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remapping the keys

Things happen when you’ve got a long-distance relationship. Those big lulls between seeing each other make changes so gradual as to be invisible and yet after such a time, when you finally do crash into one another again, those gradual invisible changes become stark as black and white.

It’s disconcerting. Shocking, even. Especially when you’re still in contact with each other every day one way or another. You like to think that you change gradually together, and you do, but sometimes those changes aren’t ones that can be experienced across long distances. So coming together after so long and finding those changes, well, sometimes it’s beautiful and wonderful, and sometimes it’s like the universe clocked you one square in the chin.

The great lie about long term relationships is that you’ll never feel insecure. The reason it’s a great lie is because there’s nothing further from the truth: you’ll feel insecure all the time. All the fucking time. The difference is in what you do with the insecurity, in what you can do with the insecurity. I mean, there’s always the option of panic, freaking out, shitting the relationship bed, running so fast you leave little cartoon-dust-clouds behind you in the opposite direction. For some people that’s a coping strategy. T and I, however, prefer to talk.

First, you gotta talk though.

Sometimes a shock like that is too much to talk about right away. Sometimes when all you’ve got is a week together you want to soak up all the good and just be in denial about the bad until you’re far apart again and all you can do is talk. The problem with this approach is that this kind of insecurity has this insidious way of seeping into the good. It’s inky and murky and it contaminates everything it touches and it leaves what would otherwise be a totally energizing encounter unsatisfying. You want to be filled but you get shorted by over half a tank.

We did get to talk in person, eventually, and not without many tears. I wasn’t at liberty to spend a proper night trying to work things out, though I wheedled and cajoled and cried trying to do so. I don’t often twist under the limits my husband sets, and don’t often resent the permission he doesn’t give. Thankfully he and I found a place where we could agree even though it left me a little kid digging my toe into the dirt, frustrated to all hell that I didn’t get my way. I don’t often press him like that either; he was exasperated with me and it showed. He usually contains his frustration with me better and doesn’t explode at me with hurtful jabs about how I want to abandon him so I can “fuck it out” with my boyfriend despite having already had a week with him.

I hated being in that spot, truly torn. I love them both and I want to give them both what’s best for the respective relationships and a time does come when sometimes, you have to choose. It helps that I know my husband tried as hard as he could to accommodate. It helps that there were apologies on all sides. It helps that he gave me what he did: one night, despite his exhaustion, to cuddle with T and try and work out what we could with whispers.

I think the take-away lesson from all of this is that when insecurity rears its head, much as we might really want to push it aside and ignore it so we can experience the good feelings, that kind of denial is ultimately not healthy or helpful. It left me feeling hollow after the experience and it seemed to leave T in a worse place than he would have been if we’d just talked about it in the first place. It’s so much harder to have tearful discussions when we can’t hold each other.

It helps that I know that we’ll work through it, and that I know T is confident about that fact as well. It helps that we’ve weathered insecurity before and are excellent communicators and are both very certain that we can navigate this in a healthy way that leaves us ultimately stronger. It’s hard though, being so far. Insecurity comes up not infrequently, and I believe a lot of it is because of the time we spend apart. I always feel worse for having to do the reassuring when I can’t touch him. Those teary talks, much as they’re not fun to have, always leave me feeling more connected than before. It’s that connection I crave, far more than orgasms, far more than sex.

When I don’t get that connection but I get the sex, I feel like I’ve eaten nothing but candy and no solid food. It feels somehow wrong and sick and I hate that feeling. Nothing stains like that feeling, the dirty-and-wrong feeling, the feeling like despite the fact that by all metrics the sex we’re having is really really great and the togetherness we’re having is comfortable and warm, that there’s something missing and it’s something truly fundamental and it’s just gone. The worst, the absolute worst is not knowing where that feeling came from and being terrified, just terrified, that maybe the connection went somewhere and it’s never gonna be seen again.

Isn’t that just the most tragic kind of comedy? Both of us just dying inside, but trying so hard to keep on a brave face for the other person somehow takes priority over cutting yourself open and letting the pain spill out? Because it’s messy? Because we’re worrying about what’s inside our own heads and completely forgetting that there’s this whole other person here who we can confide in, who we trust more than ourselves sometimes? That trying to avoid that conversation wrecked things more than having the conversation in the first place ever would have? After the fact it just makes me shake my head. For all our talk, we forgot to be authentic.

