lot.” When we tell the person we love, “I love you,” there’s an unspoken “but” that can be present and, of course, that usually represents what you’re not going to do. There are, of course, some things that shouldn’t ever be done like, I love you… but I’m not gonna go kill someone just because it would make you happy and other such stuff along those lines. But giving you that “more” that you know you need and it will require some… outside help? We can do that; all we have to do it put our heads together and decide the best way to get it done for each other…
And for the sake of the love we have for each other and for love, itself. Most people will say that they couldn’t do it; that they wouldn’t do it even if it could literally save a life; they don’t believe in such shit and the promises, vows, and affirmations are inviolate and resolute. They’d rather throw away an otherwise good relationship. Some might even give the sense of that they care about their own ass more than they do the person they’re with. It reminds me of that song by Meatloaf – I’d do anything for love… but I won’t do that and, in this, the “that” is putting yourselves in that seemingly impossible situation of having your cake and eating it, too, and the cake eating is being enjoyed and even shared.
If it sounds like a lot of work, believe me – it is and this is a rabbit hole that is even deeper than you can imagine it to be and while doing it ain’t easy the hardest part is all of the stuff that I think has to happen before any doing gets close to happening… and I’m pretty sure that you’re gonna learn some stuff that you’re gonna wish you hadn’t learned about your partner and yourself, too. That part alone is a good enough reason for not even going there and for many, love isn’t a good enough reason and, well, shit – I really don’t know what to say about that mindset.
Writing the TMI Tuesday piece brought back so many memories, some beyond pleasant and those that just weren’t pretty at all. It’s something that is hard to wrap your head around even in theory because it calls for one to be able to set aside that which they believe and going to places that our morality deems to be forbidden territory. You think you know what it means and is like to love someone? You really have no idea of what that really means until what you think you know or otherwise believe gets challenged and put to the test. Most people would run away from this… and, let’s say, only the most bold and daring will run toward it and for no other reason that they believe more in the power of love than they do the tenets of monogamy.
I don’t believe in it any more and haven’t for a very long time. It has value and there’s no denying that and for many, it works… and for many more, nope – not really. A lot of people these days are seriously looking at being ethically non-monogamous or, my favorite phrase, negotiated infidelity and many are finding out how to make it work for them. They are, today, finding out what I did so many decades ago:
I would do anything for love… including that.