My last foray into normal, society-approved monogamy ran concurrently with the 2010 baseball playoffs, in which my SF Giants were, at long last, victorious in the World Series. For those that don’t feel like doing the math, this means that my last traditional, exclusive relationship lasted all of 6 weeks. It happened in the usual way – girl sees cute boy in bar, goes up to him and tells him he looks like Matt Damon. Boy tells girl she looks like Christina Ricci and buys her a few drinks. They end up back at boy’s apartment where, shirtless (because he works out obsessively and wants to show it off), he serenades her with alternative music from the 90’s with his beat-up but gorgeous acoustic guitar while she lounges on a balance ball in just her underwear until the wee hours of the morning. Sex happens. Several times. Boy drops girl off at the front door of her hotel, so she doesn’t have to participate in a pre-dawn walk of shame and promises to call. Girl is indifferent because while the sex was fairly good, the 9-11 conspiracy theories were not.
A mere 6 months had passed since the end of my decade-long marriage and I had absolutely no intention of getting into a relationship. Turns out, he was in the same boat. Just a few months out of a serious relationship in which he had been living with someone. This thing had rebound written all over it – for both of us. So why, in the name off all that is holy, did I say yes when he proposed we start seeing each other exclusively? Looking back I realize the following:
- He asked the question while were laying in bed, having just completed the pole vaulting portion of that evening’s bedroom Olympics. I was in a good mood, full of hormones and dopamine and all kinds of nice orgasm-y feelings.
- We had only been dating a week or two. I was caught completely off-guard and thought for sure that he wouldn’t bring it up that quickly. And I had no plans to have the DTR talk.
- It was so damn nice to have someone in my life again, even if I felt the timing was off and that there were things about him that gave me pause.
So when he asked me if I was seeing anyone else, I lied and said no. Be honest dear reader – you would have done the same thing! Who the hell wants to tell the sweet, naked man lying next to them that less than 24 hours ago some other dude had zambonied the ice rink? You know, the one that is telling you how amazing you are and that he doesn’t have any desire to see anyone else? We became a couple right then and there. Yet there was so much reluctance in my acceptance of his offer.
The legitimacy of having a significant other that is conferred upon you by society is a heady thing. I was wrestling with feelings of guilt, shame and just plain feeling like a failure from my marriage breaking apart and this was an easy way to say “see – I’m not a loser after all!” This made all those bad feelings go away. The cute little back-and-forth messages that we posted on each other’s Facebook walls, the good morning email that was always waiting for me when I got to work, the goodnight call if I wasn’t staying at his place, the little shelf that he cleared out for my stuff – all of this felt so familiar and affirming.
Not so nice – the suffocating, frantic feeling that I was trapped. TRAPPED! The one weekend during our short relationship that we didn’t spend together (he went out-of-town), I literally had to have a girlfriend cock block me when we went out that night. She had to confiscate my phone so I didn’t text the French Boy or the Tortured Artist. If she found me at the bar talking to a man, she would come right up between us and pull me away. She did all of this at my behest because I just didn’t trust myself not to cheat. I didn’t even have the balls to tell the others that I was seeing someone, you know, just in case. I knew there was something terribly wrong. I knew that he was not a good match for me and I also knew that I didn’t want to be in a relationship.
He dropped the bomb on me right after the World Series ended. It’s almost as if we were under some kind of spell, and once all the excitement was over, the fog was lifted. That and his ex-girlfriend had called him to “congratulate” him on the win. I wasn’t with him that night. Not that it would have mattered. The call would have come at some point and it would have made him pause and think about what he was doing.
There were so many reasons that he was wrong for me. He was an addict that had a few years prior, lost everything due to his addiction. He had anger issues and would punch and throw things. He regularly trashed his ex-girlfriend. He was a lawyer. All of these things and more were revealed to me in the short time we were together. But despite all this, I was still devastated when the call came. I had seen it coming. Sensed him pulling away. It didn’t make the blow any easier to take.
Fast-forward a couple of weeks and I was feeling mostly OK about things. Never gave in to the temptation to send just one little text, or email. Didn’t check his Facebook page or check if he was on IM. Just when I started to feel balanced again, he emailed me to invite me out to dinner and a show. Just as friends. Stupidly (and I knew it at the time) I agreed. That’s when the flirty drunk texts started. Again, stupidly, I played along. Dinner turned into sex of course. Only this time, I made it clear that I had the right to date other guys and vice versa. He agreed. What he didn’t know is that I already was.
The next month or so I spent chasing the dragon, trying to get back to that high I experienced when we first met. Trying to get the cute good morning emails started again. Trying to get my stuff back on that shelf. All the while I’m banging the French Boy again. Everything came to a head one night when he, drunk again and alone (which I think is probably a terrible idea for someone with a past addiction to drugs) he texts me, telling me to come over. I tried to be discreet, really I did. But he wouldn’t let up. I finally had to be blunt with him. “I am at another man’s apartment right now. I can’t come over.” He was furious. I never heard from him again.
I have since come to realize that I had always been in relationships for the wrong reasons, not just this one. For validation. For status. For feeling like I was “worth” something. I would completely give up myself, ignore what I needed, and accept any and all faults in the other person just to keep that precious thing alive. No wonder when around the 2 year mark (which seems to be the magic point in time when all of my relationships start to fail) I would start to feel restless, and resentful and unhappy. You can’t pretend forever. You can’t sit by with your needs un-met and expect a relationship to last.
It’s not easy to navigate in a world that values and supports a lifestyle that hasn’t ever worked for you. So I have two
choices – 1) Figure out how to operate within the existing system of monogamy in a way that doesn’t completely crush my spirit and make me feel trapped or 2) Define my own way of being – of loving and living that allows me to be myself. And no, I don’t mean allows me to fuck whoever I want at the expense of someone else’s feelings. The past 2 years has been my attempt at following the 2nd path, the one where there is no guidebook, no support from society at large, no “rules”. As you have read, I’ve stumbled along this path. I’ve gotten hurt. I’m sure I have hurt others, although it was never my intention. But I just don’t know if I can see myself taking that time-worn and well-traveled route. Can’t see myself stepping in line again and giving up all that makes me unique just so that I don’t make people uncomfortable.
For now, as I encounter situations that Emily Post certainly can’t help me with, I stumble along, always trying to behave ethically and always trying to be up-front with the men that share my time and space with me. And maybe – just maybe, I can find someone who understands me and shares my worldview. I know it won’t be easy. But I’ll continue to search. And have amazing, awesome sexy experiences while I do.