A New Honesty

I had a revisitation of the paranoid, jealous feelings that have haunted me periodically since h and I got engaged (which worsened to near-unbearability during the time we shared a wall with the object of his extra-relationship desires, when I discovered through painful experience why people have and guard boundaries, what it means to be kinder to myself, that I can’t and shouldn’t trust others to care for me in this specific realm, how some people don’t actually appreciate absolute transparency from everyone they meet).

Anyway, I was obsessing over the possibility of being cheated on, lied to, of things being hidden from me, caught up in these unpleasant feelings again, and then I came to an understanding of things, of myself, that has eluded me for a long time.

The polyamory question has mostly been on the shelf leading up to, and since our marriage, and when it’s come up again, discussions have been fraught with the same bad feelings we’ve had to work through at length since. My difficulties reconciling his desire for other women. His difficulty stomaching the idea of me having a male partner. Both of our inability to talk productively about his shortcomings as a partner to me. My realization that one of my shortcomings as a partner to *him* is not being properly grateful for, and satisfied with, the many ways that he excels at love. Like taking me for who I am and where I’m at.

Well, we’re going through an ebb in romance and sexuality, a result of his intense focus of late on his business and our family’s financial well being in general, a result of Sunday mornings spent in “Financial Peace University,” a result of me working during times we would otherwise have gotten to spend together, and my frustration has been building. The other morning as he got ready to leave for work, I vented my feelings.

As he often does at such times, he offered polyamory as a more of a blow-off comment than an actual solution. He expressed that variety has always been a driver for his sexuality (I’ve been in more, and longer monogamous relationships than he has-this bothered me less in the context of this specific discussion than it has before), and I said “maybe I should just have a boyfriend on the side,” and he agreed, and said that he doesn’t have a problem with the idea the way he used to.

I’ve long had this uncomfortable tug-of-war between my desires and what I think my desires should be, or what I want them to be; what I can force them into. I have romantic notions about only having eyes for one person, and I have lived experience to tell me that I am capable of being monogamous indefinitely, and that there are certain benefits to this “eyes for only you” mentality, and wanting both at once has kept me in this weird space. Obviously our relationship has never been based on “all I need is you,” but we keep trying to make it into that, because we both, for all of our oddities, counter-culture pride, etc., lean conservative in our images of Romance, of Partnership. We both want the benefits of the status quo, and we both over-romanticize the standard version of a sexual partnership. And we both tend to fudge the truth a little in order to give the other one what they want, or what we think they want. I think we’re both cheating each other (and ourselves) out of what we really want by doing this.

Our relationship is built of stuff we both understand to be more lasting than romantic obsession. We’re in love with one another and we’re committed to growing into our best selves partly through the conflict and pain of encountering one another’s foreignness, one another’s differences, one another’s needs that we find it difficult to fulfill.

Now more than ever we’re excelling at pragmatic partnering; at constructive argument, at demon-facing and necessary growth. I finally realized that I could find power from identifying that as our baseline, as the primary component of our love, rather than trying to maintain for myself and him, and have him try to maintain for himself and for me, that our basis is the traditional “you’re my everything/all I need” model.

Knowing this, identifying this, gave me the strength to say outright, without fear or shame on his behalf or mine, that in the area of romance and sexual/spiritual connection, things are not sustainable for me. He is content going through droughts of these kinds of connection while he works on and seeks out other things; I am not. I asked him whether he desired a greater spiritual/sexual connection with me and he said no; not really. He said he was interested in it, but the things he *desires* he pursues with passion and fixation.

This conversation has always gotten hung up on some combination of him disavowing responsibility for my sexual fulfillment, me backpedalling guiltily from the suggestion that I might want another man, me trying to soothe what I imagine is a wounded ego at the mere suggestion. And/or him backing down from the desire to have sex with other women.

“Okay,” I said, “So, maybe the answer to this difference in desires is polyamory. And maybe your desire to be spiritually connected with me will grow if you see that as an area of competition with others; maybe it won’t. It’s okay that you don’t desire that. And it’s okay that I do. What’s not okay is you demanding that I live in a perpetually unsatisfied state that you have no intention of resolving.”

Since this conversation, he has been stepping it up. I think he does romantically want to be my one-and-only, and has a desire to fulfill my needs. It’s also nice having the option for other situations on the table, and honestly naming and owning my desires-my desire for romance; my desire to be deeply desired and seen and loved; my desire for connection as one of the driving factors of my life.