Lessons Learned From Pulling My Head Out Of My Ass: State Of The Relationship Address

 

I’ve been spending my time since my last State of Relationship Address recovering from a horrible relationship and reaping the benefits of a new one with an intelligent, compassionate, beautiful human. However, there is a problem. Somewhere along the line, I lost my way; I forgot two of the tenants that I live my life by and I am paying the price from a lack of trust and security that now exists on both sides of the relationship.

I’ve always valued communication in a relationship. It’s sometimes hard, sometimes gritty, sometimes beautiful, but it’s always worth the effort. In the past, I moved on from a relationship because communication wasn’t there so I know it’s important to me. Another relationship I left because I was punished for communication. It’s that last one that matters more.

It smells like shit in here

In that last relationship, there was no reward for sharing my feelings. Sharing meant that it would trigger the other person and because of their insecurity, they would try to manipulate and control me. So I stopped. That didn’t work either but since the relationship was abusive it didn’t really matter, nothing was going to work. Little did I know, this survival habit had remained in place waiting for someone to come along who didn’t deserve to have it used on them.

Tenant 1: Communication is key, no matter what

I have been dating the beautiful person I mentioned in the opening paragraph. She is the brightest light I have ever had in my life and one of the strongest people I have ever met. She has been by my side even when I wouldn’t allow myself to be by hers. I kept her at arm’s length because I was afraid of talking about things that bothered me in our relationship. These things I would later learn were small and insignificant. However, when you don’t talk about your fears, you start to believe them.

That led me to end the relationship in a panic but I couldn’t stay away. I ended it a second time but kept getting drawn back. I realize now that I was returning for a good reason; I truly adore her. Instinctively, I knew I should be with her but my fear kept pulling me away.

Essentially, hiding my fear was a way of trying to protect her from what I thought would be hurtful information (and maybe it was), but the real damage is that I hurt her in an entirely different way which cost us our security.

Tenant 2: Let the best version of me get rejected

Historically, I don’t hold back with people whom I am romantically interested in. If I get rejected, I want the best version of me possible to get rejected. The best version of me, not coincidentally, is also the truest version. I don’t want to meet someone and try to fit their mold just to get spurned anyway. I would always wonder how things could have gone differently if I would have just been me. I have never regretted being rejected as myself.

As I mentioned, I was a huge flight risk. I didn’t know when I was going to get overwhelmed and check out. So I kept her at arm’s length to protect her (which is quite possibly the stupidest thing ever written).

Now, I love affection. I don’t mean sex, though wonderful, it’s not really what builds intimacy. I’m talking about walking hand in hand with a partner, pulling them close for a loving squeeze, coming behind her and sliding my hands around her waist while putting my lips on her neck as we prepare dinner, locking eyes with hers and staring deeply, and not so innocently brushing her butt with my hand as I glide past. These, and thoughtful compassionate words, are little touches that let someone know you are thinking about them, that they excite you, and that you love them.

Because I didn’t want her to get too close. I kept myself from doing these things, the very things that would help her feel like I wanted to be around her. From her perspective, I was always pulling away. My actions were ridiculous and predictably it had the effect that you would imagine. Not only was she afraid that I might break up again, the feeling of me pulling away told her it was guaranteed to happen.

Man it’s bright out here

The security rubberband finally snapped. We separated again, this time it might be for good. Now that we have nothing to lose, or perhaps because we have everything to lose, we are finally talking like we should have been from the start. It turns out she was holding things back as well because she was afraid it would push me away. I’m not sure that it would have but back then I don’t know if I was in a place to respond appropriately. We bared our souls to each other and I suspect we have more to go.

I learned a couple of things from this experience. The first is rather obvious, I need to live up to the standards that I set for myself. I wasn’t aware of my behavior and I let my fear and past trauma pull me from the correct path.

I should have been myself. I put the best version of me forward in the beginning and we won each other’s hearts. Then I became scared and let myself diminish. This allowed our relationship to wither. Now the person that she has come to know isn’t really me. I stopped being that loving, appreciative, fearlessly open person she fell in love with, and if we are split for good I have to live with the fact that I could have been more but was afraid. If I had remained true to who I was, we might be giggling in each other’s arms right now.

The second thing is something that I didn’t expect. Being honest with each other and talking through things has taken me from wanting to leave to wanting to start over. More than that, I love the conversations we are having now. It’s not all easy to hear for either of us but I feel so much closer to her now. Talking about my fears removed their power over me.