We were afraid we forgot the steps to the dance, and that we couldn’t dance anymore, and totally forgot that the most important thing is to let the music move us.

Let’s try not to forget again.

on talk

Roles have reversed. I’m no longer in that position I was in years ago, when I had only sms and the phone to communicate with husband … now he sleeps in my bed nightly, and when I want to talk to T, I have … texting, and the phone.

It means we end up talking about all sorts of things. Long, meandering talks that don’t stick to sex and our relationship. We don’t even stick to topics we’re both familiar with. Hoursandhoursandhours on the phone … just sharing little bits and pieces of what’s in our heads.

There’s something wonderfully intimate about whispering at each other in the dark, even if we don’t have the same bedding tangled around us. I think it’s knowing that no matter what we talk about, or what fork the meandering conversation takes, the other is listening and interested and so very intent on what you’re saying, that it doesn’t matter it’s mostly you not making sense.

I like this love, that has become comfortable, well worn, familiar and casually easy. This love was built on bedrock. I do not fool around when I build relationships. If the foundation is not solid, I don’t build much there. It’s why I find it so hard to relate to people who don’t want to share who they are. I have no reason to trust them, so I don’t.

The trust is the opposite with my loves. The fantasies we share are indicative of this. None of our fantasies are to be approached lightly in real life. Sometimes the current of want runs deeper than the fantasy itself and deserves exploring and teasing apart. With T and I spending so much time sharing fantasies, this comes up more often than it used to.

There’s a few fantasies in specific we have discussed but I won’t share them all right here right now. The one I do want to share is simple on its face and will be complicated in its execution but I think we will manage to realize it. We want to live together again.

I have talked to the husband about it and he’s on board. I don’t think it’d ever be a three-people-to-a-bed scenario, actually, the one that T mentioned was a house with a suite. It’d be ideal. Both husband and T do best when they have their own space, and there would be space enough that nobody would have to be crowded. It is a wonderful fantasy that brings about many feelings of happiness and warmth and security.

Knowing how lovely that would feel (and recognizing how many years it’s been of me loving my T) is what’s precipitated a decision to commit a little more seriously to this as an honest-to-gods relationship. The last time anything truly relationship-jarring happened, it turned out to be not-so-true. We thought it wasn’t right, we thought this was a casual enough thing that it could be given up easily. I think he’s the better person to write about why that is and I look forward to reading it if he does. I just know that right now, I don’t know how I could have ever been so short sighted as to tell myself that and think I would believe it. It’s the past now, though, and I’m far more interested in the future. I should definitely start acting like I actually think it’s going to happen.

on radio silence

I need to write. I need to write like an addict needs a fix and I don’t understand why I have resisted it for so long. Things roll around inside my head and they get more murky and harder to understand. I’ve tried to segregate my life into tiny pieces of myself and write about just those tiny pieces, but it’s a lot like trying to build a whole outfit out of only a spool of thread. Eventually I run out of thread and I’ve only just begun but there’s so much else I can’t say for fear of breaking out of this self-enforced subject segregation.

No more.

I am happiest when I am writing. I self-examine more, I am gentler with myself, my mood is better and my relationships are more healthy. Maybe the self-segregation is a bad thing (to a certain extent, I can see certain subjects staying segregated) and this means that I should write more often than I don’t. It’s been two and a half years since he began his adventure and things crashed and burned and I found meaning in it and so did he. It might mean we’re destined for bigger and better things but the only way to tell is to live the future.

I read the past (I’ve documented it spottily) and in the last four and a half years I’ve found another love. Ten years in a primary relationship and this summer it’ll be five with my other lover. Dan Savage asks, why do most people assume all non-monogamous relationships will fail? Because I can’t speak up. Because despite the fact that when I bring my lovely T to thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house, and my father refers to him as my ‘surrogate husband’, I still can’t find my ovaries and be honest about it with most people.

The honest truth is that my husband and I are perfect for each other in so, so many ways. He is open minded and loving, and doesn’t take me too seriously. He encourages the best in me, disapproves of the worst (but is supportive in helping me change it,) and doesn’t let me take myself too seriously. He is silly and cute and loving and cheers me up when I am sad. He doesn’t take me for granted (mostly) and appreciates that I don’t take him for granted (mostly).

