I finally got it back – the feeling I’ve been subconsciously seeking ever since I decided to open my relationship with Brad a little over a year ago…
It wasn’t the first time – I’ve felt it several times over the course of this past year. But it’s the first time I understood it. And it brought me to tears. Because it took so much emotional work to bring me back to this place.
It happened just like Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, said it would happen – when he was just out of my reach, about an arms length away. Not so far away that I had no chance of getting him back, but far enough that I’d have to stretch to touch him.
It started last night, when he went on a last-minute date with a woman he told me nothing about (not even her name or where he met her) to an unknown destination, for an unspecified amount of time.
In the past, that kind of mystery would’ve been enough to drive me mad… absolutely insane… like tearing my hair out and scratching my eyes out insane. Because I was a meddler. I HATED not being involved in EVERYTHING that my loved ones were involved in. I’ve said in the past that all jealousy stems from fear, and my fear has always been the fear of exclusion, of being left out of the fun and the action, of being an outsider looking in.
But polyamory has given me the chance to face that fear several times this year. I’ve faced my fear of exclusion from just across the hallway while Brad had sex with another woman, and once with only a thin wall between us. I faced my fear once by walking in on him having sex with my friend June last summer (which I’ve written about in a secret post to be revealed probably after we’re dead), but that wasn’t very good practice, because she pulled me in and let me join them after a few moments of me staring at them in a frozen state of wonder and amazement.
More recently I faced my fear of exclusion when he had casual sex with a woman I knew very little about at her house. It was the first time he’d gone away to have an intimate encounter with a woman, instead of bringing her home. But at least I knew where he was going, what his plans were and that he’d be back in a few hours.
Now I’ve faced my ultimate fear – the fear of being completely and totally in the dark about what he was up to last night. It was painful, but it stretched me in a way that this morning I’m so grateful I was stretched.
I refused to look at or speak to him when we woke up this morning. Not because I was angry that he had fun with another woman, but because he tried to leave last night without even saying good bye, after essentially telling me it was none of my business where he was going. When I ran outside to wave his car down, he opened the door to let me hug him, but wouldn’t look at me and had a face of stone when I kissed his cheek.
If he was going to be cold, so was I, I reasoned this morning.
He eventually got me to talk, and, after about an hour of emotional processing, told me some of the details about his date. He met her at the food truck a couple of weeks ago, flirted with her, and exchanged numbers with her for business purposes. Apparently they ran into each other at the grocery store Friday or Saturday, and arranged for a date on Sunday night. The date went swimmingly. She’s another red-headed Scorpio and the passion sparked up naturally and effortlessly between them. They have another romantic outing planned for this Wednesday.
The details of the date, in and of themselves, were not hard to hear. It was hearing them in the context of his recent disdain for me that was difficult. Their sexual chemistry and connection came so easily – and again effortlessly – while Brad and I have had to wade in and dig through tons and tons of financial and emotional shit to even get to a place where we can look into each others eyes lately.
I understand Brad’s envy of the ease of mine and Ben’s connection now. And Brad understands my attraction to the ease of a secondary relationship – secondary not in a hierarchical sense, but in the sense of not sharing a child and finances and chronological order.
He said the reason he hesitated to tell me about his experiences with other women is that he needed something to keep for himself. “Sometimes I’m afraid I’m losing you, and I’m afraid if I share this part of me with you, I’ll lose that too.”
The unusual thing about my conversation with Brad this morning was the physical distance between us the whole time we talked, and the fact that we’ve maintained that distance all day now.
Typically when we’re processing tough emotions, I want to hold him – cling to him even – whenever the discussion gets to be too much. I realized that today. Maybe the reason I constantly feel the need to touch him, hug him, hold him, and hide my face in his chest, is I’m afraid to see him. To back up, look into his face and eyes, and see him. Maybe we’ve been so close all these years, so enmeshed, that I couldn’t see him.
That’s what Esther Perel says. Often times, romantic partners are so close together, right in each other’s faces all the time, we lose sight of who the other person is. But, “when I see my partner on his own, or her own, doing something in which they are enveloped, I look at this person, and I momentarily get a shift in perception, and I stay open to the mysteries that are living right next to me.”
And that’s just what happened this afternoon. Brad had gone to do his shopping for the food truck and was in the process of loading up his truck, when I interrupted him with a phone call. I just stood there watching him talk business and noticing how perfect he was – his new long hair and beard, his black Led Zeppelin t-shirt under his blue and red flannel, the way his jeans fit, his black Converse shoes. My boyfriend was hot. And he was running his business, on his own, without my help. And he had a beautiful, interesting woman who thought he was beautiful and interesting too last night. And it made me want him. Bad. I was tempted to grab him, but I wanted to maintain the distance, the space necessary for desire to bloom, a little longer.
It’s the same way I felt about Ben this weekend when my old friend Amy came to visit. With Amy and Lori spending the night Saturday, it felt appropriate to keep my hands off of Ben for a while. I didn’t want to freak Amy out with all my new poly stuff. But then Ben and Amy ran to the store together. When they came back laughing and Amy said Ben was a keeper, it was all I could do to keep myself from devouring him right then and there, and later that night we had the best sex we’ve had to date.
So I get it now. I need to respect the space. I need to keep just the right amount of distance between me and all of my romantic partners in order to appreciate them. In order to keep the mystery alive. In order to keep the love alive. When I feel an overwhelming desire to consume someone’s entire being like I do Ben’s right now as he plays peel-the-glue-off-your-fingers with my daughter, I just need to sit with it, revel in the tension… let it build up until it explodes in perfect time, again and again with whomever it will, whenever it will.
And I’ll end on this note from Esther Perel:
“There is no neediness in desire. Nobody needs anybody. There is no caretaking in desire. Caretaking is mightily loving, but it’s a powerful anti-aphrodisiac. I have yet to see somebody who is so turned on by somebody who needs them. Wanting them is one thing. Needing them is a shut down, and women have known that forever, because anything that brings up parenthood decreases the erotic charge. It’s about novelty … It’s about what new parts of you are being brought out.”