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.

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