He’s also been lovely enough to realize that there’s no limited amount of love in my heart; that giving love to another doesn’t mean he gets any less. As wonderful as he is, there are things he isn’t: romantic, sappy, a supplicant at my altar. He is better at doing than listening and wants to fix the problems I want to talk about when I talk about them; sometimes I want someone to just listen and hold me and tell me I’m wonderful even when I’ve fucked up royally.

I tried to put it to the husband (who still, in this monogamish arrangement, does not understand why I would seek out other relationships when one is ‘complicated enough’) this way: sometimes I want things that he isn’t. Either he isn’t able to give them to me, or he isn’t going to want to give them to me, or he just isn’t going to really understand why I want them in the first place. Instead of pining away for things he isn’t and asking him to fake it and being disappointed when he does, I enjoy him for who he is and what he gives me and don’t pick away at the tiny holes in the relationship until they become great festering wounds. No relationship is perfect and there is no ‘one’. I believe that very strongly. There was a time when I called my husband Perfect with a capital P and he denied this very strongly; he had more clarity than my dazzled eyes could have at the time. He knows he’s not perfect and now that we’ve been together ten years (ten years!) I can acknowledge myself that he isn’t perfect and I’m not perfect and neither is our relationship. Those tiny holes don’t mean the whole relationship is a sham. The tiny holes, if anything, mean we’re different people and we have a way to breathe when we’re wrapped up in each other.

There is no comparison of quality or amount of love or prowess as a lover or any other insecurity one could think to name. My lovers are simply different. Master/husband is one person. T is another. They occupy somewhat different (but also overlapping) roles in my life and not only do they enrich my own private life with each of them, they each enrich the relationship I have with the other. It’s this big Venn diagram of love in a sense; I don’t think most poly-negative people would ever fathom how good it is for my primary relationship to have someone else who loves me with his own intensity, acting as a cheerleader for my relationship with my husband. How could an other want anything less than to have me all to himself? How could he be anything but a threat to the primary relationship? How could it be that he isn’t somehow out to sabotage my marriage so that he can monopolize my love?

It’s up to him to explain how or why he feels the way he does. The best I understand it is that he sees how happy my husband makes me and he loves me enough to want to see me be as happy as possible. He respects me enough to know that my husband is the life partner I have chosen, for a myriad of reasons. Speaking as the person on the other side of this arrangement, I can only say that I am very happy to have someone to love for love’s sake, who loves me back for love’s sake. Two people whose goals are basically to make each other as happy as they possibly can for as long as they possibly can (and time is often limited); it creates a wonderful positive feedback loop that fortifies me in times of difficulty and supplements my happiness in times of joy. It is truly nothing but a good thing. It lets me love my husband better and in a purified form, and seeing my love reflected back at me does double duty. The reflection is a mirror held up to what kind of a person he sees me as. I get a chance to see myself in another person’s eyes. It reminds me not to take myself for granted either.

what I dream about at night

Nights like these, where I can’t sleep, I turn to my good friend, the orgasm. View full article »

I trusted you to them, my love.

They took you and they flayed you, they forged you in pain and sweat and vomit and suffering, they told you who you had to be. You are noble, you took it and you made it into your own. You let them hurt you and I stood back, and you said trust you, and I did.

I trusted them.

You emerged, skinnier and lithe with strength. Your spirit was clear and pure and you were, as you said you would be, still you. You had more patience, a strange compliment to give one of the most patient people I know.

Too patient.

They broke my trust. They mistreated you. They gave you to hungry wolves who tore their pound of flesh from you with their teeth and left you broken and hurting. I couldn’t protect you, my protector.

You wanted this so bad and so you took it. You were patient, ever patient, calmly and cleanly patient. It’s been almost a year now since I first heard you utter the words where you asked yourself aloud whether you wanted to keep giving them your flesh if all they would ever do is take it from you.

A year of threats and suffering, a year of fear and anxiety, a year of abuse and emotional torment. It’s taking its toll. We are both worse for the wear, and while you are ever putting up a brave face, I can see it in you.

I have given up hope. I have given up faith. I drank their kool-aid and swilled it happily, but their words are not the same as their actions.

You have more integrity in your little finger than the mangy carnivores that left you bleeding like this.

