State of the Relationship Address: Call me Jena!

As my partner slid her hands beneath my dress, pushing it up around my waist, I asked “Will you call me Jena?” This is something I had wanted for a long time but for whatever reason the femme side of my gender was rarely on display during my sexual encounters with her. She complied, but I could sense a little unease in her voice as she said my name. So I took over referring to myself in femme ways and relaxing into a roll I so desperately wanted to fill. Doing this for the first time and accepting that part of me was exciting and liberating. Everything inside me had been leading in this direction.

After this experience, I asked my partner how she felt using my femme name (admittedly, something I should have done beforehand). For a little background, my partner is a cis-woman and as straight as they come. By my telling of it, she has never found any part of a woman attractive in any significant way. She is attracted to male-bodied me and yet has been supportive of me wearing whatever female clothing I desire in private or in public.

Still, she said using a femme name for me was not something with which she was comfortable. It did not create any attraction for her. Quite the contrary, I got the impression that it created a kind of repellant visceral response (the opposite of attraction basically).

I want to be clear that I do not fault her for it in any way. While I think there are aspects of attraction that we can control and help shape, there is also a part of desire that cannot be forced. Accepting this duality has been central to my own journey of exploring sexual attraction and even gender identity. I accept and support her boundaries.

Additionally, for about two years we have had an agreement that I could be with other queer folks sexually. For this arrangement I would be non monogamous and she would be monogamous. This was actually her idea initially and one which she mentioned a couple of times before I actually accepted it as a viable possibility. We did this because I wanted to continue exploring my queerdom and retain my visibility as a queer person.  

During that time of being able to “date” (or whatever you want to call it) other folks I had talked to many folks but none who could muster up any interest that went much past the tip of their genitalia. I also found it hard to believe that my partner was one hundred percent okay with this arrangement. Accordingly, I didn’t want to proceed full steam ahead and do irreparable damage to our relationship. As a result, I had only been with one other person who was a dear friend of mine on one occasion.

So when I initially heard that she couldn’t accept calling me Jena I was worried but knew that perhaps I could still explore this aspect of me with others. I felt like I still had a lifeline and an outlet in which to revel in who I was becoming. A week or two later this too came to an end.

My partner told me that while our relationship arrangement made logical sense to her that she couldn’t accept it on an emotional level. Now that she had discovered and spoke her truth, I was happy to focus instead on monogamy. The clarity of monogamy has always felt reassuring and I find simplicity and beauty in the practice.

All of this creates a number of quandaries for me. Is my femme side in any form a problem for her that will eventually surface? For now, I am aware of the possibility, but am accepting that I have heard the truth as best as she currently knows it and am proceeding accordingly. 

The larger issue for me is that now that I am monogamous can I express my femininity in such a way that is still fulfilling for me while not being off putting to my partner? Is it possible to walk this line and leave everyone happy or will tending to her boundaries squelch my identity? Furthermore, is it even reasonable to walk a line at all where gender identity is concerned? Isn’t it more preferable to be who I want and need to be and let the chips fall where they may?

I don’t pretend to have the definitive answers, or any answers, but I do want to talk about what I have discovered while wrestling with these questions.

Realizing My Femme Side

In my past, I had kept my femininity shutoff from the outside world. I was closeted on purpose. Growing up I was surrounded by people who didn’t understand virtually any queer issues nor did they make an attempt. They mainly ridiculed and disparaged those who were different. Twenty some odd years ago, I shared a few pics with the person who was my first spouse. They were of me wearing her undergarments. Later when she was upset about something, she said, “I leave for a week and the first thing you do is dress up in my underwear.” I didn’t know exactly what this meant as it didn’t pertain to the argument at the time but I got the picture. I was expected to knock it the fuck off. 

I had reached out to someone I thought I could trust and I received a scolding that was the death knell to me living openly with her. I didn’t want to experience that again and in small minded (I mean small town) America it was sure to happen each time I tried to publicly become who I needed to be.

So I kept it all under wraps. I dressed in femme ways only when I was alone and my partner was gone. I never mentioned it to her again. Later with other partners I was able to bring this side of me to life but mainly did so only in the bedroom; the most private of spaces.

