Oh my FUCK do I hurt now.
August 25, 2022 Email Response to a Friend
I just realized toying with idea of a polyamorous lifestyle, which I have now for years, is a very dangerous thing. Not dangerous enough not to do it, not dangerous enough you’re going to get hurt (necessarily). But dangerous because emotions change — they get big they get small, and that directly impacts commitment.
It’s clear to me the level of commitment, and the person to whom I am committed, determines whether or not an open relationship is possible. I have determined I cannot have an open relationship with Don. I absolutely would not be comfortable with that. Because I am in love with him.
This came as quite a surprise. Both the fact I could not be involved in a polyamorous relationship where he was a participant, but most shockingly, that I am in love with him. How incredibly inconvenient on both counts, but particularly the latter. Fuck.
Learning so much about the poly lifestyle, watching friends successfully and happily manage multiple partners, I assumed I had a firm desire to live the poly lifestyle. One person can’t possibly meet all my emotional and physical needs. Hmmmm….. I once again must call so much bullshit on my own arrogance. I love Don. I refuse to share him physically. Cannot do it. So I’m stepping aside.
Don wants me in his life but I’ll never be his Person. And I don’t want to. It wouldn’t work. We’d never have more than what we had — a robust and healthy friendship, with a fun lighthearted romp every other Sunday. The sex was intense in that it was incredibly healing for both of us. Yet, I always knew we’d never go deep into true intimacy. It was good enough for many months. Not good enough anymore.
I’d never have more time with him, or at least not for a long time. The time thing was starting to be a problem for me. But he didn’t have to make more time for me, because I didn’t demand it. Well I did demand it — perhaps three times — and it wasn’t a demand, but a demure request. When he could fit me in, he did. Goodness me, sounds just like Jeff. At least I had every other Sunday with Don. I always followed the schedule he’d defined firmly at the outset, of course I did. (You teach people how to treat you.)
I did super super really really good with Don. I was just being me, though. He didn’t get any special treatment. That is what I do for all my friends; encourage them, support them, love them. But I didn’t realize it was finally starting to get into his head, that he was finally starting to see he is good man and he deserves good things.
He frustrated me so much; all he did was argue with me when I told him good things about himself. I finally gave up. Someone doesn’t have to believe they’re wonderful for them to be wonderful. I decided to just focus on my enjoyment being around him. When I did that, he relaxed and he was just… well… awesome to be around.
I was OK with whatever image he had of himself. I chose to stop owning the responsibility of convincing him see his truth. When I stopped telling him how incredible he was, he didn’t feel compelled to argue with me about how wrong I was, which I see now simply reinforced his feelings of unworthiness. He felt he had to protect his position of being a shit. Weird. But in retrospect, I made it worse by trying so hard to convince him otherwise. Because, like me, Don is a compulsive counter argument-er.
Then he ups and lets go of the idea he’s worthless! I was stunned. But thrilled. Some of what I said got in. He had heard me. Just a tiny bit, but still.
That super small incremental improvement in his self esteem led to his decision to submit to testing. He finally saw his life could be better. He finally let me drag him by the ear (which is a pretty apt description) to the clinic for the test.
I was talking to Terri on the phone yesterday, and I said I’d created an anti-monster. We laughed hard over that one.
How incredibly happy it makes me to have made that kind of a difference in someone’s life. And how incredibly lonely I am I’ve lost something I grew to hold so dear.
I learned a lot, though. A lot of good things about me. I learned my man picker has gotten better. That was hard fought, long in coming.
Don was an immense improvement over Jeff. He wasn’t married, for one thing. He was emotionally available, except the Asperger’s put a real twist on that one. But still. I wasn’t doing anything wrong in dating him.
The thing is, I didn’t choose someone with the potential to be my Person. It’s clear, still, I deliberately avoid entering into relationships with men who really do have the qualities I want in a long-term romantic partner, a man with a clear legitimate possibility of being my husband.
Sometimes, I think that’s what I really want, a partner to walk out this life with. And sometimes I look at my friends’ marriages, and I see the times when they want to claw themselves (or each other) to death, and I think, nah, why would I want to go and do something like that?
I always thought Don, like Jeff, just settled. Lazy men just settle and fall into a routine and they don’t want anything to change about their relationships. I thought that was stupid. And then I recognized I’m no different. When it feels safe and comfortable and easy to be with someone, I don’t want anything to change. But that’s the really stupid thing. Change is the only constant.