I want to do the things with her so badly now that I never took the time for previously. I want to give her everything, show her she is loved, cherish and protect her heart the proper way, help fulfill her dreams as if they were my own, and provide the stability and belonging she so desperately wants. The difference this time is that I can do it. Our openness has actually given me that new relationship energy back because, let’s be honest, this is truly new.

What happens now

However, while we still have a relationship, we are not a couple anymore. I am slowly coming to terms with the possibility that we may never be together like that again. I still have hope but I realize that sometimes the damage is too much and the risk for her may be too great; which leaves me with a painful conclusion. It’s possible I ruined the best thing I ever had. I may have woken up too late.

I’m trying to look on the bright side of either outcome. If I get a third chance, we are learning how to talk to each other better than either of us ever have with anyone. That coupled with eliminating my fear will let me show her daily how much she means to me. I can be the person she fell in love with and support her as she deserves.

If we can’t continue, then my path there is clear as well. I will work to recover like I have before and take my lessons and move forward. Thankful for what I had and secure in the knowledge that someone that wonderful can love me. Hopefully, eventually, someone else may come along again.

Either way, I want to be the person I was meant to be.

The Wedding Vows

www.jeremyalcornphotography.com

Recently, I officiated my friend’s wedding ceremony for a renewal of vows. I was honored to be given this privilege. Here is what I said which I owe heavily to bell hooks in her wonderful book All About Love:

“Good evening. I’d like to start by welcoming you to this ceremony and congratulating Jeff and Eric on this special occasion.

There’s a line towards the end of a wedding. You’ve all heard it many times before: it reads, “by the power invested in me.” If only things were that matter of fact. I wish that my words here today could grant you life long assuredness, a knowledge that the two of you will prosper together and enjoy happiness till the end of your days. While I believe that you can have this, it’s not something I can provide nor is there a religious or legal edict that can make your relationship a prosperous marriage.

When you were dating, you needed to know that you were on your way to being in love. In a marriage though you will seek something much more akin to true love.

We are often shown, and so we imagine, a fairy tale version of love. Real love though is grittier than that. At times it can be a struggle, disagreements are after all allowed and sometimes necessary. If relationships are work, then love will be your career. Love challenges us in ways that can make us want to withdraw rather than pull someone close and open up. It makes us vulnerable by showing us our shortcomings and it will reveal to us our deepest insecurities. To be sure, truly loving another person is one of the most courageous things you will ever do.

This is why the two of you standing here today makes this event all the more special. By being married you have already confirmed your decision to love and tackle your fears. You have learned that while loving each other cannot end the difficulties you will face, it can give you the ability to deal with those obstacles and emerge stronger for it.

And so it is today that you continue your commitment to one another evinced by this gathering of kindred – this confirmation of spirit, this renewal of vows.

I want to say a few things about love before we get to those vows. Earlier I spoke of true love and that sometimes seems to be a perplexing idea, but it is because we often misunderstand the nature of love. True love does exist, but it is not something you stumble onto or happen upon. We often confuse the incidence of meeting someone with finding love. We may find our partners by accident but love takes much more.

Because we often think that we find love we have come to view it as a noun. Love for us becomes a thing to be given and more often, something to be received. While this view can be a good start it does not take us close enough to where we need to be. Regarded this way we miss the fundamental meaning of this deep emotion. For if love is only a thing, then we must ask ourselves where is this thing we exchange created? Where does love come from?

Obviously love has to come from us and that is why love is actually a verb. It is an intentional act, for we do not have to love, rather we choose to.

Love gives us agency. It is a way of living and ordering our lives to maximize the way we commune with those around us. In this way then, love is also much more than just a feeling. Love as a verb demands that we be responsible and accountable. It means we take ownership for our actions and expect our partner to do the same. When we falter it is our obligation to accept our mistakes and make amends. Love demands this so that we continually succeed or fail better for our partners.

In your quest to deepen your bonds remember that love should be honest. Love cannot exist in a world of deception. Speaking your truths to a partner and in turn hearing theirs will strengthen your bonds and help create respect. Your words should be measured and honest to solidify the trust you have in each other. Speaking and listening in this regard is not always easy but it is essential.

In your honesty be sure to see that your love is also kind. The goal of intimacy should be to foster healing and understanding.