This year though I have started wearing women’s clothes (pants and shorts) out in public. It is still less than I would like to wear, but it is a process and I am in the middle of it. Still, dressing with femme clothes in public is removing the secrecy around my gender. It is helping to give me some visibility as a queer person.

Likewise, when I was chatting with folks on dating apps I was leaving it up to people to call me by my masculine name or my femme name. Those who chose my femme name lightened my step. It felt foreign to be called Jena but it also resonated with me and made me happy. Having this quality in my life makes me feel more rounded and gives me visibility as a queer person. It’s as if my figurative masculine edges are being sanded down a bit. I like that.

What I’ve Learned . . . Kinda

This revelation is another step in understanding where I have been and in some ways where I am at now. My desire to be femme during intimacy was because I had kept this side of me in relative secrecy. I’m curious to see if having the femme me on display in public will erase the need to be referred to this way occasionally by my partner. If this is the case then I’m not walking any figurative line at all. Problem solved.

Conversely, if I still have the urge to be more femme than my partner can handle then it will be unfair to myself to continue walking someone else’s path. It seems as if this is the more likely outcome. While dressing femme in private led me to also dress in public, the occurrence of the latter has not diminished the occurrence of the former. So it seemingly follows that using my femme name in public is still going to be something I desire during intimate moments as well, though that experiment has yet to be conducted.

It must be admitted though that in a monogamous relationship that one half of the experiment is missing. I can’t use my femme name during intimacy to see how much I need to express that part of me. I just have to wait and see if I think I want it used. If I do, the relationship will end and I’ll have to hope that I was correct and that I didn’t make the wrong choice. It has become a much larger burden under monogamy than it was previously.

I used to feel as if I had a clean slate to explore and write down who I wanted to be. Now the surface of my slate is hemmed in with words to direct my path. I can write down who I am so long as I do not obscure parts of the slate which already contain the writing of others.

Keep in mind, I’m not asking to go back to nonmonogamy. That didn’t work and anyway, I don’t need it. It’s just that now I don’t know how to proceed. However, proceed I must because there is no other option before me.

I have had a difficult time writing this because I do not truly know where I stand. Each line I put down on the page feels shaky and dangerous. How much of what I write here is being constrained by the boundaries of my partner and by my fears? Truthfully, I do not know. Only time will reveal that answer. I have tried to be as kind and yet truthful as possible. I know that being gender fluid is firmly a part of me. I’m unpacking it piece by piece and while it feels good to do so, I’m scared of the consequences that my thoughts on this page could have in my current relationship. Seeing it all typed out here is less than reassuring.

If the romantic aspect of our relationship does not survive then it is no one’s fault. In fact, it will be for the best of all possible reasons. That my gender identity does not line up with her sexual attraction is certainly no one’s fault. It is just one of those unfortunate things which can occur as people grow.

For now, my partner says she is comfortable with me dressing in femme clothes and is good with incorporating these clothes into our intimacy. This gives me hope and currently I could use a little more of that.

Two Years and One Insecurity Later: State of the Relationship Address

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So this is somewhere in the second year of the blog. Sex, Love & Ire began after I was ghosted and probably catfished (fake profile) on a dating site. The event at the time was pretty hard for me to take.

After having this and other disappointing experiences I realized that something was amiss. I shouldn’t be having small emotional breakdowns over these types of scenarios. Dating shouldn’t be this hard, but why was it taking such a toll on me?

My thoughts drifted from this matter as I found myself in a relationship soon after. Ultimately though, I knew the answer to my question. I was afraid of being alone.

Flash forward two years and I’m single once more. I knew I had to make a change. I should be comfortable, even happy, being alone before I begin dating. I couldn’t keep fumbling around with those who weren’t a good fit for me in an attempt to satiate my insecurities. I also couldn’t keep trying to push myself into relationships when someone was a good fit. Those situations need to evolve at their own pace. It was unfair to everyone involved.

I decided to stop dating until I was secure with being single. Having been in a relationship for 20 some odd years it was never a reality I had to face. It was time I did.