Don and I remain friends, and I hope for a very long time. But I can’t go back to being lovers. It’s inevitable he’ll meet his Person. How could he not? He’s moving in such a positive direction. He wants to argue with me about that, of course. I just laugh. That man has no idea what good things are in store for him.
If I go back to the love affair part of it, it will just prolong the uneasiness. I’ll always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ll bond more, love more, and when it inevitably ends, the pain will be compounded exponentially. I can’t go back. But I am happy to build something new. He desires the same and has proven that out by staying in touch.
I told Terri even if Don’s head was on the guillotine, and he had to say he loved me in order to spare his life, I don’t think he could. But he does love me. Maybe not the same, maybe not as I’d like, but still, he loves me. A lot. And that’s enough. That gives me peace. I am content in that knowing.
Tonight, we spoke on the phone, as friends, as always. It was all so familiar. I asked him whether my choice to alter our relationship status was a right choice. As I said previously, he fought me on that the previous night. He told me he did not want anything about us to change and there was no need for anything to change, including sex.
He was not being honest. I think that’s what he wanted to believe. But not deep down. He knows as well as I do if he continues to have access to me sexually, it will interfere with his pursuit of someone more suitable.
God I hate thinking and saying I’m not “suitable”. Help me find a better word! In spite of all the obvious negatives, I’m closer to my true self than ever before. I’ve much to offer. I know that, finally. More hard fought wisdom. So thankful I’ve got hold of it now.
I explained continuing the physical component of our friendship wasn’t healthy for me. I even suggested we not communicate for a period of time. Well, that didn’t go over so well. We’ve been chatting all day by text and by phone. Tonight on the phone I asked, “Did I do the right thing?”
He responded, “I don’t know. Yes, I think so. I don’t know. Yes, I think so.”
I’ll take the, “Yes, I think so” as the definitive answer.
I’m proud of me, I did good. I could have let Don stay stuck, feeling insecure about himself, not knowing he didn’t have herpes. That would have clearly been in my best interest. And that is the course I’ve taken in past relationships; deliberately putting my need for continuity and safety and comfort ahead of my partner’s best interests. It fed my need for superiority, which provided an incredible, even addictive sense of control. I love being powerful. I am still, but in more positive ways. I used to be pretty selfish and extremely manipulative. It solved nothing, killed my self-esteem, brought me only pain and shame.
Control over another is an illusion. Setting up a relationship where you feel superior to your partner brings no satisfaction. After a while, you resent the other for their passive compliance. And you get tired of being the one to keep all the balls in the air.
I set about changing that part of me. It took some time. But I’m no longer that person. I haven’t yet been completely without agendas in my relationships. Is that possible? But I truly to my core want what is best for my lover over manipulation aimed at meeting my own needs and alleviating my own pain.
I tried with Jeff, but I did not truly succeed. I gave it a lot of lip service! I wanted to be different, better. But I was still so selfish, so focused on alleviating my pain. It wasn’t a complete failure, I just hadn’t gotten hold of it all yet.
Now, over four years hence, I’ve got hold of it. I want what is best and right for Don. Now I truly know who I am and how I want to love — with abandon expecting nothing in return.
And yet, I’m in incredible pain. I know it’s not nearly the pain I experienced over Jeff. That nearly killed me. I was literally in danger of losing my life. I didn’t. I Persevered. My life got better. Slowly, but surely.
I had truly forgotten how much this hurts, letting go of someone I love so very dearly. Oh my goodness, I am in such incredible incredible pain! How could I not remember? If I had remembered, would I have ever gotten involved with another man with whom I knew there would be an inevitable and imminent end? Fuck. I have no idea. Actually I do. Highly likely I would.
Apparently, like a woman unable to recall the immense pain of childbirth, over time our minds protect us from reliving the horrific pain of losing a Great Love. The timeline is different for everyone, but it happens for most. At some point, we embrace the risk of entering into relationship again.
I hurt now, but I won’t hurt always. But oh my FUCK do I hurt now…
Ah. Excellent post…
Thank you for your support, always. Coco
“Perfer et obdura, dolor hic tibi proderit olim."
(Be patient and tough; someday this pain will be useful to you.)