I’ve always hated movies that end with star-crossed lovers breaking up for no apparent reason, like The Break-Up. Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn clearly still love each other in this final scene, but because they can’t agree the on stupid little things, like who should do the dishes or whether or not to put a pool table in the living room, they walk away.
Of course, it wasn’t really his socks all over the house or his video game addiction that caused her to finally call it quits. It was their lack of intimate connection. I imagine she, like me, wanted to be seen and known, and that she wanted to see and know the deepest parts of him.
The great thing about polyamory is – unlike Jen or Vince – if I’m not getting the sexual and emotional connection I crave, I’m free to seek it out elsewhere… with one caveat: Our time-space reality allows me to be deeply intimate with only a handful of people at a time. So it’s difficult to seek out potential new relationships without further weakening existing relationships.
So I’ve been stuck, for months – never fully satisfied with the depth of my two primary romantic relationships, but too occupied with them to start something new.
Mine and Ben’s occasional sexual encounters have always been hard on Brad, but when I finally admitted to him it was the strongest sexual chemistry I’ve had with anyone in my life, it was more than he could take.
So he said he couldn’t do it anymore. We decided it would be better for me to be the one to leave, as I’d been wanting to move to a poly-friendly intentional community anyway.
There was no hurry to find a place, no yelling, no drama – just two tired people, who still loved each each other, but didn’t have the energy to keep fighting. We were kind and civil, so I knew it was really happening this time – we were really breaking up.
But then we started talking… and talking and talking, trying to figure out where we went wrong. The more we talked, the more we realized neither of us was to blame. Neither of us had done anything wrong. We couldn’t control how we felt.
We both felt like we’d lost our freedom when we accidentally got pregnant six years ago. We felt unsure of whether the other was “the one” we wanted “to have and to hold” for life. We felt unsure of what it meant to be “in love” and whether those feelings were supposed to last. We felt frustrated by the responsibilities of parenthood and the financial co-dependence that came with it.
Add to that the newfound sexual passion between Ben and I highlighting the lack of passion between Brad and I, and you have a recipe for relationship disaster.
If we were to follow our culture’s protocol for what’s supposed to happen next, we’d start building our cases against one another – she spends too much at Whole Foods/ he doesn’t help around the house enough… she doesn’t bring in enough money/he doesn’t help with the kid enough… she’s having sex with another man/he’s rarely interested in sex with me – and head to court for a custody battle.
We’d move to separate houses, buy a second car, and put the kid in daycare so we could work more to cover our separate expenses. Nora would get to spend a couple of hours a night with one lonely, over-worked parent at a time until a step-mother and/or father figure came into her life to serve as a replacement parent for half the week. We’d all be bitter toward each other and put Nora in the middle of our feuds.
Or… eventually Brad and I would come to realize we actually were a pretty good match – that we were maybe even more compatible as life partners than the shiny new boyfriend or girlfriend we picked up in a moment of passion. But it would be too late – our life paths would have drifted too far apart to be woven back together.
I refuse to do that to my daughter – or to Brad or myself – just because Brad and I are bored sexually. (And yes, I do think that’s what it all comes down to. As long as we’re having good sex, Brad can splatter bacon grease all over the kitchen, and I can spend $20 a jug on the best water in the world, no problem. When we’re not, everything annoys us.)
We literally are each others’ best friends. We value the same things – peaceful parenting, honest and vulnerable relationships, following our dreams, breaking free from cultural norms, and natural, delicious food. Whenever we disagree on anything, we always end up on the same page without having to persuade or manipulate the other. We can talk – or not talk – for hours and not get tired of each others’ company. We almost always understand what each other are saying and often know what each other are thinking and feeling.
And, when we have the time to put aside all the nonsense of day-to-day modern life, we are capable of having better sex than most couples probably fantasize about. While the mood doesn’t always strike as easily as it does with Ben – and we often require more time to clear up emotional baggage – a little effort goes a long way.
The only thing Brad and I aren’t on the same page about yet is polyamory. He thinks it makes sense as a matter of principle, but thinks it’s too hard in practice, especially in a culture that’s totally unsupportive.
I’m tempted to give up on my ventures outside the box of monogamy at times too. It’s tiring feeling like a social outcast all the time and would be much easier to go along to get along.
But I can’t. I’ll never be able to turn back to the monogamous fairy tale that I am someone else’s other half. It seems silly to me now.
I will belong to many people throughout my life – and I will give myself to each of them fully while in their presence – but I will never belong to just one person, except myself.
So I am committing today – before God and man 😉 – to giving my all to my relationship with Brad… and Ben… and June… and Marlena… and every other person who has or will come into the inner chambers of my heart. I am committing to building a tribe of close-knit, trusted friends and lovers to share good times and bad with until death and beyond.
And I am committing to not walking away from Brad. He is free to walk away from me, but he will always be welcomed back with open arms and unconditional love.
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