And so it was that I set out on a quest to heal myself and become comfortable with where I was in life. My mission mostly looked like this: each time I felt the urge to get on a dating app I would ask myself why I wanted to do so. I discovered it was mostly because I was bored or lonely. When that answer came I knew I had to give myself more time. So I waited and went about my life. Easier said than done.

I started doing things alone that I usually didn’t. Going to concerts, meals, movies, auto races and trips across country all became a means to help me come to terms with spending time alone.

I can’t say how long it takes for the average person to get into a good state of mind for dating. Anyone who quantifies this is probably full of shit. Everyone moves through life at different speeds and we all certainly have our own levels of personal work to do.

For me, after three months I felt good about where I was. I started dabbling in online dating again. I didn’t think things would progress so quickly but the change I felt was remarkable. I went online, matching with people and conversing without the worry of whether or not they liked me. If someone ghosted me or barely responded I just figured they were busy or we weren’t a good fit and went on my way. When I have no matches for a week or so (this happens to me often) it was no problem. I was at ease for the first time and the whole process of finding someone felt healthy. I was more balanced and making better choices.

Then it happened; I matched and started messaging with someone. She wanted badly for me to call her right away so she could hear my voice. I wasn’t comfortable with this and maybe that should have been reason enough to decline. I don’t mind phone calls, but something about this request was a bit off. However, because I often push my boundaries we talked briefly.

The two minute phone conversation was heavily laden with sexual innuendos and even outright statements about having sex. This was all on her end because I am tragically bad at flirting; nearly incapable would be another way of putting it. Heavy sexual advances can actually make me uncomfortable (when I don’t know a person) and unfortunately that’s the only level of flirtation that I can detect. Everything I mentioned she steered back to heavy flirting. I wasn’t having it. She was driven in her need to flirt and something about it felt familiar and unstable. In some ways it felt like me a couple of years back.

I was on a strict timeline so I said goodbye and told her she would hear from me. “Do you promise” she said. “Of course” I replied and concluded our conversation.

That night I sent some follow up messages to her and each time I received a one word reply. I’m pretty verbose and a bit of a sapiosexual (finds intelligence attractive) so brevity and a lack of interest are obvious red flags for me. I stopped messaging, I’m sure she wanted it that way.

I started to think about our encounter and how similar it was to when I was actually stood up. So much of the language was similar. Even her voice and the tempo at which she talked so closely resembled my first encounter of being catfished that I began to wonder if it was the same person.

Two years ago, this would have sent me for another mini tailspin but I felt healthy and calm exiting this incident. The difference in my reaction was amazing. Here I had my first interaction with someone online and it was a total bust (well I dodged a bullet really) but it didn’t bother me. I didn’t cry, I didn’t start another blog (whew), it didn’t send me into any kind of emotional state. This was just something that happened and because I’m now okay with being single I could walk through that fire unscathed. Of course, I don’t like being played but I really don’t feel that I was. My new found comfort had allowed me to see the dynamics of what was happening. Not only could I sense the other person’s insecurity, it was a bit of a turn off.

I should take this moment to say that I know my security with being single won’t make me impervious; there will still be hurt. I will still find people with which I want to explore a relationship and they won’t feel the same. There is no way to guard against that and anyway, I don’t want to. Some things should hurt.

The remarkable thing about this experience was I realized that until the fear of being single is dealt with it will remain. When I was with someone that fear (arguably) went away but after the relationship ended it was waiting for me like a loyal companion.

This has been a valuable experience for me. I’ve learned that becoming comfortable in being single isn’t a way of giving up on finding someone, rather it frees me to be a better version of myself. When the right person comes along I will be available and when the wrong person comes barreling at me I can sidestep that collision. Dealing with my insecurity was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I see and know people that haven’t taken the time to be secure with themselves. You know them too. They are the ones that move from relationship to relationship with hardly a month between. For many this type of behavior doesn’t even seem extreme so used to seeing it are we. If any of this sounds familiar for you, consider taking a moment to become happy with being single. If you do I will promise this much; the version of you that exits this experience will be such a better person than you can imagine.

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

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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.