For your marriage to be loving it needs to have an ethic of care. When the component of care is lost a relationship becomes distant at best, or hurtful and abusive at worst – in essence dysfunctional. Love cannot grow where there is an absence of care. When you treat love as a verb you are prioritizing your partner’s personal and spiritual growth along with your own.

In addition to these, you should be steadfastly committed to one another. Commitment is often thought of as being physically true to your partner, and while the agreement you reach in this regard is important, it is too shallow a view. You will find that committing to your partner through love becomes something which is better rounded and more complete than just being physically devoted ever could be.

I want to leave you with this caveat so you know that you are in good standing: love does not demand perfection. There may be times when you don’t feel worthy for the task of love. This is normal, it is often the product of dwelling on your self-doubt too much. Done this way you will undervalue your worth. Always remember though that your partner has chosen you. They aren’t inhibited by your self-doubt. If they could feel what you think about yourself they wouldn’t recognize it as you. Your partner is by your side because they see your truth rather than your fiction. This too is what love does.

Ultimately though as I stated at the outset, what you need, and indeed what you have found to make love blossom can only be touched upon by words in a ceremony. The power of love as a verb can only be realized by both of you.

And so it is now that I ask you both to share a confirmation of that strength within by way of vows.

______ Do you promise to love _____ , to act in a way that confers care, trust, understanding, respect, and commitment to him – guarding his heart and his priorities as if they were your own for as long as you shall live?

Then having heard your affirmations, by the power that resides in each of you and by the trust you have placed in each other. I humbly and happily reaffirm you, husbands. You may each kiss the groom.”

 

Sometimes Love Isn’t Enough: State of the Relationship Address 3

queer_house

 

I just had a two month relationship end and I’m heartbroken.

I never thought this would happen to me; that I would be so in love with someone and them with me but that ending the relationship would be the best way forward for me. It’s kind of like a movie where there are irreconcilable forces at work which drive two lovers apart. Except at the end of my story there’s no metamorphosis which causes one or both people to change, making them get back together and live happily ever after. Real change is hard, sometimes it never happens. Reality can be shitty like that.

A general statement of why we separated would be that our relationship consisted of a continuous cycle of highs and lows. The highs were amazing and those moments led me to believe that we would have a wonderful future together. The lows on the other hand were unbearable to the both of us, but in very different ways.

This high-low cycle would repeat itself every 4-7 days and I struggled emotionally and intellectually trying to cope with the varying circumstances and the different treatment I would receive with each mood. I tried to handle it, but I couldn’t.

Instead I started to break. One moment I felt like I was allowed to be happy and the next I wasn’t. I felt like my every move was being acted out under surveillance, my every word transcribed and analyzed to be used against me. I started to doubt my own experiences and my thoughts. I lost who I was as a person and I felt like I was sinking. One day I realized that the happiness that took me two years to build was gone. I knew I had to stop the cycle while there was still enough of me left to do so.

And yet, I love her. Does that sound weird? Fucked-up even? It no doubt reads that way and yet if you’ve been in a similar situation you’ll probably understand. In fact, maybe that’s the only way to really comprehend it all. You see, it’s not that she wanted to do any of those things to me or make me feel that way. Rather, she was gripped by fear and insecurity which led to our ruin. The effects it had on her were no picnic either I’m sure. No . . . we didn’t mean for it to go down like that, but it happened nonetheless.

It’s hard for me to go through this knowing that we could likely still be together if I wanted to (or so it was at one time). I miss so many things about her. I miss the way things seemed natural and easy with us in a way I had never experienced before. I miss her caressing my body as if she were worshiping me. She had the darkest brown eyes I had ever seen. So wonderfully dark and glossy that it was near impossible to tell where her pupil stopped and her iris began. I’ll never get to gaze deeply into them again or kiss the spot where her nose meets her forehead. I’ll miss all those funny expressions she made when we were goofing around and the way she jokingly said she “was very serious.” I miss the life we had begun to lay out together and the feeling that it had the very real potential of being the best relationship I ever had. I will miss so much more of her than anyone else will ever know.

Yeah . . . this really fucking sucks. I want to go back and tell her I’m sorry, I made a mistake, we can start over again and that I love her. Only two of those things would be true. She tells me I gave up on her and maybe I did, but it was to save myself. It wasn’t a mistake (I wish it was) and I can’t go back no matter how much I want to.

As of this writing, it will be a week since we went our separate ways. This is also the day that I’ve hurt the most.