I have been unsure about almost everything up to this point, but I am not unsure about the relief that it brought on me to hear what you were planning. To hear this may end, for real may end. Something new may come and what’s to come only fate can show, but something different and altogether not full of this false hope. They can take away my honeymoon, they can take away the clothes, at the end of the day it isn’t an identity, it’s not who you are in your core.

They can’t take you away from me and they can’t take me away from you.

I have your love and I’m lucky for it and they can’t take that away.

I feel a fool for having believed their rhetoric and I can only imagine how you feel, after having given them your blood. You gave up on so many things, sacrificed for them, and in return you get nothing except experiencing firsthand what they are capable of.

I don’t want to wish ill on anyone but at the same time the part of my heart that lusts for vengeance hopes that they will reap what they have sown.

We will move on, and be better for it.

One of my frustrations when it comes to living an “alternative lifestyle” (excuse me while I vomit a bit in my mouth) is when my life and its “style” gets misrepresented. Polyamory is no less victim to this than bisexuality is.

There are individuals in my circle of friends who’ve managed to cock-up poly for others around them, and I find this profoundly sad. Poly has been something that’s allowed me to experience more love in my life, that has allowed me to explore deeper connections and friendships and to follow my heart when it leads me towards a greater intimacy. It works for us, and by ‘us’ I mean my Master and I, primarily because of our open and frank communication with one another, because of our deliberate and gentle honesty. There’s a lot of love in this arrangement, and it’s the love that makes it work.

Meanwhile, I hear stories of other people who go about their business and call it poly. It makes me sad, if not angry at times, because what these charlatans do reflects on everyone who lives a poly lifestyle. There seems to be a fair amount of confusion seeded by these peoples’ activities, and much as I’m the last person to decry the sluttish side of life, when people are being misled, it makes it hard for me to not want to scream at someone.

Poly was something that happened very organically to me. I had a relationship with a person who said if I wanted something, I could ask for it, and we’d see what we could work out. He’s a very nontraditional man that way, iconoclastic even, in that he doesn’t subscribe to the construct of the relationship as always and forever 100% monogamous, a-men. The ironic thing about this is that of the pair of us, he’s the monogamous one. Not that he’d turn down an opportunity presented to him, more just that he doesn’t seem to develop feelings for others in the same way that I do.

That’s what I mean when I say that poly was something that happened naturally, as if it was just a part of the way-I-am. I loved friends, I was close with friends, and sometimes, sometimes, I found myself aching to want to kiss them, hold them, to be closer and closer and closer. Obviously, this isn’t feasible in every situation the feelings arise in, and I feel it necessary to point out here that these feelings are a rare occurrence. That said, when they happen, it’s a powerful thing — and sometimes it’s extremely difficult to resist the urge to just taste, to brush lips over a forehead nonchalantly, and feel your heart beat just a little bit harder.

I didn’t always understand what it was that I was doing. My very loving and well-loved friends were willing to dance the dance with me, and there was joy in playing. I won’t pretend it was always butterflies and rainbows and hot breath on necks, but what joy there was was transcendent. Even the times when I couldn’t have what I wanted so deeply, the joy at just the wanting made it worth every minute. I wanted to experience this more, more. I wanted to explore and keep exploring.

Once upon a time, for the first time, the whole process happened backwards. Instead of falling in love first, a casual acquaintance indicated that she and her girl would be interested in such play. I say I did not know what I was doing because of the fact that I had failed to recognize by this point that it was the intimacy of close friendship and the vulnerability that comes with confiding your secrets and sins to each other which resulted in the love, which resulted in the delightful feelings underneath my sternum. So, imagine my surprise when I played with these girls and found it a hollow experience, ending with me knowing what it was that I wanted, only because I had failed to achieve it.

It’s with this background that I look at people self-identifying “poly” having casual sex with multiple partners and spotty safeguards. Their “relationships” leave people feeling hurt, used, alone, rejected, and insignificant. These are people engaging in casual sex under the umbrella of poly, and it leaves their sex partners feeling like what they want (ethical, loving, responsible, safe, comfortable, trusting non-monogamy) isn’t what polyamory is.

This is part of the reason why I wanted to spend more time writing about these relationships that I have. It dawned on me a short while ago, when the new lady was telling T about how what we have is what she always hoped that poly would be. This is really what it’s all about, and it’d be a darn shame not to share the joy with the world.

