So we have been venturing forth with the possibility of others. I spoke to m about the room our friendship now has to grow into romance, and he was interested. H and I spoke about the possibility of him re-engaging with the woman over whom I’ve been harboring these fears and suspicions for so long. We decided to approach this whole thing consciously and with the intent of creating a space of healing for all involved, and that intention has paid off enormously already.
Things have been newly sweet with all three of them since. M and h and…c2? Why not.
Particularly c2. I’m slowly losing the intense feelings of jealousy and alarm that I’ve been battling since the end of that Burning Man two years ago. We’ve had some really lovely, sincere, friendly interactions since.
Not that I haven’t backpedalled, regressed, retracted a few times. One morning in particular there was a minor explosion between h and I which helped us to discuss the fact that he feels I take advantage of my power over him sometimes (when he starts giving me more power I tend to run with it, it’s seldom I catch myself and stop short of abusing it), and helped me to re-examine the way I was framing things.
Here’s where I think our partnership is the soundest: no matter how mad we get, there is always a point in the argument where we call our own or one another’s attention to the true source of our rage. No one is ever the source of your anger–it *always* comes from within. They can only summon it. You can *always* examine and claim it, and it’s a very empowering exercise. We are good at empowering each other to claim our emotions, own them, and work through them.
Fidelity, loyalty, and concern for your partner’s well-being are all traits that reach far beyond the arena of sexual monogamy. I’m beginning to think that the perverse insistence that the entirety of the other person’s desires remain safely caged within their love for you, that using these caged desires as the proverbial canary in the mine for their entire investment in you, is in fact the primary reason that passion dulls, that love turns to disgust, that the years push so very many couples apart instead of drawing them closer together.
Not because we are all primal orgiastic creatures who can’t control our urges. Of course we can. Any human can, with enough motivation. You think a would-be rapist is gonna keep going with a gun to his head? Not hardly. Get out of here with that terrible misandrous and misogynistic rhetoric. No. Because the desire, flirtation, possibility, and chance we experiences with other human beings out in the world fuel us, they keep our imaginations going, our sexuality bright and hot, and keep the mystery of our unbindable being alive.
Also because there’s a level at which you’re always going to feel a little mischievous and pleased when having a really good conversation, when you’re feeling really in sync with someone else who you also happen to be attracted to. When you feel compelled to shut this down in the name of faithfulness, there’s a deep injustice to this, a deep untruth to cutting yourself off from a whole realm of human connection on the premise that it’s necessary to prevent you from causing the other harm. We are all at our most beautiful when allowed to self-express at will, when allowed to fly free and follow the flow of our spirits and make love to the world at large.
Conversely, when we routinely take our liberties at the direct expense of someone we claim to care about, there is another kind of untruth we’re living, one that demands confrontation. And this confrontation may never happen if we’re creating artificial, painfully tight boundaries to keep ourselves from ever having to face this question.
The mere fact of attraction to other human beings ought not have the power to undermine the integrity of your entire connection to someone. If your connection is built solely on the contractual agreements you have made to one another, or solely on your exclusive attraction, it’s doomed anyway. I guarantee it. A sound relationship is built on the successful navigation of the space between two people: between my desires and his fears, between his pleasures and my pains, between his needs and my needs and what we do with the gaps in between what we are able to do for each other.
We should always be interrogating the degree to which we allow our own insecurities to rule the other’s behavior. We should always be seeking more confidence and trust that the other’s engagement with the world is not designed to harm us. And we should always be distrustful of the pains we experience when the other is experiencing pleasure.
My definition of unconditional love is the unselfish desire for joy and pleasure for someone else. I see a relationship as the sacred work of learning to maximize that self-expression without diminishing the other. Learning the difference between lovingly calling someone to their best selves and fearfully demanding they spare you from the challenge to rise to YOUR best self.
Such fear-based contracts deny and suppress and cage the very thing that initially animated your love, encouraging you to take the other person’s proximity for granted, to stop seeing them as an ephemeral gift in your life, to stop engaging in the beautiful quest to entice and amuse and thrill them.
And yes, it hurts to find that something is less substantial than you thought it was; that someone’s bond to you was more shallow and surface level than you thought.
And yes, one person’s mutual imprisonment is another’s scaffolding towards learning selflessness.
As long as it helps you rise to your best self, it’s scaffolding. Once it starts to dishearten you, once it turns you obsessive and sad and angry, once it makes you feel anxious at even the sight of your loved one and another person enjoying an interaction together, once you start feeling threatened by their joy instead of celebrating it…maybe it’s time to consider that possibility that it has become a cage.
At its very best, jealousy is an expression of the will to protect something of great value to you. Even at its very best, though, it’s like Rapunzel’s witch: by the very act of trying to protect the beautiful, fragile thing, you restrict and imprison and hoard something which never belonged to you in the first place: the other person’s will, their love, their fire.
H and I have been newly passionate, honest, and unencumbered by one another’s and our own expectations over how we should be feeling, how we should be acting, how we should be enjoying each other. Without these layers of grime, everything feels fresh and new and real again. Instead of feeling at times like some tired ritual whose origins we can’t quite remember, whose authority we don’t entirely trust, but which, out of fear of some kind of repercussions, we daren’t stop.
Actually, all of my female friendships have a new energy to them. A new confidence. I’m unlearning my old distrust of, and competitiveness towards, my own gender. It feels really good.