Between the pouring of tears (of which there were many writing this) there are a few glimmers of hope. Every now and then I find that my happiness is reemerging. I’ve also started to work on my dating profile. I have no immediate desire to start dating again, right now dating feels like doing a disservice to what we had, but the fact that I can see a future where that can happen is a promising sign for down the road. The profile is just a small step among many.

For now, I’m healing through hurting in that cathartic way that only pain can sometimes do. While I know that this will eventually pass, I also know that this is something I must experience. It’s where my head and my heart currently reside and that’s okay.

 

A postscript to my former lover: If you read this I hope you know that I love you very much and that I’m extremely grateful for all the wonderful moments we shared. I’ll never forget our time and what you meant to me. With all my heart, I thank you.

State of the Relationship Address 2: Growth hormones

queer_house

I’ve been enjoying the freedom of being single as of late. With that relationship shift came a greater leeway for dating, which meant new sexual partners and experiences as well as personal growth. It has been good to find out that there is a dating scene for someone approaching 40 (that’s me) and that there is a whole group of people out there who find me desirable. Until now, I had no indication that any of this was the case. It’s been a lot of fun but there’s been something missing and I’m starting to wonder if the lack of a strong emotional component has something to do with it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been seeing (just as good a word as any I suppose) someone for a couple of months and when we’re together I’m definitely encountering some emotions, but they’re a product of the intense physical connections we’re sharing and not necessarily centered around romantic love. I know she would say the same of me in return because she‘s super fucking cool and we openly discuss stuff like this without any reprisal.

When we’re together in the throes of lust I find myself wanting to tell her that I love her. Now I do love her, but it’s in a platonic way not a romantic one (I’ve told her this too). Thankfully I didn’t say anything, but I noticed that when I thought about saying I love you that my level of arousal would increase.

It’s possible that I have the need to say I love you in order to put the experience in familiar territory since most of my sexual experiences have happened while I was in love. I think maybe there is something more at work though which is simply that a part of me wants to be in love.

In the past, I’m pretty sure that in both of my relationships where I have expressed my love that I initially said it too soon for that very reason. Thankfully, both of those relationships lasted long enough to where that hasty sentiment became a very real emotion.

Regardless, this realization has left me longing for the prospect of something more significant from my dating experiences. This all happened in pretty short order and that was something I wasn’t expecting. However, I can tell my slutty phase (and I mean that in the most positive way possible) is in decline because of it. I’m sure I have space for other hookups if the proper person comes along, but I can feel the urge building to accept something a little more serious should a relationship move that way.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t progress through the stages of life so quickly. Whether you want to call it a rebound, sowing my oats, sexual liberation or what have you it’s only been two months since I started sleeping around. I wonder if I should be moving on from this place in my life so soon.

I had a friend tell me once that she was always impressed by how readily I accepted what was in front of me and just logically worked through it at a superhuman pace. While part of me wants to say that she is prone to exaggeration, I’ve had proof that this really is the case.

When my second wife and I decided to end the marriage portion of our relationship (meaning we’re still friends) I experienced almost no jealousy or anger. I had worked through most of those emotions when we opened up our relationship nine months prior. Instead, I spent most of my time working on making sense of our conversations and understanding what had happened. Again, my friends remarked on how well I was doing. Apparently this had been a subject of conversation where they had marveled at how I was handling things. The result of my self-work and evaluation was that a month after my marriage had ended I felt perfectly comfortable dating.

I would say that I’m lucky except that I’ve been working on becoming this kind of person for the last twenty years. It’s not been an accident nor has it been easy. It’s taken an enormous amount of emotional work and some pretty deep soul searching and confidence building. This is why I have very little trepidation about shifting my relationship focus.

After all, it’s not like I’m going to be proposing to every man or woman that I go on a date with. Statistically I’ll be going on quite a few more dates before I find someone for the long term. However, I am ready to select my partners in a way that doesn’t necessarily undercut my chance of long term success which is something that I couldn’t say before (self-sabotage anyone?). Somehow this feels like a healthier place to be. Time will tell if I’m meant to be here. For now there’s no pressure, this is just another part of my story.

Happy Pi Day!

If you aren’t familiar with Kimchi Cuddles, I highly suggest checking out some of her comics spreading awareness about poly, queer, and genderqueer issues in the most hilarious way possible.

piday

Growing up as a polyamorous person stuck in monogamous relationships, I never knew how to explain that my interest in another never took away from the love I had for my partner. This comic hits the nail on the head for me.

 

~~Merasmin~~