So many things, and so much time. I’ve got to stop doing this — leaving it months and months between posts when really the time that passes is a rich scenery of love.

Since the last time I updated on T, we’ve grown together in a different way. There isn’t any taking of each other granted anymore, or at least, far less than there was before. He doesn’t see me as something he only has when he doesn’t have a girlfriend. I don’t see him as mine-mine-mine, as something I can’t let go of if it were to ever come to that. In our understanding, we continue our dance, deepen our love for one another, and improve our level of intimacy.

There’s been a lot of stress at my home in the last several months. Things are uncertain, and Master is feeling the wobbliness of it all. If anything, Master has been trying to keep me stable while I try to give him love and reassurance and ensure that he has a nonthreatening lovely place to strip off all of his stress and shields and simply be loved. This uncertainty has my own heart beating a bit fast, with my tendency to worry unnecessarily. Things seem to be settling down and Master reassures me that I have no reason to worry. I’m trying, with difficulty, to not do so — T has helped me masterfully in this way. While Master is busy intensely applying himself to the stressor in an attempt to make it go away, he has trouble being soft and comforting and reassuring. He’s busy just concentrating on eating and getting enough sleep.

T, on the other hand, has always excelled at the emotional side of managing the kitten. I can cry, and he reassures me and helps me understand. We can talk through my craziness and worry and he is exceptional at talking me down. Lately, this means he’s been holding my hand while I hyperventilate about stress I can do nothing to control.

It feels like the last hiccup, where he left me for other girls, where he ended up getting burned and coming back, was a good thing. I feel like we’ve pruned away all the bad parts of the relationship — the aforementioned taking people for granted, the worry and self-censorship, the possessiveness. The love we have seems purer and less cautious, the tenderness more overt, the reassurances coming freer and very much in earnest. The sex has therefore gotten better — we have gotten better — as rather than looking inward at ourselves and trying to extract the maximum amount of pleasure from the moment, we spend more time trying to administer the most pleasure to the other person.

Lately, some most exciting things have come up. T has a lady that he would like to pursue. This lady seems to want to explore poly as well, which leaves us in a position where I do not have to give up my T to have T enjoy someone as a primary lover. I’m extremely excited by this not only because I get to keep my very dear friend as a lover, but because it means he’s liable to have some extreme happiness coming his way in the future. Nothing is for sure yet, of course, but I have my fingers crossed rather tightly as I hope for new and exciting things to come his way.

ah, stress…

Stress has led me to be rather subtle with my approach. A subtle approach is often non-effective. I really must change this attitude I have that I have decided what will happen; it’s sabotaging my ability to get what I want. I should learn to throw caution to the wind and accept the future for what it may.

We crawl into bed and it’s hard to not talk about the stress and what’s stressing us out. View full article »

T found for himself a new girlfriend. She seemed exciting, full of promise and limerence, all of the things that he wanted it to be. He’s easing out of his shell of pain at having lost his most beloved, and I was happy for him that he seemed to be finding love.

These girls all had something in common, however. They all wanted monogamy. T didn’t take this request lightly; several trips out by himself, sleeping by himself, smoking, freezing in the spring cold, and thinking. Like Archimedes emerging from the bath, as I drove in to his city after a long separation, he delivered his decision. I fairly tore it out of him, I’ll admit. I had pleaded with the universe to provide, fantasized that everything would turn out as I’d wanted it to. I’d built up a dream inside my head of how it was going to be. T wasted no time in smashing it, as I asked him to.

So it was over the phone that he delivered to me the truth, that he couldn’t see himself turning down what appeared on its surface to be a perfectly functional relationship with what seemed to be a perfectly lovely woman, simply because she wasn’t willing to compromise for his polyamory. He told this to me in all gentleness. He said it with great concern and care. And though our relationship had been based on the known fact that I’d very soon be moving a six-hour drive away, though we had stipulated at the very beginning that anybody had to be able to end it at any time for any reason with no hard feelings, or it wouldn’t work, I was absolutely crushed.

In looking back, I understand fully why this happened. He made gentle comments at the time that we appeared to have become a little bit too attached. I took this as a heavy blow. I reacted irrationally. I took it personally. I was wounded in every possible place that my heart could think to be wounded. It means he doesn’t love me! It means he doesn’t want me anymore! It means he’s breaking up with me! It’s not him, it’s me!

