This piece was written originally last year in my private journal, and it’s much more personal about my love life than I usually share publicly, although details that originally referred to specific relationships have been depersonalized to maintain privacy.
I share it in hopes that it helps me continue to center on what I believe and value, and that it helps others understand me, themselves, or someone else.
The questionÂ that is always raised for me by weddings: marriage is held up culturally as the end all and be-all. Even if you arenâ€™t getting legally married, the â€œI choose you and you choose meâ€ partnership is held up in a similar way. Even in polyamory, the â€œprimary partnershipâ€ seems to be what most people aspire to.
As I asked myself once several years ago, what if thatâ€™s not the road that I personally would be happiest on? I remember walking home one night to my apartment on 19th, thinking, â€œI suppose I could do that. It seems to be what I want. But what if what I want isnâ€™t the thing that would make me the happiest? Or if thereâ€™s a way that I could be equally happy, thatâ€™s just different.”
Itâ€™s always been the case that some people didnâ€™t marry, and for some itâ€™s most likely that they didnâ€™t or couldnâ€™t find a suitable partner, but for some, itâ€™s almost certainly because they were happier that way. In the end, it doesnâ€™t matter really if youâ€™re happier that way because youâ€™re weird or emotionally immature, or just because you prefer not being partnered.
The idea that we should all aspire to a level of emotional maturity where we regard partnership as the highest and best thing you could do seems weird to me in itself, and boy isÂ that ever in the air at weddings. Sometimes theyÂ seem to be all about how the participants haveÂ journeyed through independence and arrived at interdependence, had the courage to be vulnerable, et fucking cetera.
Which of course is delightful for them, if thatâ€™s what theyÂ want; and as Iâ€™ve understood from many people I know who’ve married, it is. And Iâ€™ve often thought that itâ€™s what I want, and that perhaps itâ€™s only my own emotional development thatâ€™s holding me back. But how does one know this? You can certainly assume that if you desire partnership, but donâ€™t have it, that there is something you need to change. Or you could assume that your ideal partner hasnâ€™t come along yet (a notion Iâ€™ve certainly entertained as well).
Or you could entertain the novel and culturally odd notion that perhaps you just prefer being single. Which I always find funny when I say it, because of course Iâ€™m not â€œsingleâ€ in the sense that most people mean. But I do practice solo polyamory â€” I consider my own needs to be primary to myself. And to be honest Iâ€™m content with that right now, and maybe forever. And I simply do not want to believe, nay refuse to believe, that this makes me invalid, immature, selfish, or otherwise a terrible person â€” simply toÂ want all my romantic and sustaining relationships to be relationships of choice.
I love my current partner, and past partners; my life wouldnâ€™t be complete without those experiences. (Just this morning I was thinking of something a former partnerÂ said a long time ago, that sometimes you can love someone best by just loving them, and not telling them anything about that. Thatâ€™s how I feel about past partners sometimes.) Theyâ€™ve given me experiences that enrich and deepen my life, that are irreplaceable and precious. And in many ways, the preciousness of what has been given is entirely unrelated to the purported seriousness or depth of the relationship. I’ve had some absolutely wonderful experiences of being loved by long-term partners, and I am so glad I’ve had those experiences.
But I’ve also had absolutely amazing experiences with someone who was closer to a friend, even though we spent most of our time together cuddling on the couch and talking nerdy, and I know we were never in love. I cherished our relationship without having to love him, or want to marry him, or even necessarily have a conventional sexual relationship with him. I would never want to live the rest of my life without romance â€” thatâ€™s surely not me. And I canâ€™t say that Iâ€™ll never want a partnership. But Iâ€™d like to live, in the meantime, with the peace, contentment, and confidence that come from saying â€œIâ€™m okay with the way Iâ€™ve chosen to live, right now.â€ Not necessarily â€œIâ€™m content with the state of my romantic relationshipsâ€ but â€œIâ€™m content to choose relationships of choice, and to run my relationships based on ongoing mutual joy.â€
I’ve been told this by others when I didn’t want to hear it, and maybe it’s a little ironic that I’ve come around to it myself, much later. But sometimes we hear this when our relationship with someone is not the one we want with them, and therefore hearing it means the relationship is not one of mutual joy, for us, and nothing canÂ turn it into one at that time. So ending those relationships can be the right decision; so canÂ ending other relationships, even though IÂ may sometimes miss the other person. That IÂ miss what theyÂ could give is evidence that it was worth a try; that IÂ donâ€™t miss the restÂ is evidence that it was time to let it go.
I think, in such a modus operandi, one does have to be peculiarly alert for patterns that interrupt joy; that certainly is something that I’ve seen: that choices I made to protect myself from stress also inhibited joy. Those tradeoffs are worth looking at; understanding what makes me cherish relationships, what makes them tick for me, is so much more critical when I have very little in the way of an external standard to judge against. What I owe myself is not a constant assessment of my theoretical deficits in being a â€œfull partnerâ€ to someone, but a continuing awareness of what choices make me a better partner to those I love, and what choices on their part make them better partners to me, so that I can ask if they might be willing to make those choices.
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