This was all magnification, of course, and he was very careful to disperse any misconceptions that he could detect in his apartment with me wavering between anger and grief and sadness, the whole thing steeped in tears. He hugged and stroked and soothed as best he could. He still loves me, it’s just not the same when we’re not living together, when he’s looking at other women in the absence of living with a warm girl in his bed, when I live a figurative world away, when I’m suddenly suffused again with love, real love, true love, this love that I put on like warm socks, that I wrap around me like a fuzzy blanket, this love that is the way I imagine a strong narcotic must feel, even after this many years.

This is the kind of love that has ever made me want to put down the exogenous things that make me able to ignore all of my pain, that has made me want to pick up my problems and solve their puzzles with all their difficulty, to do the real psychological heavy lifting that even my adult parents are too weak to do. I know this like I know that breathing keeps me alive, like I know my heart pumps blood, like I know what pain feels like.

The truth is that T and I were something to each other during a very conveniently timed point in our lives. I was alone, absent my love, gone for six months being psychologically and physically beaten, and he, fresh from having his best beloved torn off of him, wound all raw and bleeding.

He took care of me at my most vulnerable, and I nursed his wounds at his most wounded. We did share a bond, indeed, there was something between us. But he’s right when he says that we became too attached; we both assumed that it would be like that forever.

It wasn’t going to be.

Once I could swallow the truth that we were never going to be what we were, that our attachment was situational, that the grief was going to come one way or another, and that the longer I delayed it the more painful it was going to be, I was able to let go. He was never mine in the first place, and I was grieving his absence as if he was, as if I didn’t have a beautiful blue-eyed man at home who loves me and knows it like he knows he is alive.

This attachment, that the Buddha points out is the source of pain, was what I had done. I had not intended to do it, and did it mindlessly. Now, mindfully, I had to let go of my attachment to this idea that T and I would be this perfect couple that lasted forever, the idea that coalesced out of soothed tears, when I was living frustrations in my relationship with Master, when I was terrified of the idea of him leaving for six months, when we were chafing at relationship imperfections, when I was afraid he would return as this changed creature full of vexation and cynicism and bitterness.

I had a comfortable landing pad in a period of emotional strain. And yes, I did wonder at times if T was really a better alternative to my Master, with T’s ability to comfort me, and Master’s stress and my stress snowballing into conflict, and me seeking refuge in T, and Master’s leaving-soon causing him to interpret my seeking refuge as avoiding him, it was bad scenes all around.

I think I became a little fixated on that attachment with T, to the point where, even when we moved away, even when living with Master (and Master living at work, training,) I was still fixated on T, still seeking my refuge. I was stressing myself out trying to be the ideal fiancée, the ideal proto-wife, the ideal sub, the ideal girlfriend, instead of being myself.

I grew to let go of T. We drifted apart for a little while, and it wasn’t really a sad thing. I think we needed our space to grow into our own, and I needed to really build my relationship with Master, to grow together as a couple. I fought against that a lot.

I have a lot of psychological demons, and I’ve spent a lot of time running from them. A lesser man would have left me by now, and it’s true when Master says if he didn’t love me, he wouldn’t be here. Not that putting up with my bullshit is all that epic a battle, but that this many years, this many hours, this kind of tears and listening and trying to grok when he so clearly isn’t on the same page I’m on, let alone the same book, he tries, oh, my, how he tries. That’s what makes all of the difference.

In T’s absence, I found myself at first not coping well, until Master very appropriately tuned me in. I sobbed. I was falling apart. I had nothing left. I didn’t know what to do or how to be. I have written about that breakdown elsewhere. About the very soul-deep discovery that what Master wanted was me, and how that was exactly what I didn’t want to give him, feeling it was the most heinous thing to give him in the world.

With this realization and working at telling him and showing him and sharing with him who I am, who I really am, not the façade that I put on for him, we’ve grown together in our intimacy. Things are better, more whole. I feel his love, this love that I didn’t think existed at all.

So T’s girlfriend turns out to be a crazy bitch, and we drift back together. We talk, over several drinks, late into the night. We lay out the groundwork. About how his withdrawal of consent had a little bit to do with the fact that he didn’t feel comfortable having be as a fuckbuddy, thinking that he was emotionally taking advantage of me. Now he’s realized how I’m a big girl, really, and I can make my own decisions; I don’t need him to decide it’s too painful for me to be his fuckbuddy. I’ll decide that on my own, thanks.

We’re amused, both of us, at how in laying the groundwork, we are dancing around one another’s boundaries, we are trying not to step on toes, we are so careful not to push. It’s indeed part of why we are so good together: how careful we are to not force things, to not push buttons, to ask permission instead of telling and to negotiate before jumping in feetfirst. So we dance, again, and negotiate new boundaries, and I find myself out in a camping trip, just me, and T.

At first I’m excited somewhat, but I remember our first encounter after renegotiating the boundaries and I find myself also somewhat anxious. I found things far less satsifying than I remember, and I chalk it up to no privacy, to not having explained things to his roommate-brother, to awkward, hasty ninja-sex in a too-cold room under unromantic pretenses.

I discover during this trip that what we had was somehow less than I remember. Magnified by emotion at the time, my feelings excoriated by the experience of being left alone and vulnerable, his spirit rubbed raw by the loss of his most beloved, his need to nurture and support soothed my fear of Master’s changed-nature and my own apprehension at moving far-far away. I remember this incredible closeness and this loving environment that had me seriously wondering whether Master was really the Right One, especially during a time when his stress and my stress had us fairly at each others’ throats.

I sought refuge in T and that didn’t help things with Master, but this is only something I can see when stress-free and not immersed in anxiety about the future. What seemed to be so perfect at the time actually had its own undercurrents of dissatisfaction, subtleties that I ignored because I had bigger things to worry about. The bigger things are gone, on this camping trip. All I have to focus on is ‘us’, myself and T, and how, while we are still ‘us’, there’s this sense that this is never, ever going to be … enough.

It’s fun! Don’t get me wrong. We enjoy ourselves and enjoy each other and do have a lot of fun playing around and take good care of one another. However, I find myself instead of stressed and being soothed with the balm of this comfortable presence, I’m now unable to ignore the fact that the sex is, at best, somewhat mediocre, the funnest part being able to watch him have fun, not necessarily the act of intercourse in and of itself. And he’s trying, in the process of foreplay, to tweak buttons that he knows are tweakable, but he’s doing the sexual equivalent of rolling his face on the keyboard to try and write poetry. He pinches because he knows I like pain, but he isn’t Master, and it doesn’t come in the context of pleasurable pain, it’s just pinching. He doesn’t know me like Master knows me. He can tease me to new heights using the tools available to him, but he can’t be Master and try and use Master’s tools. It just doesn’t work.

So here I am, standing back and staring at this exchange, going, this is it? This is what I was so crushed about losing? Which is only part of the equation, because I was crushed about losing so much more than that. I am just only now recognizing that the only thing I really did lose was that mediocre sex, because we’re still us, good friends, whether we are having sex or not. That said, we will never have the emotional bond that my husband and I have, we will not grow together emotionally in the same way that I will with Master, and he will not grow to know me in a way that a man who’s shared my bed and my body for eight years can.

And that’s what makes all the difference.

We are different

He and I.

He is quiet, preferring to keep his anger close, his sadness closer. He is in control. He is boisterous only when he is happy, which is most of the time.

I am loud. I am bossy and opinionated. Passionate, some say, and I guess it’s the truth. I care too much, but I don’t mind it one bit. My anger is biting. My sadness is the only thing I bottle up and hide.

I uncork it sometimes, for him. He knows me like no other human being can. He knows things I’ve told nobody else. He knows things I’d barely ever admit to myself.

I’m honest with him about what’s happened to me. It’s then that I see him truly angry. He laughs at work and jokes and has fun with all that emotional heaviness. He’s mildly irritated, but he’s under control. It’s when I tell him what they’ve done to me, that I see his anger. It’s subtle, and if you didn’t know him like I do, you’d miss it in action. The tightness in his jaw. The way he thins his lips. His hands clench and unclench, trying to work out some impossible kink. I hear it in the determination in his voice, in the way he says things as if they’re inalienable truths: “That will never. Happen. Again.”

It’s the first time I’ve felt this connected to another human being. I’d never felt this before I loved him. I’d never felt as if my pain could physically pain someone else, as if my happiness alone would make him happy. I’ve never felt before as if simply being comfortable together is enough; that I don’t need to constantly be of service, don’t need to constantly perform, don’t need to constantly meet-or-exceed-expectations. I want to give him everything that I can offer and all he really wants is myself.

But I hate myself. And so it is difficult to give him this thing which he loves and adores and cherishes more than anything in his entire life. I don’t understand how I can be enough. I don’t grok how it is that simply being myself is the reason he loves me. I can’t fathom how ‘what do you see in me’ can be answered with “I don’t know, you’re just You.” How am I supposed to exceed that expectation? How am I supposed to put on that performance? When it isn’t a performance he wants, or an expectation that he has? How do I be myself when I am so uncomfortable in my own skin that I’d rather sleep, disconnect, withdraw, anaesthetize, hide, shrink, disappear or die?

I can’t fake that. I can’t pretend. I can’t put on a show or deflect the attention. Pressing him for details about what behaviour exactly it is that he approves of, so that I can further model this for him, is replied to with a shrug. It frustrates me endlessly, here I am, offering to dance for him, wanting to do everything to please him, to impress him, to prove myself, and he won’t tell me to dance.

He wants me and that’s the thing I am most loath to give him, out of everything else in the world, because it is the only gift that I truly feel is deeply and pathetically unworthy.

And to him it’s the most valuable gem in the world.

How to reconcile this? Prescription antidepressants cannot make one like oneself, they only make it possible to live with yourself on a day to day basis. How to unravel the tapestry of my deep-seated sense of unworthiness? How to pull at that thread saying that I’m not and never will be good enough, until it falls in a tangled mess at my feet and I can finally kick it away from me and be free of its constriction forever?

To him, I am more than worthy. To him, I am more than enough. It makes it all the more painful, to see the gulf between what he sees and how I feel, and to know, deeply and truly, that the yawning chasm in between is filled with darkness and all that is truly wrong?

And for the first time, learning to quiet the words I learned as a child, to ignore that sense that I should simply “stop feeling sorry for [myself]” and stifle the crying, hold in the sobs, and let the tears flow down my cheeks as the only expression of my suffering that I cannot hold inside. I did it at my brother’s funeral, for Christ’s sake, and my grandfather’s funeral before that. No! That has to stop! My pain is real and pretending it is as insignificant and worthless as I believe myself to be will only end in more pain! Better to finally hold my suffering in my hand, to tell myself that I care that I’m in pain, that it’s okay to cry and be anguished, instead of deriding myself for ever being so pathetic as to have feelings in the first place.

It is only when I accept that I’m allowed to be human that I will be able to love the human that I am as my love loves me: as a whole thing, not some collection of accomplishments and achievements, not some kind of walking résumé with a checklist of confirmations-that-I-am-acceptable.

He wants only the very, very best for me. How do I learn to want this thing for myself? He believes in me in ways that all self-deprecation aside, I truly do not deserve. His love for me is a lightning-rod for how this is abnormal: this me-on-a-pedestal that he’s loved ever since we were skinny teenagers is truly the me he loves. He has never loved this paper-doll of pretend and pedantry. He loves the me that I can’t stand to be.

I have found a thousand ways in the past to stifle this. Too emo, too begging of other peoples’ sympathy, too much feeling sorry for myself, too pathetic, too a thousand things. I’ve got to stop folding parts of myself up and tucking them away in envelopes, thinking I can keep them hidden forever. It all bubbles to the surface in the end, or my attempts to keep it from doing so end up being so unsustainably self-destructive that not only will they end in my destruction, but the destruction of this thing most precious to me: my relationship with this man who I will soon marry.

That… that is unacceptable to me. So honesty it is. I cannot lie to myself any longer and pretend that I’m such a significant drama queen that nobody will be able to ever stand hearing of the many ways in which I’ve been wronged by the universe. Fact is, writing is therapy: and if I can’t express who I am in the very journal that contains so many other pieces of who I am, then why bother writing in it in the first place? To change what I’d say on the basis of some kind of expectation of performance on behalf of my readers would be the exact kind of interpersonal dishonesty that is cramping my relationship with the one I love. I’m not some trained monkey who dances for the approval of others. I’m a whole person, with wants and needs, pain and fears, as unique and valuable as anyone else.

I just don’t know it yet.

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